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Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (2003)

· 98 minutes

Directed by Marcus Nispel
Written by Scott Kosar, Tobe Hooper, Kim Henkel

 · Jessica Biel
 · Eric Balfour
 · Andrew Bryniarski
 · R. Lee Ermey

Review by Donnie

I had a terrifying and somewhat traumatizing experience with a chainsaw wielding madman a few years back. Well... okay, he probably wasn't a madman, just a guy who was working at a haunted house that a friend and I were visiting on Halloween night. There were four of us all together: me, a female friend of mine, and two unknown girls that they had paired us up with on our jaunt through the spook house. I was in the lead as we walked into the final room before the exit door, and somewhere to my right I heard the ultra loud roar of a chainsaw starting up. I turned, and there was Mr. Haunted House Employee, jumping out of the shadows and waving the potentially deadly instrument around. I was so freaked out that I suddenly became a horror cliché and stumbled backwards, falling flat on my ass. I immediately leapt to my feet, images of a hundred grisly movie deaths flying through my mind, and bolted straight out the exit door, leaving the three defenseless girls behind to face their deaths. This horrifying incident proved two very important things to me: 1) I've seen way too many scary movies and therefore believe I really might die in a haunted house, and 2) I'm no knight in shining armor.

It was this experience that kept playing in my mind as I watched the new remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I kept shouting psychic advice to all of the characters, thinking Run! For god's sake, just leave your friends behind to die and RUN! If a deformed madman who had an infatuation with slicing off human flesh was chasing me, you can bet I would run until I was all the way to Mexico if I had to. Then again, we wouldn't have much of a movie if the characters listened to me, now would we?

Let it be said that I saw Tobe Hooper's original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and all 3 of its sequels) many, many moons ago and really don't remember a thing about it. I know it's considered by many to be a horror classic, but usually I think that the critically acclaimed horror classics are boring crapathons, so that doesn't hold much weight with me. I really did want to watch the original again before seeing the remake to give my review a little more oomph, but I simply didn't get around to it. Therefore, I went into this version with no real expectations and no means of comparing it to the original.




This film has the ultimate slasher movie plot, which basically means that you could map out the entire 90 minutes in your head before you walk into the theater. A group of 5 friends on their way back from Mexico get involved in a tragedy of sorts on the roadway. They drive around the small town looking for the sheriff so they can report the incident, but instead run into a household of freaks and murderers. The son of the household is the infamous Leatherface, a demented freak who likes to skin his victims and use their flesh to make a mask that covers his hideous face. Oh, and did I mention that he really loves his chainsaw?

What comes after the setup is much more like your typical slasher movie than what I expected. From the film's trailer (which was one of the best of the year in my opinion), I was expecting something with more of a documentary feel and not your usual Friday the 13th-esque gory fun. But instead we get the same old barrage of cheap scares, cars not starting, characters doing really stupid things, etc. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I have a feeling this isn't what the original film had in mind and that this version is set up more for today's audiences. There's also a hell of a lot more gore, a warning for the squeamish people out there.

Aside from the somewhat ho-hum script, the movie is wonderfully shot, in a gruesome sorta way. Everyone and everything in this movie just looks like it smells, and I don't mean that in a bad way. This film takes place in the early 70s, and frankly, whenever I see anything made in the 70s it always kind of looks like the people have BO and the entire atmosphere is just icky. The cinematography in the movie captured that brilliantly, though I was certainly glad it didn't come with Smell-O-Vision.

Then there are the performances, and in this type of film that's what can determine what sort of experience you end up with. If you have good actors they'll ground the material in a frightening reality, but if you have amateurs you're going to end up with a cheesy campfest. All of the actors here turn in good performances, but I was especially impressed with Jessica Biel of 7th Heaven fame. I didn't expect much out of the former WB starlet, but she did an excellent job at acting completely terrified throughout the picture. That's not the kind of feat that wins Oscars, but it shouldn't be easily dismissed either. R. Lee Ermey, who I will forever remember from Full Metal Jacket, also steals his fair share of scenes as the sadistic sheriff of the small town.




I recently read Roger Ebert's review of this film, and he basically made it sound like sitting through it is akin to getting your soul sucked from your body and pulled through the mud for 90 minutes. Is this a gruesome, relentless rollercoaster ride of a slasher flick with a shred of a plot and no redeeming social value? Yes. Is it a remake of a "classic" that no one was asking for a remake of to begin with? Yes. Does this make it an abomination of modern cinema? Not in my eyes, it doesn't.

Truth be told, I had a lot of fun sitting through The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, especially with an energetic audience that screamed and hollered at the screen throughout the picture. This is a fun, gory little romp for those who can appreciate the "teens getting killed" genre. It may be mindless, but that doesn't mean you can't have a good time. It's the perfect sort of thing to drag your significant other to, even though they might hate you afterwards if they can't handle the sight of limbs being hacked off. (And yes, I'm speaking from personal experience here. Hopefully I'll be forgiven soon.)



Overall, this film didn't really live up to its awesome trailer, but I still enjoyed it on a brainless gorefest kind of level. I'm not sure original TCM purists would find much value in it, and it's certainly not for the squeamish or those looking for subtle, intelligent horror. But hey, sometimes you just want to go to the theater and see a movie where you can yell "Leave your friends for dead and just run, you dumbass!" without coming off as a complete psycho. That was good enough for me.

1184 Words · Published: 19 October 2003

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