Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Texas Chainsaw

1974 saw the release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That film boasts being one of the only horror films to contain an antagonist that genuinely terrifies me, Leatherface. Ignoring the slew of sequels, remakes and prequels that have since developed the original into a fully fledged franchise, Texas Chainsaw goes back to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and promises a direct sequel that is in keeping with the intensity of its predecessor. Oh, and it's in 3D too, although I didn't allow myself the pleasure of experiencing the film in that form.

Texas Chainsaw
John Lussenhop // 2013 // 18 // 92 mins

The opening of Texas Chainsaw recaps the brutal events of the original, condensing the film down to the bare bones of each kill and the subsequent escape of Sally (Marilyn Burns). The film then proceeds to depict the events that directly followed her escape, whereby the people of the town congregate at the Sawyer family farmhouse and burn it down, killing most of the inhabitants. Edith, the youngest member of the family, is found by one of the arsonists who proceeds to kill her mother and take her in as his own, raising her as Heather (Alexandra Daddario). Naturally, Heather grows into a heavily eye-linered, crop top wearing babe, who makes disturbing artwork and looks incredibly young for someone who was a baby in 1973. When Heather is informed that a Grandmother she never knew existed has died and left her in possession of a house she confronts her parents about her apparent adoption and sets out with three friends and a so-clearly-eye-candy-he-might-as-well-have-been-shirtless hitchhiker, Darryl (Shaun Sipos) to sign some paperwork and explore her new digs. However, not long after arriving the group are one by one introduced to Grandma Verna's secret, Jed 'Leatherface' Sawyer (Dan Yeager) has been living in the basement for the last 40 (23 if you're Heather) years.

Narratively the film is a hot mess, juggling three story strands that focus on Heather coming to terms with her disturbing origins, the towns malicious agenda against the Sawyer family and the hack-em-to-bits Leatherface slasher that the film was marketed as being. Because each of these stories has been given considerable screen-time none of them ever feel rounded out and contain little depth. The traditional slasher portion of the film in particular is moved away from relatively early in the narrative, which is even more frustrating as the majority of the deaths happen off-screen or are concealed by the shadows of the incredibly dark basement. What follows is more in keeping with a crime thriller as the towns Mayor and police force seek out Leatherface in an attempt to finish what they started in 1973. While a reliance on gore is generally detrimental to any horror film it is an expected component of any slasher. It is baffling then, why the filmmakers have decided to keep hidden what is surely their most guaranteed seat-filling aspect, outside of the franchise name. Even worse is that when the kills do become more blood soaked, in the final act, the film over-relies on some truly terrible CGI. Some of the reasons that the original film was so successful were its impeccable tone, tension building and ability to scare the crap out of audiences, three areas that Texas Chainsaw is seriously lacking in. Sure enough the five minute recap of the original film provides more scares than the remaining 87 minutes of Texas Chainsaw.

Attempts to make Heather an unconventional heroine, through her alternative appearance and family ties are completely undermined through her construction as just another scream queen. Daddario may look a lot more edgy than your traditional busty blonde victim, but when chased through a graveyard she, true to form, will undergo two exaggerated prat-falls before hiding in an open coffin, and when given a new shirt to replace her tattered crop-top, will ignore the fact she's not wearing a bra and only do up one button that easily pops open as soon as she comes into danger. Given that so little care went into creating the central protagonist of the film it is hardly surprising that the remaining cast of characters are equally as uninspired, each of them frighteningly one-dimensional, even for a slasher. Horror films are often terrible choices for the 3D treatment, mainly because the technique is always relegated to a tiresome gimmick. Texas Chainsaw 3D is an incredibly apt title, as the only moments in which the 3D device is utilised is for the occasional shot in which the Chainsaw is poked at the viewers face. The gimmicky-ness is a subtle as a punch to the groin and is something that becomes even more patronising when the film is viewed in a 2D format. While no one will have bought a ticket for the film expected an Avatar level of 3D implementation, it would be nice for once to see a more inventive application of the technique than has been provided recently.

Texas Chainsaw is a disappointment on every level. It fails as a horror film, a slasher film, a sequel and as a 3D film. The storyline attempts to tie it to the original but the entire production could not be farther from what that film achieved. Branching out the story of the town loses the claustrophobia that can often make the worst horror film somewhat tense, while the family drama that litters Heathers story becomes so unrealistic it borders on the parodic. It is unfortunately irredeemable and provides a perfect example of just how bad the genre has become over the last 20 years. This is possibly the most boring film to feature a man wearing a mask made of skin swinging a chainsaw around.

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