Texas Chainsaw 3D didn't screen for critics—never a good sign—but critic Michael Nordine found it just mildly bad.
Critic's Grade: C
There isn't that much chainsaw action in Texas Chainsaw 3D
. In a way, this is one of the film’s best qualities. In most other regards, though, it functions exactly as you'd expect. Far be it from me to suggest that 3D, needless sequels or remakes lack the potential to surprise—the extra dimension was particularly kind to Cave of Forgotten Dreams
, while 2004's Dawn of the Dead
isn't the only horror update to have justified its existence—but moviegoers tend to be in trouble when the very title of a new movie signifies two of Hollywood's worst tendencies wrapped into one production.
As with most latter-day slashers, John Luessehop's iteration of the genre-defining series is more gory than scary. It's also not entirely without its merits. After an initially confusing montage made up of footage from Tobe Hooper's 1974 original that establishes this as a direct sequel (ignoring not only all other entries in the series, but also a basic sense of time), the film eases into a stage-setting first act that creates a passably tense atmosphere. Like many horror movies, though, Texas Chainsaw 3D is better at ominously hinting at events to come than actually delivering on them—and besides, watching a man-child with a chainsaw both outrun and outwit a group of able-bodied teens is only believable (or frightening) up to a point.
Danger comes from both the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface and the badge-wearing cops. This angle doesn’t so much contend that no one is free from the franchise's particular breed of moral rot as it gradually (and, almost in spite of itself, effectively) reverses our sympathy. This is an artless exercise, yes, but it's also sporadically successful in its attempts to expand on the Leatherface mythos in a new-ish way.
Surprisingly, the film ends up more enjoyable for its thicker-than-water subtext than for its requisite chainsaw violence, and Texas Chainsaw 3D is the rare superfluous sequel whose filmmakers actually seem familiar with (and invested in) the original material enough to put a worthwhile spin on it. It no doubt benefits from low expectations—movies that don't screen for press tend to inspire little in the way of confidence—but it turns out that this is the best bad slasher in quite a while. A dubious achievement, to be sure, but it’s also more than anyone outside the film's target audience could have reasonably expected.