The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
by Josh Gloer
Raves for this gory remake…
Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the scariest movies ever made; and then it was remade, and remade again, and the third times wasn’t exactly the charm as director Marcus Nispel’s attempts to recreate the 1974 horror classic. While shock noises, intense killings and a scantily clad Jessica Biel made this version entertaining, it failed to reach the height of terror portrayed in Tobe Hooper’s original.
The tale told in this 2003 rendition was much the same as its predecessors as several road tripping teenagers stumble upon the wrong house at the wrong time. Their ill timed arrival at the house led them into the hands of the Hewitt family, and their son Thomas a.k.a. “Leatherface” portrayed by through the body language of Andrew Bryniarski. Again, much like the 1974 classic, this version portrays the graphic and gruesome deaths as one by one the teens are senselessly slaughtered to satisfy the deranged Thomas as he acquires skin to cover up his own deformities.
However, the two versions differ significantly beyond the nuts and bolts of the plot. A hitchhiker, obviously in a state of complete hysteria, commits suicide in the Kemper’s (Eric Balfour’s) van. When the teenagers stop for help, they quickly realize that this is not a normal part of Texas as they are told they must meet the Sheriff at the old mill out in the middle of no where. Upon their arrival, the kids befriend the odd and obviously abused Jedidiah (David Dorfman) who tells them where the Sheriff lives. In a quest to call police to retrieve the suicide victim, the group splits up, and the slaughtering begins as they attack, flee and just attempt to survive their assailant’s meat hooks, sewing machines and chainsaws. Erin (Biel) manages to escape, only to be brought back to the evil’s point of origin, but sees her opportunity to do some good as she rescues a stolen baby, and runs the murdering Sheriff over three times. The film ends in a bookend style as the investigation footage vaguely depicts Leatherface hacking up the police on the scene.
Unfortunately, it is some of these differences that keps this film from reaching its potential as a true terror flick. Rather than a family, isolated in the Texas countryside, screenwriter Scott Kosar’s adaptation allows the insanity to spread as it seems that the whole town has been infected with Leatherface’s madness. Sheriff Hoyt, played by famous vocal harasser R. Lee Ermey, is only one of several town citizens who seem to lead the unfortunate youth toward the Hewitt household. This addition gave the film a sort of X-Files conspiracy at a carnival feel as more and more people were involved. The set design, while extremely weird and eerie, seemed to be a contest to make each scene more bizarre than the last as odd dolls, jars with strange contents and skulls in junkyards surrounded the unfortunate victims through their last minutes. Where this seemed effective in the original, this newer version seemed like it had been given the “Hollywood Treatment” as the weirdness went a bit over the top. This style of set design along with an attack on Leatherface with a butcher knife, and Jedidiah’s assist in the escape makes this film seem more like Nightmare On Elm Street than a true tale of murder. Finally, while the bookend style was interesting, it seemed to be a direct rip off of The Blair Witch Project, as the camera falls to the floor eluding that the cameraman has been murdered leaving the audience cheated as this ending has been seen before.
What made the 1974 Massacre so extremely terrifying wasn’t the use of special effects or fancy camera tricks, but rather the simple notion that this actually occurred. The audience looked on in complete horror as these ordinary kids lost their lives in ways so terrible it didn’t seem possible for them to be fiction. Unfortunately, this realism was completely lost in this most recent film as it inherited a slasher film slant. While it is definitely entertaining, and worth a viewing, if you like the original, you might want to hold off until this Massacre reaches the video store shelves.
Josh Gloer is one of our LA staffers. He is a screenwriter working his way up the Hollywood ladder.
Got a problem? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org