The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Ebert: Zero San Francisco Examiner: TV Guide:
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
For some reason that I don't quite understand the reviewers don't seem like this remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In fact they hate it. Ebert's review is so disparaging that you'd think he believes that they made the film just to upset him. I think the problem is the same as the issue that everyone seems to have with the new Star Wars films. They believe any attempt to remake something considered sacred to be heresy. History has apparently been revised to the point where people now consider the original 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be some sort of hallowed masterpiece.
These people and their hypocritical opinions sicken me. Back in 1974 reviewers thoughts toward the film were "Revolting!" and "A waste of time!" Now they're saying the same things or worse about the remake while at the same time praising the original as high art and the groundbreaking definitive work of the horror genre.
I for one have always liked the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As you can see in this picture of me receiving the DVD for Christmas last year, I was already a fan long before I even knew they were making a remake. It's not my favorite horror movie but it's great for what it is. I even like the sequel with Dennis Hopper.
This new version is not a remake so much as a update that was inspired by the original. It still takes place in 1973 and the kids look like they just walked off the set of That 70's Show or Dazed and Confused. There are however, anachronisms here and there (at one point someone tells Leatherface to "bring it" and the dismembered head of Harry Knowles is on display in the basement kill-room at the farmhouse) that end up sort of putting the film out of time completely. So the most important thing to remember about the film is that it's more of a tribute than a remake.
The story is basically the same. Group of kids pick up deranged hitchhiker who leads them to a demented family of weirdo cannibals who happen to have a crazy disfigured son who used to work the killing floor at a slaughterhouse and now carves up stupid lost travelers with his chainsaw and feeds them to the family.
The director of the 1974 version was Tobe Hooper who went on to direct classics like Poltergeist and Salem's Lot. The director of this version is Marcus Nispel who has previously directed primarily music videos. It is a common and tired trend for arrogant film reviewers to say bad things about directors who learned their craft by helming music videos. Their rapid fire editing technique that has crept into mainstream movies is considered to be the downfall of modern cinema. I hate this criticism as well and think that the problem lies more in the fact that people who tirelessly cling to all the old movie making techniques just can't process information as fast as contemporary society. If you can't keep up then quit. We don't need you along for the ride whining from the back seat that we're going to fast.
The gore in this movie is way over the top. The original Chainsaw actually has very limited gore compared to current horror and action films. This movie though takes it's grossness to the extreme. Leatherface's basement killing room, the family's farm house, mobile home and gas station, the old run down slaughterhouse and the the kids van after the hitcher messes it up are all gag inducing. Almost the entire movie takes place in conditions so filthy and unsanitary you feel as if you might catch a disease just from watching it.
The actors all do a good job. The kids make for perfect dopey sexy teenage stoner chainsaw-fodder. Jessica Biel does a great job as the durable lead girl who will make it through to the end if the story stays true to the original. The rest of the cast all go out with style. Andrew Bryniarski does fine as Leatherface. If you're a big guy who can run with a chainsaw while wearing a mask and squeal and grunt like a pig then you are perfectly equipped for this role. My old pal R. Lee Ermey (The drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket) hams it up as the Sheriff who's just as crazy as everyone else in town since they're all part of the same sick twisted clan. And the supporting players who make up the family are all disgusting in their own special ways. It looks like they cast those roles with a bunch of carnival employees and side show freaks. And finally, reprising his first acting gig from the original Massacre, John Larroquette returns as The Narrator.
Is the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre worth watching? It depends. Did you like the first film? If so then yes, just don't act all snobby and pretend that the original was so much better. The 1974 version was made with an obvious shoestring budget while this new version actually spent a little money to gross you out. Respect the effort and see it for the nauseating fun of it.