Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) - John Luessenhop
I better get this out of the way first. I really like Texas Chainsaw. You may not think that after you read this review. But honestly, I do!
Conceived as the first of a series of Chainsaw films (akin to what New Line tried to do in the early nineties to no avail), Texas Chainsaw picks up directly after the 1973 set original, on August 19th. Sally has escaped and informed the police of her ordeal and Sheriff Hooper (lazy homage, and wrong, as in the original movie the Sheriff is named Jesus Molvonado) is first on the scene at the Sawyers residence the morning after the massacre (yes the Sawyer name has been taken from Hooper’s original sequel).
During the post production process, both Luessenhop and Dan Yeager (Leatherface) spoke about picking up where the original left off, saying if they couldn’t secure the rights to show clips from the original they had it covered with newly shot stuff. I can only assume a lot of the originals scenes were re-enacted just in case, but none of these are included on the Blu Ray. Neither is a lot of the footage originally shot for the beginning USED in the final film. You can get a glance at the Truck Driver from the end of the original hanging on a hook in an alternate opening (but not the full torture by Leatherface), but other scenes (especially those referenced by Bill Moseley) including telephoning the other Sawyer family members, and more interaction with Leatherface, seems to of been exorcised in favour of an MTV style frenetic opening which mirrors fare like the Devil’s Rejects, more than the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Three actors portrayed Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw. Gunnar Hansen, in footage used from the original. Samuel McKinzie plays Leatherface in the opening footage (with a terrible version of the Pretty Woman mask created by KNB, further accentuating the wrong colour shirt and suit!), and Dan Yeager for the remainder of the movie. Dan couldn’t portray Leatherface in the opening scenes due to different units shooting at once. But one wonders if he did, maybe less footage would have been cut?
The footage used from the original was scanned at 4K from the original negatives borrowed from the Museum of Modern Art and it looks stunning. You can clearly see the driver in the pickup truck who picks up Sally! The whole ‘74 movie was scanned at 4K, so hopefully the upcoming 40th Anniversary BD will use this transfer as it is superior to even the amazing Dark Sky BD released a few years back (edit: A new 4K Blu Ray has recently been announced!)
I, and most fans were looking forward to the 1973 set opening (maybe more than the rest of the movie), but with lines like “bring out son Jed” (yes, Leatherface has another name. STOP GIVING HIM NAMES! It’s LEATHERFACE!), the filmmakers were obviously unaware of the many facets of the original. The first being that Leatherface was the Cook’s brother, NOT his son. Little things like this populate the newly shot ‘73 set footage. Like the poulan 245a used still having the dog spikes attached, and the meat hook rig missing certain parts of the structure. Things which are obvious from simply looking at stills from the original, but were obviously not important enough to pick up on. Even the set up of the kitchen and adjacent rooms are “off”. It makes the first 10 minutes look lazy, though still impressive as the family abode was rebuilt spot on. Just by screen grabbing the original movie, a set designer could have matched up the original props and locations of them in no time at all. I’ve done it myself in less than an hour!
So, regardless of the inaccuracies pertaining to the original movie, once we cut to “present” day things get even weirder. The main character of Heather, who is Leatherface’s cousin would be 40 years old going by the timeline of the original movie AND all of the tag lines used on the posters “In 1974, One Movie Changed the Face of Horror…” etc, but that piece of information looks to of been skipped over (John Luessenhop even mentioned “a few liberties” they took in a recent interview).
Regardless of the timeline and continuity issues, the rest of the movie plays out really nicely, adding a new twist on the character of Leatherface in the final reel, and Alexandra Daddario and Dan Yeager hitting it out of the park with their performances as Heather and Leatherface respectively. Had Daddario’s performance not been as strong, the movie would have failed from the get go. Yeager’s fantastic rendition of Leatherface sticks closely in performance and spirit to Hansen’s original and the movie's tone (with it’s black humour and little bloodshed), compared to most of today’s current movies, feels closer to Hooper’s original than any sequel thus far.
For casual horror fans, Texas Chainsaw is a serviceable late night rent. For fans of the franchise a love letter and a kick in the teeth at the same time. If you can turn your brain off, and/or enjoy the original sequels this movie will surely entertain. If you are a fan of the criminally misconstrued 2003 remake this movie is not for you.