Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Dis List: Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) review



Alexandra Daddario (Heather), Dan Yeager (Jedediah Sawyer [Leatherface]), Tremaine Neverson (Ryan), Scott Eastwood (Carl), Tania Raymonde (Nikki), Shaun Sipos (Darryl), Keram Malicki-Sanchez (Kenny), Thom Barry (Sheriff Hooper), Paul Rae (Burt Hartman), James MacDonald (Officer Marvin), Richard Riehle (Farnsworth), Bill Moseley (Drayton Sawyer), Gunnar Hansen (Sawyer family member)

Directed by John Luessenhop

"Millennium doesn't understand horror. A lot of people there thought the movie was stupid. But they didn't understand the genre. People love this movie because it's Leatherface"-- Former horror actress Christina Campbell talking about her producer gig on TC3D. Apparently, the folks at Millennium were on to something.

The Short Version: Note to director John Luessenhop -- You DO NOT INTENTIONALLY turn a guy who carves people up with a chainsaw and wears their skin into the hero of your horror movie. Not only does this sequel-quasi remake ignore all the sequels, but it also dispatches with the fact that the Sawyers were cannibalistic murderers, opting instead to turn them into little more than oppressed hillbillies. Fans often root for the killer, but it's not scripted that way on purpose. There's some nice touches and nods to the original, but overall, this TEXAS CHAINSAW is a MASSACRE committed against an iconic series. This is made all the more damaging in that Tobe Hooper was an Executive Producer. Somewhere, Rob Zombie is smiling heartily.

Heather , along with four friends, travel to Texas to collect an inheritance from a relative she never knew she had. Upon her arrival, they discover she has inherited a vast mansion that harbors a murderous secret in its basement.

Hollywood really should stop making sequels, remakes, or semi-sequel-remakes to popular, or well known horror franchises. I don't care if the original will always be there, it's just so annoying when they either do the same thing all over again with barely any time between the last do-over; or they do something so radically different that there is no way in hell an audience could accept such a change -- unless you're Rob Zombie. This isn't a 'Jason in space' type change, this is a change that propagandizes the entire nature of the backwoods Texas killers of Hooper's original movie. It's even more insulting in that this film uses footage from the original as a launching pad.

"It’s all about humanizing this guy that makes the movie. He’s damaged, abused, stunted — but lethal."-- Director Luessenhop talking about lethally damaging, abusing and stunting the growth of the TCM franchise with his movie.

The change here is in turning Leatherface -- a hulking, chainsaw wielding psychopath -- into the hero of the movie. Over the years, fans have often rooted for the likes of Jason and Freddy in their movies. But those characters were not written to be sympathized with. It was mainly an audience reaction in anticipation to whatever creati-kill was coming from Mr. Voorhees, or some post-mortem wisecrack Freddy the K would deliver. Granted, this drastic alteration doesn't take over the film till around the last 30 minutes. Prior to that, it merely hints at it. While I'm on the subject of Leatherface, he is never once referred to as such -- he's called Jed, or Jedidiah Sawyer through this damn thing.

The first cardinal sin director John Luessenhop commits is ignoring the movies after the '74 original; particularly Hooper's own sequel from 1986. This one could be forgivable if the rest of the picture were competently made (HALLOWEEN H20 pulled this off beautifully); but the real slander is in how this picture seems to erase the fact that the Sawyers were cannibalistic sadists, graverobbers and all around filthy scumbags. Instead, we're force-fed into believing the Sawyers were little more than victimized hillbillies.

We see glimpses of their horror during the opening credits through quick clips lifted from the '74 TCM. Then, when the new footage kicks in, suddenly the Sawyers ain't so bad no more once they're confronted inside a recreation of the Sawyer farm that doesn't quite convince. They're bullied, overalls wearin', downtrodden hillbillies snuffed out by a redneck mob. Occasionally the film hints that the townsfolk are these insidious murderers and the Sawyers are something resembling innocent. How remarkably stupid. Towards the end, the film finally embraces this incredibly empty-headed maneuver in full force that leads me to believe Rob Zombie worked on this in some capacity; but used a pseudonym, or had his name removed altogether.

