“Texas Chainsaw 3D” was inevitable, not because it was necessary or even demanded but merely because the title alone is a perfect marketing gimmick. But don’t think for one second that I’ll devote a single sentence of this review to the “effectiveness” of the 3D process; even if you haven’t actually seen the film, I think you know perfectly well that buzzing chainsaw blades will repeatedly come directly at the camera and assault your field of vision. I would much rather discuss why this movie is narratively, characteristically, thematically, visually, and even chronologically atrocious. There doesn’t seem to be a brain at work in any of its ninety-two minutes. It tells a story so implausible and dimwitted that the kindest thing anyone could have done was use a chainsaw to dismember it.
The opening credits play against clips of Tobe Hooper’s original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” We then see a truncated form of that film’s ending, where Marilyn Burns barely eludes the chainsaw-wielding maniac Leatherface by hopping onto the back of a pickup truck. It’s at this point that the director of “Chainsaw 3D,” John Luessenhop, tacks on an epilogue sequence, during which the local police chief (Thom Barry) fails to stop a large gang of redneck vigilantes from shooting the entire Leatherface clan and burning his house to the ground. The very existence of this movie makes it obvious that Leatherface somehow survived this, although we aren’t given any specifics. We see that the infant daughter of a young woman, also of the Leatherface clan, is claimed by one of the vigilantes. This is a bit odd, since there were no apparent female members of Leatherface’s family in Hooper’s 1974 film.
The story flashes forward. Exactly how far in time is open for debate. The synopsis on the film’s official site says “decades later,” while other sources say twenty years exactly. The film itself doesn’t provide us with that information. All I know is that Hooper’s film was set in 1973; if “Chainsaw 3D” is in fact set twenty years later, that would mean it takes place in 1993. This would be about right, given the fact the central character, the girl who was taken as an infant, looks to be about twenty years old and is played by an actress who was twenty-five during principal photography. But wait a minute; a scene late in the film shows a cop using a smart phone to send a live video feed back to his station, and as we all know, smart phones as we know them weren’t made available until the mid 2000s. Are we to assume, then, that the film takes place now? That would make the central character the youngest-looking forty-year-old in history.
This would be Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario), who didn’t realize she was adopted until she received word of her grandmother’s death. She drives into Texas to collect her inheritance, a gated plantation-style mansion. Tagging along are a group of friends and a hitchhiker, all of whom are not unlike the faceless, unoriginal, disposable typecasts seen in countless teen slasher films. Once they arrive, they discover that a man (Dan Yeager) is locked in the basement – a behemoth who uses a chainsaw to slice people up and wears a mask made of human flesh. Now we’ve reached the mad killer portion of the film, in which people run around all over the place screaming. Two such people are forced to run around half-naked, because their session of lovemaking in the stable had been interrupted. This is soon followed by the reappearance of the local sheriff and several of the redneck vigilantes, who not only want to kill Leatherface but also Heather, who now knows too much.
Although the entire “Chainsaw” legacy has conditioned me to expect violence and gore, there were certain shots in this new movie I could have lived without, such as the moment when Leatherface peels a man’s face off of his skull, or when he literally stitches a new leathery mask to his own cheeks, or when he uses his chainsaw to slice a man in two. But the ugly visuals pale in comparison to the ugliness and stupidity of the final act, during which Leatherface, who has a forty-year track record of being a sadistic monster, is turned into a sympathetic figure – a victim in need of rescuing. The message of this film, assuming I’m reading into it correctly, is that family is family, no matter what. This is not only untrue, it’s also incredibly insulting to those of us, myself included, that take family seriously. If there’s one thing this movie knows absolutely nothing about, it’s family.
Why was this movie made? Who do the filmmakers believe they’re appealing to? Certainly not to diehards of the 1974 film, despite cameo appearances by Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, and John Dugan (even “Chainsaw Massacre 2” veteran Bill Moseley makes an appearance). Was it intended for a new generation of fans, even though Marcus Nispel already achieved that goal in 2003 with his exceptional remake of Hooper’s film? The only possible audiences “Texas Chainsaw 3D” will cater to are those with disturbingly short attention spans. Everyone else should be able to see the hole in the plot, which is big enough to drive an entire convoy of trucks through. When I think of the fact that this movie could potentially spawn a sequel, it makes me want to bang my head against a wall until I’m unconscious.