Many generally good, fairly interesting ideas are put to complete and utter waste in this latest installment in the 'Texas Chainsaw' franchise. Altogether ignoring the several sequels since Tobe Hooper's seminal slasher classic, which is a rather bold move in and of itself, the script, which apparently required four writers to crank out, picks up soon after the events of the 1974 horror favorite. "Final Girl" survivor Sally (Marilyn Burns) escapes on the back of a pickup truck and informs local authorities, which quickly develops into a lynching mob outside the Sawyer house. Inside, Bill Moseley, Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface), and family take refuge when things suddenly escalate into a shootout and bonfire.
It's an engaging, and even somewhat provocative start to an already familiar story, and as an added bonus, serves as an important plot element that eventually grows to a promising twist. And I'm not referring to the lone survivor of the fire caused by the redneck vigilante gang: a little baby girl literally stolen from the dead arms of her mother. She later grows up to be the voluptuous Alexandra Daddario, who learns about being adopted the same day she inherits the Sawyer-Carson estate and all its assets, including the responsibilities and liabilities it entails, which, of course, turns out to be more than she can handle. With friends Ryan (Tremaine Neverson), Nikki (Tania Raymonde) and Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez) in tow, she travels to Newt to reclaim her birthright and legacy.
The twist isn't her being a member of that sadistic, coldblooded family — we obviously know that going in — but it's what she does with the knowledge of her family's history which amuses. As she slowly warms up to the idea of Jedidiah "Leatherface" Sawyer (Dan Yeager) being her long-lost cousin, the small Texas town is forced to confront the sins of its past, making another titillating twist revealing the real monster of this whole silly affair. Mayor Burt Hartman (Paul Rae) was the ringleader of the prologue's stereotypical lynch mob, who in the present day abuses his power to get his way. Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry) was pretty much useless in controlling the situation at the start, and he largely feels ever more neutered at handling the current blood-drenched mess.
Again, some fairly good ideas with the potential to deliver at least a decently entertaining horror flick, particularly with the added 3D cinematography. Unfortunately, director John Luessenhop, who has yet to make anything of real note, completely wastes the possibilities by failing to include a single moment of suspense or scares, relying too much on explicit gore. Granted, some of the fault originates with a screenplay so badly written that I can't imagine Leatherface doing any worse if tasked to write his own autobiography. Some characters, like lawyer Farnsworth (Richard Riehle) and Deputy Carl (Scott Eastwood), are bought into the mix but then altogether forgotten at pivotal moments while very specific dramatic devices, like Ryan and Nikki's secret affair, are mentioned but never addressed or serve a useful purpose. And finally, it would seem everyone involved failed basic arithmetic since no one took notice of the blatantly obvious age discrepancy in Daddario's character, making her quite a bit older than the filmmakers clearly desire her to be.
Making matters worse is the rather chauvinist depictions of the only two supposedly well-rounded female characters. In both Daddario's Heather and Raymonde's Nikki, the women are little more than objects oozing with a heaping amount of sexual desire, either for male characters or the camera's lustful gaze. No matter the situation, whether running for their lives or facing the end of Leatherface's chainsaw, showing plenty of cleavage takes priority over creating a frightful environment. What could have been a clever twist by movie's end is swiftly ruined by Heather readily accepting the role of dutiful, silent homemaker. Added to that is the idiotic notion that the blood and mayhem could have been avoided if she only bothered to read the letter first; the same goes for the producers and studio execs who greenlit this ultimately asinine sequel.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings 'Texas Chainsaw' to 3D Blu-ray with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The Region A locked, BD50 disc is housed inside a blue, eco-elite case with a lenticular slipcover. After several skippable trailers, a menu screen with full-motion clips and music gives the option to watch in 2D or 3D when pressing "Play."
Shot in 3D using the Red Epic camera system with the latest rig from 3ality Technica, 'Texas Chainsaw' debuts on 3D Blu-ray with a first-rate, near-reference 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1). Depth is often phenomenal as objects at the far end of open roads and hallways feels elongated and penetrate deep into the screen. Separation between foreground and background information is excellent, creating a pleasing layered effect that generates a realistic sense of distance and space. Other objects, like debris and small furniture items, and blood-splatters jump at the viewer's faces with deliberately comical results. A few gimmick shots with the chainsaw also puncture the screen, daring you to swat it away.
The high-def transfer is also highly-detailed and razor-sharp, revealing lots of crisp, lifelike textures in close-ups, particularly Leatherface's skin mask. Individual blades of grass, bark on the side of trees and every stich and thread of the costumes are distinct while fine lines along the wood furniture and walls of the Sawyer mansion are resolute and crystal-clear. Unfortunately, the presentation drops a small notch when some minor aliasing rears its ugly head, and contrast tends to run much hotter than needs to, causing quite a bit of blooming and posterization in the highlights while whites noticeably clip in several areas. Thankfully, black levels are not affected, appearing accurate and inky rich, which adds to the dimensionality. Colors are very animated and vivid with primaries looking especially energetic and gaudy.
Along with an excellent video presentation, Leatherface revs his chainsaw with an enjoyable and often cracking DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The design doesn't exactly make the best use of the surround speakers, but there are plenty of good atmospherics, like the local wildlife, which create a satisfying environment and the music often bleeds into the background. With smooth, well-balanced channel separation, imaging feels wide and welcoming as several off-screen effects broaden the soundstage with amusing results. Vocals are crisp and clear in the center at all times, and the mid-range exhibits brilliant, detailed clarity in the upper frequencies. Low bass isn't very demanding, but it adds sufficient weight and depth to the music, action and the roars of the chainsaw.
'Texas Chainsaw' tries to reignite interest in horror icon Leatherface with hopes of kick-starting the franchise. Unfortunately, it fails miserably while wasting some potentially good ideas without ever stirring at least a few scares or creating a single moment of suspense. The Blu-ray arrives with excellent 3D video and a good audio presentation. A wealth of supplements also offer fans some added entertainment after finishing the movie, making the overall package a good one but a rental at best.