I love horror films. Understand that when I say that, that doesn't mean I love ALL horror films. However, it does mean I tend to give them more of a chance than your normal reviewer. I was excited to hear that the Texas Chainsaw series was getting another branch on the tree; a new look into the story of the original film. Texas Chainsaw (2013) was made to be a sequel to the 1973 original, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This didn't sit well with me as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) is one of my favorite films of all time. To hear that one of your favorite films is essentially being erased from the film's timeline is disheartening. Not that the series had paid much attention to TCM 2 anyway, but I digress.
What's it About?
This movie is strange. That's saying a lot for an entry in this series. It's not the same kind of strange that TCM 2 was, with eccentric characters performing dark comedy. It's not strange like the plot of TCM: The Next Generation (1994) where the Sawyer family is in debt to some secretive corporation (at least that's what I think it's a bout). Instead, Texas Chainsaw is strange in the sense that it tries to play around with morality. The first half of the movie tells you to think one thing, while the second half tells you to forget the images you just saw and flip your allegiance. I would think that if they stuck with the message in the second half of the film, they might've had a much better movie. Then again, I'm not sure they could have gotten a full film out of that. The story follows a girl (names aren't important. They change constantly) as she discovers that her estranged Grandmother has passed away, and that the Grandmother's possessions are now hers, including a mansion. Along with this mansion, she is given a letter and ordered several times to READ THE DAMN LETTER! Do you think she reads the letter, folks? OF COURSE NOT! How would they get the next 80 minutes of the film? Welp, it turns out that something else comes with the house, and that something else gets loose. Then this something else starts smashing fool's heads in, sawing their bodies in half, and harvesting face meat for a new mask. I'll give you a hint: It's not a cat. The rest of the film is basically people finding out who other people REALLY are and reacting to that. Listen, I don't want to give away too many things, or I'll take out most of the fun you can have with film.
- There are some very solid casting choices here, including Bill Mosely (Choptop, TCM 2) as Drayton Sawyer, Richard Riehle (Tom Smykowski, Office Space) as Farnsworth the Lawyer, and Thom Berry (Pops, Major League: Back to the Minors) as Sherrif Hooper. They all make it much easier to get past the rougher moments of the film.
- The Makeup Work, for the most part, looks great. Outside of a few severed heads here and there, the wounds all look gritty and gnarly. Very little CGI is used (and unfortunately it is very obvious when you do see it).
- The action scenes were actually very well done and interesting to watch. A majority of the time, these types of scenes can really make a film with a good story just a mediocre film, and vice versa. This definitely was an area that helped with the enjoyment. They're all different enough to feel fresh (or as fresh as one of these films can feel).
- They never mention (to my memory) the name "Leatherface." While it wouldn't have made the film worse by mentioning the name we all know him by, simply referring to him as "Jed" (his real name in the film) adds some much needed smarts to the film. It's one of the few things in the script that feels like it was well thought out and planned in advance.
- The Ending. Yep, I thought the ending was a pretty interesting way to go and leaves it open for a film I'd really be interested in seeing, assuming everyone can make it back for the next iteration. I'm not going to spoil it for anyone, and some may hate the ending, but I really think it was exponentially more interesting than the first half of the film.
- Continuity is a huge problem in this film, which really bothers me. The first film was set in 1973. Heather (the lead) was supposedly a baby at that time. The film is obviously set in present day, as you can tell by the vehicles and the Facetime plug later in the film. If this is the case, Heather should be about 40 years old. However, as you can see in the pics provided above, Heather doesn't look a day over 26, and her and her friends act like college students. How does this get past the writers? Or do they think we're too dumb to notice?
- 3D. I hate 3D. Especially when it's done with such cheese as it is here. the effects look awful if you're watching on a 2D monitor (which most viewers will be) and really kills any momentum that builds to that point for me. It's an epidemic that I thought was dead, but unfortunately, it seems film makers/production companies still feel this is the next wave in Entertainment.
- That "other half" of the cast. I listed Casting being a pro, but really, it's only half the casting that hit the spot. The rest is just horrendous, especially the enlisting of Trey Songz. But I won't beat on the cast too much, because some of this verbal chainsaw is being reserved for the writers...
- The Characters. "By the numbers" is the best way to describe things. There's the boyfriend who seems supportive, but is really cheating on the lead to make the lead more sympathetic. There's the best friend who gets high and drunk, and just generally doesn't care about consequences. There's the odd newcomer to the friend circle who has special cooking skills. Oh, and the hitchiker. Don't forget the hitchiker. It's a merciful thing when they all get their's, as we can then move on to the more interesting story between the town and the Sawyer family. Just seemed like lazy writing.
- Cheese. Most people know what I mean when I say "cheese." In case you didn't know, it's something that's so cliche that it gives you a face like you just smelled a fart. Sometimes cheese is good fun. Here, it's just a thing that happens that makes your eyes roll in a Pavlovian response. So many bad, cliche lines are spoken that, again, it kills any momentum built up.
Texas Chainsaw isn't a complete wash, though I wouldn't recommend it to folks who aren't already tapped in to the franchise. If you do decide to give this film a try, my best advice would be to "stick with it." The film gets better and a bit more interesting, despite the lull and standard motions of the first half. There are plans to make another film, and THAT'S film I want to see. As for this film, I'd rather have it end on a good note and start off lousy than the other way around. It's a decent horror flick with a lot of promise going forward, if they stick to their guns... or saws. Whatever.