Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #95
Number of Views: One
Release Date: January 4, 2013
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $39,093,317
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: John Luessenhop
Producer: Carl Mazzocon
Screenplay: Kirsten Elms, Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan
Story: Stephen Susco, Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan
Based on Characters by: Tobe Hooper, Kim Henkel
Special Make-up Effects: Robert Kurtzman
Special Effects: Jacques Godbout, Matt Fleming
Visual Effects: Andrew Sagar, Bradley M Baxter
Cinematography: Anastas N. Michos
Score: John Frizzell
Editing: Randy Bricker
Studio: Twisted Pictures, Nu Image, Millennium Films, Mainline Pictures
Stars: Alexandra Daddario, Tremaine Neverson, Scott Eastwood, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos, Keram Malicki Sánchez, James MacDonald, Thom Barry, Paul Rae, Richard Riehle, Bill Moseley, Gunnar Hansen, David Born, Sue Rock, Ritchie Montgomery, Marilyn Burns, Dodie Brown and Dan Yeager as Leatherface
Suggested Audio Candy:
Johnny Cash The Beast In Me
I’ll never forget my first road trip to Texas. A mere ten-year-old boy, I was ill-prepared for what lay in wait behind that rickety sliding door and it’s fair to say that Tobe Hooper relieved me of much of my childhood innocence that sun-bleached summer day. I wasn’t particularly hot on my geography but was well aware of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and it seemed like the ideal destination for some harmless hijinks so I crammed the cassette into my toploader and settled in for the duration. 88 minutes later I was ejected and, while grateful for my very first chest hair, my scattered marbles weren’t quite so quick to thank me. All these years later, I still haven’t been made privy to such unrefined terror and it certainly hasn’t been through any lack of trying on my part. As a fully fledged Gruehead, I live for the moment when my bowel touches linen and Hooper’s film was my mother’s worst nightmare come laundry day.
So it’s fair to say that, when I first heard that yet another new saddle was being placed on this well-flogged horse, I was more than a little perturbed. Firstly it was to be filmed in glorious 3D, an attention-grabbing gimmick of which I had long since grown weary. This isn’t so much a seal of quality as a guarantee that a film will play shamelessly to the masses with its primary concern being popcorn entertainment and that couldn’t be farther from what I desire from anything bearing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre mantle. Secondly and even more infuriatingly, the trailer appeared way too polished for my liking. Gone was the bird-strewn musky squalor of Hooper’s original and, in its place, was a plush abode that felt more inviting than foreboding. The warning sirens were loud and clear straight off the bat.
Had director John Luessenhop not learned from the botch of the 2003 reboot? While not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, Marcus Nispel’s film was pretty much devoid of anything even approaching raw terror and the layer of sheen he supplied did not serve it well. Indeed, had it not been for Jonathan Liebesman’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning placing the wagon back on its tracks, it could have put paid to our beloved Leatherface once and for all. The omens were decidedly ominous, visibly this would struggle to stand out, but the deepest rooted fear was that it could end in cataclysm. The only scrap of hope Luessenhop’s effort clung onto was that it couldn’t feasibly be as bad as Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation which was even more insulting by the fact that the original film’s screenwriter Kim Henkel helmed the project, prompting the question “what the flying fuck feathers were you thinking?” At least there was hope, albeit slender.
As Texas Chainsaw 3D came and passed at the box office, I had every intention of giving it a very wide berth, at least until the red Texan dust had settled and I could watch it without prejudice. You see, I have a duty to the Grueheads to deliver the scoop in both a just and unbiased manner and cannot allow expectation, enthusiastic or otherwise, to interfere with judging a film like this on its own merits. Yes, it had some fairly heft shit kickers to fill but, aside from its heritage, it’s just another 92 minutes of horror-themed entertainment and could still come good on its baseline requisite to entertain. Its imminent arrival on DVD reminded me of my obligation and the time had come to shit or get off the pot so I dropped my strides, rested my posterior on cold porcelain, and settled in with Luessenhop’s film with Crimson Quill dipped and poised for come what may.
Texas Chainsaw 3D kicks off with a pastiche of all the unforgettable moments from Hooper’s original shoehorned in and, whilst admirably faithful to its source, it all feels a little too “Previously on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to settle the initial nerves and it’s going to take more than a few hand-picked snippets minus any of the tension to convince me this time around. Picking up from the precise point the original left off, it hastily moves on to showcase the consequential chaos as the family feel the swift retribution of vigilante even-handedness. Even poor defenceless wheelchair-bound gramps takes a pellet before their family home is promptly burned to its foundations. However, one of the search party makes off with the apparent sole survivor, an infant, and we proceed to present day. So far, no heinous crimes committed.
