The most glaring sign of how times have changed between the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and this update is that we are given a back story to Leatherface’s (or his real name, Thomas Hewitt, as made apparent in this film) madness. No longer can we attend movies where there are no reasons for one’s actions. In the original, Leatherface killed. That was it.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) is unusually brutal and sadistic for a mainstream Hollywood horror film. Whereas Tobe Hooper’s original was brutal in its own right (most of the violence happened off screen, but Hooper made it feel like it was on screen), this one adheres to the new Hollywood formula for horror remakes: Twice the gore, half the scares.
The film starts off just like the original, with a group of teenage friends headed for a concert. When they pass an obviously disturbed young girl walking along the street, they feel it to be their obligation to help her. Things quickly spiral out of control when she commits suicide in their van (accompanied by a shot through the victims head, just to make sure you know Michael Bay is involved). The group then searches for police help, but soon winds up in the not-so-clean hands of the Hewitt family. Mass chaos ensues.
Being the fan of the original that I am, I was in no way excited to see this updated. Why anyone felt this was necessary is beyond me, but the film did not fail on the level that I thought it would. While it has really geared up on the gore (most of which is ultimately unnecessary), the atmosphere the film creates through locations is undeniably creepy.
The most memorable and most important scenes from the original are curiously absent here, however. The “dinner” scene from the original, which is easily scarier and more disturbing than anything in this film, has been completely removed. Also, since the wheelchair-ridden Franklin character from the original is not in this one, the ultra-creepy walk through the field is missing also.
What does work, however, is the casting of R. Lee Ermey as the demented Sheriff Hoyt. I cannot remember the last time I despised a film character as much as him, and that will make the ending payoff big-time for some.
Speaking of that ending, who can forget the final frames of Leatherface waving his chainsaw in the sunset in the original? Don’t be looking for it here.
As for Leatherface himself, Andrew Bryniarski gives the character a definite presence. He is a big and imposing force, as it should be. However, Bryniarski is given the thankless task of making this incarnation of Leatherface more vulnerable. This, in turn, makes him less scary.
Ultimately, this is another unnecessary retelling of a film that can easily still stand on its own. It is not a complete failure, but it’s riding the rails. This version is obviously geared for the MTV generation, and don’t go in expecting any more than that. If you really want to be scared by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in any form, pop in that “dinner” scene from Tobe Hooper’s original classic.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 98 Minutes
Rating: R for strong horror violence/gore, language, and drug content.
Theatrical Release: October 17, 2003
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Scott Kosar. Based on the 1974 screenplay of the same name by Tobe Hooper & Kim Henkel.
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, Andrew Bryniarski