Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Texas Chainsaw 3D - The scoop and digest


It’s amazing to think that Tobe Hooper’s notorious horror classic is nearly 40 years young.

Now in early 2013, John Luessenhop introduces a new chapter as the chainsaw wielding maniac gets to use his favourite tool once again in Texas Chainsaw.

Why he omitted ‘The’ and ‘Massacre’?  Best guess is that he wanted to make this sequel his own so it can be differentiated from any other that has before.

Did it work?  No!

Anyway, this is a sequel to the original and not to the 2003 remake.

Before the main event, it wouldn't do any harm to briefly touch on the past as there have already been six films made.

The genius behind the first is that gore is minimal as was mainly inferred about what was really happening as Hooper demanded that the audience should imagine rather than witness.

It’s really not the blood splattered, visceral goreathon that many assumed.  In fact, there’s some very dark comedy buried within (especially in the dinner scene).

Even so, back in 1974 the title alone was enough to encourage controversy.  While Hooper’s vision was entirely fictional, it was inspired by the horrific real life crimes of serial killer Ed Gein who skinned dead bodies and made them into furniture (without using a chainsaw).

Along with his infamous weapon, the original Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) would go down in history as one of the most iconic movie villains ever.

Twelve years later, Hooper was at the directorial helm again but Hansen would not return as Leatherface so instead, Bill Johnson revved his trademark weapon.

This was rightly absolutely slammed as it ramped up the comedy as well as the gore.  In this, Leatherface and the Sawyer family were apparently killed which suggested Hooper wanted nothing more to do with it as even he couldn't make a sequel worthy of the original.

From a directorial sense, that’s true but Hooper would later become involved in co-producing the 2003 remake.

Whatever, when a director stands aside and another takes control, this is when in my opinion a franchise goes downhill quicker than slalom skier.

In 1990, Jeff Burr was in charge of Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and was not only a second sequel but also a pseudo reboot, due to events in the former.

Apart from having BBFC issues, it wasn't anything that even a hardened gore hound would appreciate.  Oh, Leatherface was chopped and changed again with some guy called R.A. Mihailoff giving it a shot.

Next came Kim Henkel’s appalling Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation in 1994 starring a very young Bridget Jones.

So it seemed that the franchise had literally been massacred but in 2003, the original was remade.

Marcus Nispel decided to breathe life into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and along with Producer Michael Bay, who also had a firm blood soaked hand into new efforts of Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street; this could be a return to form.

Andrew Bryniarski took on Thomas ‘Leatherface’ Hewitt and just like Derek Mears as the hockey mask wearing Jason, he looked the part.  R. Lee Ermey helps out as nasty Sheriff Hoyt as the days of picking on Private Pyle have long since gone.

Nispel’s remake wasn’t scary and chose to go for the jugular.  Nevertheless, it was pretty good.

Hooper’s legacy was consigned to virtually a memory as Jonathan Liebesman took it upon himself to make a prequel to the modern remake and focused on Leatherface’s terrible genesis.

In brief, his biological mother gives birth and dies at a slaughterhouse.  Her offspring is dumped by the manager and found by a member of the Hewitt’s who bring him up as their own.  Now grown up, he works at the same slaughterhouse and gains revenge by killing the gaffer.

We also find that Hoyt assumes the role of Sheriff because he kills the real law officer and steals his clothes.

This again throws the scare factor out of the nearest window and is even gorier than before.  Also, Tommy as Leatherface doesn't really ring true until he removes a face from one of his victims.

It’s also the first time that despite another new director, the portrayal of Leatherface is reprised.

So that’s the history so what of Luessenhop’s new vision?  Is it a bloody mess or brilliant nightmare?

Let’s dive into the carnage, again.

Plot details and/or spoilers will be revved on full power.

Those partial to much bloodshed include:

Alexandra Daddario – Heather
Tainya Raymonde – Nikki
Dan Yeager – Jed and/or Leatherface
Trey Songz – Ryan
Shaun Sipos - Darryl
Paul Rae – Mayor Burt Hartman
Richard Riehle – Farnsworth
James MacDonald – Officer Marvin
Thom Barry – Sheriff Hooper
Keram Malicki-Sanchez - Kenny

Archive footage is shown of the classic original as the titles roll and amongst other kills; we remember how Gunnar Hansen uses a meat hook as a makeshift human coat hanger.

