Sunday, June 9, 2013

Movie Review: Texas Chainsaw (2013)

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. 


  1. Great to read a review from you again. I heard plenty of negative things about the new TCM films, but it satisfies the cultists and horror enthusiasts, which is what matters most.

    1. Totally true - I don't think it satisfied that many people really, if it was even on their radar, but it converted me so I call it a win!

  2. What a nice and fair review of a movie that has gotten more hate than it deserves. I also sang its praises:


  3. Actually sounds more interesting than I would have thought. I might actually have to give it a whirl. The multiple timeline deal sound like something that would have happened in Star Trek not a horror franchise!

    1. It's definitely different than the earlier movies, which I exactly why I think it's worth a look. The timeline thing is a little screwy, but easy to overlook once you get into the movie.

  4. Glad that you enjoyed it. I wasn't able to enjoy it at all :D

    1. I understand that... I was just happy to find something totally unexpected.

  5. I read this and we have said several things in common! I thought it was a fantastic film! The only thing I regretted was seeing it in 3D! Here's my review of it;

  6. I saw all the poor reviews but watched this anyway and I loved it. The 2003 remake was OK but for me not as simple and gritty as the 1974 original. "The Beginning" added nothing new and whilst it had the opportunity to answer lots of questions it answered hardly any.

    I was pleased with the fact that Texas Chainsaw 2013 was a sequel to the original and mostly ignored the other reboots. They did a fantastic job with matching up the opening sequence to where the original film left off.

    The gore also wasn't so ridiculous that it detracted from the storyline (I only had to look away once!). I do wonder out of all the negative reviews, how many people have seen the original?

    My criticisms of the movie are as follows:

    **** SPOILER ALERT ****

    1) Towards the end of the 1974 original film the 3 brothers were clearly absolutely crazy, and because of this I always imagined them to be loners. The inside of the house certainly didn't look like they'd have friends or family over for dinner very often. However, at the start of this movie there are almost half a dozen more people in the Sawyer household. I know 2 arrived by car but where did all the others come from? I must admit this shattered the illusion somewhat of the 3 brothers being weird recluses, and seemed like an excuse to have a baby in the household.

    2) I didn't like the fact Leatherface pursued Heather into the carnival. I know he's dumb, but not that dumb. In the original he made himself scarce when Sally ran into the gas station owned by the cook. I just can't imagine him running into a carnival full of people. Remember that in the original they had a collection of cars, bones and other things which indicates they'd been killing people for a long time. Sally's escape was a one-off mistake and I'm not sure Leatherface would be quite as reckless as this.

    3) Why did Heather leave the hitch hiker she hardly knew in her newly acquired mansion? I just don't believe for a moment anyone would do this. I can forgive young women for running upstairs in the dark rather than out the front door whilst being pursued by a knife maniac, but I cannot forgive this.

    It's kind of tongue in cheek that at the end Heather overlooks the murder of her boyfriend and other friends - if my cousin did this I'd be pretty annoyed and I've known him all my life. If it was a cousin who I'd never met, I think I'd be even more annoyed. But I accept that the story had to pan out this way.

    Overall though my criticisms didn't detract from my enjoyment of this film, I think they did a great job. Generally I hate 3D films but again, I really enjoyed this in 3D. I guess on this occasion I just feel the total opposite to what most other people seem to think.

  7. I actually watched this 2 night ago and I thought it was great,I actually found myself feeling sorry for leatherface and at times cheered him on! There has been a load of makings of the Texas chainsaw massacre but not like this. Out of 10 I'd give it a 8

  8. just watched this movie yesterday and i love it. not scary but quite enjoyable. a couple of plot holes but a solid 7/10. i havent watched any of the other films but this one made me want to :)