Friday, June 21, 2013

An Acute Case of Sequelitis: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013)

Yes, I know, I'm an idiot for even imagining that there might be something entertaining to be found here. Imagine NOTLD3D, except shot on film. Pointless, boring, crushingly obvious and totally cheap. In my own defense there is a lot of opportunity here. As far as I'm concerened, if you can make a fun 3D thrill-ride out of a franchise that has run out of juice in years prior, like THE FINAL DESTINATION, you should abso-freaking-lutely be able to do that times two with a franchise like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. "Chainsaw" + "3D" should = "Magic". You'd have to be a complete inbred half-wit to screw that up. Please put your hands together for complete inbred half-wit director John Luessenhop. I'd blame screenwriter Adam Marcus, but I enjoyed his reworking of the FRIDAY THE 13th mythos, JASON GOES TO HELL (1993, particularly in it's extended grey-market form), and as he is credited with no less than five other writers, I don't think I can lay the blame entirely at his feet.

In an attempt to come up with an entirely new premise that not only brushes aside the previous sequels and remake, the filmmakers concoct an entirely new backstory that mixes footage from the original film with new footage. Now we have a quasi-Hatfield and McCoy family feud and the Sawyer family house is now located in a town and the family is apparently now made up of about half-a-dozen members of "Duck Dynasty". One of the townies, leads a mob on the Sawyer's place burning it to the ground, kicking defenseless mothers in the face and stealing a baby in the process. Yes, the Sawyers are no longer sphincter-shriveling cannibal kinfolk preying on the wayward traveler in the Texas outback, but something more akin to Mormons with bad table manners.



After reinventing history, the first 30 minutes is just the usual tween friends nonsense (or if you are a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer you would call it "character development"), with a goth hottie (Alexandra Daddario) who works as a butcher (as if!) inheriting her Grandmother's house in Texas, only to find out that she's been living with the folks that killed her real family who are... wait for it... the Sawyers! She and a couple of friends roadtrip down to Texas and along the way pick up a hitchhiker... who has nothing to do with anything. Also, she's Letherface's cousin and as it turns out, Letherface is still alive and well, and living in the basement of the house as some sort of gimp while gram had kept him out of trouble. So basically it's a "people trapped in a house with a gimp" movie for another 20 minutes, in which there's a bunch of running around and screaming but little else. Oh, I almost forgot. There is a lot of steel door slamming. This movie will never, ever let you forget that one of the most iconic scenes in Tobe Hooper's original was Leatherface slamming a sliding steel door. If that isn't enough, the film features plenty of other reminders including a shot of a dead armadillo in the road and a re-imagining of the deep freezer scene. Still not enough? How about cribbing moments from HALLOWEEN (1978) and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) too? Come to think of it, isn't the tag-line more than a little reminiscent of the JASON GOES TO HELL trailer?

Weirdly the movie feels like it is coming to an end at the 50 minute mark. Three of the four peeps escape the house, and in one of many incredibly stupid decisions this film makes, one dies from an ensuing auto accident... instead of being killed by, I dunno, maybe a chainsaw? And the other simply disappears until the end of the movie. In order to get things back in gear, we find out that the world's smallest carnival is taking place right next to the house! What are the odds? So desperate for something entertaining, you think "hey, Pruneface can carve up carnival peeps and that will be cool". I was starting to think of some sort of carnival massacre ala HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980) and the second that I thought that, Leatherface simply intimidates some of the patrons with his chainsaw before running off into the woods! Cue leatherfacepalm.

As if the rampant refusal to do anything remotely interesting wasn't bad enough, these guys hired KNB to do the gore FX, which is awesome right? Then they decide to do most of gore with CG or worse, in what seems to be a new trend, covering up the latex work with CG! Here the CG is so bad, the Sy-Fy channel would think twice about airing it. Yeah, ok, maybe not, but it still looks like someone got a high-school kid with a red sharpie to draw blood on the frame. This is particularly grating when the big, climactic scene (which adds insult to injury after our goth chickie tosses Leatherface a chainsaw and quips "do your thang cuz") has the bad townie going into an industrial meatgrinder ala RAZORBACK and we get a bunch of sharpie marks that are supposed to be blood shooing out. I should point out that it was the deliberately hard-come-by NC-17 version that I viewed. We seem to have stepped back into the '80s here with an R-rated version that is shocking in its anemia. While many high-profile films over the past decade (2008's RAMBO comes to mind) have redefined the levels of graphic violence in an R-rated movie, apparently old grudges die hard at the MPAA. By modern standards, I'd say the level of gore in the NC-17 version is far lower than anything seen in say, CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011), however CABIN wasn't a horror movie (sorry band-wagon jumpers, that movie is a straight-up comedy without any pretension of actual horror). Even more odd is that I can pull out two TCM sequels from the draconian '80s era that sport more gore and creativity than this carcass.