Then the new vision begins, shortly after Leatherface’s infamous and memorable chainsaw dance.  Sheriff Hooper is alerted and arrives at the Sawyer farmhouse where he wants the ‘boy’ given up but they’re not prepared to play ball.  Leatherface is chastised as he failed to make meat of the survivor.

Soon after, a gang of rednecks show up in their droves and stereotypical vehicles.  The Sawyer home is going down in flames, but not without a fight.  A shootout and a few petrol bombs later, the entire Sawyer family are apparently dead.

The victorious leader of the clan, Mayor Burt Hartman celebrates with his cronies but the Sheriff doesn't share their enthusiasm.

When the fire burns itself sober, they find a spent chainsaw and human remains with the former taken to be used as a smashing ornament for a bar down town.

Unknown to the others, one of the arsonists searches and finds a mother clutching an infant called Edith.  He teases her offering help but the bastard gives her with the boot and steals the baby.

The murderer takes his ‘prize’ back to a woman waiting in a car.  The camera pans to the recently deceased and the pendant around her neck.

We’re back with the victorious vigilantes and celebratory b/w snaps are taken for the record.

So that’s a decent introduction and now, the actual film steamrolls on...

Some decades later (we are never told of what year it actually is), Edith has now matured like a fine wine as the stunning Heather and chats shit with friend Nikki at a supermarket where she works.

Hmmm, the cleavage shot for Nikki is neither gratuitous nor done on purpose.

Back at Heather’s apartment, she enjoys potential ooh la la with fella Ryan and during this; we notice that Heather has a curious birthmark that looks strikingly similar to that pendant...

Their amorous nature is interrupted with a buzz at the door and it is better news than the result of any tumble on the couch.

Our Heather has been left a lavish house by her Grandma which leads to confusion as how can this be when the Sawyer family is dead?

She wants answers; she wants the truth as she can handle the truth.

Her parents reveal that they adopted her and doesn't take the news particularly well but sets off with her pals Nikki, Kenny and boyfriend Ryan to water the roots of her unexpected treat.

During a rest stop at a garage, the driver accidentally bumps into a hitchhiker (with their vehicle) called Darryl.  As an apology, they take him with them.

All that I can say, they are lucky as there’s not an ounce of John Ryder in him.

They arrive at the house with a locked gate and Heather waits for the Sawyer lawyer Farnsworth who hands her keys, papers and a letter from Grandmother Verna.

The final ticket to unknown paradise is code ‘0819’ and before leaving, the suit gives the tip on thinking of it as a ‘date’ to remember it.

They’re in and let the exploration begin.  While the others shoot pool, Heather finds the Carson Sawyer graveyard and ‘thanks’ Verna.

The gang leave bags and keys with Darryl as they go into town for provisions as he promises to clean up.

As expected, he decides to literally clean up by helping himself to the silver and loots the joint.  During shopping, we learn that Nikki and Ryan had shared an intimate liaison but hey, this guy’s loyal and spurns her sexy advances that includes a squeeze to the old joy department.

Meanwhile, tea leaf Darryl continues helping himself to various trinkets but he discovers something that will shortly become his hell.

Sure enough, curiosity kills this cat as after opening one door too much, he arouses the attention of Leatherface and gets hammered.

The gang of hotties return from supermarket sweep and they realise that the house has been done over.  They get over it fairly quick and decide to have some fun.

Kenny discovers the wine cellar near to where Darryl met his demise and is chased by our man, hooked and dragged downstairs.

At some point, Nikki lures Ryan to the barn as she cries wolf by suggesting that something horrible has scared the shit out of her.  Instead, she strips to her knickers and bra which leaves him with a difficult choice.

Well, what would the average male do if something as attractive as her was served on a plate? Say no maybe?

Soon to be cheated on Heather discovers her grandmother’s corpse and naturally, she’s a bit distraught.  She calls for her friends but to no avail as unbeknownst to her, Kenny and The Hitcher are dead and the other two are having it off.

