Film Review - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Starring - Jessica Biel, Johnathan Tuker, R. Lee Ermey, Erica Leerhsen, Andrew Bryniarski | Directed by Marcus Nispel | New Line DVD WS R 98min 2003

Review By Xmortis

In 2003 the hack masters at Platinum Dunes decided to remake the 1974 Tobe Hooper directed cult classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Here is the review for that masterpiece of modern horror cinema, and yes the review has spoilers.

In 1973 Erin, her boyfriend and a van full of friends are driving back home from Mexico and make the mistake of taking the backroads of Texas. After picking up a hitchhiker who blows her head off, they are lead to Sheriff Hoyt who makes them stay until this case can be closed. Erin and her friends soon learn that something is not right with the small almost abandoned town as everyone they meet seems a little off. When Erin's boyfriend goes missing and becomes the first victim to Leatherface's hammer, Erin and her friends start becoming human cattle to the Hewitt family that includes crazy Sheriff Hoyt, wheelchair bound Monty, little boy Jedediah and old lady Luda May. One by one the friends die. Erin is the last survivor who must escape her hellish nightmare, but before she does she saves a kidnapped baby, kills Sheriff Hoyt and chops off Leatherface's arm. It ends with Erin driving off as a one-armed Leatherface makes one last attempt on her life.

Certain films should never have been remade like Hitchcock's Psycho, Carpenter's Halloween and Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So it really comes to no surprise that an overrated company like Platinum Dunes would be dumb enough to try. This film takes all the legacy of the original series and throws it away in an attempt to make a hip, cool film that teens would find funny, scary and smart. The biggest changes to are: they are no longer the Sawyers but now the Hewitts, Leatherface's real name is Thomas and shows his face without his trademark mask, and he is no longer childlike in nature but is more of a full fledge cold blooded psycho killer. While these changes might not be a big deal to some, to me this changed everything that Leatherface is and what made him an interesting villain. The plot has a group of friends who are witnesses to a suicide and get caught up in Leatherface and his family's sick games of murder and cannibalism. The storyline is simple, while the dialogue leaves something to be desired. At times I felt it had a little too much Kevin Smith smart ass wit for its own good. Andrew Bryniarski plays Leatherface. While he is big and intimidating looking, he clearly is just playing the character as a lame generic slasher killer. R. Lee Ermey plays Sheriff Hoyt and while funny at first, his foul mouth and overdone lines wear out his welcome with his rehashed character from Full Metal Jacket. He is also the only new family member worth mentioning and is at least sinister, mean spirited and adds a little flavor to the otherwise boring Hewitt family. Jessica Biel was a great addition to the cast and found that she was the perfect mix of victim and fighter and the best actress in the film. I should also mention that Erica Leerhsen, the redhead hippie girl from Blair Witch 2 is also in this movie. The gore is well done and surprisingly it was pretty brutal with one of the better kills when Leatherface chops off one of the friend's legs then throws him on a meat hook. One of the most powerful aspects of the film is the amazing score by Steve Jablonsky. It adds to the overall down beat nature of the subject matter and makes scenes seem more suspenseful, something a good horror score should do. For all the hype and legacy of this film series, this one is a let down and seems more like a soulless attempt at making quick cash for Bay and his band of half wit directing friends. I saw this film in theaters with the Brassfield brothers (Bryan, director of Twisted Batman and Matt, our owner and director of The Sadness), Andy Copp (director of Mutilation Man) and Misty Altick of Razor and Farmer Joe fame. She was the only one that liked it, and she was the youngest one in the group so I guess it hit its target audience.

This single disc edition has few extras that include trailers, TV spots and a music video. The two disc edition is loaded with way more extras and is worth the buy if you were a fan of this remake.

While this film is bad, it does have a few moments that I liked such as the slaughterhouse chase and the overdone gore, but a lot moments left me with a sour taste and wondering why the changes were needed. It's not a terrible film and not the bottom of the barrel of recent horror film remakes. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre packs Biel in a wet white tank top running through a slaughterhouse, chainsaw deaths, hammer blows to the skull, a gun wound to the head, a one-armed Leatherface, police footage, a foul mouth cop and a sweet score. So if you have seen the originals, want to see a new take on an old horror icon, or are a super modern horror fan then this is one you might want to check out.

Next up is the sequel to this remake and the final stop at the Last Chance Gas Station when we look at "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning."