REVIEW: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D

CAST

Alexandra Daddario (San Andreas)
Dan Yeager (Metal Heads)
Trey Songz (Baggage Claim)
Scott Eastwood (Fury)
Tania Raymonde (Lost)
Shaun Sipos (Final Destination 2)
Keram Malicki-Sánchez (Punisher: Warzone)
Thom Barry (Cold Case)
Richard Riehle (Office Space)
Bill Moseley (Halloween)

Watching Texas Chainsaw 3D, the latest screen incarnation of the iconic chainsaw-wielding maniac Leatherface, the mind fairly reels. This purported direct sequel to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic cheerfully ignores that director’s own 1986 follow-up, the 1997 and 2003 remakes, the 2006 prequel and even its basic timeline. It scores points for sheer brazenness.

The opening sequence takes place directly after the final scene of Hooper’s film, depicting a Waco-like encounter in which the house containing Leatherface and his cannibalistic family burns to the ground with all its occupants presumably dead. Except for a baby, who is promptly adopted and, as we soon see, grows up in Oklahoma to be the beautiful Heather (Alexandra Daddario).

Cut to roughly 20 years later, when Heather learns of her origins after being left a Texas mansion by her late grandmother. She and her friends promptly head off in a van to check out her inheritance — which, unbeknown to them, still is the home of the hulking Leatherface (Dan Yeager).

The film’s first half follows conventional horror movie tropes as the heroine and her hottie companions — boyfriend Ryan (singer Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson), BFF Nikki (Tania Raymonde), her new crush Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sanchez) and a hunky hitchhiker (Scott Eastwood) — are pursued by the chainsaw-wielding inhabitant with predictably lethal results. But not before all of them bare as much skin as possible.

Things take a somewhat more complex turn later on when Heather finds herself in an unlikely alliance with her deranged relative against the town’s corrupt mayor (Paul Rae) and his minions. Leatherface is even given a rather sympathetic treatment, depicted as being something of a misunderstood, overgrown child whose propensity for tearing off his victims’ faces is but an extreme example of adolescent rebellion.

That the film obviously takes place in the present day — a key sequence involves a camera phone — is something of a puzzler because that would make Heather nearly 40, something that the tightly toned, midriff-baring Daddario clearly is not. But hey, what’s a couple of decades more or less?

Director John Luessenhop takes advantage of the 3D by shoving blood spurts and the occasional chainsaw directly into viewers’ faces Devoted fans of the original will be gratified by the cameos from several of that film’s castmembers, including original Leatherface Gunnar Hansen, though they are mostly of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them variety.

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REVIEW: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) / THE BEGINNING

 

CAST

Jessica Biel (The A-Team)
Jonathan Tucker (Hostage)
Erica Leerhsen (Wrong Turn 2)
Mike Vogel (Bates Motel)
Eric Balfour (Skyline)
Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns)
R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket)

It’s August 1973 and a group of five thrill-seeking, twenty-something hippies in a Dodge camper van are heading through Texas bound for a holiday in Mexico. The group includes two loved up couples and a token nerdy guy. The scalding hot Jessica Biel plays Erin, who’s the alpha female of the friends, and spends the entire movie in a very figure hugging outfit.


The chilled out pals pick up an extremely distressed young woman at the roadside, who starts mumbling about “the bad man”‘, and then promptly commits a very bloody suicide inside the van with a powerful handgun. The shocked friends continue on down the road and end up at a derelict barn house, where they meet a very creepy looking kid named Jediah, and discover a grim collection of ugly, worn out toy dolls and mannequins. Erin and her boyfriend go exploring the surrounding environs and end up at a grubby nearby farmhouse, the infamous Hewitt residence on Route 17, which is home to a maladjusted redneck family that you wouldn’t want to meet in your wildest nightmares.


Meanwhile, the other three pals run into an extremely mean and surly traffic cop, who’s bedside manner as a law enforcer makes Dirty Harry look like Mother Theresa, and who’s idea of a police forensic investigation is to re-enact the crime in every small detail. This is a classy and extremely competent horror flick. It’s perfectly cast, well acted, cranks up the tension in the opening minutes and then never lets up. The atmospheric and chilling sound effects are especially well done, on a par with any other horror movie. The iconic, hulking serial killer Leatherface is a man mountain of maniacal mayhem, and who’s physiognomy is the stuff of nightmares – he’s comfortably one of the all-time horror genre greats. Jessica Biel is absolutely fantastic in the lead role as a headstrong and ballsy woman, who’s early shock and terror at her hellish predicament is quickly subsumed by her sheer determination to survive against all the odds.

 

CAST

Jordana Brewster (Fast & Furious)
Taylor Handley (Zerophilia)
Diora Baird (Wedding Crashers)
Matthew Bomer (Chuck)
R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket)
Lee Tergesen (Oz)
Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns)

The Prequel to the 2003 “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” giving us the origin of Leatherface and his twisted family. That’s all done within the first 20 minutes…then it’s just a virtual redo on the original with four likable 20-somethings being captured and tortured by Leatherface and his family. Considering it’s basically a remake of the 2003 film, it works remarkably well.

