Unlike most of the other films in the franchise, "Texas Chainsaw 3D" doesn't start with somber narration and a text crawl detailing the supposedly true story of unlucky youngsters. (The initial film was, after all, partly based on the exploits of notorious American serial killer Ed Gein, whose crimes also inspired "Psycho.") This partially has to do with the nature of the film – for the first time it's designed to be continued (remember – six films!) and partially because it's too busy setting up the directness of the sequel by showing you a bunch of scenes from the original. Yes, it's pretty dumb, and only points out what a seminal work Hooper's film is.
While the film hedges closely to the original, dropping in a number of references both subtle (a Volkswagen van, a dead armadillo on the side of the road, unrecognizable turns by actors from the original films) and overt (big metal door! Hitchhiker!), it deviates in a key way – one of the members of the Sawyer clan had a small child, who one of the rampaging villagers takes as his own. The baby is (insert scary music cue here) the cousin of Leatherface!
For a while, at least, the movie travels along on horror remake autopilot – the youngsters get slashed to death for no apparent reason, with improved (and even more gushy) special effects and thrills from the original are evoked but never elaborated on or duplicated. (It should be noted that this is probably the single worst 3D presentation ever. It's more than an eye sore, it actively works against the movie.) There are a couple of nifty moments, like Leatherface roaring through a Halloween town fair, which immediately brought to mind everything from Roger Corman's "Humanoids from the Deep" to last year's animated "Frankenweenie," but these are fleeting. Instead, the middle section of the movie is filled with scenes like a Facetime chat between the mayor and a police officer, where the police officer, looking through Leatherface's creepy, blood-splattered photos, pauses just long enough to note that the serial killer is a "fruitcake" for wearing women's dresses. How progressive!
"Texas Chainsaw 3D" wants to have its cake and eat it too – to brutally recall the original while setting the stage for a series of new films that puts Leatherface in the role of an avenging spirit, righting the wrongs of small town amorality. It's fucking absurd. The movie was directed by John Luessenhop, who previously helmed "Takers," a movie that came out around the same time as "Armored" and looked a lot like "Armored" but in fact wasn't nearly as good as "Armored." His commitment to the original film is only in passing, that movie's gritty naturalism and surprising shocks replaced by telegraphed jump-scares and slicky manicured mid-budget moviemaking, shellacked with the aforementioned disastrous 3D overlay. "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" was a satirical look at the American family in the seventies, and looked like what would happen if Terrence Malick wanted to make a slasher movie. The "Massacre" is gone from "Texas Chainsaw 3D" because it's more interested in something cuddlier and safe. The tagline for the original was: "Who will survive and what will be left of them?" The tagline for this one should be: "Who will survive and will you even care?" The answer, of course, is no. [D-]