CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: a meat packaging plant. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES are seated at a table. LEATHERFACE slams a slab of meat onto the table in front of them and promptly slices into it with his chainsaw, spraying both LS and MA with blood. He places dripping chunks of meat onto two plates and slides them in front of LS and MA.)
LS (grinning): Oh boy! (begins to eat raw meat.)
MA (frowning at plate in front of him): I’ll pass, thank you.
(LEATHERFACE grunts and points towards plate.)
MA: Nothing against your cooking—(aside) what cooking?—but I ate before we got here. Anyway, we’re here to review your new movie, so why don’t you let us do that, and maybe I’ll work up an appetite. (LEATHERFACE nods). Since L.L. is busy filling his face, I’ll start things off.
LS (wipes blood of his chin): Gee, thanks, buddy!
MA: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013) is the latest movie in the TEXAS CHAINSAW franchise, a series that started with Tobe Hooper’s original THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), a classic of the horror genre, but a movie that I just have never been able to get into or appreciate. In short, I’ve just never liked it.
LS (spits out his food in shock): What kind of a horror fan are you? How can you not like THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE? It might just be the best horror movie of all time.
MA: If we were reviewing that one, I’d tell you, but right now we’re reviewing TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D. Anyway, along the way, there’s been various remakes and sequels, including THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING (2006). None of these movies did anything for me, but if you’d care to comment more on them, to give the folks a little history, be my guest.
LS: Not really. As is usual with these kinds of things, the various sequels and remakes run the gamut of various levels of bad (or at least inferiority) compared to the original film. I thought the recent remake and its sequel were incredibly bland and sterile compared to the visceral power of the original film. The nominal sequels have been a mixed bag of wasted celluloid, with only the sequel Hooper made himself, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986) worth checking out at all, and that one is a train wreck of another kind, which is sad, considering the great cast involved. I think the one I hate most is TEXAS CHAINSAW: THE NEXT GENERATION (1994) which is like a really wimpy retelling of the original film with a younger cast that includes Matthew McConaughey and Rene Zellweger in early roles (let’s just say, they’re wasted) and a skinny Leatherface! Just pathetic! Nope, there’s not much to recommend about the franchise aside from the first movie. Unfortunately, Tobe Hooper’s career hasn’t been especially awe-inspiring since his first film either, he never did recapture the pure gut-punching adrenaline of TCM ever again, although he’s made a few okay films. I wish he had something to do with this new one, other than a “Characters created by” credit, though.
MA: Which brings us to today’s movie, TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D.
The film opens with events from the original film
LS: In 3D no less! Looked….kinda goofy.
MA: …and then adds new footage showing the locals forming a lynch mob, surrounding the home of Leatherface and his family, and burning it to the ground, killing everyone inside. Well, almost everybody. A couple rescues a baby from the home, although you wouldn’t want these folks working as your local paramedics, as the man, once he takes the baby from its mom’s arms, kicks the mom in the head, killing her. And of course, we never do see Leatherface perish in the fire.
LS: This first scene really set the wrong mood right from the start for me. The first film is so dark, almost subterranean in its spookiness, that a shootout in broad daylight seemed like a real letdown. This holed-up-in-a-house-with-the-police-outside scene also reminded me of a similar scene that started off another, much superior horror film – Rob Zombie’s classic, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)– which makes this one look pretty awful in comparison.
