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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

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"Texas Chainsaw 3D" is the seventh entry in the legendary horror franchise.
"Texas Chainsaw 3D" is the seventh entry in the legendary horror franchise.

"Texas Chainsaw 3D" a dull blade

Less than a week ago, I made some film-related resolutions, one of which was to see a good horror movie before I put an axe into the floundering genre. It didn't take long – four days to be exact – for Hollywood to attempt to reinvigorate my love for horror flicks with "Texas Chainsaw 3D." Too bad that the sequel did the complete opposite, putting the flaws of today's horror films on glorious 3-D display and slamming yet another nail into the genre's blood-soaked coffin.

Because making original horror movies is hard, "Texas Chainsaw 3D" is a sequel. But not a sequel to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake from 2003 starring Jessica Biel, which also had a prequel in 2006. Instead, it's a sequel to the 1974 original, taking place immediately after the Tobe Hooper-helmed horror classic, which already had a sequel. Several, in fact.

Also, "massacre" has been removed from the title (as well as "the" because using articles is for squares, daddy-o) and replaced with "3D," perhaps by marketing execs thinking the only thing more terrifying than a massacre is shoddy 3-D. However, without "massacre," we're left with just "Texas Chainsaw," which could be about Leatherface taking care of some old trees in his backyard. I've never been one to judge a book by its cover, but "Texas Chainsaw 3D" seems to be actively challenging me to do so. Luckily for me, the cover is a pretty accurate representation of the entire movie in that it's really dumb.

Heather (Alexandra Daddario) leads our new band of chainsaw fodder, all of whom may have names but are just the usual stereotypes: The Skanky One (Tania Raymonde), The Black One (hip-hop artist Trey Songz) and The Quirky One – usually the stoner but this time defined only as a chef who dresses like a lost member of Sugar Ray. The attractive and bland posse packs into a van to head to New Orleans, with a quick pit stop in Texas for the adopted Heather to investigate who her real family was. Of course, Leatherface ends up leading the welcoming committee, and characters the audience wasn't particularly attached to wind up losing body parts they were very attached to.

It would be easy to list off the usual horror movie complaints found in "Texas Chainsaw 3D." The characters lack any depth, and any development only serves getting a character murdered or undressed. The acting is serviceable at best and embarrassing at worst, though the script doesn't help (The Skanky One, providing insight on a gate: "There must be something behind it"). It's chauvinistic, with Daddario's outfits showing more skin than our killer's mask – even after she's given a shirt, she refuses to button it. And of course, the plot is mouth-breathing dumb.

These are all the expected problems with modern horror. Constantly griping about those flaws is like complaining about winter being cold. What's disappointingly bad about "Texas Chainsaw 3D" is the massive void of scares the film delivers. It takes a long time for director John Luessenhop (previously behind the insanely generic "Takers") to get to the scares, and he gets there without much of a sense of building mood or tension. When we finally get to the massacre assumed from the title, it's all gore with no real horror and no reason to care about who is getting axed (or chainsawed in this case).

The last point is the biggest issue. By the end of the movie, you're somehow rooting for Leatherface. Part of this is because all of the main characters end up revealing themselves to be jerks. That may have been a dumb screenwriting accident, but then the film tries to make Leatherface sympathetic by making the real villains slack-jawed, Bible-thumping Southern yokels who want revenge. You might be asking yourself why the screenwriter would want to do such a terrible thing. That's a mighty fine question. It completely defangs one of horror's most famous icons ­– I should never be cheering for Leatherface to get his chainsaw back – and the vengeance-seeking Southerners aren't scary; they're just generic, dumb and annoying.

I'll give "Texas Chainsaw 3D" this: It's the first movie I've seen in which a character is saved by her cleavage. It's not exactly an innovation the film should be proud of, but considering the state of horror, I guess audiences have to take what they can get.

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