Chainsaw Challenged

A pound of flesh, a wicked taste… the butcher’s name is Leatherface.

October 1st of 1974 a beautiful horror film was born, covered in blood, macabre, and the grueling teeth of a chainsaw. Even the posters left chills down ones spine as it read, “Who will survive, and what will be left of them?” Since then there have been several movies created around the horrific Sawyer family and their best killing tool, Leatherface. In my opinion nothing will ever beat the original film, though with their best efforts to regenerate the horrors, the more modern films with R. Lee Ermey rekindled that flame; the newer 2013 addition, not so much.

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) takes the story back to where the first film left off, right after Leatherface let a beautiful blood drenched survivor slip away. The last scene in the first film left us with an outburst of insanity as Leatherface, in a fit of rage, was slinging his chainsaw around aimlessly, upset in the middle of the street as his victim made it to safety by hitching a ride. The start of the new film shows recaps of the original film to catch the viewers up to speed, cutting directly to a scene at an old farmhouse full of the Sawyer family. I assume they got together to fight off the police much like outlaws would back in the days of Ma Barker and the gang.

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I have a few problems with this opening scene. For starters, the recap just reminded us of how great the original film was with its lunatic family, gritty film look, and 70’s wardrobe. One of the reasons that horror films were so great in the 70’s was because of the awkward designs that were in the small details of things like wall paper in old houses, clothing, hair styles, and the seriousness of the talented “scream queens” that horror films today seem to have lost. A big loss for this opening scene was that while the original films talent was really a filthy, backwoods, twisted family of four  – we cut to 10 or more family members at the house whom appear to be wearing really clean clothing, and none of them seem to have that blood thirsty murderous feeling to them. Of course, while the burning and lynching of the family was pretty cool, it just didn’t seem right to me. It was as strange as the scene in Rob Zombie’s film,”The Devil’s Rejects” where they have a shoot out set to a Lynyrd Skynyrd song that suddenly seemed like a strange music video instead of a film. Not to rant about this but to me it’s all in the details and it was like they started off with a limp.

The writers used almost every horror film cliche that could be pulled from the Texas Chainsaw cookbook,  from a gruesome shot of roadkill to picking up a hitchhiker, all the way up to Leatherface hanging victims on a hook (which kind of felt very copy and pasted from the older films). Of course, it’s not a Texas Chain Saw Massacre film without a scene or two of a face being peeled back and made into a mask, which thankfully this film has.

One trick that worked well in the other films that was used in a cellar scene, was  smeared clippings photographic gore coupled with the erie camera shutter sounds, leaving a very welcomed chill.

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Leatherface just didn’t feel as much like himself as I had hoped for, though there were a few times that I bit my cheek and grinned while he slammed his hammer across a skull or two, revved his chainsaw and hobbled to his prey, or took a hatchet to someone in one of those ever exciting, you asked for it, scenarios. When Leatherface wasn’t in kill mode, I just didn’t feel it though. In 1974 when the first Texas Chain Saw Massacre film was shot, Gunnar Hansen sought inspiration from special needs children to develop Leatherface’s mannerisms. He was extremely scary, even when he was just standing around. That didn’t happen for me with this film.

Overall, there were just too many distractions. I felt like the story was there but the writers failed. Just like in most cookie cutter horror films, you could pretty much make a list of which characters whom would be killed, and what order they’d be killed in. As many of you know, the character Leatherface himself, was created around the true story of the 1950’s grave robber and killer, Ed Gein. I assume they tried to stay true to Ed in this film by showing that Leatherface had dug his Grandmother up and put her in a chair upstairs, which was cool,  but even that just felt all too expected. I wasn’t looking for a twist in a slasher film, but maybe a better and more thorough plan. The idea of revenge was good but poorly played out.

Though it sounds like I’ve totally slammed this film, I do have this to say…  Now days, unfortunately, there aren’t very many horror films that keep both a great plot and the suspenseful horror that we all hope to experience when watching them. While I do feel like this film should have undergone a few more rewrites before being made, when the brutal scenes happened, I did still get the nice on the edge of the chair feeling at times. At the end of the film, just like they have ended a few of them in the past, Leatherface closed the film with his signature sliding door shot, which I still think is a great way to end any Texas Chain Saw Masacre film.

Had this been my film Leatherface would have plugged a hook through our leading lady’s cranium,  then he would have slowly drug her through the dark halls, lifting and jabbing her onto a hook in his bedroom, then he would have frantically turned to us (the audience) with her twitching and screaming in agony behind him. Then we’d still end the film with  an aggressively slammed door, leaving us with the photographic shutter clicking sounds, screaming, and the sounds of his chainsaw well at work. I’m not the writer, but aside from his closely insane family that he had, I wouldn’t allow a monster like Leatherface to accept a new unknown relative, and he has to make up for allowing the escape of girl in the first film.  It’s his slaughter house, if you go in, you don’t come out.

Go and watch this film. It’s entertaining and I recommend viewing it. I’ve spoken to many people who loved it, but then again, they weren’t film majors picking apart the plot and character flaws; that’s my curse!

That’s all…

~ William C. Raustler

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Here is the trailer. The film is available now via itunes.