Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Movie Review: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D - 8 Stars! No Spoilers...

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I liked this movie much more than I thought I would. I was thinking about where they could go with this "same old, same old"; I didn't really think that director John Luessenhop and his team had the go ahead to do something a little off base.

Wrong. What I got was actually an entertaining story that made you pay attention. That doesn't happen too many times in this genre of film. Sad that it doesn't happen more often but perhaps the times are changing.

Another thing - this movie introduces us further to many future movie stars. One of them is a sure fire thing - Scott Eastwood. Yes, that's Clint's son. And he's a dead ringer for him. He grabs the screen in the same fashion as his dad - just wait until he works out his own expressive nuances and he's golden. You can see huge improvements in his acting capabilities and pay attention to his character because it's important.

Another is Alexandra Daddario who first really stepped forward in the PERCY JACKSON franchise (the second movie SEA OF MONSTERS is in post right now). Other than being striking, she can also flip a switch and really amp up her acting chops. Although she does need to work on her horror movie "tripping skills". You'll know what I mean.

Here's the storyline for the movie:
TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D continues the legendary story of the homicidal Sawyer family, picking up where Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic left off in Newt, Texas, where for decades people went missing without a trace. The townspeople long suspected the Sawyer family, owners of a local barbeque pit, were somehow responsible. Their suspicions were finally confirmed one hot summer day when a young woman escaped the Sawyer house following the brutal murders of her four friends. Word around the small town quickly spread, and a vigilante mob of enraged locals surrounded the Sawyer stronghold, burning it to the ground and killing every last member of the family—or so they thought.

Decades later and hundreds of miles away from the original massacre, a young woman named Heather learns that she has inherited a Texas estate from a grandmother she never knew she had. After embarking on a road trip with friends to uncover her roots, she finds she is the sole owner of a lavish, isolated Victorian mansion. But her newfound wealth comes at a price as she stumbles upon a horror that awaits her in the mansion’s dank cellars.

So let's address our ratings categories one at a time shall we?

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Stereoscopic 3D - 88%. First of all I will let you know that this movie was shot in native 3D using 3ality Technica 3D camera rigs. So great pedigree there. However I found that the 3D could have been used much more effectively in many different scenes. The few that stand out for me are street level shots of the feminine and masculine wiles of the actors as well as the up close and personal chainsaw scenes which you will immediately see for yourself - they probably were CG effects regardless.

Ray Hannisian was the stereographer.

But more upsetting to me was the presence of what I call "Bright Illumination Fog". Whenever there was a bright light shining into the camera and more often in this movie, the sun's reflection on car's windshields there was a jarring fog that would appear on the screen and obscure the scene and break the suspension of disbelief for the audience - well, at least me. I know I am tuned in to things like this, but I REALLY despise this lack of detail. There is a scientific reason why this phenomenon happens which I won't go into right now, but it's easily solved by using a 2D to 3D conversion for those scenes. There are some things that conversion are simply better at and this is one of them. Don't get me wrong - I prefer native 3D currently, but unless this issue can be worked out within that scope - convert parts of it. Problem solved.

Visual / Special Effects / Stunts - 91%. For the most part was very well done and perhaps the best element of the whole production. Hats off to the team. Scenes were believable and that is HUGE. Recommend a stunt double for Daddario at times.

Cinematography - 84%. Again the total visual package lies with the Director and the Cinematographer (and Stereographer) and those Bright Illumination Fogs really get to me. Other than that, I thought the scenes were lit correctly and framed well. Nothing too much to take issue with here.

Sound / Score - 75%. Again, not much to comment on here. The closing credits were scored very well, but the rest of the movie was truly unremarkable - which is in most cases a good thing. You don't need to be taken out of the movie by noticing the music unless the director intends for you to be (like Tarantino). So an above average grade here because if you mess up with the score and sound, the whole movie drops immeasureably.

Directing - 78%. Luessenhop could have nailed this thing but didn't. He's above average I will say, but there were a number of errors that bother me. Follow Eastwood's character to the end of his arc and you will understand part of my concern. But listen - great job on the interesting story and character development that normally doesn't happen in this genre. Pacing was abrupt at times but successfully pushed the story forward.

Suspension of Disbelief - 76%. Some of the acting (especially in the early scenes) really do affect this grade. I need to be convinced of emotions and that wasn't happening in some scenes. When that blows up then I shake my head. However, once the movie got some steam up, the acting improved. Another inconsistency with Luessenhop I found.

Character Development - 82%. Well played.  Sure, some characters fell off (like the above mentioned Eastwood who played Carl) but overall it was a pleasure to watch. I won't give away details but suffice to say that even horror movies deal with humans and with that comes emotion and less than perfect lives. I like the attention to detail with several elements of Daddario's character Heather for example.

Acting - 74%. The early scenes were a mess pure and simple. They should have been shot those until the best results were achieved because I was not enjoying the movie from the get-go. But after 10 minutes or so it all picked up. I thought that Shaun Sipos (who plays Darryl) did an outstanding job and he should be going places. Look for a major break out role for this guy coming soon, I'm sure.

Story - 71%. THE most important element of a movie. Characters have to be who they are. They can't all make huge unexpected turns at once and not expect the audience to pick up on that and wonder "What the heck?". So yes, there were a few moments like that in the story. One involves Sipos' Darryl character and the rest of the group. You'll know it when you see it. It just wouldn't happen that way. Oh well. Nice character arcs though for both Daddario's Heather and Dan Yeager's Leatherface. As far as the acts are concerned, the first act suffered along. The second act picked up significant steam and the third act was satisfying - could have been better... but satisfying. In other words: Stick around. It'll be worth it.

Overall a great horror movie to go see on the big screen in 3D. TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D is now playing. I give the movie 8 stars out of 10.

Thanks so much to Empire Theatres for the screening! The projection was bright and the service awesome.

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Jim Dorey
jim (at) marketsaw (dot) com

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