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The original is a classic, I guess that's why there's a copy of it at the
Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Taken as a remake, this is a good film. The story was different enough to keep me guessing, the characters were, uhhh, fleshed out a little more. While the original at times seemed like a documentary, this one was a straight-up horror movie, though without too many of the cliches that make modern horror movies tedious.
On it's own, this was a very good horror movie. Well-filmed, well-acted, suspensful, with good characters. The kids in this movie are not all just obnoxious kids--they get into trouble because of a good deed, so I found myself rooting for them, even the annoying one or two. The casting of Lee Ermey as the sheriff is icing on the cake; he definitely brought the movie up a few notches.
While not a classic, this remake is worth seeing.
On August 18th, 1973, in Texas, the youths Erin (Jessica Biel), her
boy-friend Kemper (Eric Balfour), their friends Andy (Mike Vogel) and
Morgan (Jonathan Tucker) and the hitchhiker Pepper (Erica Leerhsen) are
returning from a vacation in Mexico to a concert of the Lynnard
Skynnard. Kemper is driving his van, when they see a disturbed young
woman dangerously wandering on the road. They decide to help her, and
the woman commits suicide inside the vehicle. They decide to look for a
telephone to call the Sheriff, and they end in the house of Thomas
Hewitt (Andrew Bryniarski), where their lives are threatened by the
sick Leatherface and his deranged family.
I was quite reluctant to see this remake. The original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is a classic, and as I have already written in other reviews, I do not see any reason to release remakes of movies, mainly classics. However, and although unnecessary, this remake is very good. The cast, leaded by the delicious Jessica Biel, have good and convincing performances. The cinematography is great, being very nasty in the property of Leatherface. In the end, I liked this version and I even dare to recommend it. I believe the fans, like me, of the original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" will not be disappointed. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "O Massacre da Serra Elétrica" ("The Chainsaw Massacre")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
TCM is an adequate horror film in its own right but will play better if you have not seen the original. The makers of the 2003 remake have stripped the original of its dusty, dirty intensity and its blacker than black humour and replaced them with a few Hollywood conventions so as not to challenge the audience too much. The problem is that 30 years later the remake is just so much more conventional than the visceral original. The directors do copy some of the original shots but see fit not to try to copy the nasty humour that made the original stand up to repeated viewings. Remember the scene in the original where Sally wakes up, tied to a chair, surrounded by the nightmare freakshow of a family and screams her very soul out whilst the camera zooms into extreme close up of her tear filled eyes as her tormentors laugh and taunt her? One of the great moments of 70's shock cinema. Well, here, its a lukewarm rehash where she comes to on the floor with all the horror of waking up with a bit of a hangover. Other pointless changes include trying to normalise some of the originals quirkier moments; originally they wanted to find out if their granparents bodies had been dug up by graverobbers; in the remake, they are on their way to see Lynyrd Skynard. And what happened to wheelchair bound Franklin? Here the nearest thing to a disability is that one of the characters wears glasses. And whats the deal with water? The house in the remake should have floated away the amount of leaky pipes it has. OK its not a BAD film despite using all the old tricks but it seems to me that if you want to see a great film you may as well watch the original and see some really good film-making
Not bad for a re-make of course it didn't have quite the impact of the
original. It did a decent job building tension and there was a darker
atmosphere to the location, made it seem more nightmarish.
Obviously the film had some advantages from a bigger budget, and R. Lee Ermey is definitely worth watching. As for the family, you had an almost twisted take on 'the dirty south', or in this case southwest, people being more bizarre caricatures, but with the darker and more atmospheric setting it works.
Interstingly, it seems to lack the social commentary of the original, but that is very common with remakes these days. Though there is extensive use of rather effective foreshadowing in numerous scenes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILERS (not many)
Good news: The 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a chainsaw massacre, and yes, it is in Texas.
Bad news: It's boring.
Gore belongs in horror movies! But excessive gore? That is harder to pull off. Comically camp horrors such as, say, Braindead, The Evil Dead series, and the three TCM sequels get away with gore because theirs is so excessive as to be absurd. But for a serious horror, gore has to serve its story, not the other way round. Used excessively, played too fast and too loose, gore is exhibitionist, immature, and downright boring.
