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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

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Plot Summary:
"On a trip through Texas to Mexico, a group of teens pick up the survivor of a massacre that took place the night before. They detour from their trip to take the girl to the nearest town, where they meet the local sheriff who is hell bent on capturing the girl's attackers. He decides to use the kids as bait to lure the chainsaw wielding maniac Leatherface out from rural Texas so he can put an end to his grisly reign. Unfortunately things don't go as planned, and when the kids' van breaks down at an old slaughterhouse, they are hunted down one by one."


Review by
Ryan McDonald
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@horrorasylum
Review Date: 16 October 2004 My Rating: out of 5

 

Several youngsters (including Jessica Biel, famous for that truly awful, preachy show '7th Heaven', and an irritating stoner dude who looks like Matt Stone) venturing to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in 1973 are terrorised by deranged, repulsive backwoods family, including chainsaw-wielding, possibly cannibalistic 'Leatherface'.

You know, for a movie that never ever should have been made, this 2003 remake is actually quite good. Even having Michael Bay as producer and being directed by a guy more known for music videos, and even being made in a more conservative (and PG-13 oriented) environment than the first film, this one really does work. However, you need to remove any connection to the original, because although there are similarities, this is not a minimalist, grindhouse horror pic. Instead we have a larger budgeted, slicker film that makes up for a lack of scariness with its impressive atmosphere. Most of this is due to cinematographer Daniel Pearl, the only returnee from the original (aside from narrator John Larroquette, taking a break from stealing scenes on 'The Practice'), and he goes an entirely different route to the original. This might annoy purists of Tobe Hooper's film, but c'mon, these people would never be satisfied anyway.

As for me, I respect the original and do indeed find it far more disturbing and effective than the remake, but the remake has its merits, too. For instance, whilst the younger characters in this film are pretty unimpressive, they are in some cases a vast improvement over the characters and acting of the original (Thank God the stoner dude isn't as nauseating as the wheelchair-bound guy from the original).

R. Lee Ermey steals the show as the surliest and most intimidating redneck sheriff you're ever likely to see. It's admittedly just Ermey doing his thing, but what's not to like about that? The guy who plays the thoroughly revolting wheelchair bound grandpa is also fun. Andrew Bryniarski fares less well in the all-important role of Leatherface. The film tries to humanise the character in a Norman Bates fashion that doesn't work. Leatherface is just supposed to be a unstoppable cannibalistic force with a chainsaw. Giving him depth betrays what makes Leatherface scary, much like what eventually happened to Michael Myers (Admittedly repetition was a big factor with the decline of the 'Halloween' films as well). Sadly, this means that the film is nowhere near as effective in terrorising (or traumatising) the audience. It works as horror, but not the same kind of horror as the original, perhaps.

Oddly enough, for a film apparently not meant to be 'as violent as the first film' (chortle, chortle), this remake actually delivers the goods on the gore front, moreso than most horror films lately. Kudos to the show-off but wonderfully nasty hole in the head scene. Pearl's cinematography and the wonderful sets give the film a lovely gothic feel and atmosphere, which is more in keeping with Hammer than Hooper's film. Not that I cared, I love this sort of stuff. Less impressive is the structure of the film, aside from the rather perfunctory sequence of events (it's a simple story anyway, so I won't mark it down for that), the bookends which attempt a true-crime feel. Unfortunately, they end up like a horribly tacked-on attempt to cash in on the success of 'The Blair Witch Project', which this film is otherwise very different from (and probably not as good).

OVERALL SUMMARY
Overall, for a film that shouldn't have been made, this flick works quite well if you take it as a modern B movie. And any film with R. Lee Ermey and a girl blowing her brains out in the first act, deserves to be seen at least once. Not great, but a lot better and more disturbing than I anticipated.



Reviewer: Steven Davies @braindeadsteve
Location:Luton, UK
Review Date: 26 March 2004 My Rating: out of 5

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a definitive cult horror. But I am all for remaking the classics. Or in this case a proposed re-imagining. But just how does Marcus Nispels' efforts stand out or even compare to the Tobe Hooper classic?

Well, it makes a pretty good attempt. The movie is awash with sick imagery, tension building sequences, disturbing locals and plentiful, but not excessive, gore. It all adds up to quite an entertaining and distressing piece of sick cinema. Great!