And we don’t really get to see any of the original characters in the shootout scene– Chop Top (Edwin Neal in the original and Bill Moseley in Hooper’s 1986 sequel) was hit by a truck before this, Leatherface is in hiding, and the Cook, maybe my favorite character in the original, isn’t shown at all (actor Jim Siedow died in 2003, but they couldn’t have had someone else play his character?). The only character from the original movie we see in the shootout scene is old, zombie-like Grandpa, sitting in a chair with his deathly white face (anyone could be behind that old man makeup). It turns out a bunch of relatives showed up at the house before the police, to defend their kin (including Drayton Sawyer, played by the previously mentioned Bill Moseley in a different role here). There are so many new faces, it doesn’t even seem like the same family or the same story, although it was cool to see Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface) as “Boss Sawyer.” But something about this whole opening shootout seemed too normal, too bland right from the start. The original cast and house made us feel like we were traveling through Hell itself. Here, it’s just another shootout with the police…
(A man holding a chainsaw and wearing a severed pig’s head over his own head enters the room)
LS: It’s Farmer Vincent from the movie MOTEL HELL (1980)
FARMER VINCENT: That’s right, boys. I’m here to make sure old leatherbutt here made the meat correctly. Did you use my special recipe?
(LEATHERFACE grunts and nods his head no)
FARMER VINCENT: The hell you say! How could you prepare these people a decent meal of meat and not prepare it correctly! DAMN YOU!
(FARMER VINCENT revs up his chainsaw, and LEATHERFACE revs his up in turn)
MA: Now gentlemen, there’s no reason for violence here.
FARMER VINCENT: Like hell there’s not!
LS (grin): Let ‘em fight, this might be fun.
(Suddenly the Sawyer family member known as THE COOK enters the room, flapping his arms)
COOK: Dang nab it! Don’t go making a mess in here.
FARMER VINCENT: I thought you was dead!
COOK: Well, I ain’t. And I prepared the meat. So you bet damn well it’s done right.
(FARMER VINCENT grabs a chunk, lifts his pig mask and tries it)
FARMER VINCENT: Mmmm. Pretty good.
COOK: Now get yer ass out of here before I kick it across the state of Texas!
FARMER VINCENT: I’m going, I’m going.
COOK: Now look what you done! (he slaps LEATHERFACE). Causing all this commotion. And me in the middle of my cooking! (LEATHERFACE cowers before him)
(COOK stops and turns to LS and MA)
COOK: Sorry, gents. I didn’t mean no harm here. Just go about enjoyin’ your meals.
(COOK goes back to the kitchen. LEATHERFACE is still whimpering in a corner)
LS: That was fun! It’s like dinner theater!
MA: Can we get back to our review…finally?
MA: After the shoot-out, where the Sawyer home gets burned to the ground, the story then jumps ahead to present day where beautiful young Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) receives a letter informing her that her grandmother has died, and that the woman left a home in Texas for Heather in her will. Now, Heather wasn’t even aware that this grandmother existed, and so she also learns at this point that she was adopted, and that her true blood line lived in Texas. Yep, Heather’s the grown up baby that was rescued from Leatherface’s home, making her Leatherface’s cousin.
LS: Woo-hoo! That sure is some looker, you’ve got for a cousin, Leatherboy!
(LEATHERFACE grins and nods his head)
MA: Heather and her hip friends decide to take a road trip to Texas to check out the new home. Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker (an event which mirrors the original story) and once in Texas, they find that the home left for Heather is an elegant mansion.
The twentysomethings prepare to celebrate, but their plans are short-lived when it turns out that Leatherface still lives in the basement, and he’s none too happy about new folks moving into his home.
Further complicating matters is that the mayor of the town, Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), is the leader of the lynch mob who burned Leatherface’s home to the ground. He hates Leatherface’s family, and he’s not above lynching Leatherface a second time, or his young cousin Heather.
It seems lovely Heather has more to worry about than just Leatherface. In fact, Leatherface might even become her ally. Aww, a kinder gentler Leatherface! Just what we need.
(LEATHERFACE nods at first, then pauses as if thinking, then vigorously shakes his head “no.”)
MA: I didn’t think so. Honestly, I’ve seen worst movies than TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, and I didn’t hate this one by any means, but that being said, boy, what a lame movie! In short, this one’s awful.
The worst part of TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, and why I called this one lame, is its story. Its premise generates absolutely no suspense—Heather and her friends arrive at her new home—does anyone in the theater (and there were three other people there besides me, by the way) not expect Leatherface to be living somewhere inside that mansion? A creative story would have taken us in a different direction, one that we didn’t expect. Not so here. You can see every move happening long before it does. It’s standard horror storytelling all the way.
