Maybe I need to call this post "In Defense of Texas Chainsaw" because despite relative box office success, it seems like this sequel is well, not everyone's favorite, to put it mildly. But I'm an honest gal so I have to say that I quite enjoyed this latest Leatherface installment. It's not the same movie you know and it's not the same story you know. It's not as gory or graphic as the remake (no seriously, it's not). If there is one thing I can say about Texas Chainsaw, it is that it definitely does its own thing and chooses to stand out from rather than blend in with the other two recent TCM releases both style-wise and story-wise. And that's not a bad thing.
One thing that took a little mental readjustment was, after the film started, figuring out where this story was going to fit into the TCM franchise. TCM 2003 was obviously a remake of the original. TCM: The Beginning from 2006 was a prequel to the remake, yes? Well, TC 2013 goes off completely somewhere else and is actually a sequel to the original 1974 film. Insert confused face here. Granted, I knew all this before watching the movie but it was still quite jarring, and the little men inside my brain had to stop me from bringing out the files on all the other movies while I watching TC. Here, then, is the story we are dealing with:
Following Sally's escape from Leatherface, the men of Newt, Texas send a mob to the Sawyer house and burn it to the ground. Everyone is assumed dead except for the youngest Sawyer, a baby girl secretly taken away by one of the men to be raised as his and his wife's own. Years later the girl grows up and inherits a house from an unknown grandmother and when she and her friends travel there to make it official, they once again unleash Leatherface on the town.
I always love a good nod to the fans or to horror history in movies, so I couldn't help feeling geekily excited when they showed scenes from the original TCM during the opening credits. It also helped with the aforementioned confusion over the timeline, and brought the movie back down to a more sort of realistic level that the original had - there is violence, for sure, but to me it seemed to be quite downgraded, with not a lot of fanfare or flashy set pieces or effects work just for the sake of it. Does this in turn mean that TC loses a lot of the franchise's known intensity and ferociousness? Yes, it does. But again, I liked this change of pace and tone for this movie. Call me crazy. I accept it. At least they attempted to come up with a semi-decent story this time.
Going back to the timeline, though - am I the only one who didn't understand the switch from flashback to present day worked? There is no specific year given for when the present time is actually happening but it seems to be in our present year (based mostly on the lawyer's car). So if the original was from 1974... and the little baby from then is now in her early 20s... she didn't really age that much in 40 years. Interesting.
The new Leatherface, now named Jed Sawyer, is still basically the same character - little kid in a big boy's body and the big boy likes to play with chainsaws. But another point where TC makes a detour from the usual fare seen in these movies is that Leatherface is not the only threat. Once Heather discovers what happened to her real family (the police officers conveniently left the whole case file in the room for her to look at), she suddenly gets a murderous case of family loyalty. The mob from the beginning wants to finish what they started and she sides with her long-lost cousin. This is a bit hinky, considering what Leatherface did to her friends but the only way I can justify it is that she realizes that she has no one else. It's also hinky considering what the audience knows about her real family but that is not really addressed so we're basically asked to just forget about it, and look at the mob men as the real bad guys instead of Leatherface. Sure, whatever you say.
By the way, Leatherface actually makes a very fine first appearance here. It's very subtle and only slightly creepy but nonetheless effective when Heather walks into the kitchen after finding Verna Carson's dug up body in a chair, and sees Leatherface just standing there. I found it similar to his subtle but exceedingly memorable entrance from the original and I dug it.
There are some nice chainsaw- and not-chainsaw-related kills although nothing particularly noteworthy until the end. As horror fans, we should all love to see the human body get mutilated beyond recognition. Let's just say that there is a gigantic meat grinder involved in the climax and you should at least look forward to that if nothing else from this movie. There's more impalings on meat hooks and random limb-chopping - obviously nothing all that memorable since I can't really remember much more. Maybe this is the reason they dropped the "massacre" from the title because there isn't much of a massacre at all. In that case, I accept the strange new title.
Despite some of the movie's obvious flaws, I still stand by my positive opinion of it. It had the guts (or as some would argue, the stupidity) to do things differently and shake things up. Granted, I'm looking into the future and - hopefully - not seeing any more TCM movies after this one but that's purely speculative. I really don't think Texas Chainsaw '13 was a bad turn for the series, Swiss cheese plot and all, because it was no doubt a fresh take on an old story, and I like being the kind of person who can still respect that.