Mark Reviews Movies

Texas Chainsaw

TEXAS CHAINSAW

1 Star (out of 4)

Director: John Luessenhop

Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Tremaine "Trey Songz" Neverson, Tania Raymonde, Keram Malicki-Sánchez, Shaun Sipos, Scott Eastwood, Thom Barry, Paul Rae, Richard Riehle

MPAA Rating: R (for strong grisly violence and language throughout)

Running Time: 1:32

Release Date: 1/4/13


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Review by Mark Dujsik | January 7, 2013

The heroine of Texas Chainsaw has at least three chances to stop the inevitable massacre, and, yes, despite the fact that the word is missing from the title this time around, there is a copious amount of blood and gore flowing and splattering from the business end of the titular power tool.  The strangest part of this movie—the sixth to follow Tobe Hooper's iconic and still terrifying The Texas Chain Saw Massacre—is that it is very clearly rooting against its potential victims and for the chainsaw-wielding maniac known as Leatherface.

The screenplay (written by Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan, and Kirsten Elms) poses itself as a direct sequel to the 1974 film, and do not ask how this timeline works.  Texas Chainsaw is unmistakably set in the present day, given the use of live video chatting on a cell phone in one particularly forehead-slap-worthy sequence in which a disposable deputy wanders through a dark house where a killer is known to be to find out what happened to the other disposable characters (The long trail of blood, apparently, is not enough).

This, of course, would mean that the movie takes place almost four decades after the original film, but the heroine, who was a baby in the movie's prologue, is only in her 20s.  We might accept that the movie pushes the events into the 1990s, except that it uses footage of the Hooper film, which is also unmistakably set in the 1970s.  Director John Luessenhop's solution to this odd inconsistency is simply to ignore it.  During a scene in which a character opens up a police file on the backwoods family that terrorized a group of travelers, there's a newspaper (in pristine condition for being 40 or even 20 years old), and Luessenhop simply keeps the year out of frame.

This is what some might dub nitpicking, but it's a fair encapsulation of how little—and obviously so—the people behind this movie care about it.  It's as if everyone came to the collective realization that there really is nowhere else for this franchise to go after three sequels, a remake, and a prequel to the remake and a collective decision to put in as minimal effort as possible.  Only the climax, which looks sympathetically at the killer in the mask made of human faces, does anything remotely different, but for it to work, one must set aside the most basic considerations of one's conscience as firmly as the screenwriters dismiss the entire plot and point of the original film.

Heather (Alexandra Daddario), her boyfriend Ryan (Tremaine "Trey Songz" Neverson), her best friend Nikki (Tania Raymonde), Nikki's boyfriend Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), and a hitchhiker named Darryl (Shaun Sipos) arrive at Heather's biological grandmother's home after a lot of exposition.  Heather was "adopted" after the man she calls her father kicked her biological mother in the face and kidnapped her as a baby, and now grandma has left Heather her estate.  We know there's something in the house.  The characters don't, so they wander around a lot.  We wait for them to get picked off one by one.

It's an old, tired formula, and the movie employs it only for increasingly gruesome demises.  The screenplay makes a concerted effort to make the characters guilty of something so that—using some twisted logic—they get what they have coming to them.  Darryl is a thief (The group leaves him alone in the house for some reason and is surprised to discover his dishonesty—probably for the same reason).  Ryan once cheated on Heather with Nikki, and Nikki is still trying to sleep with Ryan.  Kenny's crime, apparently worthy of the movie's most sickening shot (a close-up of a chainsaw tearing through a torso), is either that he cooks or that he isn't directly friends with Heather.  Heather, by the way, is clumsy (After tripping over a calf-high fence, we expect her tumble over a tiny rock while racing through the woods), loud when silence is necessary, and without much forethought (She grabs a Ferris wheel—testing the limits of her ridiculously distracting midriff shirt—to escape Leatherface, and he just waits for it come down on the other end).

It's fine, though.  Heather is, after all, related to the big guy (played by Dan Yeager), and there's a decades-old (Seriously, don't ask for specifics) cover-up at play as to the fate of their family.  We can sense where this thread of the story is going, and when it arrives, it's only a question of whether Texas Chainsaw is worse when it's idly going through the motions or actively cheering on a remorseless killer and the legacy of his cannibalistic kin.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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