It takes place in 1969 and has two brothers (Taylor Handley and Matthew Bomer) going to enlist (after being drafted). Along are their two girlfriends (Jordana Brewster and Diora Baird). But they’re stopped by crazy Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) who is Leatherface’s uncle…and the “fun” begins.

Very grim and graphic with no humor and shot in muted color…just as the 2003 one. The gore is strong and disgusting (this got trimmed to get an R rating) and I can’t say I liked it…but it did it’s job. It scared me. I was cringing in my seat a few times and jumped more than once.

Another plus is all the acting is good. Brewster, Handley, Baird and Bomer are all good-looking and likable–when the violence starts you really are horrified at seeing such great characters being tortured. Ermey is on hand giving another terrifying performance as Hoyt. His character is so twisted, violent and sick that when he got a taste of his own medicine most will applause. Also there’s good old Leatherface and his chainsaw chasing everybody.

REVIEW: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 1,2, 3 & 4

CAST

Marilyn Burns (The Big Rip-Off)
Allen Danziger (Eggshells)
Paul A. Partain (Race With The Devil)
William Vail (Too Young To Die?)
Teri McMinn (Butcher Boys)
Edwin Neal (JFK)
Gunnar Hansen (Mosquito)
Jim Siedow (The Windsplitter)

The movie has a  functional storyline, one that has since became the staple for slasher movies; a group of teenagers get lost, stumble across evil and get stalked and killed. But Chain Saw isn’t about storyline and plot; it’s about creating an experience, a sensory overload. The cast and crew work tirelessly to create scenes and images that are raw and powerful and ultimately, against all expectations, beautiful. Leatherface’s travesty of motherly domesticity as he prepares dinner, his child-like dance in the dawn light, the open door at the gas station, the van making it’s slow turn off the road towards the derelict and ivy clad Hardesty residence are all images that burn themselves into your consciousness after just a single viewing.

The cinematography is exceptional. Watching the Special Edition, you’d never know that this was shot on 16mm in poor light. The picture quality is outstanding, the colors rich and vibrant, the blacks inky and menacing. The brilliant azure skies, the jade green of the grass, the bright red generator, the searing sunlight and stifling shadows.

Though not always likable, the actors are always believable. Performances are universally startling, but special mention has to go to Marilyn Burns. Though she has little more to work with than the clichéd screaming heroine, she works it with remarkable conviction. It was a traumatic shoot, and it shows. Few actresses have so effectively conveyed mind-numbing terror.

The soundtrack is exceptional and deserves more recognition. It is a great testimony to the experimentation and risk taking attitude of the era that all melody is destroyed under an industrial ambient soundscape of metallic clangs, scrapes and screams, evoking the atmosphere of the local slaughterhouse and the Family’s state of mind. Terrifying.

Despite the complete lack of gore or extreme physical violence, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre continues to horrify and holds up the countless, shot-on-video, slasher clones of subsequent years for the puerile crap that they truly are. Whether by accident or design, this one is a classic.

CAST

Dennis Hopper (Speed)
Caroline Williams (Halloween II)
Jim Siedow (The Windsplitter)
Bill Moseley (Army of Darkness)
Bill Johnson (The Caretakers)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is one of the most misunderstood movies of all time. Even many horror fans, of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre or slashers in general, hated it and dismissed it. Now after a decade or so after its release, TCM 2 is now a cult movie.

There are so many things to point out why TCM 2 is a stand-out. The first and most important thing to point out is that back in the 1980s, horror films were reduced to simple slashers. TCM 2 is totally different than the plethora of slashers that many horror fans expected to see, which is one reason why many horror fans didn’t get it. The body count is extremely low in TCM 2 compared to the Friday the 13th or Elm Street flicks. But that doesn’t mean it’s not violent. No, it’s VERY violent. But the violence in TCM 2 is more engrossing, shocking and even at times funny, and in turn less acceptable than the unreal violence found in many slasher films. Because of the amount of violence and violent imagery, films critics trashed TCM 2, pointing out how the first film didn’t rely on gore and violence to scare the audience.

I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre as much as I love TCM 2. I understand what the critics were saying. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the point of the violence in TCM 2. While TCM is a sweat inducing TERRIFYING horror film in the first order, TCM 2 is a “GRAND GUIGNOL HORROR” horror film in the first order. In TCM 2, Hooper creates a vast canvas of baroque imagery, where we watch the insane and gory story unfold before our incredulous eyes. I’m amazed that critics missed the whole difference between TCM and TCM 2. It’s odd that critics will rave about Peter Greenaway’s “THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER” which is a twisted drama in the the Grand Guignol style, but didn’t see TCM 2 in the same way. It’s probably due to the fact that TCM 2 is a sequel to a quasi-legendary horror film and everyone expected the sequel to be the same as the first movie.

