It’s just over six years since Leatherface and the Sawyer family last appeared on our screens in the largely forgotten remake prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. This new film has separated itself from the remake pack and, for better or for worse, heads back to the source.
Picking up immediately after the events of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the Sawyer clan are slain by the drunk and outraged local townsfolk. The only survivor is a baby girl, Heather, who grows up never knowing about her family history, until Granny (who presumably also survived) dies and leaves the family mansion to her. Heather and her friends head south to check it out, but Granny’s left a piece of the Sawyer legacy in the basement, and he’s kept his chainsaw in good nick.
After an opening credit sequence that obligingly reminds us of the events of the original film, this latest chapter in the lives of Texas’s grisliest cannibals positions itself awkwardly behind Tobe Hooper’s classic to present itself as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Fans of Hooper’s own divisive but daring The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 may feel a bit put out by this, especially as that film’s strong female lead Stretch is replaced here by Daddario’s Heather, who seems to have inherited the family brains, if not their looks.
In true trash horror tradition, our heroine makes a string of incredibly poor decisions that put her in greater and greater danger. With classic errors such as trusting the wrong person and falling over making predictable apppearances, the apex of her bad judgment is trying to escape her chainsaw-wielding cousin by jumping on a ferris wheel, which makes the Scream quote about people running up stairs seem like unduly harsh criticism. It’s probably for the best that she and her friends make it easy on the aged Leatherface, although he’s surprisingly spry given his advancing years.
Luessenhop’s attempt to make his film a fan-pleasing part of the canon stretches to including cameos from original Leatherface Gunnar Hansen and TCM2’s Bill Moseley as the elder Sawyer’s in the opening scene, but once you get beyond the nostalgia it quickly becomes apparent that this doesn’t have a lot to offer. Viewers desperate for a 3D gore fix will find themselves momentarily sated by a couple of grisly sequences, but it’s terribly light in terms of actual scares. An investigation of the house is the closest the film comes to tension, but it doesn’t quite make it.
After a deadeningly routine first half, Texas Chainsaw threatens to develop an interesting plot, but this promise is consistently undermined by the script. The explanatory opening sequence means that there’s no tension as the twists of the second half have already been broadcast. Finally and fatally, the final act character development isn’t justified by anything that came before it. While it may seem a bit harsh to jump on a film for attempting to try something a bit different, it’s all been put together so shoddily that any ideas it does have are wasted. This squandered potential in an otherwise brain-dead film makes this a frustrating experience as well as a dull one.
It might have been best if Leatherface had stayed in the basement.