Texas Chainsaw 3D, is it any good?
Never judge a book by it’s cover. A mantra repeated to us throughout our whole lives - and incidentally one which the makers of Texas Chainsaw (2013) may wish was the opposite.
I picked up the film, often called Texas Chainsaw 3D based on it’s theatrical release at a charity shop. Now, I honestly rather like the TCM series, and the cover of this iteration of the story, and one of the few I don’t have in my collection, was enough to entice me in - knowing very little about it - although I had an inkling.
TCM is one of those franchises of which rebooting is part of the course, each time with a different continuity, and all somewhat lacking the potency of the original. So I had come to expect that it was going to be likely that Andrew Bryniarski had hung up his leather mask for the last time, in the porchway of the Hewitt residence having served in both Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006). Since watching Leatherface (2017), which I watched before this film, I was rather sceptical of the potential for the franchise ; I mean Leatherface wasn’t the worst film ever, but it’s hard to not get sick of origin stories after a while - just ask fans of Spiderman.
Texas Chainsaw 3D takes place after the original 1974 film, rather than following in Hewitt clan family from the two most immediate incarnations. It follows the story of Heather Miller, Alexandra Daddario, as she and her group of teen pals venture down to Texas to see the house her Grandmother left to her. But the house has a secret in the basement, far worse than damp or a cockroach infestation; there’s a lodger.
And no normal lodger at that. Shortly after their arrival, the friendly hitchhiker the crew picked up on route shows his true colours as he begins to steal everything that isn’t nailed down. Upon locating a series of secret doors, each revealing successively creepier rooms which a normal human being would wave the white flag at, he uncovers the lair of Leatherface, or Jeddidiah Sawyer, played by Dan Yeager. Leatherface, suffice it to say, isn’t entirely enthusiastic about seeing someone new in his home, and does what he does best.
When the rest of the gang return from a shopping trip, they discover that the hitchhiker has gone rogue with Granny’s silverware, and their pissed. But not too pissed to party. That would be unreasonable. It’s from here that Kenny, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, decides that going down the creepy stairs is a good idea. The best idea in fact. So he does. And guess what? Leatherface still isn’t happy to have someone on his turf. So he meets the same sticky end that many have before.
Whilst Heather’s boyfriend are BFF are out having an affair in the barn, she is, unbeknownst to her, now alone in the house with Leatherface, who she meets in the kitchen as he lovingly chops up some fingers into a bowl. She bashes her head and wakes up in his underground lair. It could do with a spring clean that would present a challenge to even Marie Kondo, but i’ve seen worse in student digs. Heather takes the - wise - opportunity to run away.
Then begins the portion of every slasher film which I like to call “Everyone dies”. At the end of this little segment, all our teens beside Heather are dead, and a cop to boot. There’s not a huge amount of story in there, outside of Heather discovering she’s a Sawyer, and that the locals - including her adopted parents - torched their house to the ground because of the Sawyer murders of the OG’s in the ‘74 film. Now she’s on the hit list of the arsonists, along with -who she learns- her cousin Jed “leatherface” Sawyer.
She gets abducted by a cop, whose pappy just so happens to be arsonist-in-chief, and now town mayor. He chains her up in the slaughterhouse where the Sawyers used to work, to which Leatherface then makes his way, unaware that he’s on track for a proper family reunion. When he comes in, he’s about to chop up our incarcerated hero, but for seeing her Sawyer necklace burn on her breast - obviously. She confirms to him that she is his cousin, and there is much rejoicing. Briefly. Then the mayor and his pal come in and start whacking Leatherface with a stick. He doesn’t like that very much, but there’s not a lot he can do. Heather scarpers, before deciding that blood is thicker than water. SHe comes back in, stabs up the mayors pal, and with the help of her cousin, forces the mayor into a meat grinder. They walk off together into the sunset, back to the house, in one of the most beautiful, moral affirming endings in cinema history. D’awww.
Except, Leatherface killed all her friends, but we’ll just gloss over that bit.
This film positions itself as one of those Frankenstein esque “but who’s the real villain?” situations, before coming to the apt conclusion that actually it’s everyone. As this is a Slasher film though, I’m going to focus on this iteration of Leatherface, rather than all the other bad guys.
