Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Chain Link

This Thursday, January 10, the nomination announcements will be made for this year's Academy Awards ceremony, which will be held on February 24'th and be hosted by Ted's Seth MacFarlane. On my latest day off, I could have prepared for the event by catching up on the few likely nominees I've yet to see. For instance, Naomi Watts is rumored to be up for the Best Actress award for her role in the disaster drama The Impossible, while both Jessica Chastain and her picture Zero Dark Thirty ought to be easy nominees this week. Both are currently playing near me, and it would have been no effort to check them out. But you know what? Screw award shows; I want to see a hulk of a beast of a man executing idiotic teenagers with an assortment of adapted tools, including but not limited to mallets, meat hooks, and chainsaws. And so this weekend was dedicated to Texas Chainsaw 3D (on a side note, you know you're seeing something classy when they actually include the "3D" in the title; see Shark Night 3D, Silent Hill Revelation 3D, etc.).

If it feels too good to be true...
When five friends (naturally) travel to the small town of Newt, Texas, they have no idea what they will find. All they know is that Heather (Alexandra Daddario) has inherited a grand estate from a grandmother she never knew she had. When the house turns out to be more grand than any of them imagined, they postpone their trip to New Orleans to celebrate Heather's new found wealth. But all is not what it seems in this small town, still haunted by the series of serial murders that rocked the area way back in 1974. And with the young men and womens' arrivals, the time is ripe for the masked "Leatherface" to make his triumphant return...

That's right, there's eye candy no matter your sexual preference.
What's special about this particular entry to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is that it completely ignores every sequel, reboot and prequel that came before it. Instead, Texas Chainsaw 3D is a direct sequel to the Tobe Hooper original, even starting off by recapping the major events and deaths that were the plot of that film. For the record, Hooper had created his own sequel but also has admitted that - despite being arguably the bloodiest all-time mainstream film upon release - he was playing Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 for laughs. And so director John Luessenhop creates a more serious, tense, and bloody incarnation for horror fans.

No, wait, don't tell me! "Speak no evil!"
There are two different results of this "reboot" of sorts. One is that (oh, yeah, this is kind of a spoiler) Luessenhop makes the bold choice to change Leatherface from maniacal monster to dark anti-hero. It's not a great transformation, and a lot of characters have to jump through a lot of magical, logic-reducing hoops to make the entire concept feasible. On the other hand, while it's not the best (or most original) idea in the world, the cast and crew go for broke, selling it to the point that by the time the final credits roll, you will find yourself cheering for the psychotic murderer wearing a human face atop their own, who spent the entire first half of the movie killing our "heroes."

I'm sure your character will fare as well as she did on Lost... oh, wait...
On the other hand, the "modern" style of bloody horror filmmaking is so generic that the whole thing barely needed to be a TCM film at all. If Leatherface had worn a mask made of cotton candy and killed his victims with broken Coke bottles, the difference in experience would have been negligible. The problem is twofold. One, the character just doesn't have quite the same shelf-life of similar movie monsters like Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees or Norman Bates. Secondly, modern horror feels so samey in the production style that there's little that differentiates one from another in the new millennium. Actors are taken from the shallow end of the talent pool to save on money, focusing more on looks than acting credibility. When the script and dialogue are so poor, even good actors can't churn out Shakespeare. Daddario, R&B singer Trey Songz, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos and Keram Malicki-Sanchez are the types of actors and actresses who garner the occasional minor role in a REAL major motion picture, but rule the small-budget horror titles like this. They're not bad, but would never get this much exposure in an Oscar-nominated piece, and it's that low ceiling that makes this title the typical mix of gore, dark humor and implausibility that it is.

Screaming really makes up about about 75% of the dialogue.
Still, for the first official film of 2013, You could certainly do worse than a mid-level, average horror film that if nothing else will keep you entertained for a couple of hours. Texas Chainsaw impressed me on a couple of levels, and while anyone not into gory horror schlock won't get much out of it, it's still not as bad as some of the other TCM franchise fare from the past few decades. It's not going to be remembered among the year's best, but it also won't be among the worst. By default, it's the #1 movie of the year, an honor whose reign will certainly decide how cinema in 2013 will go; the sooner this gets knocked down a peg, the better.


justin hickey said...

Save the cotton-candy and coke bottles for a Dr. Giggles remake!

Anonymous said...

This review had me as frighten as the movies itself. Two thumbs up.