The story of TCM the Original (1974) is simple and straightforward: some dumb kids pick up a loony hitchhiker, visit his loony home, meet his loony family, and wind up at their loony dinner table--some of them as dinner. The violence of the story is mostly implied, occurring off-screen. There is no gore. Had there been gore, TCMtO would have been little more than a snuff film, its audience a passive witness. But horror thrives on an active, not a passive, imagination. By tickling our worst imaginations, the lack of gore only reinforces the horror of the film.
The problem with TCM the Remake is not that it is gory (and it is--far moreso than the original, if not the sequels), but that its gore does not serve the story, instead only underscoring its weaknesses, namely a meandering, cruelly confusing plot with characters and scenes that are at once too many and too similar. While the original is admittedly episodic, the remake is all over the place, rushing from scene to repetitive scene, bouncing from character to competing character.
Just try to digest this indigestible plot: A group of kids are rude to each other on a road trip; then they are rude to a girl they pick up from the side of the road. Moseying on over to a derelict barbecue joint, they are rude to a little old lady. Then it's off to a derelict mill/junkyard/installation art gallery-cum-sculpture garden to be rude to the banjo kid from Deliverance! They split up, rudely, and one group ends up at the derelict Family House (which, with its plantation architecture, is creepier than the original's), where they are rude to a little old man. After several more scene hops and some judicious dispatching of the cast courtesy our old pal Leatherface (who at 260-odd pounds should cut down on his red meats; I don't know how he keeps up with those kids), a lone survivor escapes into the woods to a derelict trailer, is restored to the derelict Family House, escapes again to a derelict shack, hides in a derelict (or at any rate USDA unapproved) slaughterhouse, and finally ends up back at the derelict barbecue joint. All this, while the white trash Family (here inexplicably surnamed Hewitt) behave very rudely to her indeed.
Meanwhile there are subplots afoot!--baby snatching, incest, genetic disease, police conspiracy. The only thing that's missing is the Illuminati. Oh, yeah, and the cannibalism. YES: IN THIS REMAKE OF TCM, THERE IS NO CANNIBALISM. (It's still implied, what with the meat hooks and the slaughterhouse (a nice touch, that, but unfortunately it just meshes together with the other innumerable hide-and-go-seek scenes), but without the original's critical barbecue pit and dinner table scenes the nastiest bit of the horror is lost.)
Confused yet? Bored, even?
I sure was. For as many changes of scenery as TCMtR has, all of them look the same. I understand how that might be intentional--that's part of the horror, right? that there's no escape?--but how many near-identical shots of Jessica Biel running and hiding and shivering and sucking in her breath in terror are necessary to tell the story?
Some of the plot is left unsatisfactorily unexplained, and even more is just plum illogical. For instance, immediately before pulling a gun from--of all places--her bloodied crotch and blowing her brains out in the van, the girl-from-the-roadside tells the kids they're all gonna die. This is what a plucky survivor does when she at long last has a shot to escape her tormentors? Okay, then why not do it earlier, or why not stop the van and do it outside, so she doesn't endanger the kids' lives? Yeah, I know she's supposed to be suffering a breakdown, but her prediction would not have come true had she, herself, not set up the domino effect that made it happen.
The rest of TCMtR is pure Hollywood contrivance. There is the requisite musical score overkill and the squelchy sound effects (remember the creepy, constant drill of the generator from the original? that was rad). There is the snappish MTV editing and direction (compare to the amateurish documentary look and feel of the original). There is the government anti-drug/anti-sex message, and good grief, it is set to "Sweet Home Alabama"!! There is also Jessica Biel in a cowboy hat. Jessica Biel in a wet tee-shirt. Jessica Biel with her head cradled in R. Lee Ermey's naked crotch. (Sheriff Ermey gets to play the best character, a Real Texan who yells and swears and scares the bejesus out of those of us terrified of the South and her reputation for vigilante 'justice' and lynching parties.)
Altogether TCMtR comes across as a well-above-average made-for-HBO movie--it's not bad, really, and often it's entertaining; ultimately, though, it sucks on account of sacrificing story to gore. After two solid hours of nonstop jump scenes and bloody murder, of heaping on the bodies and the body parts and the body fluids, we simply acclimate to the violence. The audience become passive witnesses, and the movie becomes predictable, unscary, and boring.
Also there's no cannibalism. AND DID I MENTION THERE'S NO CANNIBALISM?!
