Texas Chainsaw 3D

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013), directed by John Luessenhop

I’m not going to lie to y’all and pass myself off as some Texas Chainsaw aficionado or completest, that’s not the case. I saw the original 1974 Tobe Hooper-directed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for the first time in my life early last year. And then I watched Hooper’s follow-up, 1986’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 for the first time during my Horror Pledge back in October.

And I haven’t seen any of the others. I don’t think I’m going to either, based on what I’ve heard about them and the fact that Outlaw Vern has done it for us and I’ll take his word for it. Maybe I’ll rent the 2003 remake someday just to see how bad it truly is. Otherwise I’m into the series for quality, not quantity.

And if it’s quality you’re after it’s hard to do much better, if you’re into weird, raw, exceptionally well crafted horror movies. The original 1974 film is an instant classic, even off a first viewing. It’s just so odd and disorienting, but terrifying and utterly gripping. Leatherface is a fantastic villain, as is the entire Sawyer clan. And the whole thing is put together so well, from the flash photography intro to the dawn dance of the chainsaw. It’s a brutal film, but oddly beautiful, and disturbingly fun.

The sequel is also brilliant, in a totally insane, off-the-wall kind of way. Here’s my review.

So I went to Texas Chainsaw 3D with the understanding that all the non-Hooper sequels, remakes and prequels have been rubbish and with pretty low expectations, but still excited about the fact that this one disregards all the follow-ups and picks up where the original left off.

And it does just that. The credits take place over 3Dified footage from the original film (which looks pretty neat, but is probably the only time 90 per cent of the people going to see TC3D have ever seen footage from the original) and the action picks up after local law enforcement heads up to the house a terrorized, escaped girl has told them about.

Well it doesn’t go well, the house is burnt to the ground and the Sawyers are killed (which makes the ’86 sequel impossible, unfortunately). All except a baby…

Cut to present day and throw away any knowledge of math you may have and 20-something bombshell Heather (Alexandra Daddario) finds out she was adopted and has some family history to deal with. Sawyer family history.

So is it any good? Well, yes and no.

On the “no” side, it does fall into the trap of the modern horror film in that it is slick as all hell. The best part about the original is its grittiness, its strangeness, the way it makes you uneasy with odd camera angles, weird characters and a general sense of pace, cinematography and editing that’s just a bit off. It went against the usual tricks and look of Hollywood horror movies and that’s why it hit audiences so hard.

This movie does not do that. It stars the usual horror cast of slick, sweaty, beautiful youth who look like they wandered off the set of a music video (in Trey Songz case this might actually be true). The film is set up and carried out in pretty obvious ways and without that odd touch the series needs. And it has kills designed to seem outrageous, especially in 3D, a la a Friday the 13th movie. It seems almost pandering. Texas Chain Saw is not Friday the 13th.

So in that sense this is a typical Hollywood take on the Texas Chainsaw franchise. And the movie suffers for it.

But gosh darn it, at least the movie has some fun with it. Hooper’s sequel put some people (OK, most people) off because it’s actually really funny, in a bizarre, outrageous kind of way. TC3D at the very least doesn’t take itself Platinum Dunes-level drearily serious and does have some fun aspects.

My favourite dumb laugh moment is, after a litany of horror-movie cliches, all taken very seriously, the kids load up into a van with Leatherface in hot pursuit. They punch it to crash through a gate, as we’ve all seen 100 times, but the gate actually holds up and they just crash into it. Nice one. The cliches come back immediately when the van then won’t start, but I liked the gate part.

I also liked the carnival scene but wish they had done more with it, maybe had Leatherface take out a couple of bystanders or something.

The beginning is only OK and the middle is pretty bad, but by the end I was on board and enjoying where they were taking things. Any movie that ultimately has me cheering for Leatherface has something going for it. And not cheering for him in some sadistic-audience-member way but because the filmmakers put an interesting and fun spin on the whole film that really shakes it up. He becomes the hero of the movie and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work.

Listen, it’s a bad movie, I know it, you’ll probably think so even more than me, faithful readers. If I was a star rating kind of guy I’d probably give it two and a half stars out of four. But I went in anticipating a one-star movie. So that extra one and a half stars really stood out to me.

It didn’t do everything right by a long shot but at least it knew how to have a little fun in the end.

