Number one at the box office but surely less than so in our hearts, Texas Chainsaw 3D’s $21 million opening weekend proved a success for distributor Lionsgate and director John Luessenhop. As a horror franchise entry, Texas Chainsaw 3D is middle of the road fun, strictly for the already converted fanbase. It’s both an homage fest and an opportunity for something new, and the final act takes some chances that I didn’t see coming. As is often the case with these mainstream scare flicks, the cast is compromised of young, good-looking up-and-comers hoping to gain some exposure for better A-list projects in the future.
Less reported on is the exposure it provides for co-star Trey Songz, a twenty-eight year old hip hop artist here making his feature film debut. As evidenced by Halloween: H20 (LL Cool J), Halloween: Resurrection (Busta Rhymes), Freddy VS Jason (Kelly Rowland), and Seed of Chucky (Redman), modern horror films tend to welcome black artists with open arms. Often these artists aren’t trying to play against their musical personas, but rather use the art of cinema to enhance them.
Texas Chainsaw 3D continues the reciprocity, casting Songz – real name Tremaine Neverson – as the highly muscular boyfriend of our heroine, Heather (Alexandra Daddario), a slim Caucasian actress resembling Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Songz’s character, Ryan, is beyond stock (he’s not just there to fill the African-American victim quota), but not without moral confusion and questionable judgment. As Ryan agrees to accompany his girlfriend on a ride to Texas to sort out some pretty eye-rolling legal documents left over by Heather’s dead grandmother, the couple’s two friends, Nikki and Kenny (Tania Raymonde and Keram Malicki-Sanchez) tag along for the road trip.
Stopping at a convenience store along the way, Nikki, a character so scantily dressed her backside pops out in 3D, grabs Ryan’s genitals and jokes “price check!” As he informs her that it was just a drunken one time thing, Ryan is revealed to be a promiscuous, two-timing womanizer.
In a movie where all of the young ladies are sexualized, Songz’s casting is meant to provide eye candy for his fans – he’s introduced sweaty and shirtless – and his appeal influences his characterization. It’s not until the film later has him cheat on his girlfriend again that we wish for his forthcoming demise.
Nikki tempts him with alcohol and nudity, of course, and who is he to refuse?
Songz gets to have his cake and eat it too. He is allowed to play the ultra male and the ultra victim; it’s not everyday that pop singers agree to a movie which allows them to market their appeal and then off them because of it.