Reviewed by Michael Erb
You’ve got to admit that Leatherface and his franchise have some serious longevity. They’ve survived four movies in the original series, two in the Platinum Dunes reboot franchise, and now they’re back in the newest reboot (and 7th total) movie. After this many films and just as many creative teams bleeding it for money, you might expect Texas Chainsaw (aka Texas Chainsaw 3D) to feel a bit undercooked. You’d be right.
Texas Chainsaw is a direct sequel to the original film and ignores the events of the other films in the series (much like nearly every other film in the series). It starts right as the 1974 original ends, with the survivor of the Sawyer Family’s latest feast getting away. Her story brings the sheriff and a lynch mob to the Sawyer homestead, resulting in their near complete extermination by vigilante justice. Cut to present day and a young woman named Heather. She receives a letter from the estate of a grandmother she never knew she had. The Sawyer family mansion is hers now, she just has to come to Texas and claim it. With her boyfriend and some friends in tow, Heather arrives in the small town of Newt looking for answers about her identity. What she finds, however, is that not everyone in town is happy to see there’s another Sawyer still alive. With a group of conspirators chasing her and her long-thought-dead cousin ready for some meat work, Heather will find that some should answers should stay buried.
Texas Chainsaw is an unabashedly dumb entry in a less-than-illustrious series, but not the worst. The characters are flat but likeable enough. The script takes great big leaps of logical credibility in more than a few aspects. The filmmakers chose to show oodles of gore in every kill scene and they made sure to fully light Leatherface in his shots, so there’s no real tension created. With the exception of one shot, all the “coming-at-you” 3D looks poor. The film just feels like the studio wanted a sloppy gore fest to rake in new franchise money.
But, there’s something about all this pointless violence and gore that’s still mildly satisfying. The scare sequences are mostly fun and every set is very detailed, especially the Sawyer home in the beginning. The action scenes look good and go through a variety of locations, including local fairgrounds. There’s even a crowbar on chainsaw fight that stretches believability but looks very pretty in frame. The practical gore is disgustingly good. It’s a shame that it’s abandoned toward the end of the movie for some subpar CG, but what made the cut is still gruesomely respectable.
The most interesting thing Texas Chainsaw tries to pull off is a slight re-characterization of Leatherface. He’s still a chainsaw-prone inbred cannibal, but the movie also shows his protective nature. This story posits that Leatherface was always very protective of his family and scared; only killing those who enter his home and those he perceives to wish his relatives harm. So, there comes a point when Heather and Leatherface realize their kin and the whole dynamic changes. It’s believable enough, adds a new layer to the character, and it throws a welcome wrench into the otherwise predictable plot.
The cast is full of capable actors who turn in decent performances. There’s not a lot of material to really work with, but that doesn’t stop anyone from giving it a solid try. Dan Yeagar does great work as Leatherface, adding interesting little details to the character between all the murdering. Veteran character actor Thom Barry is a welcome addition as Sheriff Hooper. Whether he’s wearing a Don Cornelius hairpiece for the 1970s scene or his subdued hairstyle in the present day, Barry carries himself with authority and weariness. Even R&B singer/first time actor Trey Songz turns in a solid performance.
Texas Chainsaw doesn’t reinvent the automated blade. It’s the story of hapless young people sent into the meat grinder, only for the meat grinder to turn into an anti-hero. Once you get past that, there’s just not much going on. That doesn’t necessarily mean Texas Chainsaw is an awful movie, but it’s nothing special.
There are a ton of extras on this disc. There’s a ton of featurettes on the development of the film, the cast of the original, and much more provide insight into this franchise. The commentary tracks include the likes of Tobe Hooper, Gunnar Hansen and other acting alumni of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, and more. The disc also comes with a code for a digital copy of the movie and a streaming copy through Ultraviolet. This way, you can watch Texas Chainsaw on a tablet while riding a crowded bus or stream it at your next family gathering.
The disc is a dual blu-ray/3D blu-ray, for those who want to enjoy Texas Chainsaw 3D as it appeared theatrically. The picture is crisp and clear, showing all the leathery masks and bloody giblets in glorious HD. The audio sounds excellent and there are a number of system setup options for those who want to maximize their chainsaw revving experience.