Saturday, June 1, 2013

Texas Chainsaw

Description from Netflix:
The Leatherface saga continues where the 1974 horror classic left off.  When a young woman travels to Texas to collect her inheritance, she discovers that the brutal chainsaw-yielding madman is part of the bequest.

My thoughts:
Let’s get this out of the way first: this is supposed to be a direct sequel to the original film.  But there are a ton of inconsistencies with this.
For starters, the ages of the characters.  This film takes place in present day (we know this because we see iPhones).  The main character was a baby at the time of the original.  If the timeline held true, she would be pushing 40.  Leatherface – who we’ll say was probably mid-20s in the original (Gunnar Hansen was 27 at the time) – would be in his 60s.
Granted, no one wants to see a broken-down Leatherface chasing around a bunch of scantily-clad middle-aged folk (well, I’m sure some people would want to see that), but they could’ve at least tried to make sense of the timeline.  Set it in the mid-90s or something.  Or have a Sawyer survive the attack and have a baby 10-15 years later.  Just put a little bit of thought into it.  Frankly, it’s insulting.  Did they not think anyone would notice?

Best looking 40 year old I've ever seen

I also had an issue with the number of people in the house at the beginning of this movie (there were 3 people in the house at the end of the original, and at least 7 – excluding the baby – in the beginning of this movie), but I’ve since made my peace with that.  There’s a delay from the time the original ends to the time the cops get to the house, so I suppose they had time to fill the house with inbreds and guns.  Point conceded.

Now that we have that out of the way…

"A jump to conclusions mat.  But for chainsaw murders." 

I like how they went back to the idea of Leatherface being a mentally challenged person (he is referred to as “mentally stunted”, having the mental capacity of an 8 year-old).  That’s how he was presented in the original.  However, recent incarnations of Leatherface (both the 2003 remake and 2006’s The Beginning) have seen him presented as an evil force of nature, on par with Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers.  An entity of pure evil, killing without rhyme or reason.  It was nice to see this film going back to basics, and tapping into the soul of the original Leatherface. 
Of course, I say it’s “nice”, but, in the end, the intention of the killer doesn’t matter too much.  Lots of people are dead.  Whether the killer killed with malice or out of habit or because he was controlled by other people makes no difference.  Dead is dead.

Dead sexy, amiright?  Seriously though, she's probably going to die

Still, I suppose it makes a small difference in how we feel about him.  We’re scared of him, but we also feel a little bad for him.  In the original, he was killing at the whim of his family.  In this film, he’s killing to avenge the wrongful death of his family.  He does kill quite a few innocent people, so it’s hard to feel too much sympathy for him.  But, for a little while, I felt a sliver of sympathy for Leatherface.

Eskimo sisters

By the end of the movie, we’re supposed to be cheering for him.  He even helps out the main character (Heather), even if she has to utter the single worst line in the movie to get him to do so.  It’s almost enough to make you forget that he has killed every one of her friends, all in terrible ways.

That brings me to a larger question.  There’s a weird storyline where Heather’s boyfriend (Ryan) cheats on her with her best friend (Nikki).  As near as I can tell, there’s really no reason for it.  It doesn’t create conflicts between the characters.  Heather never even finds out about it.  I think it was just a plot device to separate Heather from her friends, but there are less convoluted ways to do that.
I assume one of the reasons for doing this would be to get us to cheer for their deaths.  “They’re cheaters, they deserve to die, rah rah” stuff.  If that was the case, I’m not on board. 
Look.  I’m not above cheering for deaths in slashers.  Using this series as an example, I openly rooted for the deaths of the two frat kids at the beginning of Texas Chainsaw Massacre II.  It’s not like I’m standing on some moral high ground.  To watch a slasher movie is to occasionally find yourself openly rooting for people to die.  It comes with the territory.
But this?  One minor scene where two characters cheat?  That’s not enough for me to root for death.  That’s just lazy.
Were this a smarter movie, I would possibly think that this was there for this exact purpose: to force the audience to take a look at themselves and ask why they’re cheering for the death of a couple young adults who did nothing wrong other than to sleep with someone they were not dating.  But this was not a smart movie, and that is not what the filmmakers were going for.

Smile, adulterers.  You just signed your death warrant 

There are a lot of callbacks to the original, which could be kind of cool.  But a lot of them were not subtle callbacks.  That’s mainly due to the fact that this movie starts with a montage of moments from the original, and most of the callbacks involved scenes from that montage.  A hot girl with red shorts walking to the house!  A dead armadillo!  A girl in a freezer!  And so on.
There were a couple cool set-up points with Heather’s character.  In the beginning of the movie, we see her working as a butcher in a grocery store.  We also find out that she’s an artist who uses bones (animal, not human) in her work.  I enjoyed seeing those little moments worked into her character.

I can’t say that this was a great movie, or even a very good movie.  But I found myself enjoying it more than I thought I would.  It’s an absolute mess, but a fairly entertaining mess. 

Rating: 2.5/5

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