Review: Texas Chainsaw / Cert: 18 / Director: John Luessenhop / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Trey Songsz, Tania Raymonde / Release Date: May 27th
Texas Chainsaw starts with a titles sequence reprise of the original movie, and from there proceeds straight on with the action (rendering Hooper's own underrated sequel uncanonical along the way, which might be a saw point with some, but never mind). The notorious farmhouse, scene of all the slaughter, is set ablaze by a lynch mob with all the Sawyer clan still inside, the only apparent survivor being a baby. Flash forward a few years, and this child has grown into Heather (Daddario), who seems pretty normal but shows her Sawyer pedigree by working on a meat slicer in a supermarket and collecting bones to use as found art. Then Heather learns that she has inherited a property in Texas from a mysterious grandmother she never knew she had. A quick road trip by VW van later, and she and her three buddies – including the DOA-slutty Nikki (Raymonde), who is making moves on Heather's boyfriend – are soon delightedly exploring what transpires to be a large, palatial home and hip-hop is resounding from granny's state of the art sound system.
Unfortunately, seems like no one told Leatherface (Yeager) to expect company. He's been living for years in a bunker behind a steel door in the wine cellar (it's all explained by Gran in a letter which no one bothers to read – yes, reading can save your life, folks), and the middle section of the movie sees history repeating itself as he emerges to butcher Heather's houseguests in various graphic and unsightly ways. She eludes him, but she's in just as much danger from the sleazy town mayor who, back in the day, was the ringleader of the vigilantes who put the Sawyers to the torch.
This final section – in which the movie broadens out into a tale of small town corruption and dirty secrets – is where Texas Chainsaw is at its most enjoyable and where director John Luessenhop seems at his most assured. He works in some nicely underplayed touches. The word “massacre”, absent from the movie's title, appears only once, and that's in a suppressed police report describing the destruction of the Sawyer farmstead. There's also a fun moment when, chasing Heather through a Halloween fair, Leatherface bumps into a reveller costumed as the pig-faced, chainsaw-toting baddie from Motel Hell and does a brief double-take. Where Luessenhop has less luck, though, is with this whole business of Heather awakening to her bloodstained heritage. Scion of a family of cannibals? It's not like Harry Potter finding out he's a wizard.
Still, the movie does some quite interesting things in demystifying Leatherface, who goes through a third act nadir where he is laid low by his foes, like Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, and Daddario is very watchable, even if the camera does spend more time focussed on her bare navel than on her face. This Blu-ray release is absolutely awash with fanboy-friendly extras, and altogether you'd have to say that, while it can't hope to replicate the flyblown intensity of the original, Texas Chainsaw is far from being a complete dead armadillo.
Extras: 3 separate audio commentaries including contributions from the director, Dan Yeager and Tobe Hooper / 7 Featurettes / Alternate Opening / On Set Short Subjects – Five Minute Massacres