Let’s Visit Texas Part 7 (Texas Chainsaw 3D, 2013)

texas_chainsaw_3d_posterPicking right up where the original film ended, Texas Chainsaw opens with a recap of the original Massacre.  This is one of the best parts of the film as the remastering on the original film’s footage is really nice.  The film starts it’s own story with the town sheriff driving out to the Sawyer clan’s house.  He confronts the family, but a lynch mob shows up.  A fire is started and the mob celebrates the Sawyer family demise.  One of the mob discovers a mother and her baby, he kills the mother and he and his wife raise the baby as their own, naming her Heather.

40 years later, Heather is about 24 years old.  Yes, the film starts in 1974 and picks up in 2012.  Yes the young woman is clearly in her twenties.

 

Anyways, Heather gets a special delivery package telling her that her biological mother has died.  Her friends pack up a van (what is it the Texas Chainsaw Massacres and vans?) and head down to Texas for her inheritance.  She finds out she has inherited a very large house.  She also finds that her grandmother was not particularly liked by the local townsfolk…what with her being related to the Sawyer clan and all.  The mob ringleader Burt is now the mayor, and he offers to buy the property.  Heather politely declines.  While partying at the mansion, Heather’s friends start getting picked off by Leatherface (who apparently ages at the same rate as Heather).  She manages to reach town, which alerts Burt and the others that Leatherface is not dad as previously assumed.  And this is when Heather discovers that the townsfolk are as much a threat to her as Leatherface.

And herein lies the biggest problem film.  It makes Leatherface more sympathetic and less of a villain than other characters in the film.  He is more sympathetic than Burt and his cronies, to the point that the Sheriff refuses to interfere when Leatherface gets the upper hand.  Heather takes him home and takes the role of caretaker for Leatherface.

It is a visually nice film, but the characters are paper thin archetypes.  The continuity is pretty shoddy.  Where did all the Sawyer family members come from at the beginning?  It is not really clear.  How is Heather not nearly 40 in the film?  Why doesn’t Leatherface know Heather is coming?  I mean, aside from it makes more sense when he initially tries to kill her.  Texas Chainsaw is a very weak film (though the 3D works pretty well).  Sure, it is better than Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III or the abysmal Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.  But that is not saying a lot.

Let’s Visit Texas Part 1 (the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974)

the_texas_chainsaw_massacre_posterI think the lesson in this film franchise is never take a road trip to Texas.  But anyways, the original film about a family of twisted and likely inbred rednecks is based very loosely on Wisconsin’s Ed Gein.

Gein is pretty notorious for his grave robbing and making furniture from human bodies.  He also confessed to killing two women.  But it is the creepy house of horrors that really seemed to inspire Tobe Hooper and his team.*

Hooper opens his film with an introduction warning us of the horrifying tale we are about to witness. It is followed by a creepy visual of a corpse that is hugging a gravestone.  All as a news report tells us what the police discovered.  The sound effect that accompanies the scene is intensely creepy.

We meet a group of young friends on a road trip to check the grave of Sally Hardesty and her brother Franklin’s father, based on the reports of grave robbing.  They pick up a creepy hitchhiker who freaks everyone out.  They toss him to the side of the road and continue on their way.  Their van is low on gas, so they pull over.  Hearing a generator, they discover a farmhouse.  And that is where the mayhem kicks in.  The friends find themselves stalked and treated like animals by the Sawyer family.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most controversial of the classic 70’s horror films.  It is remembered for it bloody brutality and gore.  Which made my first viewing a surprise.  The film is raw and frightening.  But it is also not very gory.  It is, largely bloodless.  Even a scene in which a young woman is suspended on a meat hook is not nearly as gruesome in it’ visuals.  Much of what makes the Texas Chainsaw Massacre to gruesome is the viewer’s imagination.  The thought of how painful it is.  It is also interesting to realize the who “Family of Cannibals” aspect was not actually established in the film.  Certainly there are things you could see as hints, but nothing explicit.

The set design was made on a budget, but the crew puts together a weird and creepy home for the family.  It is genuinely unsettling.

Made with a cast of unknowns (for almost all the performers, this was their first film) by a second time director, Massacre is pretty remarkable for it’s near continuous intensity.  Hooper and his team (both behind and in front of the camera) do quite well on a shoestring budget.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a powerful and raw horror film that has held up for forty years, and for good reason.  The film is one that sticks with the viewer long after turning off the TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Gein also inspired Robert Block’s Psycho among others.

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