Cynics will think they know everything about Texas Chainsaw 3D solely from its title. To that, we say, "Maybe, but do you know which three dimensions it's in?" (Okay, fine. Unless you're Buckaroo Banzai, it's probably the three you were suspecting.)
Which isn't to say there aren't surprises in the film. For example, when one of the good-looking protagonists is inevitably sawed in half with a chainsaw, does he get sawed in half crosswise or lengthwise? And yes, the most naked and promiscuous of the good-looking protagonists get the most gruesome deaths, but how much of their skin will you get to see before classically-trained chainsaw massacreur Leatherface turns it into a custom luchador mask?
You'd be right to assume that the 3D feature is used to have a chainsaw blade jabbed at your jumbo popcorn bucket at some point in the film. But it's also repeatedly used to give the shapely pecs and breasts of our comely stars an added bit of pop. It also is used to strangely add texture to the fuzzy wool seat covers in their car, seat covers that do not offer much in terms of chills unless you are a sheep.
But don't worry that the lack of "Massacre" in the title means this is a domestic drama in which Leatherface takes out his middle age dissatisfaction with his chainsaw sales job on his alcoholic wife, Leatherette. Lest the body count remain too low, the film begins with a highlight reel of sorts, featuring many of the better eviscerations from the previous entries in the series. This seamlessly blends into a flashback sequence that shows us Leatherface's rather strained relationship with his hometown before getting us to the good-looking people and their throbbing 3D parts.
Heather (Alexandra Daddario) and Ryan (Trey Songz) are young artists ("That's really cool art!" says a visitor to their apartment) living in a city that is presumably not in Texas as they are able to go grocery shopping without being decapitated by a chainsaw. When Heather inherits a creepy old Texan mansion from a relative she never knew, they take a road trip to the digs, unaware that it comes with a totes annoying dude on the couch: Leatherface.
A few other saw-able bodies come along with Heather and Ryan, the most vital of which is Nikki, played by Lost's Tania Raymonde as a real life girl, as conceived by a teenage boy with blistered palms. She juts and preens towards the 3D cameras, spewing single entendres and occupying the foreground with her cleavage and backside as if the rest of the movie happened to photobomb her Instagram feed.
As a group, they are terrible drivers at the most inconvenient moments, trip over things constantly and decide that the best places to hide from a man with a chainsaw is behind wooden doors and walls. The latter is as ill-conceived as trying to use a rock against a killer armed with paper.
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There are interpersonal dramas and betrayals among Heather and her friends, though none of these turns out to be as gripping as the conflict between their bodies and Leatherface's chainsaw. The action scenes are shot quite well and director John Luessenhop gracefully avoids the over-edits and cheap fake-out scares that plague most slasher films. Amazingly, the shirt with one functional button that Heather wears in the second half of the film is not used for mere titillation but becomes an important plot point. And for her part, Daddario brings a nuanced vulnerability to her character that makes some of Heather's choices seem more believable than perhaps they ought to.
Fans of the series will enjoy getting to learn a little bit about the man behind the skin mask. Yes, there's a dispiriting New Age-y moment when we see that Leatherface has decorated his basement lair with a jawbone-and-femur bead curtain. But not to worry: when we peek in his fridge later, there are more murdered hotties than there are soy yogurt cups.
Texas Chainsaw 3D is showing nationwide.