Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D

There is an iconic and memorable shot in the 1974 splatter-fest Texas Chainsaw Massacre where Teri McMinn approaches the house where Leatherface has just murdered her boyfriend (the movie’s first kill). In some ways, the shot summarizes the genre: there’s the promise of both butt and gore. It’s eye-catching in the actual film (beyond the obvious) because it’s a low tracking shot that some real thought and effort must have gone into for such a low-budget flick.

How iconic is it? Well, I saw TCM once in the early/mid-‘80s. When the remake came around 20 years later, I knew exactly from that one shot what the trailer was a remake for. Walked in to the theater, saw Jessica Biel’s ass and said “Hey, they remade Texas Chainsaw Massacre!”

Seriously, take a look:

’70s era jean cutoffs
2003’s interpretation of ’70s jeans

These are the best two shots I could find, unfortunately. I would have sworn there was a similar shot of Marilyn Burns (who wore white pants more like Biel’s than McMinn’s red shorts) too but I may be mis-remembering.

Again, I’ve only seen the movie once, decades ago.

Why bring it up? Because I’m convinced after seeing Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D that director John Luessenhop remembers this shot as vividly as I do, since about 80% of 3D is shot at butt level.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. But if I learned anything from this movie it’s that Alexandra Daddario has a nice butt. Also a nice belly. And breasts. They’re not completely uncovered at any point but revealed as part of a plot point. (Note to filmmakers: Making revealing the starlet’s cleavage necessary to the plot is not the same as providing justification for a character revealing same. Here, she’s just suddenly topless and there’s no explanation given.)

Primarily, though Ms. Daddario has amazing slate-blue eyes that are enormous and seem to retain copious amounts of non-running black mascara regardless of the travails she suffers.

Family reunions are always trying.
Thank you Maybelline®!

Tania Raymonde, the annoying little girl on “Malcolm In The Middle" who I guess was also in "Lost” is also still hot. And she’s playing a saucy little minx, like she did in Blue Like Jazz. I will probably always find this disturbing.

You may have noticed I haven’t said anything about the movie. This is not entirely fair, even though this be a gimmicky 3D sequel to the 1974 original film which I’m frankly kind of “meh” about. (It was an impressive achievement with some memorable moments, but like many movies of the era, I found it more unpleasant than thrilling.)

The premise is that after the iconic scene where Leatherface dances his chainsaw dance of rage on the highway as Marilyn Burns’ character escapes, the local sheriff shows up to arrest him. (Makes sense, right?) The family decides to give him up, but before they can a horde of rednecks show up to burn them to death in their house.

But…a child survives.

Flash forward 40 years, and Alexandra Daddario is that child. She looks great for a 40-year-old, I think we’d all agree. Actually, she’s not 40, she’s only 20-something as far as I can tell. And since everyone else in the flashback is still alive, and they only seem to have aged about 20 years (or in some cases not at all), I can only assume the years between 1980 and 2000 never actually occurred in the universe of this sequel.

Some people dispute that this movie is supposed to take place in 2012. I can only assume they didn’t read the headstone that indicates Grandma Verna (Marilyn Burns from the original, though not playing the same character!) died in 2012. The movie plays a little fast and loose with the date since our heroes/victims tool around in what looks like it might be a ’90s van, and none of them have cell phones or any electronic gadgetry whatever. But later in the film some very high-tech cell phones and computer trackers show up. (And Daddario’s half-shirt/jeans-with-shiny-belt outfit would’ve fit in the ’90s.)

I’m sure it was never considered, even for a moment, but the movie would’ve been way more interesting with a 40-year-old actress. Someone who’s been struggling in life because she had no sense of who she was, and because she was messed up from birth. Someone who was looking for familial connections.

But we have our formula, and that involves lots of long, low shots on scantily clad babes. And a pretty slavish recreation of the first part of the original film.

Anyway, Daddario’s character discovers her true identity when a lawyer finds her to tell her her Grandma Verna is dead, and she’s inherited the family estate. She and her boyfriend, and her girlfriend and her boyfriend end up taking a road trip where the executor tells her to read this letter Verna wrote, which will explain everything.

I was prepared to be bored, and I was pretty much through the first half of the film. A few things rescued this for me, sort of.

First, while it’s necessary (as in much horror) for the characters to act stupidly in order to keep the story moving, the stupidity in this movie is pretty plausible. They pick up a hitchhiker, for example, only to later leave him unattended in the newly acquired house. Stupid, but they’re kids. Later, they’re trying to escape the house (smart!) but try to crash through the gate instead of waiting for it to open. (Stupid, but understandable.)

Second, after the initial murders, the story moves from the house to the town proper, and there’s a little more suspense than just outright violence. The story, predictable from the opening scene, at least, you know, progresses to it’s dumb end at a serviceable pace.

Third, there are some nice homages to the original. The recreation of the ’74 movie is done with affection, with Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface) in a new role, the original grandpa playing grandpa again (and now closer to the right age), and Bill Moseley (who was in the intentionally very funny Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) also in a new role.

Fourth, well, yeah, the girls are really cute.

Fifth? There isn’t really a fifth. I’m reaching. I think it’s more a matter of I thought it was just going to be really awful and halfway through, it seemed to be confirming that, but then there were a few things that were kind of interesting or funny.

The Boy predicted the plot and “twist” on the way to the theater. But he was also the one who wanted to go.

We didn’t see it 3D, but the 3D parts are goofy, as always, with a couple of exceptions. A chainsaw thrown at the screen was pretty duck-inducing, even in 2D.

Not really recommended, unless this sort of thing is your bag.

But if a previously unknown grandmother dies and leaves you her estate, make sure you read that letter she wrote first thing.

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