Written by Scott Kosar
Based on a Screenplay
Running Time: 1:38
R. Lee Ermey
While not having the same chills and frights the original had, this updated version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was still a good horror film in its own right.
A group of five teenagers are on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Texas, when they pick up a girl who is wandering on the roadside. She is mumbling something about 'they're all dead' and is so scared that she ends up shooting herself in the van. The teenagers are all obviously spooked, so they find the nearest phone to call the sheriff; and that's when their own nightmare begins. A group of cannibals sets upon the hapless youths and some horrible and grotesque things happen to them. Which one will survive the worst massacre in Texas history?
The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is rightly hailed as an all-time horror classic. Back when it was released in 1974, it was completely shocking, and the tagline 'based on a true story' had people truly frightened. The story is loosely based on the real life serial killer Ed Gein, who used to enjoy mutilating his victims, eating them, and making things out of their skin and other body parts, like lamp shades and belts. Ed Gein was also the basis of the killer Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, as well as Alfred Hitchcock's inspiration for Psycho. The man certainly got around. The character of Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is probably the character closest to the actual Ed Gein, since he runs around wearing a face mask made of someone else's face. In fact the most chilling scene in this version was when he looks straight at Jessica Biel's character while wearing the face of her boyfriend.
The original aside, the remake has a lot of things going for it. First off, it's a straight horror film. There are very few, if any, laughs in the movie. It starts off showing the happy-go-lucky kids, but immediately things take a downturn when they pick up the lonely girl on the road. Her suicide is extremely disturbing and sets the tone for the rest of the film. Regardless of whether or not you saw the original, I think people have seen enough horror films to know what's going to happen to these kids. It's not giving away anything to say that in almost all horror films, it's a woman that ends up living, while her friends tend to get slaughtered in horrible ways. What surprised me most about the film was that it wasn't really all that graphic. Sure every so often someone would get their brains blown out, or lose a limb to a chainsaw attack, but in reality, there were much more disturbing images in House of 1000 Corpses. This movie relied a lot more on the anticipation of the attack, rather than the attack itself. Gory violence isn't all that scary anymore to most movie fans; it's wondering what's going to happen next that has you jumping off your chair. And so while I was hoping for more graphic action (and some skin wouldn't have hurt eithere), I did appreciate the more psychological tone the movie set.
The acting was what you'd expect from a horror film. Jessica Biel, best known for her work on the hit show 7th Heaven, definitely broke out of that good girl image. I don't think Jessica was hired for her acting talents or her ability to scream, but more for her face, her body, and her willingness to wear a wet, white tank top. It amazed me how often she would suddenly fall into a pit of water, or have it start raining on her during the last half of the film. The rest of the teenagers had their normal horror film roles and were fine. The one character who had to live up to the original was of course Leatherface. The original Leatherface, performed by the legendary Gunnar Hansen, was this time acted by Andrew Bryniarski. The biggest problem I had with his performance wasn't that he was bad, but that the writer and director seemed to make a conscious decision to make Leatherface more human. At times it almost felt like we were supposed to feel sympathy for a man who enjoyed sewing human skin. We got to see his real face, eaten away by some skin disease, then hear the townsfolk talk about how sad it was. And when he gets hurt, we hear Leatherface almost start to cry. What's the deal with that? Here we have a truly hideous and brutal killer, and we're supposed to feel something for him? I don't think so. He is a monster, so keep him a monster. I thought that there was too much interaction with the sheriff, played by R. Lee Ermey. He had too much to do, terrorizing the kids in his own way. His scenes after a while tended to drag, and you started to wish we could get back to seeing Leatherface chasing Jessica around with his chainsaw at full blast. The rest of the Hewitt family was pretty nasty to look at, which was fun to see.
The look of the movie was the most important part to me. Lately, a lot of horror films have looked too clean, too nice, and it made the movie less creepy. The director and cinematographer did a good job of keeping everything washed out and grainy, to give the movie an eerie and sinister look. At times it was a little too dark, and the editing was done really quickly so it was hard to make out what was happening, but for the most part, the look of the film kept the macabre feeling throughout.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, if you're looking for some genuine chills, I'd give The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a shot. The use of the documentary opening and closing, along with the John Larroquette voiceover (he also did that in the original) made the movie seem more real, which in turn makes it that much more frightening.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre Series
The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection
Friday the 13th Series
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