TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, 2013
Director: John Luessenhop
Stars: Alexandra Daddario, Tania Raymonde, Scott Eastwood, Trey Songz
Review by Mark Engberg
A young woman travels to Texas to collect an inheritance; little does she know that an encounter with a chainsaw-wielding killer is part of the reward.
The opening sequence of Texas Chainsaw 3D plays like a wet dream to fans of Tobe Hooper's beloved 1974 original film. The credits roll through flashbacks of Sally Hardesty's tortured encounter with the demented Sawyer family, giving theater audiences an exciting recap of how that classic film ended. Yes, the Hitchhiker's crowd-pleasing death scene is presented in all of its big screen glory.
Lussenhop's update picks up right where Hooper's story ended. The law shows up on the Sawyer's doorstep with a livid, torch-chucking mob close behind. Die-hard fans will be entertained by the appearance of Bill Moseley (who played the horrific Chop-Top in Hooper's underrated 1986 sequel), portraying a younger version of Drayton Sawyer, Leatherface's brother memorably played by the late Jim Seidow in the the original series.
Moseley is not the only veteran Chainsaw actor to deliver a cameo performance in this latest entry. Scream Queen Marilyn Burns, who played Sally in 1974, pops up as the family grandmother, Verna. It is her character who puts the movie's plot in motion because she bequeaths the family estate to a presumed dead granddaughter, Heather (Alexandra Daddario). Gunnar Hansen also makes a brief appearance as a fellow family member shot down by the vengeful posse.
The good news is that Lussenhop's picture depicts Leatherface as Hooper had originally intended. As far as slasher villains go, he is not actually that evil of a character. Protective of his family and clearly mentally retarded, he was not the unstoppable force of mayhem that Mike Fleiss re-created in his 2003 forgettable reboot. Fleiss basically turned Leatherface into another Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, an impenetrable hulk who killed for the simple sake of killing.
Hooper's Leatherface was so much scarier than that. He chainsawed his victims into oatmeal because he simply did not know any better. He had unquestionable allegiance to his family, and anyone who trespassed on their way of life met with a messy fate. Lussenhop's version is a faithful update of that character. This is essentially the story of what happened to that maniac after the events of the original picture.
And that, ironically, is also the bad news. By this film's timeline, the events that occurred in Hooper's darkly comic 1986 sequel never happened. There is no Chop-Top, scraping his metal head plate with a burned wire hanger. There is no storyline regarding human cannibalism. Leatherface is more interested in wearing the skins of his slain victims than in digesting them or selling their body parts as barbecue meat.
Some members of the audience might be relieved that the script abandons that aspect of the Chainsaw legacy. But most fans will probably be dismayed at the absence of any home cooking. For this reason, this latest film is less grotesque and more action oriented. The worst part of the movie features a sequence in which Leatherface chases Heather through a crowded carnival fair.
But for the most part, this 3D version is a marked improvement over any attempts to rejuvenate the series during the last several years. The film is definitely strange in terms of personifying this long misunderstood villain as a character seeking reconciliation and retribution for the murder of his family. True, this movie is not as creepy or suspenseful as Hooper's original. There have just been too many splatter films that have diluted our sense of shock since then.
However, the scares in this update are genuine and startling. As Heather struggles to understand her twisted family's history, we are less inclined to consider Leatherface as a hostile force to be feared. Once Heather and Leatherface are reunited in their collective battle against the surviving members of those who burned the Sawyer house down, we consider them as a mismatched heroic duo with their motivations firmly in place. And that may be the scariest aspect of all.