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Face-Off: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Vs. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

10.01.2012by: Mike Catalano
Well, with the largely negative response to the victor of our last Face-Off, I can only think one thing: you all need to watch DISTURBING BEHAVIOR again! Oh, I'm only half kidding. I know THE FACULTY is still an enjoyable flick.

Today's Face-Off was inspired because of the recently released first Trailer for the new TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D. Seeing as how it looked exactly like the other two "new" incarcerations of Leatherface that have hit the big screen in the 2000's, we thought it was time to compare the new to the old. And what better, more precise versions to battle it out than the 1974 original against its 2003 remake? And, sorry to any of the instant naysayers that may immediately start barking about how there's no way you can compare Tobe Hooper's classic to that trash Platinum Dunes remake, but that updated version is a very competent homage to its source material and finds ways to enhance the story even more. Just read on and see...

Hotties
Since the original was made in the 1970's, we have to take into account what truly comprised a hottie back then. It was all about real figures and nothing plastic, and Marilyn Burns and Teri McMinn definitely fit the bill nicely. The graceful shot of McMinn's backside as she is sauntering up to Leatherface's house is a classic. Burns is a helluva hot screamer, however, said beauty does not become enhanced the grimier she gets towards the film's close.
Yeah, this category is pretty much no contest. It's not enough that you've got Jessica Biel, who is quite possibly the hottest actress in the biz, but as an added bonus, there's genre hotties Erica Leerhsen as the spicy "Pepper" and Lauren German who even looks cute as a dirty, sobbing runaway. And in case you aren't sure what I meant about still looking great despite getting all grimy, just check out Ms. Biel and how she fills out that tank top as she gets progressively dirtier and wetter. I'm sure Leatherface's chainsaw was standing straight up.
Kills
What's truly horrifying about the kills in the 1974 original is how unsettling and real they feel. Look no further than the flick's first death as Leatherface rapidly appears from behind a door and bashes Kirk in the head. It's not so much the initial blow that sends chills as it is the manner with which Kirk starts convulsing and twitching on the ground after he's brained. The other deaths don't even show much blood, yet somehow, don't need to. Whether it's Pam being jammed down into a hanging meat hook or Jerry getting the business end of a chainsaw, the sounds and the actor's movements are what stick with you. And, of course, the Hitchhiker getting mowed down by the truck is a visceral treat.
I feel the 2003 remake kind of screwed up with the kills here. Not that they don't take advantage of the huge chainsaw that Leatherface carries. The kills just don't feel as shockingly real as they do in the original. Maybe they should have gone with the modern R-rated horror movie idea of throwing in tons more blood? Hell, we don't even see Pepper getting chainsawed. It's done from a way far off distance and feels like a let down. I will say that Morgan getting hung up and then chainsawed up through the nuts did produce an uncomfortable, if rather unrealistic, cringe.
Hitchhiker
Talk about one f*cked-up, goofy, stuttering weirdo! The van's passengers clearly feel right away that they should not have picked this guy up. He smells like a slaughterhouse and knows a little too much about the killing of cows. By the time he's happily cutting himself and taking their picture, you pretty much know they're about to get into some freaky shit. What does he do next? Oh, he merely starts a fire and slices the arm of another passenger. Finally, the kids throw him out of the van and speed off, but not before that hitchhiker smears his bloody hand across the side of their automobile. F*cking psycho!
This was an interesting and believable twist on the original's version of the "drifter on the road". Genre cutie, Lauren German, does an amazing job in the total non-vanity role as a sobbing, fearful girl who possibly recently endured some type of medical procedure. She's much more of a straight-forward forewarner of the madness that is to come, but German's top-notch performance makes it work. You're utterly shocked when she whips out a gun and proceeds to blow the back of her head out. It's a jarring scene and an ideal way to kick off the madness.
Scares
The stark, real feel of this film really assists in terms of the scare department. Seeing as how this was one of the first slashers ever in modern cinema, it didn't have to worry about adhering to any basic horror movie cliche rules, which is most likely why it ended up being so hardcore. Whenever Leatherface is onscreen, he truly frightens with his psychotic appearances and gestures. And when it gets dark, trust me, you almost feel the need to close your eyes for fear of what may pop out of the darkness. This film scares both physically and psychologically.
Andrew Bryniarski does a fantastic job of imbuing his Leatherface with a frightening, hulking stature. Whenever he's onscreen wielding his chainsaw, shrieks ensue with ease. However, that's the only facet of the fear spectrum that he seems to possess. There's no big-time, disturbing edge that slices through the back of your mind, sending an ominous chill down your spine. I guess, it's the kind of scary that every other modern horror flick goes with.
Ending
This 1974 original sure has one weird and crazy ending to go along with all the madness that ran before it. You've got Marilyn Burns literally screaming for the final 10 minutes, which could either be construed as annoying or pure genius. I feel it's a helluva way to sum up her character's feelings at this point. Plus, you're nearly certain that she's never going to get away and at the end you're probably as shocked as she is as she is escaping in the back of that pickup. And let us not forget Leatherface's poetic (psychotic?) dance with the chainsaw that closes out the film. It doesn't make great sense and I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to. The damn thing is just nuts.
I will say this: in terms of storytelling, suspense, and creating an honorable remake to its source material, the 2003 version offers up a very fantastic finale. There's no over-the-top screaming, no oddly mummified granddad, no abrupt ending. We get Jessica Biel doing her darndest to escape as well as save the baby that was unluckily born into Leatherface's clan. In the process, she takes out R. Lee Ermy's funny, but son-of-a-bitch character by running him over... twice! And, just so we don't forget about who the main baddie is in the flick, ol' Leatherface makes one final appearance and even swings his chainsaw slightly in homage to the original's dance. The creative use of the police footage that opens the flick as the final scene is just icing on the bloody cake.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
"See! I told ya the original Texas Chainsaw would win, no contest!" you may be thinking. Well, think again! This was a close race and I almost gave the Hitchhiker edge to the remake, but the original's posed more of a threat to the van's passengers. So, yeah, the classic still came out on top, but I hope I possibly opened the eyes of some naysayers to the potency of the remake. Now's the best part: you get to voice your views on this Face-Off directly below! So spit them bullets! And feel free to send any future Face-Off ideas to me at [email protected].

Tags: Face-Off

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