John Luessenhop’s Texas Chainsaw 3D may leave off the “Massacre” from its title, but in every respect, this nominal sequel to Tobe Hooper’s seminal 1974 film—pretending as if all the previous sequels, prequels, and reboots never existed—butchers the franchise’s legacy more or less beyond repair. An opening credit sequence comprised of clips from Hooper’s original mutates that classic into a goofy-looking pop-up book, which is in keeping with the general cartoonishness of the subsequent proceedings. Those involve fetching Heather (Alexandra Daddario) inheriting the Texas estate of a grandmother she never knew she had, and thus learning that she was adopted after her real family—the Sawyer clan, which included Leatherface—was slaughtered decades earlier by Burt Hartman (Paul Rae) and his redneck lynch mob. Before all of these truths can fully come to light, however, Heather must first make her way to Texas with her beau, two other friends, and a shady hitchhiker in a Volkswagen van just like the one driven by Leatherface’s maiden victims. Once there, mayhem of a predictable sort ensues as they discover that Leatherface (Dan Yeager) is still alive and has been living in the basement of Grandma’s house for close to 30 years without having ever been detected—a reality of mindboggling implausibility, what with the fiend’s insatiable desire to chainsaw everything in sight.
Luessehop delivers token nods to Hooper’s film, such as flashbulbs accompanied by screechy noise and multiple low-angled shots of a woman’s ass in tight shorts, while also providing regular 3D effects, including two instances of Leatherface’s chainsaw protruding off the screen and a truly hilarious shot in which the villain actually throws the spinning power tool at viewers’ faces. Aside from those moments, however, the proceedings are a visual muddle of dark browns and blacks, and while Daddario makes for an attractive scream queen, Heather’s inability to wear a shirt that doesn’t reveal her midriff eventually comes to seem like a parodic joke. Throughout, terror never materializes, as the film goes through the motions—some nastiness here, some idiotic behavior there—to the point of inanity. Outright stupidity, though, comes less from adherence to formula than from the third act, which features so much unbelievable behavior from so many different characters that it’s as if the script is actively courting derisive laughter. Alas, despite a cameo from Chop Top himself, Bill Mosley, there’s no deliberate Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2-style comedy to Texas Chainsaw 3D, just dim-witted gruesomeness retrofitted with gimmicky contemporary trappings.