The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most influential movies in horror cinema. Tobe Hooper’s seminal 1974 film introduced the world to Leatherface and a level of cinematic gore that enthralled and disgusted audiences in equal measure. It’s banning in the UK helped to give it a near mythic quality and the title alone conjures up a level of terror that few films can muster. Over the years a plethora of sequels and remakes of varying quality have failed to diminish the power of the original film. Which brings us nicely to Texas Chainsaw.
Texas Chainsaw begins with a montage of original footage from Tobe Hooper’s film. The story then picks up mere minutes after that filmed ended with an angry lynch mob arriving at the Sawyer homestead in the hunt for Leatherface. Events get out of control and the farm is burned to the ground. It’s believed that the entire family have been killed, but a baby makes it out alive. Fast forward several years and the baby has grown into Heather (Alexandra Daddario), a young woman who is oblivious about her sordid family history. Well, she’s oblivious until she gets a letter informing her that a grandmother she never knew she had has died and left her a mansion in Texas.
Heather and her bunch of oh-so good-looking friends hop in a van and head off to Texas to take possession of the house and have a good time. Little do they know that Leatherface also survived the Sawyer family massacre and soon he’s up to his old tricks, using his petrol-fuelled weapon of choice. The idea of picking up where the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre ended is a noble one – but one which leads to the films biggest flaw. Hopper’s film was set in 1974, this film is set in 2012 (as per a gravestone and sequence with gratuitous iphone usage), meaning that Heather and her pals would all be in their forties. However, star Alexandra Daddario is clearly in her mid-twenties meaning that, as a viewer you spend most of the movie trying to reconcile the timeline. It doesn’t add up – and it’s something that the filmmakers fess-up to in the special features, hoping that audiences will forgive the lack of continuity. They won’t.
The other intriguing aspect is that the killing of the Sawyer family is a small town conspiracy, led by the town’s Mayor (Paul Rae). It’s a decent idea, but one that is cack-handedly presented by director John Luessenhop and his team of writers. There’s a brief period in the middle of Texas Chainsaw where the film suddenly turns into a small town drama, something which takes the drive out of the film’s slasher mojo. Like I said, this wouldn’t be so bothersome if it was delivered in a competent matter, but it isn’t.
Texas Chainsaw also wants to turn Leatherface into some sort of ant-hero. It’s as if the filmmakers watched Ridley Scott’s Hannibal and decided that the best thing that movie had to offer was how they made Hannibal Lector a slightly noble serial killer (it wasn’t). The characters that Leatherface kills in this movie are all amoral, as if he’s justified in killing these people. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t really empathise with a psychotic murderer wearing a human-skin facemask who hacks people to death with a power tool.
Tope Hooper’s original film truly deserves a sequel which matches it’s visceral and primal terror. Texas Chainsaw however isn’t it.
It’s unfortunate that Texas Chainsaw has so many good features which cover the film’s production. Great commentaries and all sorts of goodies mean that you should ditch the movie and watch the extras.