'Texas Chainsaw 3D' starts year with a whimper

January 11, 2013 

It’s not too early in the year to shoot for a big accomplishment.

As for myself, I’m planning to make a few upgrades to this old basement apartment of mine. Do some painting. Maybe lay down some hardwood floors. Nothing too fancy — I’ve been eyeing the particle board in my neighbor’s yard — just something to keep the dirt from getting so muddy. I’m thinking about chiseling a new air hole through the foundation too. I’ve been passing out even more than usual.

It’s going to be tough to pull all this off without tipping off the legal residents, but if I set the bar high early in the year, I think I can get ‘er done. As usual, Hollywood could learn a thing or two from me. Their strategy is to put out their high-profile movies late in the year to keep things fresh for awards season. But why not try to set the standard for everything else to follow? I mean, take a look at Texas Chainsaw 3D. They flung that one out the door the first week of January, and now every bad movie that comes after will have to live down to its awful standard.

Following immediately after the events of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, an angry posse arrives, shooting the family of killers to death. But a baby girl survives the massacre and is adopted in secret.

Years later, Alexandra Daddario inherits a house from a grandma she never knew she had. She travels with three friends to Texas to settle the estate. But her birth family’s legacy soon turns violent, leaving the town awash in a new bloodbath.

A bloodbath that feels quite a bit like a sloppy copy of every other slasher movie from the 1980s and late ’70s. Sexy youngsters pile into a van and ride out to a strange, isolated place. What happens next in Texas Chainsaw 3D? Here is a hint: it does not include New Hampshire Weedwhackers.

What it does include is kitten-weak characters, mediocre acting, partying youth cliches and a whole lot of blood spraying this way and that. It’s not the kind of bad that’s grating and obnoxious — for that, look no further than Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 — but the kind of bad that’s just dull and unoriginal and less energetic than my dogs after their morning walk, which is to say that if you hit Texas Chainsaw 3D with a sunbeam, it would be immobilized for hours.

It was all so predictable that I thought the movie might be headed toward a subversion of slasher movies. And you could argue that it does give that a shot in the second half, as Daddario gets dragged further and further into her family’s history. But the flaw in that argument is that director John Luessenhop and his squad of four screenwriters approach this turnaround with the same lack of imagination and energy they brought to the standard slasher first half.

The lowlight of the movie is what should have been its turning point. As Daddario learns just what the Texas town did to her family, her scene is crosscut with another following a lone cop down into a bloody catacomb. Miraculously, the cop’s descent into an obvious murder-dungeon is even less suspenseful than the pulse-pounding rollercoaster of Daddario frowning at old newspapers.

If anyone is deeply invested in the rich family mythos of the series, you might get a small kick out of it all. Let’s see, more praise: it’s not the worst in the series. There you go. It’s not the absolute worst movie ever. But it could well be one of 2013’s most forgettable.

*Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com.

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