“Texas Chainsaw 3D” appears to be rearming for more horror

“Texas Chainsaw 3D” is not a remake. It unfolds rather as a sequel and could have been named “Texas Chainsaw: The Next Generation.”

We may be giving away too much here, if that is possible. But face it, most horror movies are predictable. As they play out, it is easy to forecast who is going to meet a messy end, who will survive and that ultimately a silly, highly unlikely twist will there be at the end to open the door for sequels.

“Texas Chainsaw 3D” begins with a montage from the original Tobe Hooper-directed movie of 1974, a gory rehashing of the slaughter, culminating with Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) barely escaping the mincemeat-making chainsaw Leatherface is wielding.

The movie then presents a chapter of what happened in that rural Texas area after Sally manages to jump into the pickup truck and be sped away.

Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry) has arrived at the Sawyer farmhouse, where family members are hunkering down, armed and ready to defend their turf. Hooper is trying to talk them into turning Leatherface, actually named Jedediah (Jed), over to him so he can take the alleged murderer into custody. But the negotiations break down when truckloads of the typical Southern brand of vigilantes arrive with tons of weaponry and an “eye for an eye” attitude.

Within minutes the Sawyer family, which includes Gunnar Hansen, who played the original Leatherface now in the role of a Sawyer family patriarch, has been massacred and the farmhouse torched. Ah, but anyone who saw “Frankenstein” should know that does not necessarily mean the bad guy is eradicated.

One of the vigilantes, searching around the smoking ruins, finds a survivor, a baby girl, that he secrets away and gives to his wife, presenting her a child she wants but could not have because of her biological issues. The vigilantes gather around for a big photo that runs in the paper, branding them as heroes.

The film flashes forward to current day (specifically around Halloween 2012) and Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) is introduced. She has all the traits of the horror movie heroine — attractive, sweet, hard-working. She and her boyfriend Ryan (Trey Songz) are planning a road trip to New Orleans with Ryan’s buddy Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sanchez) and Heather’s flirtatious, back-stabbing friend Nikki (Tania Raymonde, whose early credits included a recurring role in “Malcolm in Middle”). These three already seem to have SOON TO BE DEAD stamped unto their foreheads.

Before the trip begins, Heather receives a letter stating she has inherited property from a recently deceased grandmother. This comes as a surprise to Heather, who was under the impression her grandparents had long passed away. She goes to her parents for an explanation, and they hardly appear to be Ward and June Cleaver. In fact her father coldly admits that if he had to do it all over again, he would not have adopted Heather.

Heather’s three friends agree to a side trip to Texas where she can sign the legal papers and see whatever property is now hers. So they load up in a minivan — naturally — and take off. Eventually they pick up a hitchhiker — naturally — named Daryl (Shaun Sipos) who seems too good to be true.

In Texas they come upon the property, at which there is a closed iron gate. Meeting them there is an attorney, Farnsworth (Richard Riehle), who turns over the legal papers, emphasizes to Heather she read the letter from her late grandmother Verna. He seems skittish and eager to get away.

Inside the gate, Heather and friends are astonished to find the young woman has inherited a mansion that really sticks out in these Texas rural lands. They decide to hang out at the place for a bit. Stupidly, they leave Daryl behind at the mansion while they go to town to get groceries.

Daryl seizes the opportunity to go through the mansion, collecting things to steal. He stumbles upon some hidden passageways that lead downstairs, which always tends to to be a walkway to doom. Guess what? Turns out the grandmother was harboring a secret, which Daryl inadvertently unleashes.

Now the slaughter and stupidity begin. The chainsaw fires up again. Blood flies. People die in hideous ways. Law enforcement stumbles around — in this case subordinated by a hothead mayor who overrides any police procedures.

Heather, now a sole survivor, is taken to the sheriff’s station. She meets a nice deputy, Carl (Scott Eastwood, looking very much like dad Clint in his “Rawhide” days). He hauls out a box containing the files on the Sawyer family. Then Carl and Sheriff Hooper, distracted by the mayor Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), who was the leader of the vigilante gang that murdered the Sawyers, stupidly leave the files for Heather to see, and she soon learns the truth of her past. And just like that, Heather stops being a victim and becomes a person enraged that her family had been massacred.