The mood and feeling of the movie practically from beginning to end is dark and benevolent. The opening scene proceeds with black and white grainy police footage of a recently discovered and ultimately unsecured crime scene. From here we are taken on a road trip to hell. Sorry if that sounds a little hackneyed but that is more or less what happens to this group of casual fun loving college kids.

On a return trip from a little pot scoring in Mexico and on their way to a concert the the gang run into a hitchhiker who unbeknowst to our heroes survived a horrific massacre from the night before. A chainsaw related massacre would you believe!

The initial scenes are creepy, tension building and extremely well executed (no pun intended people!) including the hitchhikers suicide scene. But unfortunately from here the moment we meet the new Leatherface (in a disappointingly less-shocking initial appearance) it all kind of gets a little less tense and little more run-of-the-mill and predictable.

There's screaming, running, hiding and great looking girls running around in small white wet t-shirts and all the usual hokum we expect. But that dark undercurrent and bizarre character behaviour continue to flow throughout.

Remake grievances then? Slow paced in the middle and a tad nonessential on occassions in the shock department. No implication of cannibalism. And why on Earth does a group of 70's teenagers all look like they've just dropped out of a Calvin Klein catalogue?

Praisables then? Hottie Jessica Biel running around in a tight t-shirt and looking generally hot all through. The welcome uneasiness and discomforting imagery and sequences. It kind of has that almost sickening and dirty inbred kind of quality. The remake has a welcome change of style that so many horror movies nowadays just can't parallel. And the unpleasantness of it all brings great hope for the future of the genre.

OVERALL SUMMARY
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre deserves applause for its genuinely great attempt at re-imagining and not ruining the reputation of the original in any form. The freakishly ghoulish community and inhabitants were terrifyingly disturbing and all performed extremely well. Most set pieces, locations, and apart from a few sequences were all well accomplished.



Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 26 October 2003 My Rating: out of 5

I managed to get tickets to a late night advance preview of the New Line Cinema remake of the classic Tobe Hooper film and for those of you who don't know that's a full six days before the UK release date of October 31st.

Starting off with the famous John Laroquette voice over accompanied by new footage of the aftermath, I was quickly under the impression that this was going to be very disturbing.

What I really enjoyed about the start of the main story was that we really got to know the characters, as first we see them having the time of their lives swimming in a lake and then we join them on their journey to a concert in Dallas in high spirits, as they have front row tickets. The dialogue really helps to set the attitudes of that era and lets us get into their skin as it were, with regards to their outlook on life in 70's America.

As in the original, they pick up a hitch-hiker which plays well with our expectations of the film and ends with some amazing camerawork. Without giving too much away, the kids need help and stop in Texas at a disgusting local store where the help ain't that good. What works well here is that fans of the original know what will probably befall the kids but we are forced to wait.

The friends soon split up, 2 go for help and 3 wait for the sheriff and that's when things get really scary.

The film retains a sense of grotesque dread present in the original, as the kids encounter the Hewitt house and it's grisly inhabitants in suitably grisly fashions.

The film works well on many levels. We care about the characters, the atmosphere is very creepy, it's dark in theme as well as aesthetically and surprisingly, a lot of the gore is still implied. There are also endless amounts of scary set pieces and Leatherface is relentless.

Whilst I never felt as scared as I had when viewing the original, I was definitely on edge throughout. The cast are excellent with Jessica Biel in particular doing her career a hell of a lot of good as the very strong and independent 'Erin', and R Lee Ermy provides another great turn as the sheriff, although I did feel that the excellent Eric Balfour was slightly wasted here.

Niggling aspects are the non-existent use of the cannibalism aspect, the creation of sympathy for the character of Leatherface and the fact that whilst the film retains a gritty feel, you can tell that it has all been designed that way.

On the plus side, the new crew get points for their good characterisation, their clever nods to the original, playing on audience expectations and the beautiful yet darkly poetic moments such as the crucifixion scene.

OVERALL SUMMARY
This film is very good but would have worked better had it not been described as a remake or even a 're-imagining'. Had this been part 5 and set in the 21st Century this would have been even better. In the end we are left with a very good film that will undoubtedly scare the living daylights out of a good few teenage girls (they were screaming and jumping with fear in my screening anyway) and bring the legend of Leatherface to a new generation. For everything it does right however, there is no escaping the fact that the original movie will remain a classic of the genre and try as they might it will never be topped.




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