Watching a bad movie doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad experience. Even the worst films can boast a good idea or two, and that’s why we’re trying to look on the bright side with The Silver Lining, where we shine a light on the best parts of traditionally maligned horror flicks.
This time, we’ll be discussing John Luessenhop’s 2013 legacy sequel, Texas Chainsaw 3D!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has always been my favorite slasher franchise, and I believe that every single entry in the series has something uniquely lovable about it. Of course, some of these movies are more likable than others, and Texas Chainsaw 3D is definitely one of the least-appreciated sequels in this ever-expanding saga of blood, guts and cannibalism.
Keeping with the franchise tradition of only really acknowledging the first film when crafting a sequel, Luessenhop’s TC3D was Lionsgate Films’ attempt at distancing the series from Platinum Dunes’ surprisingly successful remake and prequel. Wanting to start fresh without necessarily re-introducing the entire TCM mythology, the studio opted to develop a new film directly following the events of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic.
Featuring hip casting and state-of-the-art 3D effects, TC3D was meant to make the franchise popular again while also providing audiences with a new take on an elderly Leatherface and his extended family. In this 90-minute slasher, Alexandra Daddario plays Heather, a troubled young woman who inherits a mysterious property in Newt, Texas many years after the events of the first film. Naturally, the house comes with more than a few strings attached, leading to a disturbing reckoning with a family history that simply refuses to die.
So What Went Wrong?
TC3D wasn’t exactly a box-office flop, hauling in over double its original budget, but the 19% score on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.8/10 on IMDB prove that neither critics nor audiences were all that impressed with this attempt at modernizing Leatherface. In some ways, one could argue that this legacy sequel was pretty much doomed from the start.
Not only was Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan’s original script hastily rewritten ahead of production in order to tone things down and make the flick more marketable, but the filming schedule was also way too tight for a 3D feature on this kind of budget. In the end, the crew was forced to work 24-hour days and even had to switch cinematographers halfway through shooting, putting a tremendous strain on the project.
The original production company wasn’t even credited in the finished film, with Lionsgate scrambling to re-edit the picture on their own once the supposed final cut received the dreaded NC-17 rating from the MPAA. This resulted in a messy and disappointingly tame theatrical release of a movie that had already been streamlined for broader audiences.
Hooper’s classic may have been surprisingly light on violence when compared to modern horror flicks, but TC3D’s lack of proper gore seems a bit more egregious due to its ensemble of forgettable chainsaw fodder. Despite featuring familiar faces like Trey Songz and even Scott Eastwood, the haphazard writing makes you feel like these characters are only here to pad out the body-count. The lack of interesting characters even applies to the antagonists, with Leatherface not being backed up by other crazed members of his family this time around.
The look of the film is also rather bland, lacking the gritty aesthetics of earlier entries in the franchise while also forgoing the slick and stylish cinematography of the remake and its prequel. The lackluster visuals even extend to the effects, as the CGI-enhanced violence is often laughable. Sure, the makeup and designs are creepy enough (as long as you don’t think too much about how the props, wardrobe and casting don’t add up with the timeline), but there are few genuine scares to be found here. Viewing the picture in 3D certainly helps, making the experience feel more in line with a cheesy carnival ride, but that’s clearly not going to work for everyone.
The Silver Lining
A lot of things went wrong with the production of TC3D, but I stand by my opinion on the franchise as a whole. This may be my least favorite movie of the bunch, but it’s still a schlocky fun time if you can look past its troubled beginnings.
For starters, the movie’s intro is a loving homage to Hooper’s classic, with the Sawyer family standing by Leatherface as an angry mob gathers outside, Frankenstein-style. Set mere minutes after the end of the original film, this nostalgic scene features cameos from Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen and franchise-favorite Bill Moseley standing in for Jim Siedow’s iconic Drayton Sawyer. Hell, even John Dugan is back as the vampiric Grandpa!
The rest of the film mostly ignores Leatherface’s extended family, but TC3D actually does a great job of re-imagining the iconic cannibal as an aging victim of injustice. The original film portrayed Leatherface as a helpless pawn of his own family, just doing as he was told, and Dan Yeager’s portrayal isn’t too far off from that idea. His version of the character retains the iconic childlike tantrums and mannerisms while also having grown older and bulkier, making for a downright terrifying interpretation of an iconic Slasher.
The family dynamic between (spoiler alert) Leatherface and Heather is also a surprisingly interesting idea that harkens back to Hooper’s attempts at subverting the traditional American family. Having a seemingly rational person aid and protect a maniacal serial killer because of blood ties is an undeniably creepy concept, and totally in line with the original franchise. It’s just a shame that the movie doesn’t go for this reveal sooner, as the closing moments when Daddario accepts her fate as Leatherface’s new caretaker cement her as one of the most interesting final girls in the franchise.
It may not be Shakespeare, but this rusty old chainsaw is still worth revisiting if you’re in the mood for some dumb fun, especially if you can get your hands on a 3D copy.