SYNOPSIS: A young woman travels to Texas to collect an inheritance; unknowingly finding herself pitted against a chainsaw wielding maniacal killer who is rumored to have killed several people years before.
REVIEW: Takers writer and director John Luessenhop takes a trip down a dark road to continue the myth that dwells behind the mask of the chainsaw wielding Leatherface. Written by a cadre of scribes, including Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday), Debra Sullivan (Conspiracy), Kristen Elms (TV movie Banshee), and Stephen Susco (The Grudge), Luessenhop tries to start a buzz around startling and horrifying characters created in 1974 by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper.
In 1974, Jeb Sawyer, aka Leatherface (Dan Yeager, Metal Heads) brutalizes and kills several young people traveling through Texas. When a lone girl escapes and goes to the authorities, Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry, 2 Fast 2 Furious) returns to take Jeb into custody. Before he can do so, Burt Hartman ( Paul Rae, True Grit) and a posse of avenging neighbors that it upon themselves to take matters into their own hands, shooting up the property and burning down the house. None of the Sawyer family survives save an infant Heather (Alexandra Daddario, Hall Pass) who is scooped up by the Miller family to raise.
Years later, Heather receives a communication that she has inherited property and assets from a grandmother she never knew, spurring her to travel to Texas with her boyfriend Ryan (Tremaine 'Trey Songz' Neverson, Preacher's Kid), best girlfriend Nikki (Tania Raymonde, Blue Like Jazz), and Ryan's band mate friend Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sanchez, Punisher: War Zone). Along the way they bump into hitchhiker Darryl (Shaun Sipos, Rampage), and travel to the Carlton estate to see what lies in store for them. But no more than a couple hours after their arrival to the house the behemoth known as Leatherface, along with his favorite buzzing tool of dismemberment, is released on the unsuspecting group of teenagers to restart his buzz saw killing ways.
In 1974, writer/director Tobe Hooper took his impressionable memories of Ed Gein and crafted a horrifying tale of a deranged nuclear family with fierce protective familial loyalties and a perchance of being the cut-ups at any party. Dennis Hopper tried to avenge his own family years later in the 1986 Massacre followup. The franchise descended into its own sticky strange mire for a while with A Family Portrait and The Next Generation.
But in 2003, Michael Bay produced a terrifying and satisfying reboot of the franchise with the Marcus Nispel directed effort written by Scott Kosar and starring Jessica Biel and R. Lee Ermey, following up that success with a even more twisted sequel/prequel from Jonathan Liebesman and writers Sheldon Turner and David J. Schow. Things were looking up for Leatherface. The 2003 and 2006 reboots did what they had set out to do and breathed new life into a family that was hell-bent on dishing out death for its own survival and twisted sense of love.
Now in 2013, the year must be a bad omen. Leatherface returns with his signature chainsaws, floppy ties, and limping posture. At the first title scenes, TCM fans must have been optimistic. The audience is treated to the 'archive' footage from the original 1974 Tope Hooper film.
Its plot highlights, from teenagers stepping onto the Sawyer property and receiving ghoulish ends, to a strange family dinner party where a hapless blond is the guest of honor, to a screaming escape in a pick-up truck accented by a man in a human mask shaking and whipping around a smoking feller of trees, all preparing us for a film of the same cool tone and quality. What we get is a quick cut to the responding police officer Hooper in the aftermath at the end of the first film, along with several shotgun-toting Sawyer clan members that we have never seen before.
After justice is served, Luessenhop propels forward eighteen years to a grown up Heather Miller/Sawyer who takes a VW Minibus trip to Texas similar to most of the Massacre films we have already watched. The question is, do you get enough quality scares for the money?
Luessenhop does surprise with a few good startles, especially when Leatherface slides out of the shadows or appears behind his victims. The 3D does nothing for the film beyond the typical schlock 3D shot of a chainsaw blade emerging from the screen, but even that said I will admit there were a couple 3D moments that made me want to duck. It was a certainty that the queasy fear and disgust that Tobe Hooper conjured up in 1974 with his early slasher fair would not be duplicated.
The 2003 reboot surprised and pleased hardcore TCM fans and newbies alike. This season's Texas Chainsaw 3D must have left the Massacre off the title because the studio was going to prove that it was going to massacre and smear the good horror genre name of Leatherface. Mission accomplished, I'd say.
The story had promise and attempts a few times to follow through. Besides the couple of jumps from Leatherface that I have to attempt surprised and shocked me off my seat a little, the idea of the Sawyer Clan and a next generation of family roots that Leussonhop conveys is a consistent theme through any of the TCM films. But as the killings get under way, the plot becomes more and more obvious.
Sure, there are a few turns along the way, but nothing that is so gripping, revealing, or revolting to carry the film. One standout scene involves Officer Marvin (James MacDonald, The Kids Are All Right) as he is prodded by the mayor against the sheriff's orders to follow a blood trail in pursuit of Jeb Sawyer. Another scene, with Heather in the back of a police cruiser, foreshadows the ending all too well — her wide-eyed terror giving way to purpose.
TCM is all about family. In 1974, it was an oddity in modern horror to see the devil from their perspective. In this outing, Leatherface is cast as a protector who is just shielding what's his and his family's. The real villains end up being Mayor Hartman and a handful of redneck ruffians including Carl (Scott Eastwood, Trouble with the Curve) bent on the Sawyer family's ultimate destruction.
Texas Chainsaw 3D leaves off the Massacre in both tone and scope. Pale in comparison to the brilliant classic that Hooper created almost 40 years ago and the excellent reboot 10 years ago, this attempt seems to be a chainsaw with no teeth.
★ ★ out of 5 | Rental
Rated: R Strong grisly violence and language throughout.
Release Date: January 4, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 32 minutes
Director: John Luessenhop
Writers: Adam Marcus, Debra Sulivan, Kristen Elms, Stephen Susco, characters by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hopper
Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Tremaine 'Trey Songz' Neverson, Scott Eastwood, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, James MacDonald, Thom Barry