Although this movie was greeted by a critical sneer from many reviewers (and I have to be honest, I can understand why – it isn’t great), I’m rather intrigued by what the filmmakers (and studios Millennium Films and Lionsgate) have decided to do here.
First, a bit of history. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released in 1974. It was directed by Tobe Hooper and it caused a stir. It is perhaps the most terrifying movie ever made (and one of my favourite films). It was followed by a sequel, also by Hooper, which was very different in tone and style, but still extraordinarily harrowing. After that, it went a bit downhill. Jeff Burr directed a third picture which was for a while banned in the UK (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III), and it starred a then little-known, and very scary, Viggo Mortensen. This was followed by an incredibly nasty and gory fourth film starring (and I am not making this up) Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. After that (are you keeping up?), Michael Bay got his hands on the series, and decided to produce a remake in 2003. It was terrible. There was then a prequel to the remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, in 2006. Now, Lionsgate has taken the series in a new direction altogether. This movie is a sequel to the very first film – Hooper’s original – but NOT a remake of Hooper’s own sequel. Got it?
This time, the curse of digital 3D has been forced upon both the movie and the new director John Luessenhop (3D was prescribed by the studio, it wasn’t his decision). Stripped of its 3D effects on a 2D Blu-ray disc (though a 3D version is available) it’s very obvious which parts were intended for three-dimensions. A lot of pointy scenes, throwing scenes, chainsaw scenes that thrust stuff into the viewer’s face. Subtlety isn’t on the menu here.
The problem is, subtlety was what made Hooper’s original so good. We barely saw any gore or blood, the scares relied on atmosphere rather than splatter, and the most terrifying scene didn’t involve violence (at first), but simply a dinner table surrounded by people screaming. Don’t hope for anything like that here. It relies on good-looking youths rather than talented actors, the story is convoluted, and the sctipt not very well written.
However, it isn’t entirely without merit. The opening blends footage from the original with newly filmed content that explains what else may have happened on that final day when the first movie ended. It’s a neat decision, and for a short period of time, provides an entertaining insight into the Sawyer family (including Leatherface, the chainsaw-wielding killer). There is also a fascinating scene towards the end of the film when our new female protagonist, trying to cope with the explosion of violence that has just occurred, stands calmly in a tidy clean kitchen with Leatherface sitting in the room with her. It’s unsettling, strange and stayed with me long after watching the film.
It’s such a shame this wasn’t something more. With a decent script, this could have heralded a new series of continuations of the Texas Chainsaw saga. But instead this ends up just feeling like a cheap and lazy rehash with too much blood and not enough intelligence.
A note on the disc: Although the film may not be up to much, the disc is something else entirely. The high definition transfer Lionsgate have given this digitally-shot film is truly magnificent. Deep blacks, rich colours and terrific clarity all make this a near-perfect HD experience. If you want to show off your TV set, this is the film for you.
Texas Chainsaw (2013), directed by John Luessenhop, is released on 2D & 3D Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on May 27 by Lionsgate, Certificate 18.