“Look what your brother did to the door! Ain’t he got no pride in his home?”
Words that filled an eleven year old boy with humor and morose excitement while discovering The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Terror visited me once again that year, when I was chased by a Leatherface clone at Sleepy Hollow Haunted Hayride in Newton, PA. This character was starting to follow me on and off the screen. Something came alive in this young skinny body of mine that was on a steady daily regimen of consuming fright mags, late night horror movies and anything I thought Tom Savini would think was creepy. The film, in addition to the terrifying experience of playing the victim to the chainsaw wielding madman, conditioned and inspired me a year later to portray Leatherface for a few years at a family run haunted attraction every Halloween. Hooked? I was indeed.
The original Chainsaw has and always will hold a special place in this weird boy/eccentric gentleman’s heart. I continue to watch and support the franchise because of all things (besides loyalty), I want to believe. I want to believe that with each film produced it will instill original thrill from long ago when I was introduced to a bizarre birth/marked Hitchhiker or shocked when the annoying wheelchair bound Franklin met his demise by a barrage of saw blades in the woods that dark night. Sure, each installment has its little charms I can take away as a little souvenir but let’s be honest… overall, they stink. Just like the decaying headcheese under a high watt bulb marinated in the unforgiving Texas heat, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D unfortunately reeks too.
I viewed Texas Chainsaw with the hopeful unrealistic expectation and naïve enthusiasm as I did previous installments to the mythos. I wanted it to be good, I really did. I wanted nothing more for it to be great. The film’s marketing promised a lot with the cameos of the late Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Bill Moseley (all playing different characters this time around) and John Duggan reprising his role of the embryotic blood loving Grandpa. I was excited to wander once again down the dirt road of celluloid infused nostalgia. Unfortunately, upon the closing credits, all it did was leave me conflicted. Another sequel to the 1974 original, although based on a promising concept, fails to deliver once again.
More unneeded additions to the family lineage occur again and have become staples to the franchise since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) minus the then welcome addition of Chop-Top. With the need to add a family backstory, creators added two elements to the half gas/oil combination that utters this film’s motor to choke. Bubba Sawyer is listed with his age being 17, meaning he is the Hitchhiker killed by the truck. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 listed Leatherface’s real name as Bubba Sawyer (insert confused Chop Top head scratch). In the Sawyer family dossier that Heather, Alexandra Daddario of Burying the Ex, examines at the local police station, states that Drayton Sawyer is the father of Loretta, Heather’s mother, making him Heather’s grandfather and making his son Leatherface her uncle, not her cousin, as he is repeatedly called in the movie. “Who is your daddy and what does he do?” Look up the reference if you are lost.
Yes, Leatherface was revealed to be emotionally inept and merely just a vicious tool for his family’s disposal plan of trespassing teenagers. These victims end up later in The Cook’s award winning crock pot at the Sawyer household (which the franchise inexplicably changed the family name of the murderous family time and time again). Sawyer. Slaughter. Hewitt. No, it’s Sawyer…again. Is anyone really paying attention anyway?
Less is definitely more. The backstory or the need to dive deep into the family and why they do what they do isn’t really important or effective. This film fails to answer the questions that it had created in the first place and came across more as a violent family drama than a nitty gritty horror flick. Maybe it’s just me but, I like my Leatherface coming from a dysfunctional family that relies on that same dysfunction as strength to work as a cohesive unit when the tension builds. Giving sympathy to Leatherface and his family is another new approach that I wish the powers that be would stop doing. They are killers; sometimes a bad egg is just a bad egg. It is more effective to leave the original family intact, with all of their eccentricities, motives, and desires a bit murky. What the imagination creates is far more dangerous than what the Hollywood machine could create. The unknown adds to the fear…leave it alone.
With the many follow-up films on the subject, this film is, all honestly, a sequel to the 2003 remake of the 1974 original. The original was directed by Tobe Hooper, and Hooper himself helped produce with original writer Kim Henkel, not only this film but the 2003 remake and the 2006 prequel, but the current film actually uses scenes from the 1974 original as its jumping-off point, which gave the film some instant weight for fans of the franchise.
In short, right after the events of the original film, some of the residents of the town of Newt, Texas burn down the house where the original massacre occurred with the entire Sawyer clan inside, but not without one infant girl surviving the flames. The girl, Heather our protagonist, grows up never knowing what had happened until she receives legal documents that her long lost grandmother has passed on and left her with an inheritance, resulting in the realization that her stereotypical redneck parents are not her birth parents. She quickly leaves town with a gang of friends to claim the inheritance and picks up the atypical Texas Chainsaw hitchhiker in the atypical Texas Chainsaw green van in the process. Needless to say, the inheritance came with unusual and misconstrued family history lesson, the blood flows and what could have been a great twist is ruined by the implausibility of the execution of the story.
And that is ultimately where the issues with this film lay…the attention or lack thereof to details. The house burned down at the beginning of the film happened on August 19th and somehow, the local newspaper which reported the story was also dated August 19th (rather than the 20th). It’s the major implausible details like the friends leaving the family house full of expensive possessions for provisions to be ransacked by a hitchhiker they just picked up or the fact that a rotting corpse is randomly found by our protagonist, and never mentioned again. A very powerful scene where Leatherface chases a victim into a crowded fair had so much potential and climaxed with a cheap visual CGI money shot reminding me I was watching yet another 3D gimmick cinema cash cow.
So, who was the real victim of Texas Chainsaw 3D? Well, that would be me and any other loyal fan that wants the studios and creators to stop destroying the franchise with lazy storytelling. I still care about what happened to teenagers back on a hot idyllic summer afternoon in August 1973, they should too.