After interviewing Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), sole survivor of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry) confronts the Sawyer family at the decrepit house where they shelter Leatherface (Dan Yeager). The tense stand-off escalates out of control when local big-shot Burt Hartman (Paul Rae) brings an armed posse who brutally gun down the entire clan save for a newborn baby. Years later, Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) discovers not only are her nasty mom and dad not her birth parents but she also had an aunt, now deceased who has bequeathed an inheritance. So Heather travels with boyfriend Ryan (R&B singer Trey Songz), flirty gal pal Nikki (Tania Raymond) and token wise-guy Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), picking up Darryl (Shaun Sipos), a handsome hitchhiker who may not be what he seems along the way, to a vast country estate where she uncovers dark family secrets and, lurking in the basement, the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface.
Naturally when you have sequelized, prequelized and rebooted Leatherface the only other avenue left to explore is (groan) 3D, though the meagre budget has forced the filmmakers to scale down on flying entrails. Save for a carnival sequence where Leatherface flings his chainsaw right at the viewer the stereoscopic effects prove even less memorable than those featured in Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982) all those years ago. Instead Texas Chainsaw 3D tries to pull off something along the lines of the cut-and-paste cleverness of Psycho II (1984). Scripter Adam Marcus, one-time director of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) and actress/co-writer Debra Sullivan with added input from writer Kristen Elms and director John Luessenhop re-stage key motifs in would-be offbeat and interesting ways. In an attempt to subvert traditional Texan family values the film runs with the theme that family should stick together no matter what. Even if your only family is a chainsaw-wielding maniac. However, the real moral of the story is if your dead granny leaves you an important letter you damn well better read it.
The plot bends over backwards to have Leatherface splatter as many people as possible (way more explicitly than in the original) while still trying to rationalize his new status as a tragic anti-hero. Unlike the innocent teens in the 1974 film, the new batch of victims are marked ripe for slaughter by virtue of various sins: from love cheats to duplicitous friends, thieves and outright villains. Like Rob Zombie's take on Michael Myers in the Halloween reboot this Leatherface is supposed to be semi-sympathetic, when he isn't slicing screaming girls open with his chainsaw. It is a muddled concept that tries to invest the slasher protagonist with the kind of tragic-romantic dimensions found in classic horror icons from King Kong to the Frankenstein Monster, but smacks of trite fan-boy justification for an irksome empathy with misogynistic murderers over their sexy teenage victims. The fact is, beyond an iconic image Leatherface has no personality. That was what made him scary in the first place.
Luessenhop opens with clips from and a post-script to Hooper's original film including fan-pleasing cameos from Gunnar Hansen, Bill Moseley and, towards the end, Marilyn Burns as Heather's grandmother. These have the unfortunate effect of diluting whatever mild shocks the film throws thereafter. Since we know from the get-go what grisly fate awaits these nubile ladies and buff boys, the film lacks suspense and Luessenhop singularly fails to weave an eerie atmosphere by recycling motifs that are wholly superficial: flash bulb edits, the dead armadillo by the roadside, low angles that ogle shapely female bottoms (looks like Michael Bay left his stamp on the franchise after all). For all the explicit bloodletting the shocks are ineffectual and predictable. Only one scene where Leatherface saws into a coffin containing the screaming Heather evokes any suspense. Even so, the conclusion is mildly intriguing and suggests there may be some mileage in the familial theme should Mazzacone get the sequels he clearly desires. Speaking of family, Scott Eastwood gets to face off against Leatherface and stay intact. Maybe since, crazy as he is, even Leatherface would never mess with Scott's famous daddy.