Visually, Leatherface actually looks really good in this film. He’s tall. He’s got a mask made of human flesh. What more do you want?
It’s in his character that I think Leatherface gains what is unique about him amongst Slashers. Let me put it to you like this. Of the 4 really big Slasher series each has a different reason for killing. Whilst Jason is a force of nature, killing because he just sort of does, enjoyably and unquestioning.Or killing for mischief, vengeance, and thrill. Leatherface seems to kill - when he’s portrayed properly - out of fear. He isn’t intelligent enough to determine morality, but simply attempts to preserve what he does know - his own way of being, along with his family life. His macabre get-up is merely his amoral attempt to fit in.
Given previous versions of the character, I think it was portrayed rather well here in the story. He’s shown to be highly protective of his family - or what’s left of them, which, alongside his fear form the basis of most of his actions in the film. Whilst I couldn’t possibly compare it that that of the original, I’d say by modern standards, TC3D did an okay job with their Leatherface.
In terms of raw, imposing acting, I can’t think of any Leatherface, outside of Leatherface, who hasn’t been able to capture that manic energy well, and Yeager is no exception. With huge, imposing stature and energy, the performance captures the spirit of the original rather well.
TC3D immediately and unashamedly harks back to the original, using footage of the deaths from the first film into what is a powerful title sequence. I’m sure those familiar with it looked on with a smile on their faces as they saw it in the original. Outside of this section, the film looks clean and crisp, as with most modern films. It’s colours are routinely red, with a high contrast - again like most modern horror films.
What struck me most, and what made me want to buy the film in the first place, was the incredible box art.
It’s straight from the pages of a comic book, with it’s high contrast, red, black and whites. Leatherface stands imposingly, chainsaw towards the centre. It’s a fantastic piece of art, which I would honestly proudly have as a poster on my wall. When I took this photo, my smartphone camera recognised Leatherface's face, something I can't help but feel the character would approve of.
If this film was only Leatherface in high contrast, i’d have been down with that. It’s the thin sinew of story that holds it together which puts me off. In the attempt to build from the original, it naturally is going to isolate some of the Texas Chainsaw purists, who think that the series stopped in ‘74. Whilst i’m certainly not one of those people, I think that you really have to do an incredible job if you want to directly follow an incredibly popular film. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any film which has been able to pull this off. But that isn’t to say I think that TC3D was doomed to fail from the start. They took what I consider to be good steps to make a decent modern follow-up. They key point being that in the filmic universe they created time, which allowed for them to sculpt the world of the original film into something which they could incorporate their new film in. The short reboot series from the early 2000 were unhindered by this, but instead decided to tear up the sauce material and paper mache it into something really rather different. But, being hindered as they were, TC3D was forced to modernise a horror classic, which is not easy.
The plot that was developed was a bit too forced for my liking. It took the raw essence of Leatherface’s character which I mentioned earlier, his blind devotion to his family and his fear, and let that guide the film, rather than creating a story in which Leatherface must exert his guiding principles in spite of the plot. In making the family connection with Heather, we simply see Leatherface acting entirely as we expect him to, as opposed to having a story in which Leatherface acts how he does alongside the plot. It’s hard to be too critical of it though for exactly that reason; it’s all in character, and what’s more sets up for a potential sequel series where Heather and Leatherface are the dynamic duo, or even one which challenges Leatherface’s character progression.
The set up ends too comfortably, with Heather seemingly happy with the idea of her cousin in the basement having killed all her friends. I tend to think even in a family as messed up as the Sawyers seems to be, murdering people you like would still be unacceptable.She adapts quickly to a family with very questionable morals, which seems out of character for her, despite best efforts from the film maker to show the Sawyer nature can’t be overcome - after all she’s a butcher who collects bones. But this doesn’t even remotely compare with murder, or the concept of death which she seems routinely - and rightly - shaken by throughout the film.
What did you think of Texas Chainsaw? If you haven’t seen it, you can get it on the Amazon UK link below, which in turn helps out the blog! Let me know your thoughts on Twitter!