Movie Review: Texas Chainsaw (2013)

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Texas Chainsaw 3DIn an effort to skirt the negative connotations of the word “remake,” Texas Chainsaw (a title as unwieldy as the titular weapon, in instances when one’s intended victim is running—even when the modifier “3D” is added) bills itself as a remaking, going to the trouble of re-shooting the iconic end of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 slaughterhouse and playing the opening credits over a sizzle reel of highlights from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which, along with Halloween, inadvertently invented and codified the slasher genre. This, charitably speaking, is a huge tactical error. Though the 2003 remake and its sequel aren’t exactly remembered kindly, Hooper’s film—liked or loathed—is marked by its grit and inventiveness. Filmed digitally on HD cameras and following genre conventions step-by-step, grit and inventiveness are two things absent from Texas Chainsaw, so much so that the two films may as well be related in name only.

Immediately, Texas Chainsaw asks the viewer to make large leaps of logic, noticeable even within the constraints of genre. A girl (Alexandra Daddario) discovers she was adopted when she’s informed that her grandmother by birth died, leaving her an inheritance on the outskirts of Newt, Texas. Forget that this leads to yet another scenario where an attractive young girl and a few of her attractive young friends pile into a crappy van and set out for remote lodgings. Heather Miller discovers that she is a Sawyer, and, when she pulls up onto the property she’s inherited, finds herself the sole beneficiary of a vast fortune: a mansion house, silver dining service, state-of-the-art security system—the works.

Yes, Leatherface (Dan Yeager) is lurking in the basement, but that’s not important. Think back to the events of the original film. The Sawyer clan are a bunch of drooling, inbred simpletons. The smartest of them run a gas station and bar-be-cue joint that serves human meat. Moreover, the townsfolk that torched down the Sawyer joint in the prologue are celebrated as heroes, so it’s unlikely that the last one left alive got anything like a gigantic settlement package. How did grandma Sawyer and Leatherface find themselves in a mansion? Texas Chainsaw doesn’t care, even when it insinuates that the townsfolk—who murdered about 20 people with the tacit approval of the sheriff but, for whatever reason, are only able to muster up the occasional bit of graffiti on the new Sawyer digs—are still pretty heated about the time a bunch of yokels on the far outskirts of town quietly killed and ate some strangers.

There are other implausibilities in Texas Chainsaw capable of bending the mind—despite taking place now, for example, Leatherface is the spry, chainsaw-wielding killer he was in 1974, decades be damned—but to waste time discussing each one is to ignore the fact that this is simply a bad movie, and not the kind whose mistakes and wormholes make for a memorable experience. The movie tries, I suppose, to do a few things to pass the time. Heather’s boyfriend (Trey Songz) sleeps with her best friend (Tania Raymonde); a hitchhiker (Shaun Sipos) tags along with the gang to the mansion, only to ransack the place while its empty, some other guy (Keram Malicki-Sánchez) claims to be a decent cook. But they’re all hunks of meat waiting to be butchered, and Texas Chainsaw, rather than hold itself up as a flimsy allegory to the horrors of war like its predecessor did, acts shamelessly as a 90-minute vehicle for men who enjoy listening to screaming women to do so at length.

That Texas Chainsaw never rises above menacing its barely-clothed young women is a problem, one that it shares with every by-the-numbers slasher flick that uses a knife in the gut as a substitute for rape. Given that horror films are the only medium using 3D as the gimmick was intended (that is to say, the chainsaw is coming right at you!), there’s some subtext to scenes like the one where Leatherface plunges his chainsaw into a closed casket to get at the cowering, crying Heather, but Texas Chainsaw offers little beyond this, even in the name of academic analysis. Despite the name, Texas Chainsaw is just another entry in a broken, ineffective genre. It’s useless, except to mark the passage of time.

Texas Chainsaw. With Alexandra Daddario (Heather Mills), Dan Yeager (Leatherface), Trey Songz (Ryan), Scott Eastwood (Carl), Taina Raymonde (Nikki), Shaun Sipos (Darryl), and Keram Malicki-Sánchez (Kenny). Directed by John Luessenhop and produced by Carl Mazzocone. Screenplay by Kirsten Elms, Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan, based on characters created by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper.