Almost forty years after the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface returns (no surprise there) but it’s not a reboot (surprise!)
After a quick recap of the original story, the local sheriff (Thom Barry) fails to keep of bunch of local rednecks from taking the law into their own hands. The only survivor of their wrath is an infant found by a childless couple and kept for their own. Four decades later, twenty-something (huh?!) small-town girl Heather (Alexandra Daddario) learns that the grandmother she never knew existed has willed a substantial estate to her in Newt, Texas. While Heather turns out to be a long-lost member of the Sawyer family, she is by no means the last.
The term “fan service” comes to mind when viewing this film. First of all, this IS a continuation, an actual sequel instead of merely a reboot. While fans of Leatherface/Tommy/Bubba (whatever you prefer to call the face-wearing lumbering ox with an attitude) will be happy to see the big guy back up on the screen, the film sets up an interesting premise clearly aimed at making additional films. While most of the cast is set up to knock down (you know the drill… er, chainsaw), both Leatherface and his surviving relative are surprisingly effective. While neither as gory nor demented as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, it’s nice to see that someone still cares about taking care of one of our favorite monsters.
The real surprise here is Alexandra Daddario. As a doe-eyed bombshell, she looks like someone filmmakers cast to stand there and look like a cute victim, the proverbial director’s daughter. Instead, Ms. Daddario steps up, gets dirty, and looks perfectly capable of holding her own, even doing a bit of rescuing herself. Newcomer Dan Yeager makes a fair six-foot, six-inch tall Leatherface, slinging his chainsaw about happily and giving little thought to who might be watching. What are they gonna do, arrest him? With few exceptions, the rest of the cast is there to die horribly, each with just enough back story to accept whatever gruesome deaths their one-note characters have earned.
The biggest story issue is the compressed timeframe. The years don’t add up from when the original story took place in 1974 and when “now” happens (cell phones and all), so a bit of temporal flubbing seems to have occurred here. That said, a bunch of forty-somethings running around in skimpy clothes making out in random barns probably wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining. After last year’s superior showing of The Cabin In the Woods, it’s almost a crime to include characters that are less three-dimensional than the film’s upconversion. Fortunately, there’s a solid foundation here for a future tungston-carbide terror, and the setup for beauty and her beast could be fun.
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)