What do you do with a horror franchise which has already been sequeled, prequeled, rebooted, and remade? Why, make a 3D sequel of course! But not just any sequel, no. John Luessenhop‘s Leatherface rebirth takes place literally moments after Tobe Hoober’s original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, just as Sally (Marilyn Burns) escapes a gruesome fate during a twisted family dinner – egotistically pushing aside every other director’s franchise entry in favor of Texas Chainsaw 3D. “Forget ‘Chop-Top’ Bill Moseley, Matthew McConaughey, Renée Zellweger, Dennis Hopper, and Viggo Mortensen – “my entry is the only worthy follow-up to Hooper’s iconic horror classic,” is exactly what Luessenhop is saying.
Too bad his film doesn’t live up to such a bold statement, not even achieving genre watchability found in Hooper’s sequel or Marcus Nispel’s 2003 remake. Nope, just add Texas Chainsaw 3D to the towering pile of unnecessary horror revamps, as Luessenhop could have integrated his own killer instead of Leatherface and tweaked the story away from Hooper’s lore to at least give a slasher flick with slick gore and a more acceptable lack of story.
But if there’s one thing to take away from Texas Chainsaw 3D, it’s entertaining gore. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an excusable reason for sour horror, but one can at least find entertainment in Leatherface hacking stereotypical sexy young co-eds to pieces with his signature wood-cutting tool, splattering blood all over your 3D glasses. You’ll absolutely cringe like you did the first time Hooper’s hulking beast punctures a victim with a meat hook, stringing her up like that day’s freshest cut – then you’ll vomit after what Leatherface does next. Yes, Luessenhop surely saves himself from a much darker fate by appeasing grindhouse horror fans with offerings of chopped up men and whirring meat grinders, creating a movie you’d never want on while eating a meal.
With that said, I found myself bored and anxious for most other stretches of screen time, as horrendous scripting drops the ball and lets it keep rolling downhill, only gaining more and more momentum before reaching rock bottom in a haze of wasted opportunities.
Starting out at a snail’s pace and creeping dully along until Leatherface’s first kill, the first few minutes alone are just a highlight reel of kills from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre glued together to pass the time. From here, we cut right into a standoff between the Sawyers (Leatherface’s family) and some local townsfolk, but all of a sudden with more characters than originally stated.
In Hooper’s original, there isn’t any indication that more people are inside the house, yet Luessenhop takes the liberty to throw in a few more Sawyers to the mix without explanation, shattering continuity which he otherwise wanted connecting his and Hooper’s. These little creative differences continue to plague Texas Chainsaw 3D, be it main character Heather’s curiously young age even though so much time has passed, a real estate agent’s choice to keep Leatherface’s dwelling a secret, or the collective stupidity it takes to leave an unknown drifter in your house alone. Horror films are known for their consistently questionable logic, don’t get me wrong, but Luessenhop’s film is dumber than a bag of bricks not able to graduate past elementary school.
Oh, and wasted potential? Don’t get me started. At one point, Leatherface makes his way to a packed carnival while chasing Heather (Alexandra Daddario), which alludes to a crazy yet climatic scene of flying limbs and cotton candy consumptions – right? Wrong! There isn’t a *single* kill from the murderous Sawyer, focusing only on Heather and letting all other innocent people go, waving his chainsaw at patrons like he’s a mascot at Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights. Leatherface showing up chainsaw revving in a highly public place shouldn’t equal bloodless fun, even if he only takes down a cheap carnival ride accidentally, as Luessenhop seriously missed an opportunity to create a slasher scene that’s truly memorable.
As for Leatherface himself, Dan Yeager actually fills Gunnar Hansen’s gigantic shoes rather fittingly. I’ve always been intrigued by the character and his simple ways because unlike the other big names in horror, Leatherface isn’t worried about sneaking up on his victims. Just look at him running through the woods menacingly making his chainsaw known, not caring at all who hears it. There’s a certain level of terror that comes out of the mentality of reacting with blind rage and stunted emotions, being that this certain Sawyer has mental problems which give him the emotional reactions of a violent 8 year old. He’s not some villainous genius, but literally a big kid with a bad attitude, and Yeager’s lumbering portrayal really sits well.
