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2003 "Massacre" Remake as Much Fun as an Automobile Accident
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003)
Director: Marcus Nispel
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Mike Vogel, Erica Leerhsen, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski
On their way to a Leonard Skynyrd concert, five youths have the poor misfortune of picking up a disturbed hitchhiker wondering aimlessly on the side of the road. As they look for a hospital to take her to, she pulls a pistol out of the most unlikely place imaginable (seriously, how did she keep that gun hidden while she was walking down the road?) and blows her head clean off. They stop by a nearby gas station to call for a sheriff and report the incident, and even more unfortunately for them, the town is completely inhabited by the Hewitt family, which includes psycho sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) and the chainsaw wielding psychopath Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski).
What's Good About the Movie?:
There is a ten second segment where Jessica Biel's Erin sings and moves to the tunes of “Sweet Home Alabama” while riding along in the van. It's actually a fairly sensual ten seconds. Other than that, there is not a single thing in this film that is worth a second of your time.
What's Bad About the Movie?:
It's almost beyond belief what an ugly, diseased, despicable nightmare this remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is. The first thirty to forty minutes are merely laughably stupid, as the movie goes through the motions of a run-of-the-mill Mad Slasher thriller. Had the film played out like that the rest of the way, it would have been almost bearable. But then the movie goes to places that exist within the darkest recesses of the human soul, places that are not scary in an entertaining sense, but in a way that makes you shudder in horror that sane and educated people would actually try and pass something like this off as “entertainment.” This remake ofThe TexasChainsaw Massacre is an evil film, a poisonous exercise in sadism that no one should ever have to subject themselves to.
Right from the word go, the movie spells everything out for the audience, so that there is not one single surprise to be had. In Mad Slasher films like this, there is a rule about the sort of people who will live until the last reel. When we're introduced to the five characters, two of them are having sex in the back of the van (one of them is a hitchhiker who has only known the other four for 19 hours), one of them is getting stoned, and the driver is hiding the fact from his girlfriend that he picked up a two pound pinata full of marijuana. Everyone has taken a drag, except Erin, who tosses a doobie out the window when her boyfriend offers her a puff. In movies like this, sex and drug use equals death. Since Erin is the only person not to have sex or smoke pot, it's likely she's the only person who'll survive in the end of the film.
After the hitchhiker blows her head off, they drive to a nearby gas station to use a phone. The gas station is something straight out of a bad horror movie. The inside of the place is under lit. The display counters show a lot of pig's heads for sale (Mmmm, yummy!). The outhouses in the back of the shop look as though they were spray-painted with feces. The lady behind the counter is a beady-eye old coot who is constantly speaking in menacing tones. She calls the sheriff, who tells them he wants them to meet at an abandoned mill in the middle of nowhere for reasons that aren't entirely clear. They drive there, and of course, they never see another car on the road, not that any of the characters seem to notice that. While waiting for the sheriff, they meet a toothy little kid named Jedidiah, who at one point begins poking at the dead hitchhiker with a stick. When the kid runs off, our heroes come across an auto junkyard that's riddled with human teeth.
Someone advises leaving the hitchhiker for the sheriff and just driving on out of there. Personally, I would have voted yes after the little boy started poking at the dead body with a stick, but eventually, Erin and her idiot boyfriend named Kemper (Eric Balfour) head off to an even more secluded location, a run down house, to look for the sheriff. Erin is allowed inside to use the phone. Meanwhile, Kemper wanders through the house alone because, like I said, he's an idiot, and of course, he gets picked off by Leatherface.
It is here where the film turns unspeakably nasty. The sheriff shows up and takes the body, making some seriously sick sexual remarks about the dead woman as he wraps her up in plastic wrap and stuffs her body in the trunk of his car. We cut to a dark dungeon where blood's dripping from the ceiling, severed ears and heads are scattered all over the place, and the walls are smeared with brain matter and entrails. The sheriff makes one of the kids re-enact the hitchhiker's suicide in a cruel and sadistic scene. One kid gets all his teeth knocked out of his head after getting smacked across the face with a glass bottle. One guys dies by being strung up on a surprisingly new looking chandelier in a run down house and....oh, never mind about that.
I know what you're thinking: What did I expect in a movie called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? The original film was gruesome too, but that film was also scary, and was very much a product of its time. This film merely wallows through scene after scene after scene of cruelty, humiliation, sadism, torture, and mutilation, and some scenes go so far out of their way to offend and repel you that it takes every ounce of strength you have not to vomit by what's on screen. Take the tracking shot after the hitchhiker kills herself, which starts at the front of the van, pulls all the way back through the hole in her head, and out through the hole in the back of the window (yes, it is as disgusting as it sounds).
Even if the film weren't so vile and depraved, it's still one of the most atrocious horror films of recent memory, one that relies too heavily on some of the most tired genre cliches in the book (shadows lurking in the foreground, the van that won't start, animals leaping at the camera for cheap “Gotcha!” moments, etc) and glaring plot holes (if the kid Jedediah really had such noble intentions that he tries to help Erin in the end, why didn't he just warn the others from the very beginning about what was in store for them?). The final minutes tell us nothing and end the movie on a maddeningly anticlimactic note. After everything the movie puts you through, it leaves you with nothing in the end. It truly is a shameful film.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 is not the first horror film I've given the "no star" rating to, but it is one of the few horror films that I felt deserved a lower rating than that. The original Tobe Hopper film is a good, scary, violent horror film, if that's what you're after. Life is far too short and too precious to waste on trash like this.
Final Grade: no stars (out of ****)