Another year, another stab at rejuvenating the flagging Texas Chainsaw Massacre brand; one of the most confounding franchises in all of fandom, especially given how easy it should be to come up with something reasonably frightening/entertaining given its simple premise (guy meets girl/guy chases girl with chainsaw). This year’s model, Texas Chainsaw 3D, has even gone so far as to drop the "Massacre" from the moniker, perhaps in hopes of attracting the desirable multi-tasking teen demographic, who are so busy texting, instagramming, and tweeting that they don’t have time for those three extra syllables, nor the attention span to actually notice that everything that’s unfolding upon the screen before them had been done, and done much better, long ago.
Texas Chainsaw 3D opens with a montage of original, cleaned-up footage from Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic, and it looks exceptional, here, making me wonder aloud why my Blu-ray doesn’t look nearly as good. These scenes represent a sort of "greatest hits", and run during the opening credits, ending with Marilyn Burns finding salvation in the bed of a pickup truck. We are then thrown into a Devil’s Rejects-style siege scene meant to take place immediately following the events of the first film (thus negating the events of Hooper’s tongue-in-cheek 1986 sequel and every one thereafter). Here, the Sawyer family, led by Drayton Sawyer (Bill Moseley standing in for the departed Jim Siedow), and a cavalcade of previously unseen distant relations including “Boss” Sawyer (the original Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen), attempt to fend off an attack by an angry mob of vigilante types, who presumably kill every last member of the Sawyer clan, save for an infant girl who is adopted by the kindly Miller family.
Flash forward eighteen years where said infant, Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario), has blossomed into a perpetually frowny proto-goth chick who learns that she’s inherited a sizeable chunk of property from a grandmother she never knew she had. Conflicted and enraged at her adoptive parents, Heather decides to take a trip across Texas to appraise her inheritance, bringing along the usual blend of stereotypes, including Confrontational Black Guy/Boyfriend, Ryan (hip-hop guy Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson, whose shirtless presence onscreen elicited many an excited yelp/whistle from the abundance of overly sexualized tween girls in the audience), Slutty/Hot friend, Nikki (Malcolm in the Middle’s Tania Raymonde all grown up and mid-driffy), and Geeky-hot/chainsaw fodder, Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez).
The Scooby gang arrives at the sprawling manse and, after the requisite amount of bitching/partying/sex-type stuff, discover that they’re not alone. Leatherface, the chainsaw wielding maniac, dwells in the home’s basement, and, soon enough, Heather’s friends find themselves on the receiving end of his whirring blades of doom. Heather, of course, escapes, and seeks the aid of an assortment of local yokels, including handsome deputy, Carl (Scott Eastwood, who’s the spitting image of his dad), and her deceased granny Sawyer’s lawyer, Farnsworth (Richard Riehle), where she learns of her biological family’s horrifying history. However, there’s a big ol’ plot twist, here, and, when it comes to pass, Heather finds herself returning to her roots in hopes of enlisting the help of the last person you’d expect, unless, of course, you’re not a total fucking moron.
Oh mercy. Where to begin? Texas Chainsaw 3D is, perhaps, one of the most inept, unintentionally hilarious, and thoroughly misguided genre films I’ve seen in…well…ever. It’s a gore-for-gore’s sake mess of slasher clichés, poorly realized plot devices, logic holes (since this is supposed to take place 18 years after the events of the first film, shouldn't it be 1992 rather than 2012?) and SyFy channel level production values. The performances are embarrassing, the direction is flat and lifeless, and there’s nary a scare to be had (unless you’ve an aversion to blurry 3D images accompanied by the sound of power tools). Virtually everything good about the movie happens in the first ten minutes, and half of that consists of footage from the original. What remains is "bad movie" entertaining; good for a few laughs and some visceral bloody bits, but hardly worth shelling out $14 dollars to see.
What’s really infuriating is that the premise, here, is not half-bad!. Granted, the idea of Leatherface as a sort of Punisher-esque anti-hero takes a bit of getting used to, but, were it handled properly, I could see fans of the character getting onboard with it. Sadly, the whole concept is squandered by director, John Luessenhop, who seems more concerned with giving Trey Songz a venue for his music than crafting a remotely effective horror movie. Were this placed in the hands of a capable horror director (um, how about Tobe Hooper?), this could have been genre gold. Instead it’s only a barely passable diversion that, were it not for the promise of its legendary title, would have gone straight from the editing room to the shelves at your local big box store.