A lot of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” fans are nitpicking that the timeline for this new movie is way off. If the original massacre took place in the early 1970s, then Heather would not be in her 20s, but pushing 40. And characters like Sheriff Hooper and Burt Hartman do not look like they have aged nearly 40 years.

The “Texas Chainsaw 3D” screenplay was composed by a three-writer team — Adam Marcus, who penned the “Jason Goes to Hell” film of the “Friday the 13th” franchise — Debra Sullivan and Kirsten Elms. Marcus and Sullivan also have collaborated on the upcoming “I Walked with a Zombie.”

“Texas Chainsaw” does have its plot holes, and as in many 3D productions, this enhancement really is not necessary. Fortunately, there is not an overload of the buzzing saw being thrust out to the audience — as it is, once it has been done, the thrill is gone.

Also, some issues remain unresolved, particularly regarding deputy Carl. These might have been the result of screenplay flaws or sloppy editing, although this could be an attempt to build on possible sequels as the new adventures of Leatherface may be in the works. Hand to the people behind this movie, directed by John Luessenhop (“Takers”). For all its flaws, it does give horror fans the mayhem they come to see, and these film people managed to present Leatherface as a sympathetic character, which could offer a new dynamic in future films.

 

COMING UP:

Special screenings of “Face to Face,” directed by Michael Rymer, are set Jan. 9 and 10, offered by Film Festival Flix. The screenings will be Wednesday at Pasadena’s Laemmle Playhouse 7 and Thursday at North Hollywood’s Laemmle NoHo 7.
The film is set in Australia and the story centers around a fired construction worker who rams his vehicle repeatedly into the rear of his former employer’’s Jaguar, also
injuring the man. However, the worker will not be brought before a criminal court.
Instead, under a new program, all parties involved are brought together in a room where they confront each other “face to face,” as the title suggests, in a session in which a moderator trained in conflict resolution serves as mediator.

The film contains several surprises and also presents a case for using this type of resolution outside of the criminal justice system.

Director Michael Rymer is best known in the as producer and director of dozens of episodes of the television series ““Battlestar Galactica,”” along with feature releases ““Queen of the Damned”” and ““In Too Deep.” The screenplay is based upon a play by David Williamson (“Gallipoli” and “The Year of Living Dangerously”).

Preceding the Pasadena screening will be a 6 p.m. reception at nearby Monopole Wine Bar, 212 El Molino Ave., along with a post-screening reception at Big Wang’s Restaurant in North Hollywood. Tickets at $14 cover the evening’s activities and are available at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 box office (626-844-6500) or online at www.filmfestivalflix.com

The screening at NoHo 7, 5240 Lankershim Blvd., also will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday,
followed by a Q & A with Arianna Jeter of Arianna Jeter Mediation
Services. A post-screening reception also will be held at  Big Wang’s Restaurant, 5300 Lankershim Blvd. Tickets available at the box office, (310-478-3836) or www.filmfestivalflix.com

And mark your calendar:

The Burbank Marriott Hotel and Convention Center again will serve as host for Monsterpalooza 2013, April 12-14. Although events have not yet been announced, some guests expected to be on hand include Eric Roberts, and three cast members from the original “Night of the Living Dead”: Judith O’Dea (Barbra), Judith Ridley (Judy) and Kaya Schon (the child-turned-zombie Karen Cooper).

Tickets are $20 each day, or $50 for a three-day pass. www.monsterpalooza.com

Birthdays in January

A special salute to Jean Stapleton from “All in the Family” and Larry Storch from “F Troop,” as both turn 90 in January, Stapleton on 1/19 and Storch on 1/8. Also turning 90, on 1/26, is Anne Jeffreys, who is still active, set to be in “Le Grand Jete,” now in pre-production.

Other special birthdays in January:

30: Kate Bosworth 1/2

40: Portia DeRossi 1/31

50: Dave Foley 1/4, Steven Soderbergh 1/14

60: Desi Arnaz Jr. 1/19, Pat Benatar 1/10, Jim Jarmusch 1/22, Lucinda Williams 1/26

70: Richard Moll 1/13

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