The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake (2003)
Director: Marcus Nispel
R. Lee Ermey/Sherrif
Five kids driving across Texas to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert with a shitload of weed in their van, see their lives go to the slaughterhouse when an encounter with a traumatized hitchhiker (German) leads them straight to a psychotic clan of human butchers.
"Whiff…whiff…I smell bullshit" ---Sheriff Hoyt
If this is a “re-imagining” (which is a cop-out word that means "remake") than "Leatherface-Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 3" is also a re-imagining and so is "Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre" for that matter. They did the same thing here that they did with Part 3 and 4, but better. They took the central character of old “Leather”, gave him a new family unit and nodded Tobe Hooper’s original to various degrees along the way. Apart from the basic premise of “stranded kids vs. nutty family”, this movie mostly showcased new material. So why is it called a re-imagining i.e. remake? Because mainstream audiences are more likely to go see that than a film called "Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 5", which let's face it...this is what this movie really is.
For all of you who keep asking yourselves: Why would anybody want to mess with something as sacred as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” title, well let me quote producer Michael Bay for the answer: “I wanted to do The Texas Chainsaw Massacre because of name value alone.” There you have it. After having seen the film, I personally had to wrestle real hard with my personal negative feelings towards the people behind the movie and their main reasoning for making it. But after a couple of drinks, the smoke cleared and I came up with: “It’s definitely the best TCM flick since the original”. If you can get past all of the bureaucratic bullshit that’s stuck to this entry’s butt like old bubble-gum, you might get to enjoy it for what it is too; a solid horror film that delivers the goods.
For anybody familiar with the Texas franchise, the chain of events found here won’t surprise you. Teens + Texas + Cannibal Family = mucho trouble. For those of you who know the original so well, be prepared to be taken for a couple of loops-the-loops with this update because the chain of events is a different one starting with the nature of the hitchhiker (played by Laura German) character and beyond. That pleased me. I didn’t want to see the same old jive again, and I didn’t. The flick had its own story to tell, expanded upon ideas found in the original and took me on a tension-filled no-messing around with the cheese violent ride. Was it relentless? Yes. Unsettling? Yup!! Violent? Damn straight. Morbidly funny? Oh yeah! Perverted? Somewhat. For the first hour of this sharp cleaver, my eyeballs were glued to the screen, totally absorbed by the events unfolding before me. Yes, I was having a horror blast!
Visually, apart from some effective "Blair Witch Project"-like “found footage” that intro'd and capped off the film, this baby took a totally opposite route than the grainy original going for a glossy, almost “living painting” like mood. I’m happy to report that the polished images and astounding cinematography didn’t fully take away from the horror of the piece like I originally feared it would. Although watering down the impact of the whole affair a tad, especially when compared to the original, the snazzy style gave the flick a grim fairy tale type of aura that totally engaged me. Along with the chilling sets and gnarly locations (that house was creepy and that meat locker owned…), Mispel’s keen eye brought much weight to the movie. It helped set it apart from the original and other films of its ilk.
On a character level, the slew of inbred here were incredibly credible and creepy. Props goes out to the makeup department and the casting people. I bought it! Sure, they couldn’t spit-shine the original’s fucked up family’s aprons, but they still came through in their own right. Leatherface, in particular, was scary as hell once again. Thankfully there wasn’t too much of the mama’s boy shite here, the man was a butcher of people, that was that on that. In my opinion, Bryniarski is the first Leatherface actor that brought the compelling emotion of "resentment" to the character. I felt that was his motivation when it came to "why" he wanted to butcher these teens and that added a whole new visceral layer to the proceedings. It's obvious that Bryniarski really sank his teeth into the part, I heard he went full on "method" on set (oinking like a pig in a corner) and it showed in his arresting performance. Physically, even his tacky mask managed to work since it was always bathed in the shadows. And here’s a little spoiler for ya; we actually see him unmasked and no, he doesn’t cry like Michael Myers did in "Halloween 5". The unmasking revealed one grotesque and ugly mofo. Yeesh!
My other favorite loony had to be the Sheriff played to a T by R. Lee Ermey. The role brought lunacy in at its max and much appreciated dark comic tones. Nobody does it like Ermey! Like NOBODY! Think his "Full Metal Jacket" character but on acid. I half expected him to blurt out “There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers. Here, you are all equally worthless” at any moment. The man ruled the scenery and gave the film a welcomed burst of morbid pizzazz! Which brings me to the film’s sole improvement on Hooper’s gem; its “hero” characters were more developed and likeable than the ones found in the original with Erica Leerhsen (Pepper), Jessica Biel (Erin) and Jonathan Tucker (Morgan) being my favorites. No whiny bitch Franklin here! I got to care about everybody to some extent and their grisly fate therefore affected me.
