Contrary to what you may think, Texas Chainsaw 3D is not a shameless exploitation of a beloved franchise to make a quick buck, at least not from anyone involved at the actual filmmaking level. Director John Lussenhop and his team were clearly very invested in trying to make a film that pleases the fanbase and smoothly transitions from the classic first installment. For the most part, those involved accomplish those two goals. Unfortunately, jarring alterations in the quality of both acting and story keep the movie from being anything better than mediocre or even mediocre minus.
At times, TC 3D feels like a low quality, low budget horror film that should have gone straight to DVD. Not Blu-ray. DVD. One of its female characters is a scantily-clad, dick-grabbing, shrieking idiot every horror fan has seen dozens of times. Another of its female characters runs like an uncoordinated buffoon, tripping over every object in a hundred yard radius, and a few of its more emotional moments are unintentionally funny and filled with melodramatic nonsense. Other times, however, the whole thing plays like a wonderful addition to the franchise and a damn scary movie. TC 3D brilliantly uses cell phones/ new technology in one scene that’s among the more well-shot the horror genre will offer this year. A few of the kills have great surprise elements to them, and most importantly, the film feels like an authentic, albeit absurd, next step following the original.
The action picks up in 1974 after Sally’s escape, which is helpfully chronicled in the film’s opening credits for those less familiar with the franchise. The police and an angry mob quickly descend on the house, calling for Leatherface to be sent out. Unfortunately, before that can happen, a few Molotov cocktails are sent into the homestead, laying waste to numerous members of the Sawyer family and setting in motion a chain of events that leads to an infant being snatched from the rubble and raised without a clue to her identity.
That girl grows up to be the angsty Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario), and after her real grandmother Verna dies, she inherits a giant mansion filled with expensive antiques and, of course, a hulking, mentally stunted murderer (Dan Yeager) who lives in the basement. Thanks to a serious lack of communication and common sense, Heather heads to the property with her boyfriend (Trey Songz), her best friend (Tania Raymonde) and a drifter (Shaun Sipos) without any knowledge of the horror that awaits. Upon arrival, they figure out the score pretty quickly, but where the film goes from there is less of what we expect from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series and more of a ludicrous curveball that will likely polarize audiences.
I’m fine with the second-half wrinkle, but what bothers me about the film, beyond its occasional dips in quality, is the frustrating middle ground it often takes on sexuality/ humor. If you’re going to give viewers a slutty, absurd caricature who unnecessarily changes in front of people in a van and genuinely acts like a woman put on the Earth to do nothing other than fornicate, then it’s stupid not to have her actually get naked. If you’re going to make a few sick jokes about the ridiculous situation everyone finds themselves in, take that concept to the extreme. Properly carry on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre legacy of disgusting black humor weirdness. If you’re going to go there, indulge. The R-rating has already been secured. Use it.
Texas Chainsaw 3D isn’t nearly as good as it could have been. Like all of the sequels it mostly chooses to ignore, it will likely be forgotten and passed over when a new generation of filmmakers takes a crack at Leatherface. With a few creepy scenes and a great transition from the first film, however, it should still please a high percentage of horror fans looking to find an unnerving way to spend an hour and a half out of the cold.