Eric D. Snider January 3, 2014
Eric’s Bad Movies is a Film.com column in which Eric D. Snider writes about movies that are bad. It runs on Friday afternoons.
“Texas Chainsaw 3D” was rushed into production when a Lionsgate executive realized that the six existing “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movies all suffered from a tragic lack of being in 3D. Also, none of them had tried to make Leatherface, the homicidal cannibal behind the chainsaw, into a sympathetic character. Audiences clamored for both. “Why isn’t there a ‘Texas Chainsaw’ movie that casts the mass-murderer in a more favorable light, and for which tickets cost $3 more than usual?” audiences said.
The film follows the example of most human beings by pretending the other “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” followups don’t exist. It is instead a direct sequel to the 1974 original, and it picks up right where that one left off, with one girl having escaped the inbred clan of rednecks and the cops rushing to the scene. Well, make that cop, singular. His name is Hooper (Thom Barry), and he stands outside the Sawyers’ farmhouse ordering the family to come out peacefully because he’s got a girl who says they butchered her friend. They take allegations of friend-butchering seriously in Texas.
Before his police backup can arrive, Hooper is joined by a mob of angry rednecks lookin’ fer justice Texas-style, by which I mean they intend to execute a mentally handicapped person. They open fire on the house with their guns, then set it on fire with their fire. Nobody survives except for a baby, which one of the angry rednecks secretly takes for his own self, on account of he and his missus can’t have children, and they always wanted to adopt the inbred offspring of cannibal maniacs, so this is perfect.
Now, these dusty rednecks and inbreeders are all well and good, but I know what you’re thinking: where are the skanks? It’s not a 21st-century slasher movie without skanks. Don’t worry, here they come. We jump forward in time, and the purloined baby has grown up to be Heather (Alexandra Daddario), a foxy young gal with a scrawny friend, Nikki (Tania Raymonde), who talks exclusively about sex, smokes weed, and once slept with Heather’s boyfriend — the gold standard of movie skankery. Heather and Nikki live in Oklahoma and wear tiny shorts, which director John Luessenhop puts in the foreground of the shot whenever possible.
Note: The movie explicitly says that it’s set in 2012, which is 38 years after the first movie. But Heather — who was a baby then — is only about 20 now. The film has retroactively moved the original story up a couple decades. What’s funny is that they take pains not to say what year they’ve moved it to, even when the characters are talking about those events. They’ll just say “August 18,” never the year, and victims’ tombstones are obscured so the year of death isn’t visible. This is what happens when a studio wants a film to be set to a contemporary soundtrack AND to star young people AND the studio doesn’t care whether it makes sense.
But back to our story. Heather is contacted by an attorney who informs her of two things: she’s adopted, and she’s inheriting property from her newly deceased biological grandmother. Considering she was secretly stolen from the smoldering remains of a murder house and raised by infertile rednecks who never told anyone where they got her, it’s strange that her grandmother’s estate knew how to find her. She says as much to the lawyer. He replies, “Find you? Honey, you were never lost!” She doesn’t ask any follow-up questions, because movie characters are more tolerant of cryptic answers than real people are. The subject is never mentioned again.
The point is, Heather and Nikki have to take a road trip to Texas so they can be murdered by Leatherface, who of course is still alive and did not perish in that fire 20 and/or 38 years ago. They’re joined by Heather’s boyfriend, played by R&B/hip-hop singer Trey Songz (real name: Trey Songzenberg), and his buddy Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sanchez). Along the way they pick up a suspiciously polite hitchhiker, Darryl (Shaun Sipos), whose function is to be Leatherface’s first victim when they arrive. (You have to throw in an appetizer like this or you’ll run out of victims too early in the movie.)
What Heather has inherited is a marvelous old mansion in the tiny town of Newt, Texas. The locals know that the old lady who lived there, Verna Carson, kept to herself, and that she was somehow connected to that notorious chainsaw family from a while back. Turns out she was hiding her grandson Leatherface in a secret room in the basement, which Darryl the hitchhiker discovers when he goes looking for stuff to steal and gets killed instead. Then Kenny gets chainsawed in half, just to get him out of the way. Heather narrowly escapes. Nikki and Trey Songz are out in the barn, doin’ it, so they’re safe for now, though of course their fornication means they must die sooner or later.
Here we come to the part of the slasher film where the heroine falls down a lot when she runs, and where cars that used to function properly suddenly won’t start because their occupants are being pursued by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. (That’s just science.) Leatherface chases Heather into a crowded carnival, no longer concerned about being seen or captured, and then somehow still manages to avoid capture despite being 6’5″ and preceded everywhere he goes by the sound of a chainsaw.
Hooper, the cop from back in whatever year it was, is the town’s sheriff now, 20-38 years later. He fills Heather in on some backstory: she’s Leatherface’s cousin, and Leatherface would stop trying to kill her if he knew that, because family is very important to him (Leatherface). He only lashes out and maims people and saws them in half because he is frightened. “He’s huge, but mentally stunted, with the emotions of an 8-year-old,” says Sheriff Hooper, also describing Vin Diesel. Leatherface was already pretty messed up, murdering lost tourists and wearing their skin on his face, but seeing his family shot and burned by those angry rednecks REALLY knocked him for a loop. POOR LEATHERFACE.
The main redneck, fella by the name of Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), is now the mayor. He and the other alumni from the angry mob want to kill Leatherface once they learn he’s still alive, and Heather, too, since she shares his bloodline. (Bumpkins cannot abide a sullied bloodline!) But Heather tells Leatherface that they’re cousins, and sure enough, now he protects her. She encourages him to go ahead and kill the mayor and the other vengeful hillbillies. The movie believes this is moral and fair because, after all, they slaughtered Leatherface’s family — never mind that Leatherface and his family had it coming, what with all the murdering and cannibalism they had done. But frontier justice is a complicated thing, even today and especially back in 1992 or 1974.
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