Texas Chainsaw (2013)
★ / ★★★★
Heather (Alexandra Daddario) receives a letter from a lawyer which states that her grandmother has passed away and she is required to sign some papers since she is next of kin. Confused as to what it all means since her grandparents have long been dead, she asks her parents about the matter and they reveal to her that she has been adopted. Curious about her origins, she goes to Newt, Texas along with Ryan (Trey Songz), her boyfriend, Nikki (Tania Raymonde), a friend from work, and Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), a guy that Nikki is sort of seeing. It is not long until Heather is informed that she has inherited her grandmother’s mansion and everything inside it. Is it too good to be true? Of course it is.
“Texas Chainsaw” is a well-made horror movie. The direction by John Luessenhop is capable: he sets up the exposition with curiosity and the rising action with sufficient urgency. The camera moves with purpose especially when it comes to scenes in which a character cannot help but enter a dark room to see what is inside until it is too late.
The attacks are brutal. There is something about the sinister growl of the chainsaw that rattles the depths of my core. Couple that terrifying sound with the image of a potential victim within arms length of a serial killer wielding such a weapon, I wanted to scream at the prey to run because his or her life literally depends on it. I was somewhat disappointed that chase sequences do not last very long. After a person falls down twice–thrice maximum–it almost certain that it is game over.
Gorehounds’ thirst will be quenched. Blood is front and center, from hands being chopped off to a torso being cut into two. I could not help but flinch every time someone is sliced. I did somewhat enjoy–if that is the right word… perhaps relish?–Leatherface cutting off a man’s face and then later sewing it onto his own. Nothing much is left for the imagination.
The actors do a good job with their roles even though their characters are as dumb as bricks. They are not asked to do much other than to look really terrified when that chainsaw threatens to dismember them. The dialogue is standard and it certainly could have used more enthusiasm at times. For instance, if I had heard news of inheriting a mansion, I imagine I would not look so glum. In fact, I would probably be jumping up and down while sharing the news on Twitter and Facebook. Why not? One of the characters is shown using an iPhone as a flashlight to follow a trail of blood. (That is never a good idea, by the way.)
“Texas Chainsaw” is a well-made horror movie… but it is not well-written. Yes, this strange phenomenon happens once in a while and it is important that we recognize it. While I liked about half of it when taken as a whole, mostly during the build-up, the final third drops the ball completely.
Eventually, the screenplay by Kirsten Elms, Adam Marcus, and Debra Sullivan asks us to root for Leatherface, not the ones experiencing the pain and getting chopped into pieces. There is something about that which feels very wrong. With the way that is written on the script, it implies that murder is okay. While circumstances surrounding the killer’s background is there, not once do we get a chance to understand his psychology. There is an important but subtle difference. That is why a movie like Mary Harron’s “American Psycho” works and a movie like this does not.
I suppose credit must be given for trying something a little different with a franchise that has gone through its fair share of sequels. But credit is earned, not given. While I welcome any avenue that screenwriters wish to traverse, it must make sense with respect to its universe. And since this is a slasher film, not a fantasy, it plays by our rules–rules of “the real world.” Logic is a prerequisite. There is nothing logical about its final third.