#366: Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Untitled 2As one of the most influential and divergent films of horror history, Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 1974 has been a victim to cultural abuse. After two conventional sequels, there was a ‘Next Generation’ nineties prequel starring Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellwegger, then a straight-up remake in 2003, followed by a prequel to the remake in 2006. Just when us horror fans thought it was safe, the story is unleashed back onto the big screen, now in horrendous 3D.

New director John Luessenhop and his team of four (FOUR!) screenwriters know that you love the 1974 movie, so much that he opens Texas Chainsaw 3D with a crude highlights reel of the original. It’s a sneaky trick, reawakening horror buffs fondness for the original, only for it to be battered and bruised by a re-enactment of what could have happened after the original film’s final showdown. Picking up from where we left off, we now have extra characters, plot dimensions and motivations that were virtually non-existent in the original.

Following this bit of abuse, we’re transported 29 years later into present day America and things start shaping up like a stereotypical modern horror movie. Alexandra Daddario stars as Heather, an adopted supermarket clerk with a murky past. After she receives a letter claiming that a grandmother she never knew existed has died, she hops in a VW campervan and sets off on a journey westward to her native Texas to sign some bereavement papers. Accompanied by her adulterous boyfriend Ryan (played by rapper Trey Eyez), slutty best friend Nikki, token ‘rock-dude’ friend Kenny, and hunky hitchhiker Darryl, they arrive to discover that Heather has not only inherited a new, admittedly dead grandmother, but her large country mansion. It’s a double-edged sword saw, however, as she’s yet to discover the 6ft5” leather faced terror lurking in the basement below.

This is a pretty repugnant film. Virtually scare free, it’s deeply misogynistic to boot. Let’s face it, horror films have always relied on gross objectification of women, but Texas Chainsaw 3D really takes it to a despicable new level, meaning that we get several upskirt tracking shots and damsels in distress who are incapable of keeping their clothes buttoned up whilst trying to flee from the chainsaw wielding Leatherface.

After Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, I was starting to warm to the idea of 3D cinema. After seeing this, I’m confident that the technology will mostly be used for gimmick. It’s utterly pointless here, with spurts of blood wiped across the screen and chainsaws being hurtled at your face. It’s corny, and could have even been fun, if the film wasn’t taking itself so seriously.

What’s more distressing then the movie itself is how Tobe Hooper ever gave this his stamp of approval, announcing a few weeks ago that he saw the film and claimed it as “a perfect terrifying follow-up to the original”. Whilst this new film may have chickened out of using ‘massacre’ in the title, it’s certainly killed all my appreciation for the original movie. If you have some time to burn and cash to spend, do yourself a favour and do anything – I mean it – do anything other than see Texas Chainsaw 3D.

IMDb / Trailer

So, that’s it. 366 movies in 366 days. It’s over, I can rest. Disappointing that I ended the year on such a bum note, but it feels great to accomplish this thing. Thanks for reading and keep glued to here in 2013. Some exciting new writing opportunities are on the cards and this will become a brand new spot for film, music and cultural discussion (I hope).

#270: The Loveless (1982)

The most lauded female filmmaker working in Hollywood today has to be Kathryn Bigelow. Following up her Oscar-winning war drama The Hurt Locker with a bold, “true story” account about the ten year hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, I was curious enough to go back to project that started them all. Straight out of film school, Bigelow teamed up with David Lynch disciple Monty Montgomery to co-direct and write this mood piece about fifties biker culture.

With continuous, fetishistic closeups of leather, cars, skin and bikes, The Loveless (also known as Breakdown) plays out like an ill-advised reshoot of The Wild One, minus the gang warfare, story, and the young serpentine-faced Willem Dafoe taking the place of Brando.

In his first ever starring role, Dafoe is the lonesome traveller Vance. He spends his life out on Route 66, with no direction home. Stopping off at pitstops, fixing up his bike with fellow leather-clad rockers, and picking up any chicks that he’s fortunate enough to have swung his way. He’s a compelling, enigmatic antihero, at first, but the brooding face and tired ‘rebel without a cause’ schtick leads to frustration very quickly.

That’s probably due to a distinct lack of narrative drive. Instead of a plot, Montgomery and Bigelow rely on heavy aestheticism and corny dialogue which wouldn’t seem out of place on a Dick Tracy comic strip. It actually reminded me of another ‘wild’ road movie, David Lynch’s forgotten gem Wild At Heart. Produced by none other than Monty Montgomery and co-starring Dafoe as the slimy Bobby Peru, the movies also share the same renegade characters, but Dafoe and his less than charismatic love interest Telena (Marin Kanter) fail to have the humour, narrative depth, or warrant the emotional investment you get with Sailor Ripley and Lula Pace Fortune (played magnificently by the extra-loony Nicholas Cage and Lynch’s muse, the beautiful Laura Dern. The best star-crossed lovers on the big screen of all time? Quite possibly).

I found myself grimacing throughout The Loveless. Taking a good, but difficult premise of biker boredom and isolation, it plays out like a trashy, extended music video to the sounds of the fifties. With the country twang of Brenda Lee and the rockin’ ferocity of Little Richard, the soundtrack is indisputedly fantastic. But The Loveless cheapens it all, mimicking the bygone era rather than paying homage to it.

IMDb it