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Texas Chainsaw (2013)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

TEXAS CHAINSAW (2013)

Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz, Scott Eastwood, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos

Written By: Adam Marcus (also story), Debra Sullivan (also story), Kirsten Elms, Stephen Susco (story)

Directed By: John Luessenhop

The Short Version

The most famous redneck slasher franchise of all gets yet another revisit.

For the first two acts, it’s plug and play low mediocrity at its lowest and most mediocre…

…and then the story gets creative.

Everything else is pretty much what you were expecting, and maybe less.

If you’re going to catch any Leatherface flicks at all, you could do much worse than this Texas Chainsaw.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

SHREDDED.

Think a taco blend, prepackaged in a factory sealed bag.  Maybe you shouldn’t ask what’s all in it.


Pairs Well With...

MILLER HIGH LIFE.

It’s cheap swill, but you could find much worse cheap swill with very little effort.  At least this one can be swallowed without too much regret.

Family's a messy business.  Ain't nothing thicker than blood.

 

I admit going into Texas Chainsaw with expectations that amounted to less than zero.  Classic though Tobe Hooper’s original flick may be, the various sequels and revisits haven’t exactly been stellar, and I’m generally not inclined to favor the redneck branch of the slasher genre to begin with.  Truth be told, I had no intention of ever seeing this movie at all; I only gave in and tried it after losing a significant battle with insomnia.

Well.  Color me surprised.  Maybe even impressed.

I’m not saying that Texas Chainsaw is a masterpiece – it’s not by any stretch of the imagination – but it does manage to accomplish one thing that most slashers (especially redneck slashers) don’t even attempt: it breaks formula in an interesting way that makes for a much better story.

Yeah, that's right; I said the “s” word.  The highlight of this redneck power tool slasher flick is the attention that is (eventually) given to the story.  Who’ve thought, eh?  Of course, you have to wait until the Third Act to get to this special treasure, but let’s face it: if you’re the target audience for Texas Chainsaw, you’ve sat through a lot more of a lot worse to get to good stuff before.  (Specifically, I’m thinking pretty much the entirely of Jason Goes to Hell for the sake of That One Moment, but I digress.)  What you’ll be sitting through this time is two acts’ worth of plug-and-play “wanted to do a reboot but went for the decades-after sequel instead” super cliché material, sanitized for your (in) convenience.

The opening picks up where Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre ends: someone has managed to escape the Sawyer slaughterhouse.  The fortunate survivor is found, the townsfolk get angry, and they decide to apply some old fashioned Texas-style justice: they form a posse to burn out the Sawyer homestead and kill everyone there.  And so it goes, though one infertile couple notices a baby amidst the carnage, sand saves the innocent child to raise as their own… after they finish off her real mother, of course.

Flash forward a couple of decades, gives or take.  That baby girl has grown up to be Heather (Alexandra Daddario, Burying the Ex), who is enjoying the quiet existence of a grocery store clerk when a letter arrives informing her that she’s just inherited a mansion from a grandmother she never knew she had.  Needless to say, she decides to climb into her rickety van and make a road trip out of claiming it, bringing some friends along for the ride and picking up a friendly hitchhiker along the way.

Sound familiar so far?

Then you probably won’t be shocked to learn that there’s a secret apartment in the mansion’s basement, and that a certain chainsaw-wielding maniac still lives there, and that eventually, someone in the middle of doing something naughty ends up letting him out.  After all, it wouldn’t be a slasher flick if he didn’t, would it?  Of course not.  Just like it wouldn’t be a slasher flick if the secondary female character wasn’t hornier than a warren full of rabbits after an oyster buffet.  (Though if you’re expecting any on-camera sex or shower scenes or nudity from her or anyone else, forget it; that part of the formula has been left out of the mix.  More’s the pity, all things considered.)

With all of these unimaginative non-surprises played out by stock characters and a decided lack of creativity behind the camera, the only real positive thing I could think of to say about Texas Chainsaw during the course of the first two acts was that it wasn’t as brain-numbingly redneck as it might otherwise have been.  (Apparently the production design team didn’t want to stray too far away from the familiar atmosphere or Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch.)  It was also apparent that the lead actress had some potential, but the role wasn’t really giving her much to chew on, and besides, the camera operators were making it very clear that they were more interested in her always-bare stomach (which is slightly slimmer than most adults’ thighs) than her acting ability.  Which seemed to be an awful shame, until…

…until suddenly, someone decided to wake up the writers for the third act and do something very special that I just can’t bring myself to tell you about because I don’t want to spoil the best – and indeed, only remarkable – part about the entire movie.  What I can tell you is that suddenly, Alexandra Daddario has some more significant work to do, and that the previously adhered-to formula gets seriously played with.  It’s enough to make the entirety of Texas Chainsaw worth seeing, even if – like me – you’re not normally into the redneck side of the genre.  I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece or even necessarily good by any means, but it is interesting enough to be suddenly worth the look.

As for the gore hounds in the audience, the violence is bloody enough for the MPAA to call it “grisly,” but let’s face it, that’s hardly a high bar these days.  The slasher crowd should be happy enough, but if you’re looking for major kill creativity, I’ll just say that’s not the surprise that has me so pleased with how the third act turns out.

As for what the surprise is… I’ll leave that for you to discover, provided that you’re already some kind of slasher fan.  If you are, then Texas Chainsaw is worth catching on your favorite streaming service, though I will stop short of suggesting that you lay down the kind of money required to buy it for your permanent collection.  Unless it hits the “under 5” shelf, in which case, I’m sure you’ve spent more on worse.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2014


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