The memories of actually going to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre resonate far more with me than the actual film itself. I went to an afternoon showing of this movie with my friend Conor and we both had class together later that afternoon. What was that class? BUG CLASS! Four friends and I took this one class about bugs, and it was pretty awesome. Conor was one of the first people I had met in college that loved movies as much as I did so I was stoked that he was actually willing to see this movie in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day. I was also excited because with Conor coming along, it meant that I didn’t have to see this movie alone! “What kind of loser sees movies alone?!” I thought in 2003, before I started regularly seeing movies alone. Once we got to the theater and the trailers started, we watched the final trailer for The Return of the King came on, which was the first time either of us had seen that trailer, so I grabbed Conor’s knee and squeezed it really, REALLY hard with excitement. To this day, Conor never shuts up about how big of a boner he got when I touched his leg (understandably). Also, I bought this DVD at Wal-Mart. That’s a pretty good story too, right? I’m an expert on introducing films!
Well, at least they got the butt shot right?
Similar to the original movie, this version starts with a voiceover by John Larroquette talking about one of the worst crimes in the history of Texas, accompanied by footage from the police department’s investigation of the crime scene. The film then cuts to its protagonists, a bunch of 20-somethings on their way back from Mexico and headed to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. They see a girl walking on the side of the road and decide to help her out with a ride, despite the creepy vibe they get from her. She starts rambling nonsense about some scary guy, and her creepiness culminates when she pulls a gun out of her vagina and shoots herself in the head. This is when things get REALLY weird. The gang pulls in to the next gas station to call the local sheriff, who he says it’ll take a few hours to get there, so some of the Skynyrd fans go exploring and find a house nearby. They try to get assistance there, but instead, one of the dudes gets a hammer to the back of the head, courtesy of good old Leatherface. When the sheriff (played by R. Lee Ermey) does show up, he’s a real weirdo dickhead who treats the kids like they are criminals and doesn’t believe their side of the story. Wait, do you guys actually care about the plot? I hope not, because it’s pretty dumb. There’s a family that offers Jessica Biel help, who turn out to be members of Leatherface’s family, so she gets captured again and there’s running and chasing and chainsaw sounds and eventually Jessica Biel runs to the slaughterhouse and distracts Leatherface with a pig in a locker and chops his arm off and she steals the family’s baby and their car and runs over R. Lee Ermey and that’s it. Then the movie goes back to the opening crime scene footage and we see the police officers get killed by Leatherface and John Larroquette explains that this was the only proof that Leatherface existed. The end!
Oh good! We finally learned why Leatherface made leather faces! A skin disease! Phew, now we can rest easy.
Do I review this movie on its own merit or do I review it by comparing it to the source material? How about both? On its own, there’s really nothing all that terrible about the movie, and had it gone by any other title, it would have just blended in with all other backwoods slasher type movies. It was visually compelling, with its look being similar to (but not as good as) the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. However, when comparing the look and feel of this to the original Texas Chain Saw, this was garbage. What made the original feel so creepy was just how gritty and grimy everything looked, making the audience feel really gross and uncomfortable. There were a few homage moments, like the shot of Jessica Biel’s butt as she walks up to the house being the same composition of Marilyn Burns’ butt as she walked up to the house, or the first kill being a sledgehammer to the head, or the fact that at one point Leatherface drops his chainsaw on his leg the way he did at the end of the original, but despite those moments, this film fails in every way possible to capture why the original movie worked. The original film’s legacy exists thanks to the lo-fi look, the feeling of watching someone’s twisted home movies, the erratic wilderness and chainsaw noises, extreme close-ups on characters in distress and exaggerated, almost silly performances to establish the insanity of Leatherface’s family. The slick look and feel of this remake is exactly the opposite the look and feel Tobe Hooper created in 1974 and the whole film feels too polished to compare the two. The effectiveness of the remake’s opening investigation sequence was very promising and the sequence of the girl pulling a gun from her crotch to blow her brains out was actually pretty cool, but then everything just got fucked up and terrible.
Would you believe that, in this outfit, the director used EVERY chance he could to douse her in water? SWEAT! FIRE SPRINKLERS! RAIN!
In the original version of the film, Leatherface came across as a child who was stunted in his development by his family who warped his mind and turned him into this twisted killer. Not really a person, but more of a pet that the family forced into doing their bidding. This version of the film tried to add more depth to the family and elaborated on their backstory, and I understand why they did that, but it just really didn’t work out that well. Don’t get me wrong, R. Lee Ermey was great playing R. Lee Ermey, but he wasn’t nearly as much of a maniac as Jim Siedow was in the original. They added a few characters here and there to flesh out the family with weirdness but everything just fell flat. If you’re going to do a remake of something that’s considered a classic whose strengths stem from the independent, low budget production but get someone like Michael Bay to produce a bigger budget version of it, you’re fucked right from the beginning. Good thing they made that prequel though!
Wolfman Moon Scale