Thursday, 23 March 2017

Texas Chainsaw (2013)


Director: John Luessenhop
Screenplay: Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan and Kirsten Elms
Cast: Alexandra Daddario (as Heather Miller); Dan Yeager (as Leatherface); Trey Songz (as Ryan); Scott Eastwood (as Deputy Carl Hartman); Tania Raymonde (as Nikki); Shaun Sipos (as Darryl); Keram Malicki-Sánchez (as Kenny); Thom Barry (as Sheriff Hooper); Paul Rae (as Mayor Burt Hartman)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #92

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre marathon ends finally. You can hear the sign of despair in that sentence alone. It starts with an almighty scream, with the first film from Tobe Hooper in 1974 managing to profoundly influence horror cinema onwards as a stone cold masterpiece, and gets an underrated sequel immediately after in 1986 with part 2, but slowly starts to fall off the rails soon after. Contrary to popular belief however, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) with its transsexual Leatherface and Matthew McConaughey chewing scenery on his robot leg isn't the nadir for me as others think, cinematic heaven alongside Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) compared to everything post 2000. It could be nostalgia for older American horror movies pure and simple, and I'm not defending the 1990 and 1994 films for their flaws, but the later sequels from 2003 onwards have all been painful, a toxic nature especially to the Platinum Dunes films with their grimy sheens and desire to be repugnant but with a lack of necessary reason behind them. In comparison to the 2003 and 2006 films, the innocent stupidity of the older sequels seems more innocuous as flaws.

The 2013 Chainsaw film, made in 3D, decided to be an immediate sequel to the original 1973 movie, attempting to be a far better tribute to the original and thankfully ditching the 2000 films' timelines permanently. Once the ending of the first film is replayed in the opening credits however, the film immediately takes a questionable direction by introducing an entire new lineage of the Leatherface family that gets mowed down by stereotypical, morally dubious rednecks in a shootout, instant questions of the direction this film is going raised as its erratic nature instantly appears. The point to this is to include a main plot strand that would've have succeeded without a convoluted turn, a child of the Leatherface family surviving and growing up into Heather (Alexandra Daddario), inheriting the Leatherface history and property back in Texas after a relative dies. Presumably set in the modern day, Heather is a raven haired blue eyed girl who works in the back of a supermarket where her best friend Nikki (Tania Raymonde) does, preparing meat for sale and collecting the remaining bones to use in her homemade art much to her boyfriend Ryan's (Trey Songz) bafflement. Even by the standards of logic bending in horror sequels, the film goes as far as disrupt whole time chronology and mathematics when the transition from the original 1974 film to this present day would be at least over three decades past but Heather is visibly a young woman in her twenties, the area of a Highlander sequel of disrupting previous reality.

The problem is more than this however, as there's plenty of popular horror films whose sequels, something that if it raises a bias in me and other horror fans, can tolerate it in the eighties films where charm and naivety is visibly found, how we accept the convoluted ways to defeat Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street sequels that never made sense and contradicted each other over the next films. There's something though ever since the end of the eighties and the popularity of horror which made the resulting sequels less tolerable than this, the gooey effects and eighties eccentricities lost leaving films who were undercooked continuing on from popular movies. They're particularly ones which try to be momentously different from previous entries or try to be clever, only to be shown to have lazy writing which squashes any cleverness and even ideas inappropriate to the timeline unless they had the courage to be completely separate from the films before. Unfortunately, unlike the 1986, 1990 and 1994 sequels which existed in their own bubbles, Texas Chainsaw is set after the first film and, like Jason Voorhees being revealed to be a body jumping undead parasite in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) with sudden and jarring lore, and a lack of quality writing, the gaffe Texas Chainsaw (3D) makes where apparantly Heather found the fountain of youth in the decades before isn't as problematic as her whole existence as the protagonist. A female lead whose friends go to Texas for another series of deaths in the franchise, sadly with only Leatherface and none of the eccentric cannibal family scenes of better prequels, that culminates to a plot twist so obvious in how it's going to take place, with an openly sinister Southern town major (Paul Rae) and his lackeys in the background, that its immediately signposted from the beginning as a dumb idea before its executed.

It's a film you can still have fun in, improving in quality in fact after the empty and vile nihilism of the 2000 films, sporting a greater sense of blissful stupidity to its content, but there's still a fine line between good natured naivety to completely being logically unsound for the sake of a plot idea it tonally thinks is edgy and going to be exiciting but has been seen before, isn't done well and is openly problematic in the context of the film's own initial plot in spite it drawing closer to what fans would probably want, making Leatherface the innocent and good person in spite of the fact he's still a sociopathic, mass murdering cannibal. Not only is the body count he brings into being likely to make it impossible for a certain character to side with him, still able to run at a gallop in his old age, chainsaw in hand, and living in a basement, but in context of the whole series its dubious no matter how popular and iconic he is in the context of the Chainsaw films to cheer him on unless a significantly better script was actually written on this idea. If the film had been a dumb slasher film it might've actually redeemed itself and made the finale of the whole franchise (until the shelved prequel Leatherface (20??) ever gets released) a more positive one, a silliness in tone and logic with a memorable chase scene through a funfair. However it eventually leads to stereotypically evil southern rednecks, a cop whose sense of morality in the final scene is utterly against reality, and a character changing their attitude only from having a whole box of crime scene evidence and documents from the 1974 killings left with them in an interrogation room, making the fact that the Illuminati were controlling the Leatherface family in The Next Generation more sound as a story concept just for the fact the film didn't build up to it and look embarrassing after all the prolonged setup.  


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