Anyone Going to the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
I'm going to see it this weekend. Anyone else?
Here's a pretty decent review of the film.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (2003)
A Film Review by James Berardinelli
United States, 2003
U.S. Release Date: 10/17/03 (wide)
Running Length: 1:31
MPAA Classification: R (Violence, gore, profanity)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, Andrew Bryniarski, R. Lee Ermy, David Dorfman, Lauren German
Director: Marcus Nispel
Producers: Michael Bay, Mike Fleiss
Screenplay: Scott Kosar, based on the 1974 screenplay by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper
Cinematography: Daniel Pearl
Music: Steve Jablonsky
U.S. Distributor: New Line Cinema
The 2003 version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is less a remake of the 1974 cult classic than it is a re-interpretation. The difference may seem like a matter of semantics, but it's actually crucial to how the film is viewed. In a direct comparison, the slicker 2003 edition fares poorly, but, seen as a conventional, contemporary horror movie, it's a solid production. There are plenty of the expected elements of the genre, including "boo!" moments and instances when characters do exceedingly stupid things. And, despite keeping the setting in 1973, the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre eliminates some of the cheesier aspects of the original (dialogue about astrology and the infamous "dinner scene") and adds a few things of its own.
In 1973, Tobe Hooper and his cast and crew went out in the Texas heat and filmed a low-budget thriller that has long been regarded by fans as one of the great horror staples. (Personally, I find John Carpenter's Halloween, which was made a few years later on a similar budget, to be more persuasive, compelling, and scary.) Over the years, three sequels followed, each worse than its predecessor. (Isn't that the way it always seems to be with horror films?) With this movie, the filmmakers decided that the best way to resuscitate the franchise was to reboot it for the MTV-weaned generation. (Few in a 2003 audience will "get" that Leatherface is loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein.) Enter music video director Marcus Nispel and producer Michael Bay.
The 2003 picture uses only the framework of the original. Most of the details are different. The most tangible link between the films is cinematographer Daniel Pearl, who worked on both. The creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere of the first is effectively re-created here, although a lot more of this movie takes place in the darkness. Plus, there's a bookending sequence that cribs directly from The Blair Witch Project. The opening voiceover narration is again provided by John Laroquette.
It's August 1973 and five college-age friends are on a road trip through Texas. They are Erin (Jessica Biel) and her long-time boyfriend, Kemper (Eric Balfour); Andy (Mike Vogel) and his squeeze-of-the-moment, Pepper (Erica Leerhsen); and pot king Morgan (Jonathan Tucker). Things start to go wrong when they nearly run down a dazed girl who is wandering in the middle of a road. They invite her into the van and offer to take her anywhere. At first, she is unresponsive, but she soon begins babbling. Then, after a moment's hysteria, she pulls out a gun and shoots herself in the head. Panicked and needing to dispose of the corpse, the five friends seek out the local sheriff (R. Lee Ermy), who turns out to be more deranged than helpful. And, when Kemper and Erin go in search of aid at a nearby, run-down mansion, they encounter Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski), a killer who wears the faces of his victims to hide his own deformities. After butchering Kemper and chasing Erin, Leatherface goes after the other three with the help of members of his bizarre, cannibalistic family.
Although Leatherface is the murderer (he runs around cutting people up with his chainsaw), the real villain wears a more human face. Character actor R. Lee Ermy, who typically plays bellicose individuals (such as the drill sergeant in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket or the nasty boss in the remake of Willard), has tapped into the root of evil for this remarkably twisted performance. Ermy is frightening - far more scary than the hulking Andrew Bryniarski, who, without the chainsaw, would be easy enough to ridicule. Ermy oozes contempt and sadism, and there isn't a moment when he's on screen that he doesn't command our full attention.
As is often the case in horror movies, the victims are less interesting than the stalkers. The 15-minute setup before the suicide gives us an opportunity to find out a few things about each of the characters, but the only one who survives long enough for the background to mean anything is Erin. Jessica Biel does a nice job portraying this terrorized young woman (you can feel her fear during the slaughterhouse sequence), but I have to wonder if the wet tee-shirt was necessary. Erin, who spends the majority of the film running and screaming, gets an opportunity for empowerment towards the end.
The film's splatter content is restrained, at least by slasher/horror film standards, and the intent seems to be to concentrate more on shocks than gore. There are instances of humor, most (if not all) of which seem to be intentional, but director Nispel consciously avoids the jokey, self-referential approach that has been apparent in many post-Scream horror movies. The higher production values rob this Texas Chainsaw Massacre of some of the eerie immediacy of its first incarnation. Nevertheless, after the slow, deliberate start, there's plenty to keep both casual horror viewers and die-hards involved. There's nothing extraordinary or groundbreaking here, but the film delivers with enough consistency to warrant a qualified recommendation for those seeking a few extra scares at this time of the year.