It's not just the FX, but the entire film feels like the budget was cut after shooting began. It feels like pages were ripped out of the script, action scenes were cut, KNB were fired and long, dull "character" scenes were shot to pad the running time. What kind of scenes, you ask? How about a scene that blatantly panders to the inner-city crowd while expanding the running time? The good sheriff and the evil mayor are in an office with a police officer on the radio who is going to enter the Sawyer house and investigate. The hot-headed hick officer is looking for "any excuse" to use his firearm, which means you know he's dead meat. He slowly makes his way though dark hallways, occasionally glimpsing bones and severed body parts as he gets closer to Leatherface's lair (yes, he has a lair). Not only is it a long pointless scene, but the sentiments of a cop being some dipshit who can't wait to shoot someone is cynical at best when in this day and age we all know, regardless of race, you have a much better chance of being shot by some crazy motherfucker without a badge.

While that scene is rather politically incorrect, the filmmakers (in spite of knowing that they are doing an R-rated movie) go for the politically correct anti-nudity stand, having scenes that were clearly written with nudity in mind, shot with as little skin as possible, often awkwardly so. Cleavage can be leered at comfortably, but exposed naughty bits are a no-no. Our heroine has her shirt torn open at one point while chained up by the local yokels who don't take kindly to Sawyer kin, yet her shirt miraculously stays firmly attached to her torso, no matter how much she struggles with her bondage. In another scene the slutty-party girl stereotype is being hammered home, while she shows no skin, her lover (Heather's cheatin' boyfriend, played by Trey Songz) is frequently shown stripped to the waist with his boxers showing. Ok, I think I can see through the schizophrenic logic here: Female bodies are bad. Male bodies are good. I'm sure the Taliban would be pleased.

If it seems like I'm spending a lot of time bitching about gore and nudity, it is simply because without those exploitation staples your are left with an infuriatingly unambitious film that tries to both pander and be politically correct, but really doesn't seem to care enough to stick with it either way. At least some creative FX work for KNB would have provided some bright spots and quite frankly, boobs have always provided a great distraction in genre cinema. Even on its own terms it was difficult to find anything entertaining about the movie. When not wallowing in uninspired cliches (the corrupt mayor doesn't even pretend to be a nice guy) that take the movie nowhere, shlocky potential crops up every now and then, only to be cut down with complete indifference. The only reason I wanted to see it in the first place was because I had read that it had been shot stereoscopic. Damned if you can tell by watching it. Like many other aspects of the film, very little attempt is made to accentuate the elements that it is attempting to exploit. It may have been shot stereoscopic, but the cinematographer just shot it like a flat movie, much like PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES. Either way, this saw is completely out of gas.

One of the production team's attempts at pre-release internet hype


Moments of Clarity:

2 Reactions:

  1. I thought this was a case of a movie being so bad that I loved it...it's just terrible. Did you notice the two biggest glaring errors: that Heather would have been much, much older if she was the baby in 1974, and this movie takes place in the 21st century? And the deputy who ties Heather up in the finale...simply vanishes into thin air?

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  2. That's the thing that everyone complained about when the movie hit theaters. It's not just Heather who was too young. The mayor and the sheriff would have been dead or in retirement homes. It looked as if they were setting the time period for the original in the 90s. Either way, for me, that was the least of it's sins. The emotional scenes where Heather is caring for Leatherface, who is now an object of pity and a protagonist, completely violated the cannon. I can willingly suspend my disbelief when it comes to the time line, but if you are going to completely change the backstory and characters and not even provide even exploit any of the inherent entertainment values of the scenario after doing it, that's just inexcusable.

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