Thursday, January 10, 2013

TCM 3D - review

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D is an ambitious film, which is kind of surprising for a new stalk and slash entry into the withering 40 year old franchise, but lets roll with it. The series has already remade, regurgitated, and vomited up sequel after sequel framed with the original’s story beats, so the change of pace was welcome to this ghoul. Unfortunately the story dynamics of this entry are implausible and kind of messy (aren’t they always?), but we’re really here to see the digital blood and teeth fly in 3D, so let’s ignore some of the nuances of the plot for a bit and focus on what jives in TCM 3D.
The beginning title scene features footage from the original converted to 3D, which should give any long time TCM maniac a nice little buzz, pun fully intended. The “modern” Leatherface in this movie displays a limp which is keeping with the injuries he sustained in the first movie (even though he did do a spinning chainsaw dance after), which I thought was a kind of cool nod to fanboy fools like me. The main portion of the movie takes place 40 years after the events of the original, so it makes sense that the old fart slowed down a bit, although that’s about the only indication we are given about his age. Some of the kills were sufficiently gruesome, like the meat grinder kill at the end and the hanging chainsaw vivisection towards the middle of the film. They weren’t genre high notes but they definitely had something unique about them that made them stand out in the film for me. The polished 3D quality of the whole ordeal makes this the best looking TCM to date; Leatherface never looked prettier, and he gets a little public outing on this go through a local carnival. Could this lead up to a Funhouse/TCM franchise crossover? Probably not, but we can dream can’t we?

The bad in this film is oh so dreadfully bad. I kept my expectations abysmally low and still felt the mighty eye roll during several key character scenes, despite desperately trying to turn off the critiquing portions of my frontal lobe. This is a movie that sets out from the start to play with expectations about who the antagonists and protagonists really are; creating a setup where the Sawyer family from the original is essentially victimized and shot down in cold blood by a fired up lynch mob. Cut to 40 years later and one of the survivors, a young lass named Heather, finds out she is related to the Sawyer clan and that she was really adopted. Normally this would come as a big shock to people but Heather quickly blows off her adoptive parents (she dryly pans “I never liked them much anyways”), and decides to go to Texas to claim her inheritance and party it up a bit with friends. Right away anybody with an elementary Sesame Street school understanding of mathematics can surmise that if Heather was alive in the massacre of 1973, then she’d be pushing 40 in 2012, however the actress that plays Heather is a spry 20-something year old. I guess they figured the audience would be too high and drunk to notice, but for people paying attention prepare for a migraine because the story only goes south from there, another intended pun.

What Heather didn’t realize about her inheritance was that !SHOCK! she gets a mansion out of the deal and !DOUBLE SHOCK! Leatherface still lives in the basement there, and he isn’t exactly paying rent. In short order Leatherface begins sawing through her cadre of friends, except we really don’t give a shit about them because they are all kind of assholes. Her best friend is cheating on her fiancĂ©, they pick up a hitchhiker because it’s a TCM movie, but he turns out to be a thief, which leaves the stereotypical party/stoner kid who investigates strange noises in even stranger places, not especially begging for our sympathies as an audience. I guess we could get behind the main cheese Heather (and I would love to get behind her, if you know what I mean) but she ends up grouping up with Leatherface at the end, even though he just spent most the film viciously dispatching her friends (they must have just been Facebook buddies), but it’s hard feeling sympathetic for her when she’s high fiving flesh wearing serial killers. The cops and mayor and basically everyone in an authority position is corrupt or unable to act, so there really isn’t anybody in this rotten mess to root for other than Leatherface, who suddenly is motivated by a revenge plot to get back at the lynch mob that burned down the Sawyer house. By the end of the film when the smoke settles Leatherface ends up being the impromptu hero of the story, which had me reeling when I realized that this is a TCM film where the cops are really bad and despicable while the Sawyers are the victimized heroes. It’s rather jilting to think that the Leatherface of yesteryear will be galvanized as the gritty hero of any upcoming TCM movie, but here we are.
Motives and performances are all over the place, and the lines range from cheesy to I-can’t-believe-they-wrote-this cringe worthy. I set my expectations for this one dog shit low but even then found myself griping at the stuff that just made my head spin, like characters that are only introduced as a vessel to move the plot then are completely forgotten about by the end. Like I mentioned before there is nary anyone in the tale deserving of any sympathy, even the sheriff that tries to do right let’s Leatherface go in the end, telling him to clean up his mess. I feel like the movie face palmed me for a moment there. I really didn’t like the lack of a Sawyer clan in this one or of any mention of cannibalism in general. It’s like they wanted to tailor Leatherface to a new generation, so now he’s some retard who lives in his grandma’s basement and eats dirty sandwiches and apples. And his mask looked too much like something you can pick off the shelf at Spirits.

But despite all this negativity I can’t dub it a total cinematic disaster because it did have some entertaining moments and for some odd reason I am compelled to watch it again (and buy it) when it hits boo-ray. It tried something different, so there’s a Texas gold star waiting for it for that, and it seemed to be rather successful (there’s already talk of 7 more sequels, wowza), so at least it might get some new slashers in the theater and re-ignite interest in other franchises. If they did some nip and tuck to the story details I feel like it could have stood as something more than brainless albeit fun stalk and slash fodder, but that never stopped us from liking a movie before here at the crypt, and dang nabbit it ain’t going to stop us now!