On the dull side of the saw blade, one of the film’s flaws was calling itself a remake, a "re-imagining" or a cash cow, therefore begging to be compared with the original. Some of the stuff that was found in Hooper’s classic and repeated here wasn’t half as effective in comparison. The hooking and the sledge hammer hit with the slamming of the door were perfect examples of that. The flick also didn’t always choose the best times to kill off-screen or not. There were two particular instances here where two lead characters were killed off-screen and sadly, that’s when the offing should’ve been shown for maximum effect. While witnessing the off-screen shite, the words “cop out” popped in my head. But the biggest drawback here was the last block of the movie. The disturbing “dinner scene” found in the original was replaced with an extended chase/stalk sequence that went on for too long. Now although engrossing in itself, this third act fell into a more predictable mold and in consequence, I started feeling safe while easily guessing the chain of events to come. The finale just didn’t live up to the balls-to-the-walls shenanigans that preceded it.
But overall, this TCM 2003 mostly hit the spot. The film started off strong, kept me riveted throughout and slightly lessened its grip on me with its more “typical”, yet still enjoyable, conclusion. Don’t let the WB casting and the remake tag fool ya. This is unrepentant horror and it’s well made at that! THE SAW LIVES AGAIN!
This buffet is served hot with a lot of sauce. We get a bullet in the mouth, splattered brains, chopped off arm, sawed off leg, a bludgeoning, a person slapped on a hook, human remains, dead pigs, a bottle smashed in one’s face, a sawed knee, a stomach stabbing and Harry Knowles', aka New Line’s Darling, severed head.
Jessica Biel (Erin) gained new respect from me. Not only does the gal look great in tight Jeans, but she also managed to reach emotional peaks that truly surprised me. Jonathan Tucker (Morgan) was a delight as the straight shooter hippie boy. His vulnerability when faced with Ermey totally wooed me. Eric Balfour (Kemper) was all charisma as the too-kool-for-school boyfriend. Arrow favorite Erica Leerhsen (Pepper) gave a sympathetic and credible performance. I LOVE YA PEPPER! She’s hot to the bone too! Mike Vogel (Andy) did what the part asked of him admirably. Andrew Bryniarski (Leatherface) was quite an imposing and frightening figure as Leatherface. I grooved on his mucho animalistic performance and the new layers he brought to the character. R. Lee Ermey (Sheriff Hoyt) was the bomb as per usual, motormouthing his crass dialogue like the champ that he is. The man is always a hoot and his presence brought so much to the film. Laura German (Hitchiker) did what she had to do very well. That’s all I’ll say.
T & A
We get the yummy Jessica Biel wearing a white see-through top that goes through cold, rain and sprinklers (fun times). She also wore the best pair of butt hugging Jeans ever set to screen. Now that’s an ass! We also get the lovely Erika Leerhsen in some semi see-through stuff. I’m hip to that jive Tacos! The ladies get a tanned Mike Vogel in a tank top.
Marcus Nispel gave the film a unique, highly stylized look and he surprisingly didn’t lose the film’s edge in the process. Filled with creative angles (look for the hitchhiker money shot), sumptuous cinematography (loved the house and clouds) and well handled suspense scenes, this baby kicked all kinds of horror ass and looked good while doing it. You pulled it off dude! Cheers to you!
One of the biggest letdowns of the movie was its generic score that would’ve felt more comfortable in an action movie than a horror piece. What a bore. We also get the “Sweet Home Alabama” ditty.
Distributor: New Line Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 30th, 2004
Two Texas Chainsaw Massacre DVD discs will be on the market soon. The first is a 2-disc Platinum Edition and the second is a more "bare bones" single disc version. Here's my review of the Platinum Edition.
IMAGE: We get an 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen image.
SOUND: We get an English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Track- an English DTS ES Surround Track and an English Dolby 2.0 surround track. We also get English/Spanish subtitles and an English Closed Captions options.
