The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Edit Post
Post a Comment

Directed by Marcus Nispel
Written by Scott Kosar

Rated R

Jessica Biel as Erin
Jonathan Tucker as Morgan
Mike Vogel as Andy
Eric Balfour as Kemper
Erica Leerhsen as Pepper
Andrew Byniarski as Leatherface
R. Lee Ermey as Sheriff Hoyt
David Dorfman as Jedidiah
Lauren German as Hitchhiker
Kathy Lamkin as Tea Lady

I am certainly in the minority, but I think the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an improvement over the 1974 original. Make no mistake, I admire Tobe Hooper’s vision, and without the original, there would no remake. But wow - this movie is scary!

The film’s trailer suggests it is “based on a true story.” In reality, it’s more based on actual events. Like Hitchcock’s Psycho, the film was inspired by the chilling true case of Ed Gein. In the 1950s, Gein was arrested for murder, and authorities found bones and human skin in his Wisconsin shed. His property was horror house of trophies from victims and dead bodies, stolen from local graveyards.

Marcus Nispel’s Texas Chainsaw takes place in Travis County, Texas, on August 18, 1973. Five young adults are en route to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert when they stop to pick up a hitchhiker (Lauren German). The disheveled young woman rambles about “the bad man,” and then shoots herself through the back of her mouth.

The suicide of the young hitchhiker is just the beginning of their nightmare. They are accosted by the demented Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey, mugging and over the top in his own special way). He is the leader of the Hewitt family, which includes, of course, Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski). Unlike the Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) in the original film, this Leatherface is more hulking and imposing, yet more human and vulnerable.

The biggest difference between the original and the successful remake is the tone and cinematography. Hooper’s version was grainy and shot like a documentary. The visceral aspect of fear was less present, as it was more like witnessing a sadistic account of brutal, gory events. This version is an all-stops-out horror film, with the sicko Hewitt family, and a kick ass heroine (Jessica Biel, in one of her best performances). Biel’s Erin is resourceful but terrified, gasping to comprehend the atrocities occurring to and around her.

Roger Ebert stated “there is not a shred of a reason to see it” in his review of this film. Indeed, he refused to award the film a star rating. As much admiration as I have for Ebert (and I typically agree with him as well), I’m on the other side of the fence, dancing through mental hoops of my own devising, as he would say here. This Texas Chainsaw is definitely violent, absolutely disturbing, and there are liberties taken in the story that differ between this film and the original film.

Personally, I was ready for Leatherface to catch up to Marilyn Burns in the 1974 film. Her incessant, irritating screaming reminded me of Fay Wray in the original King Kong. C’mon - who didn’t want the big monkey to toss her to her death just to shut her up? In all seriousness, the terrifying aspect of this film is the grim realism: it is a horror film, a visceral one. Before the age of the internet and cell phones, imagine five young twentysomethings fighting for their lives against a clan of brutal cannibals. Sound scary? It is.

Bonus: John Larroquette, narrator of the film, returns to narrate this film as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment