Saturday, 5 January 2013


Forcefully casting the Michael Bay-produced remake and its prequel to the side and lopping off the disappointing sequels, this new instalment makes Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre the only canonical entry in the series and seeks to follow it up.

An excellent idea, one would think.

Using footage from the original as set-up over the opening credits, the film begins with a refreshing period prologue that takes place immediately after the events of that film. Further building on the notion of family that runs through Hooper’s film, it neatly establishes the unhinged Sawyer clan’s mythic cult-like status.

However, with that short introduction out of the way, director John Luessenhop and the film’s four credited writers lead us to the present day with crushing inevitability. We meet our protagonist Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario), who is predictably dressed in the flesh-baring attire of a horror film heroine, as she discovers she has inherited a house in rural Texas from her biological family. She decides to visit the place with her disposable group of friends and a mysterious hitchhiker. Suffice to say, anyone who hasn’t already realised what type of film this is based on its title alone will soon be is a position to find out.

What follows is generic stalk-and-slash fodder as the group are picked off one by one and the secrets of Heather's new abode are revealed. It’s executed without any verve and once again features Leatherface, the series’ human-skin-masked, hulking serial killer who savagely dispatches his victims, like so many cattle at an abattoir, using the titular implement.

The first nagging doubt about this entry doesn’t take long to emerge. If this is set now (as the use of smartphones would attest), and it has already established it takes place in the same world as that of the original 1974 film, would this not then be taking place nearly forty years later? Yes it would. Would Leatherface not be an old man barely able to outrun buff and/or nubile teens? Yes he would.

If it is the case that this is set after all these years, why do characters established in the prologue appear to have barely aged or, in the case of our protagonist, have definitely not reached the age of nearly forty? It completely defies belief. There's the sense that the filmmakers also realised this and have sought to retcon the history but it's done in such a cack-handed way (simply leaving the year off every time the date of the events of the original film are mentioned) that it always jars. Should these kind of niggles be there to bother us in a film about a man killing people with a power tool? Probably not.

This is the biggest glaring flaw in the set-up but it barely matters because everything else is handled so ineptly anyway. There's no pace, no logic and no tension. Leatherface is no longer a hidden secret; the chilling masked figure with little explanation and even less remorse. Everyone locally knows who he is, which makes the sight of him running amok at a packed carnival with no fatalities all the sillier.

There’s something so aggressively cynical about every aspect of the film that it’s difficult to decide whether it’s the botched job that’s been made of restarting the franchise, or the lip service paid to the original genre classic, that is more egregious. By the time it asks us to view one of cinema’s most iconically violent villains as sympathetic, there’s no coming back.

There's something fittingly brutal in the way it excises any of the sequels and tries to streamline the mythology to start afresh, but the central core of family bonds and bloody grudges just doesn't wash. There's barely a visceral thrill to be had and it plays out in banal fashion without a modicum of the sense of unease the franchise was initially built upon.

Using footage from Tobe Hooper's sun-scorched original just serves to remind how sub-par and without atmosphere this is in comparison.


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