DISC 1: Well, hot damn momma! They went "all out" commentary-wise, slapping everybody and their uncle's dead grandpa in there to talk shop. All three commentaries provided a slew of information, insightful behind-the-scenes tales, statements as to everybody's intentions when it came to making the film, the hardships of the down and dirty shoot, the actor's take on their characters, ideas that didn't make the final product and much, MUCH MORE! All three commentary tracks complemented each other where they all covered different facets of the picture. Set a day aside to listen to all three though...lots of juice to digest here. Here's who's talking:
Audio Essay 1 - Production: Marcus Nispel (Director) - Michael Bay (Producer) - Andrew Form (Exec Prod) - Brad Fuller (Exec Prod) and Robert Shaye (New Line)
Audio Essay 2 - Technical: Marcus Nispel (Director) - Daniel Pearl (Cinematographer) - Greg Blair (Prod Design) - Scott Gallagher (Art Director) - Trevor Jolly (Supervising sound Editor) - Steve Jablosky (Composer)
Audio Essay 3- Story: Marcus Nispel (Director) - Michael Bay (Producer) -Scott Kosar (Screenwriter) - Andrew Form (Exec Prod) - Brad Fuller (Exec Prod) - Jessica Biel (Erin) - Erica Leerhesen (Pepper) - Eric Balfour (Kemper) - Jonathan Tucker (Morgan) - Nike Vogel (Andy) - Andrew Bryniarski (Leatherface)
Severed Parts- Deleted Scenes (16 minutes): Presented here are 7 deleted scenes that we can either play "all together" as a documentary with director Marcus Nispel explaining why the scenes got cut or individually. Of the 7 scenes (most of them covering the Erin pregnancy subplot which was cut out), my favs were "Alternate Suicide" (more blood and chunks) and "Alternate Morgan Death" (fuck yeah....that's how it should've looked in the theatrical cut). And wait till you see the SE7EN-like "Alternate Ending". Although interesting from a fan point of view, I'm happy they didn't got that way! A slick feature!
Screen Tests: Here we get to see 3 screen tests: One from Jessica Biel (3 minutes) who looks great as a blonde and screams like a champ, one from Eric Balfour (3 minutes) who sold me via his screen test (the man is a good actor) and one from the lovely Erica Leerhsen (45 seconds) who does a "screaming" jamboree right there on the chair. I felt that shit! Good stuff!
Chainsaw Redux - Making a Massacre (75 minutes): This documentary takes a look at the history behind the original TCM with footage from said film in tow (where was Hooper though?) We then take a MUCHO in-depth look as to how the remake came about, got shot, went through post and hit the theatres. We also get cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, early fan reaction to the idea of the remake (funny stuff) and even Joe Bob Briggs pops up to provide his two cents! Of all the features on this disc, this one was my favorite in terms of well delivered substance.
Galleries: Two picture galleries: 1) Production Concept Art by Scott Gallagher and 2) Leatherface Concept art by Scott Stoddard (kool mask designs. Some are pretty freaky).
Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainville (24 minutes): This little documentary provides an interesting enough overview on the real life psycho, cannibal nut Ed Gein who not only inspired the character of Leatherface, but also Norman Bates and Buffalo Bill. WARNING: We get to see lots of disgusting "real life" images of Gein's work. Nice little segment!
Publicity and Promotion: We get Michael Bay's Original Teaser Trailer (the one set in in the dark), the Original Theatrical Trailer, TV spots (7 of them), Motorgrater's Suffocate Music Video and More From New Line showing trailers for: Highwaymen, The Butterfly Effect and more.
The Platinum Edition also comes with DVD ROM Online Features, a way kool "metal plaque of the cover" and an envelope containing groovy "crime scene photographs". All in all, if you loved the film, I highly recommend you get the weighty double-disc edition...you'll get your money's worth and then some! Good work New Line!
To be honest, I still would rather that this movie didn’t exist. ENOUGH WITH THE LAZY AND MONEY DRIVEN REMAKES! How about taking those skills and that dough and applying them to original material? Or how about remaking something that actually warrants to be remade in the first place? Like Carpenter did with "The Thing"! Or Cronenberg did with "The Fly"! Hollywood is going to the shitter with this recent remake spree. They have found a new way to make some quick cash and stoop even lower. Who knew?
Having said that, drill me in the head with a power tool because I had a hoot nanny with this Texas puppy. This new Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie hit hard, putting out what it should: brutality, high tension, heavy shocks and an infectious dark tone. No, it didn’t kick my ass as much as the original did (and still does), but it was still a fulfilling “Happy Meal” on its own. My advice, try to enjoy the movie for what it is; an effective, down and dirty horror dish that should really be called "Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 5".
I interviewed Michael Bay and he told me, if this one makes money, they’re thinking of doing a “Prequel”.
The meat plant is called Blair Meat Company. A nod to Blair Witch Project perhaps?
Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel had started working on the idea of a TCM remake before Bay and company came aboard, locked the rights and took over.
John Laroquette who narrated the original returns to narrate this one.