Texas Chainsaw 3D
by Glenn Lovell
“I hear they have great barbecue,” enthuses Kenny the budding chef during a road trip to Louisiana that detours into the Lone Star State.
That’s about the extent of the humor in “Texas Chainsaw 3D,” the latest and easily least of the seemingly endless “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974) retreads.
Oh yes, and the ineffectual town sheriff goes by the moniker Hooper. Great in-joke, no? He’s named for Tobe Hooper, director of the first two installments. (Obviously no longer concerned about his reputation, Hooper, credited as an executive producer, lent his name to a lonely promotional blurb.)
Like any franchise add-on that finally makes it to 3D ‒ the death-knell of all death-knells ‒ this one attempts to deconstruct the original by rehabilitating the monster, turning him in to a sympathetic victim of the mob, a la Frankenstein’s monster.
“TC3D” positions itself as a continuation of the 1974 horror classic. It opens where Hooper left off, with the cops and townsfolk descending on the Sawyer place, home to Hitchhiker, Leatherface and Grandfather, moments after the bloodied and hysterical Sally made her escape in the bed of a pickup. (An abridged version of the original film, rendered in bad 3D, serves as a pre-credit set-up and makes us long for the real deal.)
As the bullets begin to fly, a few members of the clan make their escape, including Leatherface and his baby cousin. Don’t attempt to make sense of any of this, the trio of screenwriters obviously didn’t.
Flash forward to the present. On that road trip to New Orleans, the comely Alexandra Daddario as Heather invites her friends to stop off at her newly inherited estate in Newt, Texas. The place comes with secret kitchen panels and, of course, a basement equipped with a sliding steel door. Beyond lies the charnel house, where Heather’s curious guests race to their demise. The one who almost gets away hides in a coffin — in an open grave!
Little wonder Leatherface, who’s mastered the instant facelift, comes off as the brightest bulb in this gathering. He’s the only one with a purpose. Heather soon sees him as a kindred spirit. She even shares in the rrr-rip-and-shred duties, egging the big guy on with, “Do your thing, coz!”
The series cognoscenti will pick up on references to Hooper’s grim masterpiece, including VW bus, armadillo road kill and decorative bone mobiles. They’ll also pick up on the serious lack of decent shocks. Hooper freaked us out by suggesting the unspeakable (we never actually see meat hooks penetrate flesh); exploitation specialist John Luessenhop opts for the just plain grisly, turning half the cast into hamburger.
For the record, that’s Clint’s son Scott Eastwood as the suspiciously helpful rookie cop. No need to make excuses, Scott. Dad’s first studio credits included “Tarantula” and “Revenge of the Creature.”