Tom Leonard & Logan Mader Closer To The Bone
Now fully grown, Heather (the disarmingly beautiful Alexandra Daddario) has never been able to shake the suspicion that she doesn’t belong with her nearest and dearest so, when she receives news that her last lingering blood relative has passed away, heads off to Texas with her boyfriend Ryan (Tremaine ‘Trey Songz’ Neverson) and buddies Nikki (Tania Raymonde) and Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez) in tow. Needless to say, they pick up a hitchhiker en route and, while Darryl (Shaun Sipos) doesn’t resemble the kind of inbred heathen to chow down on one’s liver, he wouldn’t think twice about pilfering ten bucks from your wallet.
Eventually they arrive at their destination, that being Heather’s nest egg inherited from her recently deceased grandmother Verna. Here they meet Sawyer family attorney Farnsworth (Richard Riehle) and he informs Heather that there are a few tiny snags to her munificent endowment and she isn’t permitted to sell the property.
I know what you’re thinking and I was the same as you at this point? How long before the chainsaw starts to purr right? Quick smart would be the answer and this is where we really get down to the meat and gristle. However, with numbers rapidly dwindling before the first act has even drawn to a close, we begin to ponder when Luessenhop will go from here. This is where he reveals his hand and the formerly contained situation becomes anything but.
The whole town has concealed this dark secret for many years and Jedidiah Sawyer (Dan Yeager), or Leatherface to his friends, has his own black list going on. On one hand, this makes sense as it broadens our canvas but, on the other, it doesn’t because…it broadens our canvas! There are a couple of vaguely interesting characters including the playfully named Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry looking suspiciously like the spitting image of Yaphet Kotto). However, despite every attempt to twist and turn it still appears stationary; I believe stale is the correct word.
It’s not like we’re not having a good time and one thing Texas Chainsaw 3D isn’t guilty of is outstays it’s welcome. The real issue here is was it necessary to begin with? I came away from my screening at a rare loss for creative analytical words and just felt a little numb, I guess that’s the point I wish to make about this movie, and moreover the franchise as a whole. We are a more intelligent breed than given credit for, there’s no need for bloated budget, and no real requisite for grue, truth be known. Hooper’s original had underlying social commentary about the fading American dream and told it in a tight oppressive environment making its charges with subtlety. There was restraint shown with regards to bloodletting but that just made it more horrifying and real.
In Luessenhop’s “true sequel” there are no rickety sliding doors and the one locale where there is any bona fide sense of menace is severely underused. The plot is not as intelligent as it thinks it is while glaring holes and observable twists do not a good Texas Chainsaw movie make. The big reveal and changing of allegiances is handled ineptly and of course, all the while poor confused Leatherface is aimlessly running around in open quarters waving his tool like a necrophiliac at a wake. If I sound bitter then your observation skills are bang on the money. That said, I cannot let my initial despondency cloud my judgement as crusading just to come across superior simply isn’t my style.
Yes, Luessenhop’s film is culpable of some pretty unforgivable crimes when you place it alongside Hooper’s original. However, the fact remains that 92 minutes pass by rather effortlessly, there’s a fair old smattering of splatter on the platter, and I could watch Daddario washing her linen in the local laundromat and never grow bored so, all things considered, it really isn’t that much of a travesty. Had the franchise been in good health then perhaps it would be easier to come down hard but, Liebesman’s entry aside, it’s been in steady free fall for decades now. So what if it’s the final nail in Leatherface’s coffin? Chainsaw trumps pine wood every time and that just means he can make even more of an entrance on the next inevitable massacre.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Aside from some unnecessary CGI, there are plentiful grisly moments courtesy of distinguished FX maestro Robert Kurtzman. However, one in particular stands out like a nun in a whorehouse and curiously it doesn’t involve a chainsaw. It’s the hatchet dispatch that lingers most in my mind; you can feel the years of pent-up frustration channeled into every last blow. Granted, it’s not a time-honored weapon for Leatherface but he swings it with some verve. When he does pick up his signature weapon once more, Luessenhop ensures that we receive some severance although, if you’re looking for chainsaw massacres, then it has to be said that Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead reboot has it beat hands down. One more thing, Alexandra Daddario and Tania Raymonde in their underwear damn near earns this film an extra mark on its own.
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2016)