The first movie to go into wide release in 2013 misses, by mere days, a qualifying run for the 2012 Oscars. Thus Texas Chainsaw 3D can't enjoy the hype of the just-as-bloody Django Unchained.
Well, there are other differences.
Chainsaw 3D - they no longer use Massacre in the title. It's either implied or - well, they don't want to give the movie away - picks up the "story" where other recent massacres have left off. Chainsaw 3D makes some effort to find a reason for Heather, played by a stunning specimen of bare-midriffed beauty, Alexandra Daddario, to drag three of her friends to Newt, Texas. She's a surviving member of the slaying Sawyer clan, the inbreds who gave birth to and protected the hulking monster Leatherface. A brief opening sums up the "end" of the Sawyers by the lynch mob that rightfully burnt them all to a Texas BBQ crisp.
Heather inherits Granny's estate and is urged to "read Verna's letter" to her by character actor Richard Riehle, playing the old woman's lawyer. Heather doesn't, and everybody pays the price.
Chainsaw then gets down to the bloody business at hand - chainsawing. It's all about that farm implement, the menacing sound of it as Leatherface chases these fit and trim young folk (Tania Raymonde, Trey Songz, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, and Shaun Sipos as "the handsome hitchhiker"), who always find something to trip over. A local Halloween carnival (when this movie was originally slated to come out) plays up the town's chainsawing past, but not much is made of that.
There are plenty of 3-D shove-the-saw-at-the-camera moments, which must have been underlined in director John Luessenhop's copy of the script. Otherwise, the director of Takers botches even the basics of making these many murders frightening. The first one, on a staircase, calls for a Paranormal/Quarantine victim-yanked-out-of-the-frame moment. Nope.
In the decades since Tobe Hooper's genuinely shocking original film, loosely based on the murderous rampage of non-Texan Ed Gein, these movies have devolved into simple, stupid splatter-fests. Round up some coeds, capture them in various states of undress, meathook them, hack them, and chew them up in "the pig grinder."
As the backstory of Hitchcock makes plain, the "real" story of a guy killing and gutting his victims is the very definition of "the banality of evil." Hollywood has to intervene to make these movies thrillers. But there's nothing thrilling about summarily dispatching everybody who isn't meant to survive to the credits, nothing entertaining about meathook-, hatchet- and chainsaw-murdering that we've seen scores of times.
And if the best a trio of screenwriters can come up with is "Texas is the last place you want to be" and "A chainsaw don't make you bulletproof," maybe it's time to bury the leather face mask and move on.
Texas Chainsaw 3D * (Out of four stars)
Directed by John Luessenhop.
With Alexandra Daddario,
Trey Songz, Tania Raymonde, and Scott Eastwood. Distributed by Lionsgate.
Running time: 1 hour,
Parent's guide: R (grisly violence and strong language throughout).
Playing at: Area theaters.