Sunday, January 6, 2013
Hollywood loves to teach old dogs new tricks. Christopher Nolan re-imagined the “Batman” franchise, and Batman will never be that good again. George Lucas rebooted “Star Wars.” Now, Disney is preparing a new “Star Wars” trilogy, not to mention a reboot of “The Lone Ranger.” The people who made the new entry in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” franchise are trying to teach an old chainsaw new tricks. Numerically, “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” (** OUT OF ****) qualifies as the sixth sequel to Tobe Hooper’s landmark slaughterhouse saga “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974) that alarmed audiences with only half as much blood and twice as much storytelling. Squeamish people should still avoid this bloodthirsty idiocy. You get to see a grown man cut in two by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. This same stout lad saws off feet at the ankles as casually as you would clip your fingernails. He thrusts living people onto meat hooks and stores half-dead dames in freezers. Yes, he wears a mask of a dead man's face.
Basically, “Takers” director John Luessenhop and “Conspiracy” scribes Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan, along with freshman scenarist Kirsten Elms, have abolished four decades worth of sequels, prequels and remakes. You don’t need to have seen Tobe Hooper’s follow-up “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” (1986) with Dennis Hopper to enjoy “Texas Chainsaw 3-D.” Neither should you worry about Jeff Burr’s “Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) with Viggo Mortensen. Or for that matter Kim Henkel’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) with Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. For what it’s worth, Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel created “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” characters. Let’s not forget “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003) that toplined lovely Jessica Biel or “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” (2006) featuring “The Fast and the Furious” dame Jordana Brewster. Indeed, Luessenhop and his writers ask us to consider “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” as the new official sequel to the 1974 film.
Sounds like somebody got their chainsaws tangled up. Not surprisingly, the opening credits occur against excerpts from the Hooper original. Some actors and actresses reprise their roles, notably Gunnar Hansen, who once played Leatherface but portrays Boss Sawyer, and Marilyn Burns, cast Sally Hardesty in the original. The filmmakers beg our indulgence when it comes to a realistic timetable, too. This “sequel” doesn’t take place until 18 to 25 years later in the 1990s. Nevertheless, "Texas Chainsaw 3-D" looks contemporary. Talk about stretching time out! Luessenhop and company make a huge leap of faith. In the process, they give us something far more horrifying than just another gore-soaked sequel. “Texas Chainsaw 3” amounts to a revisionist sequel! In the 1950s, for example, Hollywood rehabilitated Indian savages and converted them noble and sympathetic warriors wronged by society. Essentially, “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” treats the murderous Leatherface character with the same compassion that westerns conferred on Indians in movies like “Broken Arrow,” “Apache,” and “Run of the Arrow.” One scene near the end of “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” presents a tableaux with Leatherface and his only surviving relative that reminded me of George and Lenny from the classic 1939 movie “Of Mice and Men.” This John Steinbeck movie concerned a mentally challenged brute and his intelligent guardian. Horror has a new identity!
Altered time-lines or not, our heroine, Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario of “The Babysitters”), carves up meat at a meat packing factory. Little does she know what runs in the family. When she isn’t at work, Heather spends quality time with her African-American lover, Ryan (Tremaine "Trey Songz" Neverson), who isn’t above cheating on her. In fact, he cheats on her with her own best friend. Bombshell of a babe Nikki ( Tania Raymonde of“Wild Cherry”), has no fear of being caught by Heather and does everything but flaunt their affair in front of her. Moreover, Nikki has her own boyfriend, Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez of “American History X”), who preoccupies himself with his culinary skills. This quartet cruises off to Newt, Texas, in a van after Heather learns she has received an inheritance from a long, lost relative who she didn’t know she had. Along the way to Newt, the quartet pick up a hitchhiker in the rain, Darryl (Shaun Sipos of “Rampage”), who has a secret case of sticky fingers that comes back to doom him. When they arrive at the house on Homestead Road, grandma's lawyer, Farnsworth (Richard Riehle of “Office Space”) meets them, but declines to accompany them after they proceed through the gates onto the premises.
Heather is still reeling from the revelation that the couple who raised her weren’t her biological parents. The father rescued her from the clutches of a dying woman when the Sawyers were gunned down by vigilantes and their home burned to the ground. Anyway, the realtor hands Heather a letter and advises her to read it. Naturally, Heather ignores the letter when her friends and she discover that this is no ordinary house but a palatial mansion with many rooms. Curiosity leads to carnage when the man in the basement, none other than Leatherface (Dan Yeager of “Metal Heads”) himself, comes up to investigate and begins carving flesh. He cuts his way through a number of people before he realizes that blood is thicker than chainsaws. Heather grovels at his mercy as she was herself about to be slaughtered by the evil town mayor who precipitated an orgy of violence that brought her back to her destiny.
The switching chainsaws plot of “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” is imaginative stuff but this doesn’t happen until half-way through the mayhem. Nevertheless, before the villain is rehabilitated, several people have joined the ranks of the dead. The best scene—again out of any chronological time-line—has a curious deputy sheriff walking through the mansion following the smeared trail of blood with his wrists crossed. He holds a pistol in one fist and an iPhone in the other, documenting his progress through the house down into the cellar where he encounters bodies carved up in all shapes. Luessenhop generates a moderate amount of suspense and buckets of blood and gore, but “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” cannot cut it as the classic that the original was.