But again, Luessenhop seriously drops the ball by trying to really humanize Leatherface now that he’s the only Sawyer left. In the other films, half the horror came from the psychotic family known as the Sawyers, helping their murderous kin commit crimes, but as I’ve already stated, in Texas Chainsaw 3D, they’re gone. There’s no one to help Leatherface. This creates some scenes where you honestly feel sympathetic for the lonely surviving Sawyer, breaking him down and putting him on a level playing field with other meaner characters – which absolutely kills any mood Luessenhop establishes.
This may just be me, but I want my Leatherface to be a terrifying dealer of gruesome chainsaw killings, not worrying about some sweet family backstory. Every time he enters a room, I want to cower in fear at the thought of this massive brute looming over dumb kids, not feel bad for the poor sap. There is the question “does Leatherface really know any better,” and that makes for a brilliant psycho analysis worth dealing with, but not by Luessenhop. This is what I was saying about how if Texas Chainsaw 3D had just been about a random killer with a similar weapon, we would have been left with an even more dumbed down story but at least some nasty, spectacular kills. Instead, Leatherface’s backstory is mistreated and his character beaten down – just like the horror that surrounds him.
As far as our actors, it’s certainly not the worst horror acting I’ve ever seen, but definitely not the best either.
Main hero Heather Miller, played by the drop-dead gorgeous Alexandra Daddario, exists as the most watchable character on-screen, but even she becomes laughable when turning into the runner from QWOP while trying to escape Leatherface’s clutches. For those who don’t feel like clicking the link, basically Heather is one of the clumsiest individuals stumbling about the horror genre, falling down every stair and tripping over every tiny fence possible.
Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson doesn’t make the situation any better, carrying on the tradition of unforgettable performances by rappers trying to become actors.
And what about the rest? Nothing but recyclable kill fodder. Don’t even bother discussing them.
Ok, one last rant and then I’m wrapping this review up, I promise. Please note there will technically be a spolier in the paragraph to follow, but it’s a rather insignificant connection between two characters. Be warned, if you’d like to avoid, just skip this next paragraph, but trust me, seeing Texas Chainsaw 3D knowing this tiny tidbit won’t make a lick of difference.
Anyway, in the film, Trey Songz’s character Ryan is supposed to be Heather’s boyfriend, but when we get to Leatherface’s abode, we learn Heather’s best friend Nikki (Tania Raymonde) had a drunken fling with Ryan, and she’s determined to seduce him once again, and she succeeds, Ryan and her take to a secluded barn, but of course Leatherface interrupts while chasing Heather. The two distract him and become trapped in the barn, until Heather breaks through the door in another character’s van too save the day. Half naked and obviously caught in the act, everyone is too terrified to address the situation with a maniac killer in hot pursuit. More bad decision making leads to the death of one character and the disappearance of another, and only Heather is left to escape alone.
Now here’s where I take issue. Why go through the whole act of setting up the cheating boyfriend if it doesn’t alter your story in the least? Heather never gets angry or reacts, there’s no guilt period for Ryan, there’s no fight between Nikki or Heather – the plot point means absolutely nothing. It’s a waste of all our time. Nikki and Ryan could have been milking a damn cow in the barn and the whole scene would have played out the same way, but for no reason our writers just want to make Ryan and Nikki a little more unlikable, forgetting to finish the story arc they started. Examples like this exist all throughout Texas Chainsaw 3D, testing our patience in between Leatherface’s gory masterpieces.
I wish I could say Texas Chainsaw 3D is the dark rebirth of a horror icon, but instead it’s just another poorly written, feebly acted, terror devoid slasher flick with no rhyme or reason, not worthy of Leatherface’s participation. Not only that, but Luessenhop so boldly alters chronology that it makes his sequel the only true follow up – inspiring no hope for future entries, to say the least. Leatherface deserves much better than this, especially when it seems someone on his level could have written the damn thing. So many plot holes and inconsistencies go ignored by Luessenhop, and it’s a chore to respect the film as a whole.
Chainsaw slicing, skin peeling, blood squirting, limb removing, face bashing – it’s all there. True gore hounds will find the most fun in Luessenhop’s film, and even they will have a problem waiting for each kill scene, but that’s the only audience I’d recommend Texas Chainsaw 3D to.