As far as sub-standard horror goes, Texas Chainsaw 3D is as by-the-numbers as scary movies go; if you skim the surface. However, I think John Luessenhop’s film is smarter than it looks and deserves more credit than it’s throwaway January release date gives it.
Texas Chainsaw 3D takes us to the beginning of the long-running story; except this time, it wishes to wipe the slate clean. This sequel to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre starts off with a quick recap of the first and then seamlessly takes us into the further telling of the gruesome tale.
For people like me who, for some reason, missed watching the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies (I know, I know), the brief recap is much appreciated. The old footage – which has been converted into 3D (calm down, fans) – has been handled well and makes us excited for the following film.
Warning to fans though: In order to watch the new horror film without struggle, it’s important for you to go in with an open mind. Luessenhop and his three screenwriters (Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan, and Kristen Elms) with Stephen Susco, Marcus and Sulivan getting credits for conjuring up the story) gives Texas Chainsaw fanatics a treat by having an introduction that features actors from the original 1974 slasher return as their famous characters, but Texas Chainsaw 3D is trying to do something different…surprisingly.
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill modern day horror like many are expecting it to be. In fact, don’t be surprised if it fools you. For the first half of Luessenhop’s flick, you wonder why it’s been made and what purpose it’s serving. The acting isn’t very inspired, the 3D feels tacked on to add an extra surcharge to the price of admission, and the set-up feels awfully familiar; right down to the character cliches of “the hot girl” and “the token black guy”.
But then, something happens. You figure out exactly what the director and his screenwriters are doing. It isn’t a result of the moviegoer trying to dig deep in the film to find meaning or purpose. It’s quite clear.
Texas Chainsaw 3D has been made as an old 70’s slasher movie, in a modern world, while displaying an extremely straight face. It’s a grindhouse movie without all the flashy filters, the missing reels, and the self-conscious attitude that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have displayed in the past. To use an unlikely but honest example, Texas Chainsaw 3D is to grindhouse cinema as Louie C.K’s Pootie Tang is to blaxploitation cinema.
Now, this doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have a sense of humour. I think the cast is in on it as much as they need to be to pull off the subtle humour while at the same time selling the film as a product of the 70’s. A good example would be actress Alexandra Daddario and her button-up shirt. As the movie rolls along, she gradually loses more buttons until her midriff becomes side partial nudity. It’s never acknowledged directly, but if you have a keen eye, you can see the film smirk.
Even the film’s 3D finds its way to work. It isn’t the greatest use of the technology (the shallow depth of field is always apparent) but it finds a way to be involving and fun (expect lots of chainsaw wiggling towards the camera). But, like the old edge the film has, the 3D isn’t supposed to emulate modern day usage. It wants to trade immersiveness for gimmicky fun. If Luessenhop had the access to old red-and-bue lensed anaglyph 3D glasses to distribute with his film, I have no doubt he would’ve jumped at the opportunity.
Unfortunately, the film has been marketed as yet “another scary movie” and with the Texas Chainsaw title accompanied with it, audiences are inevitably going to have expectations. It wouldn’t phase me to see naysayers picking apart the logic hair by hair.
However, if you like what you read and you’d like to have some fun at your local cinema during the doldrums of January, give Texas Chainsaw 3D a shot. I’m more than happy I did.