Sixteen dollars. That’s how much it costs at the AMC Boston Common to watch a young woman smart enough to run from a maniac with a chainsaw but dumb enough to run in shoes with chunky heels. Sixteen dollars is how much it costs to watch this woman tire of falling down and hide in a coffin that, helpfully, has been left open but that’s made of one of a chainsaw’s favorite foods. Sixteen dollars is how much it costs to watch that chainsaw fly toward you in 3D and knife at your face, to watch it slice a spiky Southern boy, doing so with the endearing combination of grace and indelicacy that my grandmother applies to the carving of a desiccating turkey.
That much money gets you acting best described as “straight to DVD,” acting often associated with sketch comedy that has bad acting in its crosshairs, with the self-consciousness of reality-television personhood. Of course, that much money also gets you a camera itching to crawl inside one woman’s flared midriff top and the other’s (there are only two) short-short shorts. That much money gets you the scene in which she removes the shorts and seduces a character played by the singer Trey Songz, who’s credited by his full name — Tremaine “Trey Songz” Aldon Neverson — a name longer than his screen time, a name longer than almost any one line of dialogue.
Sixteen dollars makes it hard to understand how the woman in the chunky heels could bring herself to sympathize with the maniac with the chainsaw (and the ax and the skill to sew the skin of your face onto his) after he’s killed all of her friends. Sixteen dollars makes it hard to believe that the loony, gun-crazed mayor is that much more hateful than the maniac, even though whoever’s playing the silent, grunting maniac gives the better performance. Sixteen dollars makes it hard not to ask not only how she could bring herself to that level of sympathy but how she can continue to run for her life while wearing a shirt that she refuses to snap entirely closed.
Sixteen dollars. That’s how much it costs for another horror movie laid out in “Scooby-Doo” configuration — three dudes, two girls, a van — for another horror movie to stretch logic to torturous lengths, to promise a sequel that by the time the current installment has ended no one will want because even if it’s only half as inept and cynical that half would still be too much. Sixteen dollars is what it costs to discover that all the makers of “Texas Chainsaw 3D” cared about was getting your $16. That’s how much it costs to see the 1974 original — they’ve retired the “massacre” part — collapsed into this latest sequel’s opening credits, a movie you can rent for about $3. But $16 is how much it costs to discover that after those opening credits it’s $16 you’re annoyed you can’t have back.