say your piece
 
ISSUE NO.153
OCTOBER 16, 2003
 
 
theReel
A Pale Shade of the Original 'Massacre'
By Chris Bellamy
 

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
New Line Cinema
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Screenplay by Scott Kosar
Produced by Michael Bay, Mike Fleiss, Andrew Forum
Starring Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Jonathan Tucker, Andrew Bryniarski, Mike Vogel, Erica Leerhsen, R. Lee Ermey

(out of 4)

   
  This picture of Jessica Biel goes out to all the readers who don't actually read - but only look at the graphics.

In 1974, writer/director Tobe Hooper and co-writer Kim Henkel changed the face of the horror-film genre with the release of what would become one of the most infamous cult classics in history: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

A story about a group of four hippies who run out of gas in a one-horse town and find themselves the prey of a family of cannibals, the film was based on the exploits of Ed Gein, the same notorious killer who inspired 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Hooper combined the legend of Gein with the youthful anxieties of the Vietnam War to make the movie, one of the definitive films in modern horror.

Sure, it was cheesy, badly written and badly acted. But it also scared the hell out of people, thanks in large part to the entrance into popular culture of the brooding, chainsaw-wielding madman known as Leatherface.

Given that “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was made for about $3.50, it was ripe for an update. And nearly 30 years later, it’s finally gotten one.

It’s just too bad it couldn’t have done the original justice.

Michael Bay of “Pearl Harbor” and “Armageddon” fame came on board to remake the film and originally intended to direct. Instead, he stepped aside and stayed on as merely a producer, handing the reigns over to first-time director Marcus Nispel.

Unfortunately, Nispel and screenwriter Scott Kosar failed to recreate the terror of the original. What they’ve given us instead is just another teen horror movie.

The new version abandoned everything that made the original successful. Sure, the production design is far superior than the 1974 flick. But that’s about it.

What made the original scary was that there was no rhythm. When Leatherface came charging toward the heroine with a chainsaw, it was totally unexpected. No one knew what to think.

In the new one, it’s like the filmmakers all got together and decided, “Hey, let’s do what all the other modern horror movies are doing.”

Basically, they’ve turned an original icon into a genre picture and nothing more.

The new film uses the same basic plot as the original. Five hippies are on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Dallas from Mexico, where they went to buy two pounds of weed.

On the way, they pick up a hitchhiker, a young woman, bloody and bruised. She proceeds to creep the hippies out with talk of death, muttering, “They’re all dead…I can’t go back there.” And then she grabs the hippies’ handgun (whatever happened to peace?) and blows her brains out.

And so our heroes decide to stop at the nearest gas station and decide what to do with the body, engaging in a series of conversations and arguments written so laughably bad you’d think they were written by George Lucas.

But, of course, this movie isn’t exactly plot-heavy. This one’s all about getting the scares. And, for the most part, it doesn’t get them.

It does have its moments. Every now and then, something comes from out of nowhere and gives the audience a jolt. But those moments are few and far between. In between, Nispel seems incapable of sustaining any kind of tension and terror, even though you just know Jessica Biel is trying her best to look scared.

One of the hallmarks of the original film is just how raw and disturbing it all was, especially near the end, when the last remaining character discover that she is about to be served for supper. The new version hardly hints at the cannibalistic parts of the original script.

Everything about the original was disturbing—the plot, the imagery and the deafening silence as we anxiously awaited what was going to happen next.

In the new one, the typical monster movie music dictates exactly what’s going to happen. It’s all formula.

It’s quite disappointing. The original version is far from perfect—but its original scare tactics and subject matter set it apart from most of the genre.

So if you’re interested in seeing “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” this weekend, do it—go to Blockbuster, drop three bucks and pop it in your DVD player. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream, you’ll laugh some more. Good times.
chrisb@red-mag.com

 
     
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