Sharpen your chainsaws, because Leatherface is back!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has certainly had its ups and downs. The original film shocked a nation with its brutality when it exploded onto the scene in 1974, but the three that followed were a lot more goofy than scary, what with Leatherface dueling Dennis Hopper in a chainsaw sword fight to the death and Matthew Mcconaughey's crazy eyes and his cyborg leg. The remake and its prequel were both pretty okay (due, in my humble opinion, largely to R. Lee Ermey).
So what do you do with a franchise with such a spotty history? Why not make a sequel set in the original film's continuity, ignoring the others altogether, Superman Returns style? Might as well give that a shot. Now, whether it works or not, that's a different story...
Texas Chainsaw 3D
The film starts immediately where the original ends. Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry) shows up to the house, demanding that Drayton Sawyer (Bill Moseley) surrender Leatherface (Dan Yeager). Just when things seem like they're going to work out, a bunch of rednecks, led by future town mayor Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), show up and arse things up for all parties involved. After a shoot-out, everybody in the house is dead or dying, and then burned alive. The only survivor is a baby that one of the rednecks steals away as a gift to his infertile wife. Jump ahead eighteen or so years and that baby is now a buxom (and I don't use that term lightly) young woman named Heather (Alexandra Daddario). She finds out that a grandmother she didn't know is dead and she has inherited her place in Texas. So she, along with her awful boyfriend (Trey Songz), awful, slutty best friend (Tania Raymonde), and her awful boyfriend's awful high school buddy (Keram Malicki-Sanchez) decide to take a trip on down to Texas to check out the place. Naturally, Leatherface lives in the basement, and things don't work out well for really anybody involved.
Honestly, I don't have much to say about this film. Pretty much everybody in the film after the first five minutes (Bill Moseley, you were missed), save for Leatherface, is at their best, completely generic, and at worst, nearly intolerable. The friendly banter between the main characters is not good by any stretch of the imagination, and that evaporates pretty quickly when people start dying. Dan Yeagar, however, is possibly the best Leatherface since Gunnar Hansen in the original. He isn't overblown or silly, and his hulking frame really does make him scary. If there's another installment of the franchise (chances are good), hopefully he'll be willing to put the mask back on.
The story itself is full of clichés and the first two thirds of the film could just as easily been the first two thirds of Cabin in the Woods. It gets good in the last third, where suddenly it's not every single slasher film ever. The tweest isn't really enough to catapult it into the horror film stratosphere or anything, but by the time the credits rolled, I was looking forward to the next installment.
"But Sean," you say, "what about the blood and gore?" Worry not, my little cherub. The film has that in spades. The first kill is nearly as brutal and surprising as the first kill in the original. Leatherface is easily the most brutal slasher in the genre and his aptitude for dispatching awful, paper-thin caricatures is on full display in Texas Chainsaw 3D.
In the end, Texas Chainsaw 3D is nothing mind-blowing. I was excited for it, but far more excited for upcoming films like Stoker and Dark Skies. I wasn't expecting much for the film, and the first two thirds of it were really marginal. However, a delightful turnaround in the final act did redeem the film, and it was worthwhile in the end. The gore is fun, the dialogue and characters are terrible (in the way one has come to expect from slashers), and by the time the credits roll, Leatherface has reclaimed his spot on the top of the slasher pile. Oh, and to the surprise of nobody, the 3D is garbage.