Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Texas Chainsaw

Before I start I just wanted to say thank you! I recently broke 1000 views and am very excited to see that. I know it's not huge but I consider it pretty big for a blog that seems to be read by people mostly on my Facebook friend's list. Seeing those views stack up is the reason why I keep doing these so thanks a bunch for keeping me motivated!

Version I Watched: Non 3D Redbox rental

History: This started originally as an idea for a new trilogy of movies. The plan was to release them out of order starting with the second one, then the first, and then the last one. However since this was a bit of a risk especially with it being potentially confusing for the average movie-goer it was scrapped and the following movie was produced instead. There are four appearances by actors who were in previous Texas Chainsaw movies, including Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, John Dugan, and Bill Moseley. Also, Sheriff Hooper is named after Tobe Hooper, who wrote the first two movies in the franchise. It initially received an NC-17 from the MPAA and had to be recut before being released (Here's hoping for an extended cut one day). It received mostly negative reviews and currently holds a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. It had an estimated budget of $10 Million, but it's wikipedia page states $40 Million, which means the box office total of just under $40 Million makes it either a failure or a success depending on which one is more accurate.

Personal History: I've always enjoyed this franchise much like the other slashers of the 70s-80s. I've seen almost every Chainsaw so I'm always open for a new one when it happens. This one I wasn't able to get around to until the DVD release. This is my first viewing.

Review: I was originally going to comment on how many sequels and remakes there have been for horror movies lately. But I feel I would be somewhat wrong. Yes there's been a ton of Saws in the recent years and the Paranormal Activity really started having an annual release around Halloween as well. But what others have there been? It seems like it's sequel-mania for one franchise at a time in recent years for horror. Then saying a lot of it has been rip offs of other movies isn't saying much either. Because that's been a staple since the beginning for the genre. Heck, that's how Friday the 13th started. Did you really think it was being original? It was just the most popular at the time. But when there is "yet another" sequel or remake it's safe to say the standards hit the floor. They don't exactly have a good reputation. That's what I thought when I heard there would not just be a new Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, but it would be in 3D. I actually really wanted to see this in theatres for the fun of it but it was hard to justify not just the ticket price but the 3D ticket price for a movie that could wind up being more painful to get through than fun. So I waited for DVD. And you know what, sometimes it pays to have low expectations. Cause this was a much better experience than I had expected.

The story for this one is right off the bat more unique that the remake and prequel to the remake from the early 2000s but that's not saying much. This installment chooses to ignore everything that happened after the original and even begins at the exact moment where the original movie ended (complete with a montage showing highlights from said original). Immediately I was impressed with the attention to detail to the house. They are picking up where things left off in a movie that was made almost 40 years ago so good work on them. Anyway, the main plot is that the police track down the family after a lone survivor reports them. The cops show up guns a blazing and eventually burn down the house. They are seen as local heroes and one of them even takes Leatherface's chainsaw so he can hang it above the local bar (frickin hicks). Among all this excitement one of the men finds a woman still alive clutching a baby. The man steals the baby and kills the woman and then plays it off like he just "found" the baby. Guess who this movie will be about. After this it flashes forward to present day where we meet our protagonist. A young girl who just finds out that her Grandma died and she needs to go to Texas to collect the inheritance. Here's the problem, her supposed grandma has been dead for at least a couple of years already. So she goes to her "parents" to find out she's adopted (aka stolen from her real mother) because her new mama couldn't conceive and her new papa did it just because the mama wanted it so badly. Otherwise he would have just as easily left her behind (which is really sad). So of course she tells them to shove off and makes her way to Texas. She inherited her grandmother's home which is essentially a mansion, but it comes with a cost of course, and that's when things get rolling.
What I expected from this is the typical cycle. Set up, introduce bad guy, people get killed, they find a way to beat the bad guy, usually 1+ survivors. Pretty typical system and it makes things painfully predictable. So when Leatherface showed up and started offing people left and right within the first act I was wondering where the heck the movie would go from there. Felt like it was blowing it's load immediately and not giving it time to develop, therefor giving a long and boring second half. Boy was I wrong. Yes for the most part the essentials happened in a modern slasher but it all happened right in the beginning. This caught me by surprise and caught my attention of where they were going to go from there. And what I got was actually a pretty good and new take on the franchise. The movies in the franchise have been less about Leatherface and more about his family as a whole. Although it was always family already joining in on the insanity. Sometimes they're in disguise and show their true colors later on but they're all part of the madness before we even get to know them. We've never had a case of someone on the outside which is what we got with the orphan child. It made it more unique because it's not just a matter of killing a bunch of stupid kids who crossed paths with this wild bunch of killers. Our protagonist had a reason to be there and will have an overall effect on how things will play out. Cause as the saying goes, blood is thicker than water.
So it turns out that Leatherface has been living in the basement of this mansion and has been there since the first movie. He's been up to his same old tricks as he's always been which shows in his "workshop." I would say some of this stuff is a call back to the original movie but again I don't feel that would be accurate. Of course he would still have meat hooks! Look at what he loves to do best! Anyway, after Leatherface is found and kills a couple of people the first act concludes with him running through a theme park chasing after our protagonist. It ends with him escaping after a cop sees and confronts him, which is also when Leatherface decides it would be a good idea to throw his chainsaw at the cop so he can run away. Leatherface may be dangerous but he is leaps and bounds far from smart. But what this opens up is the motivation for the rest of the movie. The town is pissed as hell that ANYONE in that family survived so they want Leatherface dead yesterday. They go on a total manhunt for him, losing plenty of people in the process (not really a spoiler). But one of the coolest parts of this is it's when our hero discovers that Leatherface is actually her cousin. Again no surprise there but at least it takes the story in a different direction. A direction where it shows the supposed good guy cops who want Leatherface dead to be seemingly more ruthless than the actual killer of the story. I'm not going to justify what Leatherface does for fun, but it makes you sympathize for him. It reminded me of The Devil's Rejects where a cop is chasing down three serial killers. However his methods prove to be just as horrific as the actual killers, which brings forward emotions for the actual killers, making you uncomfortable. It provides a different perspective where you actually root for the enemy in a different way than before. It's not a root because you wanna see some good old fashioned gore, it's a root because you start to feel for the bad guy cause some of the good guys are total dicks and not heroic in the least.
It all kicks off from there and leads into an ending that I was plenty satisfied with. It gave a unique alternative to the usual process.

