An apparent sequel to Tobe Hooper’s notorious (and masterful) 1974 cult classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) starts promisingly but soon becomes yet another sub-standard American gorefest, with little or no real body. Directed by John Luessenhop and starring Alexandra Daddario, Trey Songz, Tania Raymonde and Keram Malicki-Sánchez, this new instalment lacks the buzz which lifted the original above your average slasher film. This time around we follow the story Heather (Daddario), who has inherited a house from a dead grandmother whom, until recently, she didn’t even know existed.
Taking boyfriend Ryan (Songz) and best friends Nikki (Raymonde) and Kenny (Malicki-Sánchez) along for the ride, Heather heads for rural Texas to inspect the premises. On arrival, the group discover what appears outwardly to be a stunning mansion. However, this house harbours something horrid in its labyrinthine basement, and the friends soon wish they’d got out when they still had the chance. The film’s initial scenes have enough nods to Hooper’s original (the camper van, a suspicious-looking hitchhiker etc). However, once the teens arrive at grandma’s, things go steadily downhill.
Despite the fact that it was fairly clear back in 1974 just what Leatherface and his redneck kin were up to (taking inspiration from the Ed Gein murders), the real horror all happened off-screen, with the viewer always thinking that they saw more than they actually did. Sadly, in Luessenhop’s boorish Texas Chainsaw, nothing is left to the imagination as all subtlety is stripped bare by the reborn masked killer, utilising his petrol-driven saw to rip and tear through bone and tissue in full visceral glory.
Luessenhop’s visuals are arguably his film’s one saving grace – the plantation style mansion Heather inherits is beautiful, which only serves to heighten the horrors it hides beneath. Yet unfortunately, the story this time around breaks free of the house and grounds, its action spilling clumsily into the local community, both at the annual town fair as well as a nearby abattoir where the inevitably blood-soaked climax plays out.
Elsewhere, the cast (including Gunnar Hansen and Marilyn Burns from the original) are a pretty standard bunch for this kind of gory fodder. The token teens are required to do little more than run around screaming like headless chickens – at least when they have heads with which to scream. As for Dan Yeager’s Leatherface, it’s hard to decipher anything but guttural grunts from beneath his convincingly grotesque features. With a suitably ‘open ending’ there’s every chance someone will be back for more Chainsaw antics – whether we like it or not.