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Sympathy for Mr. Leatherface: “Texas Chainsaw 3D”

January 6, 2013

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Well, that’s settled. Here I thought to I’d have to actually watch movies all year to decide the worst film of 2013. Ah, but along came Texas Chainsaw 3D, and I realized nope…can’t get any worse than this. I mean, short of some major production studio releasing a 90-minute bukkake video starring the members of House of Representatives, this has pretty much got to be the bottom of the barrel. Now, when you go into a movie like this you don’t expect much—and, Lord, did it deliver on that—but I wasn’t expecting it quite this abysmal. There were points in this film when I wondered if the people involved were actually aware they were making a movie, and not, say, playing the most boring LARP ever. Okay, so what do we have here…

So, the first thing you have to understand—ah, well no, that’s a bad word to use since it misses the craziness…accept might be a better choice of words here—what you have to accept is that this movie is a direct sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yeah, the original. Yeah, it was made in 38 years ago. Just…I dunno…we can’t change that fact, so let’s move forward. This film begins with the ending of the original–the final girl barely escaping her terrible fate at the hands of Leatherface and the freakzoid Sawyer family. Well, the Sheriff shows up at the Sawyer house and negotiates for Leatherface’s surrender. Unfortunately, before that can happen a bunch of yokels show up led by Burt Hartman, and they promptly torch the house and kill everyone inside…or so they think. Duh duh DUH!

It would have been the most inbred standoff ever.

It would have been the most inbred standoff ever.

Oh, and some people abduct a baby that survived the conflagration. Because I guess you can just do that. Well, fast-forward 38 years and that baby is now the 24 year-old Heather (just go with it) played by Alexandra Daddario (whose sole character trait is coming off like a sluttier version of Tiffani Thiessen), who learns about her parentage when her grandmother dies and leaves her the family manse. So, Heather and some friends head out to Newt, Texas (seriously) to check out the house, and—wow!—it’s pretty sweet. Unfortunately, the house also comes with Leatherface living in the basement, and once a dumbass thief lets him out…well, you see where that’s going: GZZZZZZZZZZ—unk!

Ah, but it doesn’t end there. Because the Sheriff and Burt (now the mayor, because burning up a bunch of people in cold blood is a good campaign platform, I guess) caught wind of the fact 1) Heather is a Sawyer, and 2) Leatherface is back (incidentally, “catches wind” is a euphemism for “Leatherface chases Heather through a fairground”). So, he sets out to kill Heather and Leatherface, because…well, why not? By this point, Heather has learned the truth of her family situation (when a cop leaves a box of evidence next to her), so, you know, she’s kind of pissed about that–the thing that happened to the people she’s never met and just learned about yesterday (just go with it).

Because nothing says horror like a red sweater. Think that's angora?

Because nothing says horror like a red sweater. Think that’s Angora?

It all ends with Leatherface and Heather confronting Burt and grinding him up in an abandoned slaughterhouse, while the Sheriff looks on with approval (he was never onboard with the whole “Sawyer-kebab” plan back in 1974). And Heather moves into the house and becomes Leatherface’s caregiver, because isn’t vigilante justice the real monster here? Meanwhile the movie conveniently forgets:

* Leatherface flat-out murders innocent people.

* The Sawyer clan was totally involved with this, and they ate his victims!.

* Leatherface killed all of Heather’s friends, including sawing one in half while she watched (earlier in the day she decides to be his roommate).

* Heather has known about her real family for less than 48 hours.

* The Sheriff is totally fine with Leatherface getting away, despite the fact he knows the monster has killed about a half-dozen innocent people, including one of his officers!

Need I even mention that none of these people were cast for their acting talent?

Need I even mention that none of these people were cast for their acting talent?

Yes, the movie asks us to just accept all of this without any plausible character development in this direction, because throughout this movie nobody behaves like a normal human being. They pretty much just do what the story needs them to do in any given scene. On top of that, neither director Patrick Lussenhop (he made Takers, remember that flick? Yeah, that was terrible), nor any of the four writers seem to have any clue how, you know, life works.  Instead, we get some choice lines like,

“Did your car break?”

“Keep your hands on that gun!”

“That’s okay. It didn’t happen!” [to a cop that just shot an innocent person by accident.]

And my personal favorite: “You have to help me! The Mayor beat up my lawyer at a bar!”

This is a good time to take a look at what made the original Chainsaw Massacre  so effective, and it wasn’t a dude sawing people up with a McCulluch. Tobe Hooper’s film was a descent into madness, positing not simply a homicidal maniac—but an entire, warped family unit that shared in his depravity. Coming as it did when the country had long since gone into a freefall of despair and horror—after Watergate, Vietnam, the Manson family murders, the happy-lovey hippie days of the ‘60s, and all innocence or hopefulness the country once had. By setting up a family grotesque monsters, Hooper struck of the last bastion of comfort we had.

Because nothing says "gritty slasher film" like a blue filter.

Because nothing says “gritty slasher film” like a blue filter.

This film? It pretty much just gives us the dude with the chainsaw. It doesn’t help that our culture isn’t quite as traumatized as it was in 1974. Likewise, Texas is no longer a credible symbol of a land within the United States that is free of the civilizing influences of urbanity. Now, it’s more a symbol of American excess—big hats, big hair, big oil, big homes, big trucks to take you to your job at the big office park. Maybe Alabama or West Virginia or Mississippi could credibly fit this bill, but the sad fact is that the Internet and mobile devices have pretty much killed the ominousness of rural America.

I’m not sure how you make a follow-up to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hollywood has been trying for years, churning out worse and worse sequels to no effect. In large part the gritty, low-budget DIY ethos that helped give the original its supremely unsettling edge has been subsumed by the found-footage genre.

Even so, I genuinely don’t know what the filmmakers thought they were doing with this film, but…Jesus, they don’t succeed. Literally, there is not a frightening scene in this film, nor a suspenseful or even effective moment. Director Lussenhop seems purely incapable of doing anything interesting with his camera. In pretty much every money shot, a dude stands in the center of the shot, and then Leatherface just walks up and clobbers him on the head. Yeah, it’s just that unexciting.

Will someone stop this guy!

Will someone stop this guy!

So, yeah, that’s Texas Chainsaw. I’m calling it: Worst movie of 2013—four days in! Because if the year’s films can get worse…well, we’ll just wish that whole Mayan thing had come true.

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