Title: Texas Chainsaw 3D
Director: John Luessenhop (‘Takers’)
Starring: Alexandra Daddario (‘Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’), Dan Yeager (‘Metal Heads’), Marilyn Burns (‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’), Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson, Tania Raymonde (TV’s ‘Lost’) and Keram Malicki-Sánchez (TV’s ‘True Blood’)
Creating a frightening, original sequel to a cult horror classic that helped launch the slasher genre can be a difficult process for many filmmakers. Helmer John Luessenhop, who is making his horror film directorial debut, tried to create a new, unique entry in the acclaimed ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ series by making a quasi follow-up to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original movie. While Luessenhop deserves credit for wanting to modernize and continue the story that the legendary filmmaker directed, co-wrote and produced in the early 1970s to comment on the era’s political climate, his new entry, ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D,’ unfortunately failed to recapture its predecessor’s developed characters and horrifying stunts.
‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ continues the story of the Sawyer family, whose homicidal tendencies were first chronicled in ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.’ The townspeople of Newt, Texas long suspected the family of being responsible for the disappearances of countless people. Their feelings were confirmed when Sally Hardesty from the original film escaped and informed the police of the brutal murders of her brother and three friends. Word of the Sawyers’ killings quickly spread around the small town, leading a vigilante mob of angry locals to burn the family’s home to the ground.
Almost 40 years later, Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) is shocked to learn from her adoptive parents that Verna Carson (Marilyn Burns), who is part of the Sawyer family, was her grandmother. Being the last of Verna’s descendants, Heather has inherited a lavish Texas estate from her grandmother. Being upset that she never knew her true family, Heather decides to embark on a road trip with her boyfriend Ryan (Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson), and their two friends, Nikki (Tania Raymonde) and Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), despite her mother’s warnings. But her new-found wealth comes with a price, as her friends begin to become targets of Leatherface (Dan Yeager), who is really her cousin Jedediah, believed to have died in the Sawyer’s home during the fire.
The new horror mystery thriller unfortunately failed to live up to the original ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre,’ as Luessenhop disappointingly filled the movie with one-dimensional, predictable characters with little backstory. Heather, for example, complains to Nikki that she never quite felt comfortable with her adoptive parents, Gavin (David Born) and Arlene (Sue Rock), but never fully explains the reason why. But as soon as she enters her grandmother’s mansion, she feels an unexplained connection to the Sawyer family, even after learning of the accusations brought against them by the townspeople. While Hooper masterfully explored the horrific isolationism the Sawyer family felt from society and the fear that drove Sally and her friends to try to escape their tormenters, Luessenhop disappointingly neglected to explain the atrocities Leatherface continued to face, or showcase the true fear driving Heather to run for her freedom.
The actors in ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ unfortunately failed to infuse their characters with any real sense of terror as they’re running from Leatherface throughout the film. Daddario, who spends the most time interacting with the horror film’s antagonist, didn’t appear overly frightened or terrified of Leatherface, even before she discovered their family connection, and regularly provoked him. The actress made Heather seem unfazed by the killer’s intent to harm her, and seemed angrier at Newt’s mayor, Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), for leading the attack against the Sawyers than the horrors the family committed against the town.
Many of the characters, led by Heather and Mayor Hartman, also quickly and unemotionally changed their feelings and actions so that the story can set up and justify each murder, which regularly feel stereotyped and clichéd. When Heather first encounters Leatherface, and the two have yet to realize they’re related, she does whatever it takes to get away from him, even if it means running to the town carnival and endangering the townspeople. But when she does come to find that Leatherface is her cousin and the mayor is determined to stop him with any means necessary, Heather is all too happy to let Leatherface continue on his killing spree. The methods Leatherface uses to eliminate his enemies, including hanging them on meat hooks in the estate’s basement to sawing them in half, aren’t at all shocking or original, as compared to the murders Hooper included in his film.
The use of 3D in the film also appears to be a gimmick used to make more money, and unfortunately failed to add any scares to the uninspired kills. While the use of 3D should have made audiences feel as though they were being pulled into Leatherface’s basement and feel the pain of his victims, the murders feel flat on the screen. The most memorable 3D effects include the film’s logo falling apart and some blood squirting on the camera, and fail to make audiences feel as though they’re truly experiencing the victims’ pain.
‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ unfortunately failed to live up to the menacing murders and diverse characters Hooper created for his 1974 cult classic. While ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ truly was one of the original slasher films that cleverly interlaced social atrocities with unpredictable killings with horrific characters driven by the need to seek revenge, the modern take on the Sawyer family featured uninspired characters and killings. Combined with the lack of true, inspired acting and disappointing use of 3D, ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ is the latest reboot that proves there’s currently a lack of original ideas in the horror genre.
Written by: Karen Benardello