Review: 'Texas Chainsaw'

By: Heather Seebach

When I heard 2013's Texas Chainsaw would be a direct sequel to Tobe Hooper's horror classic, my interest was piqued. When I heard Tobe himself and original star Marilyn Burns liked the new one, I was actually looking forward to it. But now that I have seen director John Luessenhop's modern take on Leatherface, I'm tempted to go on a chainsaw massacre myself. Even without 3-D (an annoyance from which I was thankfully spared), this sequel is a slap in the face to TCM fans and general movie-going audiences alike.

The film picks up right where The Texas Chain Saw Massacre left off, with Sally escaping Leatherface. The Sawyer family pays the consequences of that mistake, but some survive the ordeal. Cut to twenty-some years later: a young gal named Heather learns she has inherited her dead grandmother's estate which so happens to house a certain face-wearing homicidal maniac. Needless to say, carnage ensues for Heather and her friends when they decide to go check out her new Texas abode.

Firstly, Texas Chainsaw suffers the primary horror pitfall - stupid people doing stupid things. We fans have come to accept that sort of behavior, but sometimes it's just too ridiculous to be overlooked. The character arc of the protagonist is completely absurd. Even the cops do dumb shit in this movie (though one of their dumbest moves leads to the film's funniest moment, so I forgive that one). Secondly, the movie has wooden actors and painfully bad dialogue. It was a legitimate challenge for me to not turn this movie off when one of Heather's friends, who has just arrived in Texas, says to Leatherface: "Welcome to Texas, motherfucker!" On top of how cliche and illogical that line is, it is infuriatingly insulting to TCM fans.

So you like horror, right? You're used to dumb characters, bad acting, and crap dialogue, right? We still get to see Leatherface mess some people up, right? Well, yes and no. The movie begins with some promise - namely in the form of a mallet to someone's face and one suitably gory dismemberment. Then out of blue comes CGI blood, cartoony chainsaws flying at the screen, and laughably bad VFX on par with a SyFy Channel Original. The film's biggest death scene looks like someone created it in The Sims. Even the film's opening title card is absurdly amateur. And worst of all, Leatherface is reduced to some kind of sympathetic hero, completely removing the horror element from the film.

Now, let's talk timelime, which is often the biggest complaint about this movie. It follows up on the original film as a sort of alternate timeline, disregarding the other sequels. Okay, I can live with that. But if the original is assumed to have taken place in 1974 (when the movie was released), then Heather ought to be in her late 30s - but she's not even close. That oversight is almost excusable as the film half-assedly attempts to elude dating. The costumes are more 70s throwback than 90s, so they don't really work but you can almost defend the film's timeline - right up until someone busts out a video-ready cell phone. And yet, prior to that, none of these twenty-somethings ever thought to even peek at a cell, let alone call for help. Did the four screenwriters even give one-tenth of a shit? Oh wait, I just answered my own question.

Texas Chainsaw aims for a bit of nostalgia but it's lazy - a sliding-door slam here; a sexy butt in red shorts there; even cameos from franchise vets Burns, Gunnar Hansen, and Bill Moseley. But it just isn't enough to help fans overlook the timeline inconsistencies, terrible dialogue, and laughably bad FX. Footage from Tobe Hooper's film is used in lieu of original opening credits, which made me really want to watch the 1974 flick instead. Save yourself some pain and go do that instead.

Texas Chainsaw is on DVD and 3D/2D Blu-ray today, May 14th from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Special features include audio commentary with the producer Carl Mazzocone and Tobe Hooper; "alumni" audio commentary with Moseley, Hansen, Burns, and John Dugan; seven featurettes about the film and its predecessors; and behind-the-scenes footage. It is also available on Video on Demand and Pay-Per-View.

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