She stumbles upon Leatherface in the kitchen, who is causally removing fingers from a severed hand.  He throws her like a rag doll and knocks her sparko.

After brief flashes of what the BBFC would describe as ‘gory images’, Heather comes to and witnesses Leatherface forcing the still alive Kenny to be hung on a meat hook.

When he dares to retaliate, Leatherface reacts by revving his favourite tool and gorily seals his fate from torso down.

You better run for yer’ life little girl as he’s coming to get you...

Retreating to the graveyard, she hides inside a coffin within an open grave.  He begins cutting through with the fearful blade narrowly missing its target.

The philandering pair at least saves her life as his attentions are switched to them in the distance, having just emerged from their love nest.

Retreating to the barn, a warning shot from Nikki seems to make him think twice and a 4 x 4 driven by Heather smashes through to rescue them.

I know you’re knee deep in mortal danger at the moment girl but didn't you think to ask why your boyfriend strangely has his top off while in the company of a temptress?

Oh well, after escaping through the gate, Leatherface and his weapon manage to shred a tyre which is enough to force their vehicle to overturn.

Ryan is dead but surely she’s better off without that cheating scumbag and saves the tiresome cliché of him becoming the hero with her finding out and eventually forgiving his infidelity.

Heather escapes to a theme park leaving the injured Nikki with you know who in hot pursuit.

As the crowd disperses, a guy in a pig mask and customary costume, holding a fake chainsaw squares up to Leatherface but he’s spared.

Shortly after, she wakes up trapped inside a neglected room, wearing a makeshift torture device and a television suddenly turns on with the chilling voice, “Hello Heather, I want to play a game.”

So after that bit of fun, Heather succeeds in hanging on for dear life on the carriage of a moving Ferris wheel with Leatherface impatiently waiting and buzzing away below.

Before she descends to her impending doom, a young sheriff turns up to save the day.  Honestly, anybody would start to think that this girl might get through this nightmare.

Leatherface evades arrest by throwing the chainsaw in the general direction of the law and makes his escape.

At the police station and to paraphrase Quint, “Hooper, give her room, son of a bitch!”

Yes, this is a different Hooper and after she confirms that her pursuer wore ‘another face’, he fears that Jed has survived the arsonist massacre.  Hartman is now present and sends the reluctant Officer Marvin to the Sawyer residence.

Hooper and Hartman witness Marvin’s search via video link from his smart phone.

As I’ll inevitably mention Leatherface again, I’m using Jed from now on.

During this search, Heather can’t resist having a good nosey through an Evidence box earlier left by Hooper and after some investigation, she realises that 0819 is the date of when her family was murdered by the town folk.

See, that number had to have some significance and that clue was like solving an easy Resident Evil puzzle wasn't it?

Back at his ranch, trails of blood lead him to Jed’s horror haven and a container houses something.  Taking a peek, you better hold your breath because it’s... not...
Jed but instead, it’s naughty Nikki whose scream and beauty startles Marvin so much, her reward is not rescue but a bullet to the head.

Oops!

The video link up dies and he’s had enough of this shit.  Marvin’s brief stay is completed as he’s axed by Jed.

So unfortunates have been hammered, hooked and axed.  Ho ho ho, green giant.

At some point, Jed carefully removes Marvin’s face and wears it while painfully stitching it through his cheeks using a needle and thread.

What a two-faced git.

Grabbing ‘another’ chainsaw, Jed is certainly pissed.  Yeah, I guess he popped to the local DIY shop and stocked up.

Heather meets up with Farnsworth at the ‘chainsaw’ bar where she learns that Jed is actually her cousin with the mental age of an 8 year old.

Locals attack and she’s taken by Hartman’s son Carl to a long since abandoned and ubiquitous slaughterhouse, where he ties and gags her laying the perfect trap for Jed.

The hook is baited and he’s more certain bite than a starving school of piranha circling a wounded animal.

Heeeerrrrreeee’s Jed!  It doesn't have quite the same ring does it?

