This is a film I had convinced myself I would not like. The trailer kept it’s cards close to its chest, and it seemed like just another excuse to exploit the Chainsaw name, only this time in 3D. Not so. I can’t believe I am about to say this but I actually found the plot of the film to be rather original.
Texas Chainsaw 3D starts with a Friday the 13th Part 3 (Steve Miner, 1982) style recap of the events of the 1974 Tobe Hooper original. Excitingly we get to see the key events of the original film converted into 3D including all the deaths culminating with Sally making her dramatic escape. (the reverse of sally jumping out of the window is the only exception as it has clearly been re-shot with a double for 3D) Considering how old and grainy the original picture was the 3D effect looks really great. The new film then briefly continues straight on from the events of the original in Halloween 2 (Rick Rosenthal, 1981) style. The town sheriff arrives at the Sawyer house (Leatherface’s family are not given individual names in the first film but were subsequently named Sawyer in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Tobe Hooper, 1986) to find that the whole clan has now arrived, including extended family, and they are armed to the teeth. The Sheriff almost talks the family into giving up Leatherface, but a band of local red-necks pull up and start a shoot out. Some petrol bombs are thrown and the whole house burns down killing almost everyone. Only a woman and a baby escape from the fire. Unfortunately one of the red-necks spots the pair, kills the mum and takes the baby to give to his wife to raise as their own.
We then flash forward to the present day where the young and buxom Heather is preparing to go on a road trip with her boyfriend Ryan and friends Nikki and Kenny. Before they leave a letter arrives informing her that her Grandma has died and left her a house in Texas. Heather is shocked by this turn of events believing her grandparents to all be dead already. On confronting her parents she discovers that she is ‘adopted’ and the gang decide to stop off in Texas on their road trip. On the way they pick up a hitch-hiker (never a smart idea) The house turns out to be a mansion so they decide to stay the night. Heather is given a letter by the executer of the estate written by her Grandmother detailing important information about the house that she is told she absolutely must read, but instead of doing the smart thing and reading the letter the gang decide to go and get food for dinner and leave the hitch-hiker alone in the house with the set of keys. Unsurprisingly the hitch-hiker decides to rob the place and goes searching for a door to fit the largest key. He finds a hidden door down to the basement and unwittingly releases Leatherface who goes on a killing rampage. The majority of the film then consists of Heather trying to escape both Leatherface and the towns people, most of whom are related to the lynch mob who wiped out her entire family and aren’t ready to let the truth to come out.
There are a number of problems with this film. Some of the acting is diabolical, Kenny insists on going into the basement and shouting despite seeing blood on the floor, and the bit were one of the cops who has been called to the house follows a trail of blood whist filming on his mobile phone so that the Sheriff and the Major can see what is happening is almost unbelievable, not to mention the unread letter. But Texas Chainsaw 3D also has some surprisingly good qualities that really endeared it to me. As a Tobe Hooper fan I was pleased to discover a variety of knowing references to Hooper’s films. The Sheriff’s surname is Hooper, that’s an obvious one. There happens to be a fair in town and when Heather tries to escape from Leatherface she jumps over a fence into the fairground where she is chased past a fun house. Tobe Hooper made a 1981 film called The Funhouse. There is even an in-joke about Leathface’s recent competition; as a girl dresses in the pig mask from Saw 2 (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2005) tries to scare fair goers with a replica chainsaw Leatherface runs up and shows her what a real chainsaw looks like. The kids drive a mini van with a sliding door and pick up a hitch-hiker who turns out to be bad news just like in the original. There are also cameos from Gunnar Hansen and Marilyn Burns (Leatherface and Sally) This sort of thing pleases me no end.
Chainsaw 3D is very much the Halloween 6 of the franchise (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, 1995, Joe Chappelle) in that it tries to add to the folklore of the series rather then just trying to make the same film again with a different set of kids. This is definitely the ideal way of making sequels. After all how cool would it be to inherit a mansion with Leatherface locked in the basement? The correct answer is very cool! So to surmise I am able to forgive this film it’s little genre foibles because they add to the fabric of the overall mythology rather than astounding our intelligence’s with another glossy, vacuous simile of an original. Don’t get me wrong, it was by no means the best film of the year, but it didn’t commit the cardinal sin of beloved franchise sequels; it didn’t disappoint me. Texas Chainsaw 3D beat the new Friday the 13th (2009, Marcus Nispel) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010, Samuel Bayer) hands down in that respect. I came away wanting to watch it again just in case there are any little references I have might of missed.