I would be interested in another Texas Chainsaw movie along these lines. Only weirder, please.

Texas Chainsaw 3D is in theatres now.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), directed by Tobe Hooper

Well devoted followers (or myself, as the case may be), we’ve arrived. When I set out on this Horror Pledge 2012, and really, every time I load up a horror DVD or sit down at the theatre, I set out to test my limits.

I like to be entertained, sure, but part of me also wants the horror movie that is going to take things to a new level and push what I can tolerate.

And I don’t mean that in a torture-porn kind of way. No, I can’t tolerate movies like Saw, and that’s OK by me. I don’t want to tolerate them. They leave me feeling sick and that’s about it.

When I say I want a film that pushes my limits, I mean a film that can surprise me, horrify me, make me extremely uncomfortable, but all the while making it so that I can’t look away. It has to be an actually good movie, one that sucks me in and spits me out wide-eyed and freaked.

Well, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has to be one of the most unrelentingly discomforting movies I have ever seen. And I mean that in a good way.

The film is a direct sequel to the 1974 slasher classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which is one of the all time great horror movies. It’s ultra low budget, bizarre, unnerving, brutal and brilliant.

Twelve years later the director of the original released this sequel, which, in the spirit of the 1980s, is like the original on coke. It flopped on release, nobody seemed to like it, Ebert hated it (of course) and it still seems to be a forgotten gem in the world of horror.

But people, give this one a chance because it is Messed. Up. Again, in a good way.

Dennis Hopper plays Lefty, a Texas lawman on the hunt for those responsible for the death of his brother’s kids in the original film. Caroline Williams plays Stretch, a radio host who gets a call from a couple of hooligans who manage to get themselves chain-sawed and car wrecked while still on the line.

Lefty convinces Stretch to play the call on the air to lure the killers in. They arrive. And it goes down.

This is a hell bent for leather, off-the-wall insane movie. It’s unrelenting in its carnage and energy. It’s far more gorier than the first, but still the most disturbing thing about the movie is the whole atmosphere it creates through bizarre characters, elaborate set pieces and a pace that never gives you a chance to breathe.

It also has this really off-putting humour to the whole affair that only adds to the movie’s general bizarreness. The first film took itself pretty seriously, but this one really cashes into how strange this cannibalistic Sawyer family is and presents them in a much more animated light. They all mutter and jump around hooting and hollering. Each is totally whacked in their own unique way and together they are about the strangest semblance of characters I have ever witnessed.

Even Leatherface is a totally different character in this film. The new remakes (I assume, I haven’t seen them) set up Leatherface as the typical unrelenting kill machine we’re used to seeing in these movies. In the original he was that, but also somewhat of a lackey for the controlling family.

In this one he’s a whole lot more: creepy, sexual, slightly sympathetic and hilarious. He falls for Stretch in an incredibly creepy scene where he puts his saw in between her legs. He then tries to hide her from his family and dresses her up in a skinned human face and dances with her. He gets all sheepish when Drayton finds out and starts ridiculing Leatherface for wanting a woman.

It’s extremely unnerving to watch but has these little comedic touches that only add to the discomfort.

My favourite is Leatherface’s little hip wiggle, chainsaw in the air move he does before an attack.

That’s just one of many notable parts. There’s Chop-Top scratching at his metal skull plate with a hot coat hanger. There’s Lefty buying chainsaws to fight the family and testing one out on a log while the clerk laughs manically. There’s L.G. stumbling around after being partially skinned. And his great last words.

And then end shot is a beaut. Just insane.

If this all sounds disturbing, it’s because it is. But it’s also funny. And disgusting. And just plain strange. And great.

It’s hard for me to explain why I think this is such a good movie and unless you are of pretty much the exact same temperament when it comes to these things, you’ll probably disagree. It’s really like nothing else I’ve ever seen and it certainly wouldn’t be made today. When it ended I was wide-eyed, weirded out and muttering “What the f- ?” It was perfect.

It got me to that place I like horror to take me once in a while, where I feel like I have just witnessed something awful, but I’m glad I did, because as strange and horrific as it is, I can respect it. This is a well made movie that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. And it’s a great sequel because it doesn’t merely strive to recreate the original. It goes for something significantly different and hits the bullseye.

Highly recommended and easily my favourite watch of Horror Pledge so far.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is available on home video.