LS: Unfortunately, yes.
MA: And nice job, Grandma! Way to go, caring for your long lost granddaughter by giving her a house with a homicidal maniac living in the basement! Yup, as they say in the movie, blood is thicker than water. What a boneheaded move! I’m supposed to believe that a woman who cares for her family would bequeath a home with Leatherface living in it to her unsuspecting granddaughter?
LS: Yeah, Leatherface almost kills her a bunch of times, until he realizes who she is. But you can’t completely blame Grandma! She did leave Heather a letter.
MA: Yeah, she says in her letter to Heather that all Leatherface needs is a little loving and caring, and he’ll protect her. How sweet. Leatherface is a regular hero. I don’t think Heather’s friends, all butchered by Leatherface, would agree.
LS: This is one major plot point that bothered me. Leatherface kills some of her friends (I’m not saying who) and suddenly it’s like it never happened and Heather has to make some choices about who she’s going to stand by and who’s the enemy. And suddenly, she’s able to forgive the murders of people she cares about without a second thought. It didn’t seem genuine to me.
MA: I agree.
LS: Although, they’re not the best friends. Her boyfriend Ryan (Trey Songz, who is okay here, but not very developed as a character) is cheating on her with her best friend, Nikki. (Tania Raymonde). But Heather doesn’t know that.
MA: Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan, and Kirsten Elms wrote the screenplay for this one. You’d think three writers would have come up with a better story.
LS: Maybe they should have gone with Arruda and Soares instead?
MA: I like the sound of that!
LS: Seriously, they have some good ideas. The script just wasn’t good about following through with them.
MA: Director John Luessenhop does an okay job at the helm. The film looks fine and includes the expected gore, which I found both tasteless and fake-looking, not a good combination. One guy gets his body sawed in half by a chainsaw, grisly and pointless, but expected, and yet it didn’t disturb all that much because it looked fake. That CGI culprit again!
LS: I didn’t mind the stuff you’re calling tasteless. But some of the fake-looking stuff I could do without.
MA: But anything resembling genuine suspense is absent here, as are any real shocks. And as you already know by its title, it’s in 3D, and no, I wasn’t impressed.
LS: I don’t know. It wasn’t worth the extra price, I’ll give you that. But there were some cool moments where chainsaws come right out of the screen at you, that I enjoyed. But it was just a gimmick. Over all, it wasn’t really worth seeing it in 3D.
MA: I did like Leatherface’s mask, as it was sufficiently gruesome. But that being said, Leatherface himself didn’t make for the scariest villain. I mean, he comes off as this overweight lump of a man barely able to run—I was half surprised he didn’t keel over and die from a heart attack. His cholesterol level must be off the charts!
LS: Another big problem I have with the movie is that you’re right, Leatherface isn’t scary here. In the original, he was this big killing machine. Intimidatingly huge, and vicious. Here, he’s kind of like the smaller, less scary version. Sure, he’s supposed to be 20 years older, but not once did I feel like he was a force to be reckoned with. Not once did I think he could scare the hell out of anyone. The chainsaw—sure, that’s scary. Leatherface here, not so much. Gunnar Hansen in the original movie was SCARY AS HELL.
MA: For the most part, the acting was okay. Alexandra Daddario holds her own in the lead role as Heather Miller. She’s beautiful and she can act, so that’s nice combination to have.
LS: You’re right. She’s very stunning. Between those eyes of hers, and everything else (she wears shirts exposing her belly in almost every scene of the movie), my eyes were just drawn to her like a magnet. And she’s okay here as an actress. Nothing amazing, but she pulls it off.
MA: Her friends were fine, but reminded me of the same types of characters I’ve seen in countless other horror movies of this type. I recognized Tania Raymonde from LOST, as Heather’s friend Nikki, who likes to flaunt lots of skin and cleavage in this one.
