Director : John Luessenhop
Screenplay : Adam Marcus & Debra Sullivan and Kirsten Elms (story by Stephen Susco and Adam Marcus & Debra Sullivan; based on characters created by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2013
Stars : Alexandra Daddario (Heather Miller), Dan Yeager (Leatherface), Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson (Ryan), Scott Eastwood (Carl), Tania Raymonde (Nikki), Shaun Sipos (Darryl), Keram Malicki-Sánchez (Kenny), James MacDonald (Officer Marvin), Thom Barry (Sheriff Hooper), Paul Rae (Burt Hartman), Richard Riehle (Farnsworth), Bill Moseley (Drayton Sawyer)
Apparently the word “massacre” is no longer required in the title of Texas Chainsaw, the sixth sequel or prequel or remake of Tobe Hooper’s gritty 1974 horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I suppose that, after so many cinematic iterations, the massacre element of the story is simply implied and therefore not in need of explicit mention, although wouldn’t it be more interesting if they mixed things up title-wise by simply moving the massacres from state to state? The Mississippi Chainsaw Massacre, The Utah Chainsaw Massacre, The Idaho Chainsaw Massacre, and so on. Clearly, I digress.
Texas Chainsaw, unlike the other recent entries in the series, is presented as a direct sequel to Hooper’s original film (thus negating Hooper’s own sequel, 1986’s much-maligned The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Part 2), so much so that the opening credits unspool over clips from the original and the narrative picks up immediately at the end of the story, when poor Sally was driven away screaming hysterically in the back of a pickup truck while Leatherface swung his chainsaw in circles of frustration. The screenplay by Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan, and Kirsten Elms (from a story by Stephen Susco, Marcus, and Sullivan) imagines that the next development is the immediate arrival of an angry redneck posse at the isolated farmhouse of the cannibalistic Sawyers. The posse then proceeds to shoot everyone in sight and burn the house to the ground. While we never see Leatherface in flames, given his prominence in the series, it is safe to assume that he somehow makes it out, and the only other survivor is an infant girl who is taken by a posse member and his wife.
The infant grows up to be Heather Miller, who according to simple math should be close to 40 years of age by 2012, but is played as a typical twentysomething by Alexandra Daddario, whose midriff should get second billing given its extensive screen time. Heather learns that a grandmother she never knew she had (another surviving member of the Sawyer clan) has recently died, leaving Heather her enormous backwoods Texas mansion and whatever secrets it might hold. Heather heads south with her boyfriend Ryan (Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson), best friend Nikki (Tania Raymonde), Nikki’s new boyfriend Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), and Darryl (Shaun Sipos), a hunky hitchhiker whose chest should get third billing (the top buttons of his shirt are as noncommittal as the bottom buttons of Heather’s shirt). They decide to spend the night in Heather’s new mansion, which is nicely furnished and immaculately maintained, but ominously located well off the beaten path and marred by ugly graffiti on the outside gate, which suggests that the locals, including the nearby town mayor who was the leader of the Sawyer-slaying posse, might not like her too much. Something is indeed not right, especially once the film’s characters start wandering one by one into the basement, which is home to a certain flayed-skin-wearing, chainsaw-wielding killer who, by any stretch of the imagination, should now be old enough to be receiving Social Security and Medicare.
Alas, math doesn’t mean much in Texas Chainsaw, nor does logic, for that matter, or anything resembling originality or daring. But, there are blood and guts a’plenty, as director John Luessenhop (Takers) eschews the original’s potent suggestion of gore in favor of on-screen bisection, dismemberment, and the like, all of which is lovingly rendered in splattery 3D for those who want to pay the extra ticket price. There are a few intriguing narrative twists and turns, and credit should be given to the filmmakers for trying to continue a thread from the original by portraying Leatherface (Dan Yeager) as a misunderstood monster in the vein of Frankenstein. The problem, though, is that Frankenstein’s monster was a tragic figure in terms of both his unholy creation and his unintended violence, whereas Leatherface displays a consistent and overt sense of cruelty that nixes any potential for genuine sympathy without the presence of dramatically worse characters around him (which, in the first film, was the rest of his abusive family). The filmmakers try to accomplish this via the character of Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), the corrupt posse leader-turned-mayor, but he’s too much of a one-dimensional cipher whose demise carries no real weight. It doesn’t help, too, that the filmmakers do everything they can to invoke the original film, from the wince-inducing use of a meat hook on a still living victim, to a body flying out of a freezer, to that unforgettably creepy whine of an old-fashioned flashbulb popping and dying (they give cameos to several actors from the original, including Marilyn “Sally” Burns, Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen, and Bill “Hitchhiker” Moseley). The idea, I suppose, is to pay homage to Hooper’s relentless 16mm masterpiece, but all it did for me was remind me of what a drastically inferior film I was watching.
Copyright ©2013 James Kendrick
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