Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Written by Scott Kosar
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Hoyt...R. Lee Ermy
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Those four words are enough to make nearly every horror movie fan titter with excitement and glee. Tobe Hooper's drive-in classic has become a beloved stape in the genre, and is among my absolute favorite horror flicks of all time. So when I had first learned that they were releasing a big budget remake, I was simultaneously thrilled and sickened. I mean, why remake such a seminal film when the original is still so beloved, and still so readily available?
However...it would be nice to see ol' Leatherface on the big screen again.
Five attractive young people (they're always young and attractive, aren't they?) are en route to Dallas for a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. Somewhere along the way--in a town that can only be considered The Middle of Nowhere--they stop to pick up a hitchiker. She is badly shaken, possibly wounded, and very likely mentally deranged. As their van heads in what the girl insists is the wrong direction, she loses her shit, pulls a hand gun out of Felix the Cat's magic bag (meow!), and blows her fucking head off.
Enter the sheriff of this 2-bit town, an unshaven rough-and-tumble asshole named Hoyt who would give Dirty Harry pause. His investigation into the death of this young girl seems less concerned with determining the reason and cause, and more concerned with scaring the piss out of the youngsters. Well that, and giving his mutant nephew with the funny face someone to play with.
You know the rest, and if you don't, you need only read the title of the film to figure it out.
The actors all did fine jobs, including Jessica Biel (A hot chick with solid acting chops? Step aside Jessica Alba. You too, Megan Fox!), and the cinematography was excellent. If you're not paying attention, you could miss it--but there is some beauty hidden beneath all that bloodshed.
Initially, I was slightly unforgiving of this film. This wasn't my Chainsaw Massacre. This was the flashy-pants Chainsaw Massacre of a new generation. A generation who wouldn't know true horror if it jumped out of the closet and stabbed them in the face.
But more and more I came to realize that even though this wasn't my Chainsaw Massacre, it was still a Chainsaw Massacre, and that's still a hell of a cool thing to be. Since Leatherface has been the only constant character in all of the original TCM series, if I were so inclined, I could view this as merely another of his zany adventures, as opposed to a literal remake, and that makes it much easier to stomach.
Granted, one can not watch this film without comparing it to the original--it simply can't be done. And in that battle of the chains, there is no contest. The original walks away the winner every damn time.
Sure, this version has a bigger budget and better acting, and on a technical level it makes the original seem like amateur hour. Yes, this version isn't quite so over-the-top. And yes, this version features a grim and gritty locale that makes you need a shower just by watching it. But it's such a glossy version of grime and grit, such a stylized attempt at raw and unbridled horror, that you never forget you're watching a movie.
Showing the violence and the gore in such an in-your-face method may cause you to turn your head in disgust, and it may even cause you to jump a little in shock. But once it's done, it's done. It does not linger with you. This is what the original has over the remake--no matter how many times I see it, if watched in the proper setting, I walk away with a general feeling of unease that clings to the reptilian recesses of my brain and won't let go.
It may not be pretty. But it's pretty damn effective.
Still, taken in its own right, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a hell of a trip, one that deserves to be judged of its own accord, without prejudice of the greatness that came before.
Well, as best as possible, anyway.
Hell, it's ten times better than most of the sequels, at least.
"You're so dead you don't even know it!"