I give credit to everyone involved with TCM 2. They actually TRIED to do something different: different from the equally great TCM, different from the increasingly boring horror films of the 80s. And in my eye, they’ve succeeded. There are so many memorable scenes in TCM 2, some of which are the most amazing horror moments ever put on screen (when Leatherface tries to put the scalped face on Stretch, the scene when Stretch finds her friend sans face, etc). And there are so many quotable lines too. It’s a shame few people “got” TCM 2 back then.  For anyone who’s game, watch TCM 2. You’ll be squealing in horror and laughing at the insanity of it all in equal amounts.

CAST

Kate Hodge (She-Wolf of London)
Ken Foree (Dawn of The Dead)
R.A. Mihailoff (Hatchet II)
William Butler (Gingerdead Man 2 & 3)
Viggo Mortensen (Lord of The Rings)
Tom Everett (Air Force One

It should be noted that the 3rd film ignores the second one. The opening narration says it all. It recovers how poor Sally Hardesty went into catatonia after her encounter with Leatherface and died shortly thereafter. The police then arrested a man, D.E. Sawyer, who used the Leatherface M.O., he died in the gas chamber in 1981, though I thought in Texas, executions were carried out by lethal injection. Hopefully, “Leatherface” is no more, but if he is, he’s still at large and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was only the beginning…

Two people, Michelle and Scott, from Los Angeles on their way to Florida, were passing through Texas. They pass by an operation involving paramedics digging up bodies buried all over an area. The bodies were mangled and just looked, well, awful! They drive on and stop at a filling station, run by a crazy man, Alfredo. He scares Michelle, snaps a photograph of her reaction and charges $5.00 for the picture. He even peeps on her taking a whizz. Luckily, a young man, Tex, comes to her rescue. Alfredo didn’t like this so he grabbed his shotgun. Before they go, Tex showed Michelle and Scott a better road to take, because it wasn’t a good idea wandering around back roads in an unfamiliar area. They pulled out just as Alfredo returned with his gun.

Naturally, they soon had a blow out. In the dark, Scott struggled to change the tire. Right then, Leatherface, or Junior, popped up, caulked his chain saw to life and tried to get them! But they get away. They don’t get too far because a bounty hunter, Benny, is driving on the wrong side of the road and the two go off a cliff. Michelle and Scott survive, luckily. Benny doesn’t believe their story about a man with a chain saw. Before long, Michelle and Scott are kidnapped by the bad guys and are taken to their house. Tex was part of the family. There was also Mama, Grandpa, Papa a little girl Michelle saw upstairs, and Leatherface! The family was planning on having Michelle and Scott for dinner. They actually intended to eat them!

Papa presents Leatherface with a gift: a new chain saw. A big one! “The Saw is Family” was engraved on the blade and when you gunned the engine, it sounded like the world was coming to an end! Pretty soon, it was Benny to the rescue! He took out Mama, battled Papa and Tex.  Leatherface is defeated. Benny and Michelle escape. But is Leatherface really dead? It isn’t as scary as the first or as violent as the second. Horror fans must see Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

CAST

Renee Zellweger (Jerry Maguire)
Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar)
Robert Jacks (Slacker)
Tonie Perensky (Varsity Blues)
Joe Stevens (True Grit)

When two couples leave the prom early and get lost in the woods, then into a car accident, they soon find themselves mixed up with the deadly Sawyer family, still crazy after all these years. The story soon focuses on Jenny (Renee Zellweger), who I guess is the smartest of the troubled teens, as she is tormented and tortured by the psychotic Vilmer (Matthew McConaughey, who sports an electronic leg brace here), his masochist girlfriend, dim-witted W.E., and the legendary Leatherface, who is all dolled-up for this one. Much of it plays the same old “stumbled into a house of crazies” game that has lost some of its scare power over the years, and losing the cannibal aspect doesn’t help, but a new conspiracy twist adds a certain something that, in my opinion, makes it interesting.

The first thing one notices about this film is that it stars Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey, and if you’re fans of theirs, that’s definitely reason enough to check this out. Made in 1994, this is one of their earlier films (it’s also known as “Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). In general, the acting isn’t that impressive (some is pretty awful). I’m not a McConaughey fan, but I do have to give him credit. He gives this role his all, unless he’s just playing himself… Zellweger has good and bad moments, but she clearly stands out among the group of kids who get lost in the woods with her.

In fact, you’re practically cheering for the other three to get killed, which is one of the problems with this flick. Like with a lot of horror films now, it’s hard to really get scared when you don’t feel for the victims. They’re either unlikable and you start rooting for the villain, or they’re too good looking or recognizable, so you can’t forget you’re watching a movie. In addition, there’s the lack of the cannibal thing,  the whole thing is just a tad campy when compared to the gritty realism of the original.  This disturbed little flick is a fun ride of a horror film. Okay, it’s not as scary as the others, but it’s decent entertainment.