So safe to say I enjoyed the direction the story went. But there was something that drove me absolutely nuts. Sure the acting isn't going to be that great nor is the actual writing of the story going to be above average either (the story is great! But the writing that gets it there does have it's issues of course). But easily the worst of the worst in this was the visual effects and the forced actions for the 3D version.
What I was thinking about is how when there's a movie released in 3D there should be two versions released. I'm not exactly talking about having a 3D version and a non-3D version. That goes without saying. I'm talking about a version with alternate takes. The reason for this is because when you have a movie originally presented and intended for 3D there tend to be a shot here and there that "show off" the 3D, aka shoving things toward the audience. I'm sure you can piece together that there were plenty of chainsaws shoved toward the audience among other things, giving the very typical old school thrill style of 3D. But when you watch it in 2D at home it's just weird and awkward. It's placed in a way that needs to have it in 3D cause it's not well placed cinematography for 2D. It's awkward and gives you the same feeling of someone actually trying to shove something in your face. Not scary, just annoying. But to go along with this is the horrendous CG incorporated. It must be a method with 3D to do certain tricks in CG instead of organic cause this isn't the first time I've seen it done this way. I recall in Saw 3D there was something like this at the end. Here's a franchise that has been doing great organic effects over all of their movies. Then suddenly at the very end of their final installment there's a saw thrown at the audience in slow motion in horrible looking 3D. It must (maybe?) look better in 3D cause in 2D it was laugh out loud bad and executed in such an unexpected way to cash in on the 3D craze. This happens plenty of times in Texas Chainsaw whether it's when Leatherface throws his chainsaw at the carnival or when a body is torn apart and their guts are thrown at the screen. It really takes you out of the action because of how bad it looks not in 3D. Not saying it would look better in 3D but in 2D it looks so horrible it feels out of place and has already dated itself.
I know what I'm essentially asking for is to recut and polish the movie for a better 2D viewing experience. But why would the studio do that when they can just flip the 3D switch off and release as is? It's cheaper so it's understandable. The movie could have been such a nicer experience if it weren't for this presentation. A bit of a steep request but understandable. Probably will never happen.

Overall I was surprised how much I liked this. I was expecting camp or uncreativity and basically watched it for the kills. My low expectations left me open to what could come and what I was given was pretty awesome. Not as good as the new Evil Dead, but leaps and bounds better than other sequels/remakes/reboots as of late. Personally I would recommend this one cause it's the most original entry in this franchise we've seen in years. At the very least it's worth the dollar you spend on a redbox rental. Also makes sure to stick around cause there is a brief scene after the credits. And it's awesome!

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