Sunday, January 15, 2012


I remember in the summer of 2003, I went to see Michael Bay's BAD BOYS II with my family. I was about 13 years old at the time, and about to enter my freshman year of high school. Sure, it was entertaining for a 13-year old boy, but what I will never forget about that movie experience was the trailer that played beforehand. It was for Marcus Nispel's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and the trailer alone scared the crap out of me. Being someone who had loved and seen all the HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, SCREAM, and CHILD'S PLAY films, I decided it was time to broaden my then-young horror scope and get into some Leatherface.

My mom hated the story of the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, and she remembers being young and just hearing the story from one of her friends, and having subsequent nightmares because of it. While I could not get my hands on a copy of the original film without my mother knowing (this was before Netflix and Hulu, folks), I eagerly anticipated the remake. Just watch the trailer - you'll see what I mean about building anticipation!

Finally, after much persuasion and nagging, I got my dad to take me to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - the Monday after its opening weekend (where, might I add, it broke box office records on its way to make over $80 million domestically). And boy, was I not disappointed in what I saw. For its time of the early 2000s, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was like the perfect horror movie - it was tense and suspenseful, thrilling and scary, bloody and gory, and down-right action packed. From the moment when Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) busts out and swings his chainsaw around the room in an assault on Erin (Jessica Biel) and Andy (Mike Vogel), there is not a moment in the film that misses a beat.

Over time, I came understand that my taste in horror is too vast to literally decide upon a "perfect" horror film (I believe, however, that the original Halloween, BLACK CHRISTMAS, and of course the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, among others, are pretty damn close to perfect). Really, the 2003 showing of Leatherface is nothing more than a thrill-ride, with little substance to make it stand the test of time like its original counterpart (now, not even 10-years later, it's starting to feel a little dated). But despite its flaws, it is a highly enjoyable remake of a film that - with such a distinct style and infamy - is nothing easy to remake.

The same basic plot as the original movie plays out - five clueless hippies fall into the clutches of a chainsaw-wielding maniac and his equally psycho Texas family members. But make no mistake, the 2003 film is a totally different beast than the 1974 film. It is hard to compare them because they are so different in approach, style, and priorities. The film tries to give more background to the characters, ultimately losing some of the mystery behind the horror that made the original so disturbing.

While the film is not as violent and gruesome as other films to follow (the SAW films are much worse, as are most of the remakes such as THE HILLS HAVE EYES and HALLOWEEN, and even this film's own prequel, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING), it still is not a pretty sight and gore-hounds should get their fill of slasher torture-porn. The big draw to the movie are the incredible set-pieces, such as Biel running through a meatpacking factory or two of the characters inspecting the family's home while Leatherface ominously watches.

Aside from a decent leading lady performance by Biel, the rest of the cast is enjoyable and has fun with their characters - bringing their fear onto the screen. Mike Vogel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, and Eric Balfour all do playing the normal slasher-fodder, as most of the film weighs on Biel. Bryniarski is a fine Leatherface, although everyone will still probably agree that the original's Gunnar Hansen remains the king of the role. Still, Bryniarski is the best thing to wear a mask made of human flesh and swing a chainsaw since Hansen's iconic performance, and he is all the terror he needs to be. The real show-stealer is R. Lee Ermy, who plays the sadistic Sheriff Hoyt. You'll laugh at him while also trembling at him. Think FULL METAL JACKET without any rules.

Now that we're in 2012, a new breed of Leatherface is being released for the new generation - in the fall, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D will be released to the 3D fans. The news buzzing around the next chapter of the franchise is interesting (the most interesting being that it is a direct sequel to the 1974 original), but it makes me want to revisit the franchise in the same way that the release of the 2003 film made me have an immense interest in the 1974 classic.

So watching it after all these years, it's easy to see that it is far inferior to the original movie and will not be remembered with the same strong support, but it does what it sets out to do - revisit a classic, modernize it, and make a more thrilling movie. After looking at the dozens of remakes that it's success spawned, I can honestly attest that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best of the bunch. A true piece of 2000s horror movies!

Saw (2004)

No comments:

Post a Comment