Opening in theaters nationwide today, Texas Chainsaw 3D bucks the lazy trend set by all of the preceding sequels and remakes. The new film starts off with the conventional attractive-youngsters-get-killed-one-by-one formula before switching gears around the film's halfway point. From there, Texas Chainsaw 3D turns delightfully nutty, morphing into the craziest "dysfunctional family" horror-drama seen in years and displaying filmmakers who are clearly more focused on defying expectations than cranking out more of the same.
Texas Chainsaw 3D stars relative newcomer Alexandra Daddario (previously seen in the 2010 fantasy-adventure blockbuster Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and the 2011 Farrelly Brothers comedy Hall Pass) as Heather, a slightly Goth chick living with her unpleasant, adoptive parents and confiding in her athletic, loving boyfriend, Ryan (R&B hit-maker Trey Songz, in his first major movie role). After learning of her long-concealed adoption ("You came from a shit heap," says one of her cold-mannered parents), Heather hops in a van with some friends (including Lost alum Tania Raymonde as her promiscuous, skimpily dressed best friend, Nikki) headed for the small Newt, Texas (population: 2,306) to claim her recently deceased, biological grandmother's estate.
To go into more specific detail about Texas Chainsaw 3D's plot would be to enter into heavy spoiler territory, but it turns out that Heather comes from the Sawyer family, the same bloodline as the antagonists in Hooper's '74 picture, including, that's right, Leatherface himself. And, to put it lightly, it's not a warm nor positive family reunion.
Texas Chainsaw 3D is nothing like the mediocre 2003 remake (starring Jessica Biel) or its maddeningly inferior 2006 prequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. "I can't blame people who've seen the commercials and thought, "Really? Another Texas Chainsaw movie?" says Daddario, whose performance easily bests Biel's and deserves mention alongside that of the O.G. Burns. "There have been so many remakes and sequels lately, so that's totally understandable, and, frankly, I'd feel the same way if I was in their place. It's very different than what people will expect. If you're going to remake or reboot something nowadays, when there's so much of that going on, it's nice to be a part of one that approaches the material with a fresher, even riskier idea."
One aspect that distinguishes Texas Chainsaw 3D is Daddario's character. As the film opens, she's a beautiful introvert, with jet-black hair, midnight-hued eyeliner, and dark clothes that hug her hips and show just enough midriff. It's a horror movie, after all. "I had this initial idea to push her more toward The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," says Luessenhop. And it's easy to see why: After spending the movie's first half fleeing from Leatherface, Heather discovers her true calling and takes charge of the situation. Let's just say that she's got her work cut out for her if Texas Chainsaw 3D yields any sequels. "One thing I really do appreciate about this film is that I get to play a tough, strong woman," says Daddario. "I also get to play sort of a damsel-in-distress for part of it, but it's great to end on a much stronger note. That's not typically found in horror films."
Especially not the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in which Burns' Sally Hardesty character does nothing but run, shriek, and look incredibly traumatized once the proverbial shit hits the fan. "She's just so terrified and hysterical," says Daddario about '74 film's protagonist. "At the end, you just see her hysterically laughing because she's gone completely mad. My character gets to go mad in a completely different way."
Not all of the characters are as transgressive, however. As unique as Texas Chainsaw 3D is when compared to the franchise's other sequels, it's also replete with traditional horror tropes to keep the diehard fans satisfied. Case in point: Tania Raymonde's character, Nikki, who's barely on screen for ten minutes before she's lifting her shirt to show off her bright red bra. Hardly 30 minutes later, she's seducing Heather's boyfriend and reminding him about their past trysts. In that respect, Nikki harkens back to that age-old horror tradition of punishing the kinkiest female characters after sex.
Raymonde was up for playing the familiar type. "This is my first horror movie, so I figured, hey, if I'm going to be in a horror movie, then, fuck it, I'll play the stereotypical horror movie character: that venerable slutty best friend," says the 24-year-old actress. "It was an interesting challenge for me. She does get to be a badass with a gun in one key moment, so at least she's not a total ditz. But I understood what my place was in this movie. It's a horror movie tradition, so I was happy to play that part."
For both Daddario and Raymonde, Luessenhop's "grounded" approach was what excited them about the project. "It's always a very tricky thing to reboot a movie that's such a huge cult phenomenon," says Raymonde. "I have serious respect for the original, so that was my biggest concern: 'God, I really hope this will at least try to follow in the footsteps of the Tobe Hooper original.' So when they told me that they had Tobe Hooper's blessing and that they had some of the original cast members onboard, it showed me that they had a lot of respect for the material and they didn't want to just erase everything great that came before. They wanted to pay homage to all of that."