Also in the cast as a young police officer is Scott Eastwood, Clint Eastwood’s son. He’s okay.
LS: Scott Eastwood as Carl is really wasted here. He’s actually really good in every scene he’s in. But then, toward the end, once the action shifts to the inside of a slaughterhouse, he is completely forgotten and we don’t see him again, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.
MA: Paul Rae as Burt Hartman makes a nice villain, and he’s actually the main baddie in this one, as he’s one big pain in the ass. He seems to want to lynch everyone he meets. One other thing I’ll say is that this movie doesn’t paint a very nice picture of small town Texas either. These folks aren’t friendly.
LS: Hartman is good, even if he never does seem like that big of a threat. He’s the leader of a lynch mob who became a crooked mayor in a small town. Somehow it seems like the enemy here should have been more formidable.
MA: And of course there’s Dan Yeager as Leatherface, wowing us with his multidimensional performance. Yeah, right. Sorry, Leatherface, but you’re about as multidimensional as a loaf of white bread. In fact, at times in this movie, you resemble a loaf of bread. A big fat loaf.
LS: He’s supposed to be Leatherface as an old man, so sometimes it worked for me. But as I stated before, he’s simply not intimidating or scary. They needed to get a bigger, scarier actor in this role. Yeager just seems like a mini version of the real thing.
MA: Sorry TEXAS CHAINSAW fans, but I can’t really find anything good to say about this movie, the latest silly chapter in a series that I just can’t warm up to.
I give it one knife.
LS: I actually liked this one more than you. But in the end, it is a disappointment. First off, I think the people who made this film had their hearts in the right place. You could tell they really wanted to pay respect to the original film. TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D states its goal early on with the footage from the original film. It’s meant to be a direct sequel to the 1974 movie. It simply dismisses all those bad sequels and boring remakes. In the remakes, by the way, the family’s name was changed to Hewitt for some inexplicable reason. Here, in this movie, we are told right off the bat that the murderers are the Sawyer family—the correct name—and that immediately got points from me early on.
I really think the people who made this film liked the original and wanted to do it justice, but they just didn’t have the imagination to do it well. That said, there were scenes I liked, and things about the movie that worked for me. I just didn’t think it was scary, and I don’t think it’s very logical (especially toward the end). The fact that Leatherface is able to walk away without being arrested, after killing Heather’s friends, other people, and running through a local carnival with a chainsaw, completely puzzled me. It just wasn’t believable.
MA: Not only that, but in a key scene, the sheriff just stands and watches a main character get murdered in front of his eyes without offering assistance.
LS: Well, he does kind of deserve it! Strangely, I liked this movie. I thought its flaws outweighed what was good about it, but I saw this as kind of a labor of love, and I can appreciate that. The original CHAINSAW deserves to be revered in the horror genre. And for once, this didn’t feel (completely) like a movie that simply wanted to cash in on a name brand and make some quick money.
I give it two and a half knives. Not a great score, but not a dismal one. And it’s at least as good as some of the movies I’ve given that score to in the past. This one has its problems, but it has just enough heart to come close to winning me over.
(LEATHERFACE pushes plate of meat back in front of MA and grunts.)
LS: That’s right. You said you’d build up an appetite.
MA: I meant, like next week.
LS: I think he wants you to eat it.
MA: Oh well. (grabs a fork and digs in). (chewing). Not bad. Rather spicy. What kind of flavoring did you use?
(LEATHERFACE reaches into his pocket and removes what looks like squished guts and organs. MA stops chewing.)
LS (laughs): Sorry you asked?
MA: I was thinking steak sauce and paprika. Anyway, isn’t it time we move on?
LS: What? And skip dessert? He made us blood pudding!
(LEATHERFACE nods eagerly)
MA: Well, folks, at least you get to leave now. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next time.
© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D ~one knife!
LL Soares gives TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D~ two and a half knives!