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Review: Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Directed by: John Luessenhop

Premise: A direct sequel to 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A young woman discovers she is the inheritor of an estate in Texas. Upon arriving she and her friends find an old family secret living in the basement. 

What Works: The newest addition to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise ignores the previous sequels and remakes and the filmmakers cleverly graft this new film onto the ending of the original. The concept of the movie has the kernel of a potentially interesting idea and had it been developed properly the climax of Texas Chainsaw 3D could have been compelling.

What Doesn’t: After its interesting start, the filmmakers of Texas Chainsaw 3D set about making a standard slasher movie and it is one of the worst horror pictures in recent memory. The main cast is a collection of slasher movie stereotypes and they are all incredibly stupid, but none more than the lead, played by Alexandra Daddario. When she and her friends arrive at the house they are met by the attorney managing the estate and he hands off a handwritten letter from her deceased grandmother. This letter explains everything and, of course, Daddario’s character doesn’t read it until the last five minutes of the movie. The rest of the characters are equally idiotic and the performers do the script no favors with their awkward and off-key performances. But what is most damaging about this middle section of the story is that it never tries to even remotely make sense. The continuity has all kind of problems, not the least of which is that Daddario’s character is introduced as an infant in the 1973 prologue but when the story picks up forty years later she is still only in her twenties. Late in the movie the filmmakers try to manipulate the audience’s sympathies and expectations by complicating the relationship between Daddario’s character and Leatherface (Dan Yeager). But because the bulk of the movie is just running through a checklist of slasher movie clichés these new elements are entirely out of place. Aside from its narrative shortcomings, the 2013 Texas Chainsaw picture also fails at basic moviemaking. A lot of sequences are shot in awkward and unimaginative ways and they are edited very sloppily. The visual effects are equally awful, especially Leatherface’s masks which look like they came from the bargain-bin of a costume shop. The production design of this film is all wrong. Horror movies often fail or succeed depending on how successfully the filmmakers create an atmosphere of dread and that is accomplished primarily through lighting and camera techniques. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre does this masterfully and the 2003 remake, although it wasn’t great, at least managed to be scary. The new film uses harsh lighting (possibly adopted to make the 3-D effect work) and it destroys the tenor, resulting in a film that isn’t scary at all. In fact, the makers of Texas Chainsaw 3D do not seem to understand the original movie. The 1974 film remains a classic not because of gore (famously, there is almost no on-camera bloodletting in the original film) but because of the intensity, insanity, and nihilism of it. The new Texas Chainsaw demonstrates little moviemaking competence but what really hurts this film is its utter lack of horror. The movie is just boring.  

Bottom Line: There have been many sequels and spin-offs to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Some, like 1986’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, are underappreciated while most others range between the underwhelming and the downright awful. The 2013 edition is by far the worst.

Episode: #425 (February 3, 2013)