The TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE has had such a checkered history that the prospect of yet another entry in the franchise is a frightening one indeed. Particularly another reboot, which if you’re counting, marks the third in the series, with LEATHERFACE: TCM 3 (1990) and the glorified Parasuco Jeans commercial produced by Michael Bay, being the other two.
However, John Luessenhop’s TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D is an anomaly in the current trend of horror movie remakes in that it actually gets things right.
Unlike any of the sequels and remakes that predate it, including, dare I say, Tobe Hooper’s own 1986 sequel, this film actually feels like a spiritual follow-up to the original that manages, in part, to capture the visual and visceral feel of the 1974 classic. The cinematography captures daytime Texas in a similarly bright and colorful fashion while managing to create a pretty suspenseful series of nighttime set-pieces featuring Leatherface terrifying a new generation of promiscuous young-ins.
The film also decides to pull a HALLOWEEN: H20 (1998) by completely (and wisely) disregarding the entire TCM mythology and having it take place directly after the events of the original film. By doing so, the film is given tremendous liberty in being able to experiment with the Leatherface character and giving him an added dimension of humanity that is both thrilling and oddly touching.
This will (and has) certainly angered some fans. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about genre fans it’s that they don’t know what they want. They often complain about seeing the same thing all the time but when a filmmaker comes around and tries to offer a new spin on a timeless concept, they chew him/her out and demand said concept to be presented the way it’s always been.
Director Luessenhop does a good job of balancing the two by taking the TCM series in a bold new direction with the character while still paying loving homage to the landmark classic by providing the horror beats that fans come to expect in these types of films.
Of course, the film is not without its flaws.
While TC3D is an awful lot of fun, it’s awfully dumb too. An argument could be made that horror films in general are pretty dumb and require a suspension of disbelief that’s downright astronomical. But in TC3D, this argument is taken to the next level with perhaps the cardinal sin being a sequence in which our heroine, Heather and her friends pick up a random hitchhiker and decide to leave him in charge of guarding the mansion she just inherited that contains an abundance in wealth while they go off to pick up some groceries. Needless to say, he robs them but in a bit of poetic justice, gets more than he bargained for.
Then there’s the issue of when exactly this film takes place. While the opening sequence takes place in 1974, the majority of the story takes place in an undisclosed time period that judging from the age of the main character, would seem to indicate the late ’90s. If that’s the case, then one of the major set-pieces involving Facetime is outright laughable as I don’t seem to recall owning an iPhone(!) during my later years in high school. However, if the film is meant to take place in 2012, then Heather ought to share her lack of aging secret as for a 40-year old woman, she looks 20.
And finally, while the idea of making Leatherface a more down-to-Earth character and almost justifying his murderous ways by claiming he’s mentally handicapped may have been noble, it does bear questioning how this gets the rest of the Sawyer clan off the hook as the acts they perpetrated in the original film were equally, if not more evil given they were fully aware of what they were doing and loving every minute of it.
On another note, as far as the use of 3D goes, after watching Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012) in HFR 3D (48fps), I’ve been spoiled rotten by what a real 3D film ought to look like so truth be told, any film not shot in that format is going to look like crap as far as I’m concerned. But then again, I didn’t go into TC3D with the idea I was going to watch a James Cameron-esque revolutionary take on the technology.
So all in all, John Luessenhop’s TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D may not necessarily go down in history as being one of the better horror films of all-time but it ought to go down as being one of the more worthy ones as it takes some admirable chances with the material and certainly paves the way for a new slew of sequels based on the latest Leatherface space/time continuum.