The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

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Famed filmmaker Michael Bay started up his Platinum Dunes company with this remake of the classic 1974 horror film, which brings a little more tenacity to the legend.

On August 18, 1973, a group of friends are on their way to Mexico when they find a young woman on the side of the road. The woman tells them of how she ended up there. She was victimized by a horrible clan. When the group turns around to find help, the young woman begins to freak out and ultimately kills herself in the van, causing shock to everyone. The van finds its way toward an abandoned run down farmhouse where it breaks down.

The van’s driver, Kemper, heads out and finds a house. As he goes in to ask for help, he can’t find anyone but is all of a sudden hit in the head by a masked assailant who drags him into the back. A few hours later, Kemper’s girlfriend Erin finds the house and asks to make a call to the sheriff. When Kemper is still nowhere to be seen, Erin goes with Andy to the house, where they are confronted by the wheelchair bound Old Monty. Soon, both Erin and Andy find themselves in the midst of the masked assailant, Thomas Hewitt. While Erin escapes, Andy has his leg cut off by Thomas’s chainsaw and then is dragged into the basement. Meanwhile, Sheriff Hoyt arrives to find Erin, Pepper, and Morgan. While Thomas is sent to dispatch the others, Hoyt himself has a very dark secret of his own.

The original 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is truly one of the greatest of its time, not because of its killer, Leatherface. Because the film is more of a psychological experiment in terror that doesn’t need to rely on gore. Flash forward nearly thirty years later. Michael Bay, the man who brought us Bad Boys, Armageddon, and Transformers, had set up a new production company, Platinum Dunes. His first film as a producer with this new company is this very remake. Hoping to bring something similar in terms of shock value yet update it at the same time, Bay hired German filmmaker Marcus Nispel to helm the remake. Nispel, who has a penchant for horror, does up the ante a bit when it comes to his filmmaking style, showing a little gore at times here. However, he doesn’t go full blast with it and for its release in 2003, for some reason, it became acceptable.

The cast of would be victims do quite well and Scott Kosar’s script does twist things a little in terms of who is killed first and so on. There is no invalid character here, yet Jonathan Tucker’s Morgan seems to be the fifth wheel of the bunch this time and at times, pulls off some stupid acts for shock. Erica Leerhsen truly has the lungs of a scream queen with her role of Pepper, a young woman whom the group meets en route and hooks up with Andy as seen after the opening title runs. Eric Balfour doesn’t make much of an impact onscreen as he did behind the scenes, including somehow ticking off onscreen girlfriend Jessica Biel, who makes for a good “final girl” here.

Joining the likes of Gunnar Hansen, Bill Johnson, R.A. Mihailoff, and the late Robert Jacks is the powerhouse Andrew Bryniarski as the new Leatherface, whose name in the film is Thomas Hewitt rather than Sawyer (an obvious pun in the original series). Bryniarski plays Leatherface as a tenacious killer who does what he does because he is pretty much controlled to do so. The one major flaw of this remake, and it still is haunting at times, is that for the first time, the viewer sees Leatherface without the mask. Why they decided to destroy the mysteriousness of the character is not known. However, let’s put it this way: it is definitely not a pretty sight. Bryniarski would also make history in the series as he reprised the role of Thomas Hewitt in a 2006 prequel to this remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which for one reason or another, ups the gore factor.

The 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a bad remake. Andrew Bryniarski is a more tenacious Leatherface, but did they really have to show him sans mask?

WFG RATING: B-

New Line Cinema presents a Platinum Dunes production. Director: Marcus Nispel. Producers: Michael Bay and Mike Fleiss. Writer: Scott Kosar; based on the original 1974 film written by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel. Cinematography: Daniel Pearl. Editing: Glen Scantlebury.

Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, Andrew Bryniarski, R. Lee Ermey, David Dorfman, Terence Evans, Marietta Marich, Heather Kafka.

 

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