Out of all the slasher killer icons that were introduced to us via film in the 1970’s through the 90’s, Leatherface was never one of my favorites. The mass man who donned human skin for a mask while parading his terror with a fleet of chainsaws first started scaring audiences back in Tobe Hooper’s cult class The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974.
For over forty years, Leatherface has been plying his murderous trade throughout Texas in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 & 3 (1986, 1984) and then in a Michael Bay produced remake starring Jessica Biel in 2006.
Leatherface has been sitting quiet for six years, and it is likely only the wide acceptance of 3D got him back in front of audiences on the big screen.
In the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we start at the beginning. The opening credit scene takes us back to 1974 and flashes scenes from the classic film including Sally’s attack and Leatherface’s famous dance with the chainsaw on an open Texas road. We immediately find out what happened directly after Sally’s escape. We watch as the local Sheriff and a posse of Texan townsfolk descend upon the house of horror where much of the Texas massacre took place. A gunfight ensues between the locals and the Sawyer (huh?) family that refuses to give Leatherface (or Jed Sawyer as we are told) to authorities. The house is burned to the ground and it is reported that there were no survivors – but were there? Leatherface’s body was never found and a young baby was taken violently from the home where she grows up as Heather Miller unknowing of her lineage.
That changes when Heather gets a letter detailing that she has inherited the Sawyer home upon the death of the grandmother she never knew she had. She then heads down to Texas with her boyfriend and another expendable young couple to accept her inheritance and being to piece together the history of the family she never knew she had.
As with most horror films, things go as expected from there. Leatherface is still alive and living in the house and begins to pick them off one by one. The townsfolk hold a grudge against Heather due to her familysake and chainsaws and meat hooks are used to give audiences their dose of blood and gutsing.
As aforementioned, Leatherface has never been one of my favorites. Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Chucky all sit atop Mr. Chainsaw in my Top 5. Still, he is a viable icon that hasn’t outdone his welcome with rapid fire sequel exposure.
Director John Luessenhop (Lockdown) tires to give us a Leatherface that is more of a family unit. This could have been an interesting approach, but the idea was basically botched by an inane script that makes Leatherface a bit of a wimp that would be dead had it not been for Heather’s involvement in a late confrontation with the Mayor. The scripts’ attempt to humanize Leatherface was a misstep. He worked better when he was just a mindless killer we knew little about.
Also unfortunate is the usual horror stereotypes and devices that are used to get us to the end credits. Jump scares that wouldn’t be jump scares if not for the increased volume of sound, characters that are transparent and handle their survival clumsily and an overall lack of caring what characters make it out of the ordeal alive are all too strong in Texas Chainsaw 3D and hold the film back from being anything more than just another DVD to accompany the box set.
There were some half decent 3D effects – all of course, involving a chainsaw. And the first third was watchable and involving. But the momentum wasn’t maintained and the final third of the film was borderline ridiculous.
But overall, the film was just below average (which means it met my expectations). Horror films usually do great out of the gate so I expect Texas Chainsaw 3D to pull in some good numbers this week-end only to suffer from word of mouth and from the casual horror fan that knows they can wait and catch the title on VOD and DVD in just a few months.