Let me just say first that I’ve never been a fan of any of the films in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) is the seventh one and I don’t understand why the franchise has endured for as long as it has. The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) had its moments mostly during the first half of the film but for me becomes a dull bore once you get to the diner scene. From there on the film spirals downhill and never recovers. The film did introduce me to Gunner Hansen as Leatherface who is one of my favorite character horror actors of all time. I hated Part 2 (1986) completely and have never gotten into the comedy aspect of that film (although again it introduced to another one of my favorite character actors Bill Moseley). I do enjoy the siege of the radio station but that’s about it. Part 2 had great production design but like its predecessor falls apart some time during the second act. At the time of its release Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part III (1990) was a good film (or at least that’s what I thought when I was a kid) but time has not been kind to this film as it now comes off as an uninspired slasher film. The less said about Return of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (aka Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation- 1994), which was the first one I saw on the big screen under this title, the better. Then came the remake (2003) and its Prequel (2006) which are both competent and have a strong cast. While the first one was actually quite good, it suffers from a less than thrilling ending when the main character goes back to save the baby and the prequel suffers from being a cliché of the genre and a ludicrous ending.
Now we have the latest entry in the undying franchise which decides to go back to the original for inspiration by being a sequel to that film. This in and of itself is actually an excellent idea and hasn’t really been done that often since Halloween: H20 (1998) decided to dismiss the four films that came before it. After a 3D re-hash of events from the original film, this film opens just moments after the events of the original film as the Sawyer clan is gunned down and murdered by the towns folks leaving only a baby child to be taken in as an orphan. About twenty years later (which if it was a true sequel it would be about 30 years) that baby grows up to be Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) who just learns that her relative died and that she has inherited a large estate. As with most of these types of films she heads off with a group of her friends to search out this property discovering that her roots lie with that of the infamous Sawyer clan and that the estate harbors deep and dark secrets that may get her and her friends killed.
The problem with this film is that the first half comes off as a simple slasher movie cliché where one person after another is killed (in great ways mind you) by Leatherface. None of his victims this go around have a brain in their heads and are dispatched very quickly before Leatherface sets his sights on Alex whom he just can’t seem to kill despite how much he tries. That’s the first half of the film because as soon as the film becomes an Alex vs. Leatherface film it switches gears to a film about a town full of secrets and conspiracies and Alex discovering the real truth about her family which leads her to discovering her true purpose.
I for one enjoyed the second half of the film. The first half was a by the numbers rendition of previous films in the franchise but the moment the film decides to make Leatherface into a real character with a real purpose the film had something to say and Alex’s story became stronger. The film is filled with excellent moments for the horror fan but those looking for a Leatherface who just lumbers around and kills people will be turned off by the second half of the film.
With a screenplay by Adam Marcus & Debra Sullivan and Kristen Elms the film does a decent job of opening up the mythology of the Chainsaw Universe (which may not appease everyone) and leaves one to believe that a sequel opens up the possibilities even more. Director John Lussenhop continues the look and style established by the last two films which will make fans of the remakes happy but other than the opening sequence there is little for fans of the original ’74 Tobe Hooper film. The opening sequence does contain several notable cameos from the original two Hooper films (one of my favorite parts of the film bridging the old guard with the new). This film is so far removed from being a simple horror film (the original) or a satire comedy (Part 2) that the fans for whom this film was originally conceived may find themselves turned off. Either way, this is the first sequel to present a whole new set of rules from which future films will be able to play by.