"From the beginning, it’s been a mismanaged franchise — a boat that drifted off course...the story of Leatherface should be as popular as the SAW movies...I told them we needed to put some level of integrity into the story"-- Producer Carl Mazzocone making multiple, and typical Hollywood producer proclamations when they get their hands on an established property like they're going to suddenly make it good. 

Also, it's worth mentioning Bill Moseley (Chop Top of TCM 2) steps in to play Drayton Sawyer, the role previously essayed by Jim Siedow. There's also a handful of additional Sawyer clan members (including a cameo played by none other than original Leatherface Gunnar Hansen!) who were obviously nowhere to be found in the original movie that now suddenly show up including a female with a baby in tow -- the latter of which comprises the HALLOWEEN style, familial story arc that threatens to plummet the franchise into some bizarre new sitcom for TV Land no doubt titled HOT IN TEXAS.

There are more than a few stupid things people do in this movie that you come to expect people to do in horror pictures. Some of these things push the boundaries of credibility. It may be because the director has never done a horror film before, or because he watched Rob Zombie's movies as research. 

The most ridiculous is the group of four friends leaving a hitchhiker -- whom they just met the night before -- ALONE in Heather's just appropriated mansion filled with all sorts of expensive items.

The addition of the hitchhiker was a nice touch, and one of a handful of nods towards the original movie. The Darryl character is meant to throw us off in order to get the audience to believe this scenario will play out in a certain way; ie the hitchhiker plot device introduced in Hooper's original. It's probably the most ingenious thing the film does right, but then Luessenhop ruins it all by indulging in typical 'stupid horror movie people' cliches. With six writers they couldn't have simply left ONE of the four friends at the house with Darryl the thief? There are others, but this one stood out the most.

"I believe we made a classic monster movie. Many TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE films have exploited more of the slasher aspects of the genre. This one doesn’t."-- Carl Mazzocone in LA Times article. Even more condescension towards the series as if this motion picture is going to redefine the franchise.

The chase scenes are nicely done and the 3D is only terribly gimmicky once Heather is in the graveyard. You know she's gonna hide in the casket, and you know the saw is gonna be ripping through it at some point, and you know it's gonna be comin' at ya. There's even a brief moment where Jed gets all FLYING GUILLOTINE and throws his deadly whirring steel at a target. 

Everybody's a good looker in the main cast. This is possibly one of the major reasons today's horror pictures cannot match the raw power of those from the 70s. In those movies, the actors all looked like people you'd see on the street. They looked real, and not like models. However, mainstreamers who may not have grown up when these movies first came out, or hit video, will likely prefer the newer style. The acting in TC3D fails to convince most of the time, although Alexandria Daddario manages to be the most compelling ably assisted by her stunning eyes and lithe frame (and what a stomach!).

"...if we make another it has to be as good or better than this one and that takes time."-- Executive Producer Mark Burg from a portion of what I assume is supposed to be a serious statement. Considering the films near 80% drop at the box office in its second week, the prospects of another one are slim to none... and slim just went out for a cheeseburger.

The nods to Hooper's original are welcome and pay respect to the series (the body in the freezer, the unnerving camera flickers), but this films finale is simply offensive and annoying. Leatherface is not the Frankenstein's Monster; a pitiable creature patched together by a scientist with delusions of grandeur. He's a homicidal killer, and that's it. 

I found it horribly irresponsible that the writers and director would even attempt to turn an insane miscreant (he is in fact wearing the skin of his victims) into a protagonist. It's also incredible that a movie studio would greenlight such an idiotic premise with such a plot device. As stupid as it is for Rob Zombie to do this same thing, at least he never tries to hide the fact that his killers are anything more than the scum of the Earth.

As it stands, TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (they can't even be bothered to put the word 'massacre' in the title) now shares a padded room with the fourth official entry, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION (1994) as worst sequel of the series. What's also bizarre is that a sequel was prematurely announced a few days ago bearing the title of TEXAS CHAINSAW 4! Its few good moments are not enough to salvage a riotously ridiculous movie made by people who've never done horror before, people who don't even like horror, and people who are supposed to know horror. Producers Christina Campbell and Tobe Hooper I am looking at you.

***Poster and movie images: google images***

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