Friday, March 29, 2013

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Due to the forthcoming redux of The Evil Dead I feel the need to address the remake craze of classic horror films of the 70s and 80s that has plagued Hollywood since the early/mid 2000s. There were many floating around out there of varying types and of various qualities. Some I felt were warranted and others not so much. I mean, the point of remakes back in the day was to take a film that featured a great concept, character or story, but failed at making a good film and attempt to improve it. For the most part this was due to lack of talent behind the camera, the budget was too small, writers came up with a new spin on the material or the technology needed to tell the tale properly wasn’t in existence yet.

For example: the original The Amityville Horror featured a great central concept, but the film itself was trash. Therefore I didn’t balk when I heard that a remake was in the works for release in 2005. Sometimes the remakes don’t work out either, which is what happened in this case since it was just as crappy (to read my review click here).
Platinum Dunes, a production company run by Michael Bay that mainly focuses on remaking horror films and are primarily responsible for all the endless horror remakes we’ve seen for nearly a decade, has made a shit ton of these that began in 2003 with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and continues to this day.

Just like the original from 1974, the story deals with a group of friends on a road trip through the Texas countryside that clash with a crazy family of cannibals, one of which wears a mask of human flesh and wields a chainsaw… Leatherface.

The story is basically the same, only the bloodletting has been amped up considerably and intelligent storytelling has been kicked to the curb. Tobe Hooper’s original film was terrifying due to the fact that it featured no named actors to identify with and that it was violent without showing any gore. It was also a simple story that had a slight satirical edge along with the horror. The dinner scene remains burned into my memory due to how creepy and insane it was without having to resort to covering the table with bloody entrails and such.
That is not the case here. From the moment the movie starts we are shown nasty holes blown through people’s heads, bodies cut in half, limbs severed and guts and bone flying everywhere covered in generous amounts of blood. There is nothing scary going on here at all since it is all about going for the gross out and that is all. I’m sorry, but that does not make a movie for me. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy gory horror movies. When it’s the only reason for the film’s existence is where I draw the line (don’t even get me started on the prequel made a couple of years later).

There’s also a stupidity streak running through this flick a mile wide. Case in point: One victim is fleeing from Leatherface through his backyard which is filled with drying sheets fluttering in the breeze. This guy runs right into the villain’s chainsaw, which cuts his leg off in one swipe as if it were made out of butter. For starters, chainsaws are not fucking katanas. They are not razor sharp slicing devices. I can see Leatherface cutting into the dude’s leg initially and finishing the job once he falls to the ground, but when I saw him take the limb off in one swing I literally screamed “Fucking bullshit!” On top of that this poor sap couldn’t hear the chainsaw running from behind the laundry? Last time I checked those things were pretty damned loud even when they are just idling. Double bullshit.
The acting is pretty bad and I’m surprised Jessica Biel was given leading roles after this was released. She can’t even scream effectively. Her co-stars, especially Eric Balfour, are just as bad if not worse. The fact that Balfour (who was dating Biel at the time) still gets work baffles the mind; just check out his performance in Skyline. ‘Nuff said.

The only actor I give total props to in this travesty is R. Lee Ermey as the “Sheriff”. He is a blast to watch and looks like he’s enjoying every minute of being a villain. His co-evildoer, Andrew Bryniarski, gives an imposing physicality to the role of Leatherface but zero personality. I know it’s hard to do when you have no dialogue, but just look at what Kane Hodder did for Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood. His body language did wonders for the character and the fans ate it up. The filmmakers realized this and brought him back to play the part three more times.
The film has a cool look and atmosphere, but that’s pretty much the only aspect of the filmmaking process that director Marcus Nispel ever gets right. All the other movies he’s made suffer the same fate, be it Pathfinder or the remakes of Friday the 13th and Conan the Barbarian. He’s a talented visual stylist and as far as I can tell started the whole super contrasty look craze, but that’s all. He never seems to be able to coax good performances from his actors, film an action scene in a coherent way or even tell a story for the most part.

It’s a bad movie and a perfect example of a remake that was not even necessary. The original was a perfectly capable fright flick back in the day and still is despite being severely dated. They improved nothing and as far as I am concerned made the franchise even more of a joke than it had already become (ever see Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation?). The prequel that followed is even worse (why would you ever show Leatherface unmasked?!). Unfortunately it made a tidy profit and Platinum Dunes was given full reign to remake whatever film they saw fit… and they picked some doozies.

1.5 out of 5

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