He revs his weapon and wickedly moves it slowly towards her chest but remember that birth mark, it’s an ‘obvious’ life saver.

He removes her gag which allows her to scream the truth.  Now free, she scarpers but Hartman and his associate surprise him with a battering.  They attach a chain to his neck and the other redneck becomes machine operative and activates a meat grinder.

Heather decides against legging it and goes back in to help Jed.  She first achieves this by first forking the machine operator and having suitably adjusted his chain, she reunites him with his weapon as they've been separated for long enough.

She excitedly encourages “Do your thing cuz!”

After trading blocks, Jed gains the upper hand by mutilating Burt's ankles and he’s rendered absolutely helpless.  Hooper turns up but Heather pleads not to open fire and he obliges.

Hartman is now at the mercy of the meat grinder and Jed quickens his gruesome fate by removing his hands.

Jed and ‘Edith’ return home and she finally reads the letter.  Verna narrates and assures that as long as she cares for him, he’ll protect her to his death.

The ball’s in her court if she decides to stay and the film ends when Jed slides the door firmly shut to his haven.

Wiping the sweat off my brow, that’s practically the entire film.

It’s open for a sequel and could Heather succeed Leatherface?  Yeah, that’s the next junction to which it should turn as that would be even more absurd.

The amount of problems in Luessenhop’s movie would baffle the average psychologist.

The first is concerning the thief as it’s totally realistic that you’d leave your luggage and the keys to a priceless mansion you've recently acquired to the mercy of a guy you barely know.

Of course you would and if that’s the done thing, then I may need to tighten up several screws...

After the archive footage ends, the new scene is set almost immediately after the original and so, the year is still 1973.  That’s absolutely fine and dandy, lemonade shandy.

We guess that looking at the very trim Heather that she’s in her mid 20's, or thereabouts so that means we now in the late 1990's.

That brings me to querying Leatherface’s age.  In the original, he must be in his late 40's so is Luessenhop saying he’s a pensioner in his 70's or even 80's?

Oh I know John, while hiding in that wine cellar, he was in suspended animation and conveniently thawed out when Darryl unintentionally triggered the Leatherface alarm.

Finally, did a smartphone capable of such high quality live video feed really exist?

Okay, I’d buy that if we’re bang up to date, but then that would then make Heather and co in their mid to late thirties which in turn, would make Jed a near centurion.

On all counts, I smell the intense hum of bullshit drifting perilously close to my nostrils.

Do your thing cuz?  What a wonderful line.

The penultimate scene involving chain, meat grinder and even birth mark all steal from Nispel’s 2009 reboot of Friday the 13th, albeit used in different circumstances.

Maybe he got permission?

The strangest rip off is when Heather escapes from the slaughterhouse and decides to help cuz.

When you see it, anybody with any movie knowledge should (as I did) instantly think that’s EXACTLY the same principle as the scene in Tarantino’s cult classic Pulp Fiction when Butch returns to save Marsellus.

If you didn't, think about it?

I saw this in 3D and the effect is absolutely shocking.  Apart from the rare occasion of a chainsaw popping out, it’s as effective as snow boarding on a treacle covered mountain.

Suffice to say, I sneered at the extra cash drained from my wallet.  Why won’t I ever learn?

Well I've slaughtered it so far but it’s really not that bad as for all its faults, there’s some exciting action and suspense, decent CGI gore and the sensible running time ensures you’re unlikely to be bored.

It’s also fun seeing Gunnar Hansen making a special guest appearance.

With a film like this, the females are chosen because of their hourglass bodies and while Heather tries, her best acting comes from screaming.

The new Leatherface behaves as he should but the idea of making him some kind of anti-hero was a huge mistake.

After Silent Hill: Revelation, I had a hunch that this could contain a potential Easter egg to unwrap and sure enough, my suspicions were proved correct.

Her adoptive parents show up to show Edith a greedy face as they smell cash but beyond the door, a chainsaw can be heard revving.  The door opens and Leatherface charges...

That’s about five minutes of my life I won’t get back...

It would be more insane than the Sawyer family to compare this to the seminal original but I have no regrets (apart from not watching it in 2D).

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