In theory, a remake/sequel should never be judged against the original film that it is based upon. Within that same theory, each film should be judged only on the merits within its own running time. That film is a standalone work of art that should only be judged upon its own presentation. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world of theory. We live in a world of Texas Chainsaw(3D), the latest entry into the legacy of the Leatherface and Company canon. Directed by John Leussenhop, Texas Chainsaw has dropped “The” and “Massacre” from the title and, with it, most of what was interesting about the original property. You know what they say, if it looks like a cash grab, and it smells like a cash grab, it’s most likely an uninspired theatrical horror release.
Texas Chainsaw begins directly after the original 1974 film, which includes some actual footage from the Hooper classic that has been converted, in response to the demand by no one, into a 3-D version. From here the audience is treated to the direct aftermath of the escape of Sally, and her new truck driving friend, which includes a police standoff with a suddenly sheepish chainsaw family. Instead of the maniacal family from the first film we have an amazingly mundane familial conversation on wether they should hand over Leatherface over to the police; as if this would somehow make the massacre of a group of teenagers square with the law. This sequence is emblematic of the problem with the film overall. Instead of understanding what made the first film so terrifying, they pay lip service to it in broad, empty allusions. The spirit of the 1974 classic is gone, leaving only a vacuous hole of confused and sloppy storytelling in its place.
As stated above, the original should have never really come into play when discussing this film. It is wrong to vilify a film based on its differences from the original. That said, this film is desperately asking for us to do so. By making this a “direct sequel” and insinuating the other entries into the Chainsaw library should be ignored as non-canonical fan fiction, the filmmakers are just begging for this to be considered within the same scope as the original. On top of that, there are so many visual allusions to the original, as well as kill scenes ripped directly from it, that it feels like the director is virtually tapping us on the shoulder and whispering, “just as good as the first one huh?” Well no, no it isn’t.
These allusions include, but are not limited to, a familiar dead armadillo, a well-known camera angle leering at a short pair of red shorts walking towards a house, and a stainless steel door we’ve all come to know and love. While these visual tributes initiate some fond nostalgia, they also point to the short comings of Texas Chainsaw. Whatever small portion of this film that works leans heavily on the strong shoulders of its predecessor. From those shots to the all too familiar kills, Texas Chainsaw ends up feeling more like an Abercrombie and Fitch sponsored bit of fan fiction than an actual horror film.
On the other hand though, when the film ventures out too far from the familiarity of the first film and into its own story arc we are left with a third act that is not only laughably bad, but a complete betrayal of the legacy of the Leatherface character. The makers of the film seem to want their chainsaw cake and to eat it too. They want to borrow and pay homage to portions of the original film, all while betraying its core themes and characterizations. This fact makes the film stilted, confused, and just plain bad.
That badness makes Texas Chainsaw seem less like a standalone work of art than a quick cash grab based on a property that comes preloaded with loyal fans. This betrayal of its namesake’s ancestry will most likely lead to any fan of the franchise suddenly missing the nuance that the Matthew McConaughey helmed, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” brought to the legacy of Leatherface.