This Is One Hell Of A Horror Film!!! I have to say too that the acting was very good, though I wonder how hard it is to fake fear when you see some of the scenarios the actors were in, but even the background actors (especially the actor portraying Leatherface and the wonderful R. Lee Ermey as the sheriff) are very good and add an element of paranoid fear to the film. The thing that shocked me most was how brutal and graphic the film was, the gore being very realistic, and used very well. Instead of buckets of blood, we get moments of horror that end in a very bright splash of red. And like the first, the most brutal killings are shot in a way so that you see what is happening to the victim but yet DON'T see it at the same time. This is not a perfect film. It is too decadently dark and a lot of people will hate the film for that reason, and it will be hard to see this as being a movie you will want to watch over and over and over again. But in saying that, I admit that that is why the film succeeds so well they nailed the mood perfectly. They didn't grave-rob it from the original but created their own. As a horror fan I cannot recommend this film enough. It stands just behind 28 Days Later as the second best horror film in a year that has turned out pretty darned well for the genre. Yes, it is a remake, and yes, the original is better, but having said that, I also must tell you that this is a very well crafted horror film and a wonderful spook show ride. I dunno if I am happy that it is going to do well at the box office or not (it won the box office battle its opening weekend) because I don't know what that means for all the other propose remakes. But if nothing else, at least they didn't screw this one up.
The horror/sci-fi movie critic Richard Scheib coined the term
"Backwoods Brutality" to describe the slew of low-budget movies that
emerged in the 1970s which had as their main theme the violent and
abrupt destruction of middle-class serenity. The concept has
occasionally found expression outside of the horror genre (Straw Dogs,
Deliverance), but since Wes Craven's Last House on the Left (1972), it
has been a mainstay of the horror genre. Even thirty years later, the
basic idea continues to be remade and re-interpreted.
In my view, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is the most successful exponent of the genre. As it often is in the American variations of this genre, the TCM takes the so-called blue state/red state dichotomy to a grotesque extreme: the backroads of the Deep South is another country and its inhabitants exhibit uncontained contempt for every unsuspecting wayfarer. Its use of tension, which is meticulously established in the movie's first 45 minutes, and release -- the last 45 minutes -- is almost elegant in its simplicity. Throughout, violence is used in sparing and sudden bursts until the adrenaline-fueled final act, during which it is mercilessly sustained.
With some minor qualifications, this description also fits Marcus Nispel's 2003 remake. Here the enlarged budget and technical expertise have worked both for and against the film. On the one hand, a variety of new elements have been added to the story. Some, like the mysterious little boy or the ending, are so-so, while others, like Leatherface's skin mask or the "extended family," are effective. On the other hand, the professionalism and attention to detail demonstrated by Nispel and Daniel Pearl (whose cinematography here is magnificent) on down to those responsible for filming locations and set detail, is consistently impressive.
So the basic "tension-release" framework has been lifted from the original but instead of improving on it the filmmakers have saddled it with characters, situations, drama, and violence. (We learn from the DVD extras, happily, that some "tender moments" were left on the cutting room floor.) I give it a 7 because ultimately I think it works as a horror movie on its own terms -- in fact, I don't think a better American horror movie has been made since 2000 -- and Nispel/Kosar deserve credit attempting to revise the concept in minor ways for fans of the franchise. On the balance, however, the original's low-budget guerilla-like realism as well as some of its visceral power has been compromised.
Of note, finally, is the performance of Jessica Biel. Having earned her acting chops on the Christian TV show/cheesefest, Seventh Heaven, Biel has as of late found a niche playing physically tough, but likable and intelligent characters. She's quite excellent here; as it was for the original TCM's Marilyn Burns, Biel's performance is exhilarating and intense -- a kind of endurance test. But one easily believes she has the acuity and toughness to survive the ordeal.
Horrors have a bad reputation for poor sequels and bad remakes, which
is why when people heard there was a remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre,
the general thought was that they would be butchering the
classic(excuse the pun).
However this is a terrifying, shocking, emotional thrill of a movie. It may not be up to the standards of the 1970s version, but to be fair, nothing is. The acting is quite well done. The film takes advantage of the time its being made in and the budget, with this version having much better production values, its much more gory but not at the cost of story telling.
The realism is superb and the movie is, at times, as sad as it is scary due to the emotional torture of the characters, i'm sure many people will say its not as good as the original but it could have been a lot worse
This movie is meant to be brutal, dirty, disgusting, awe inspiring, and terrifying. It succeeds on being each and evry one. The movie, once it "picks up" is unrelenting, suspensful, and leaves you with an uneasy feeling. There is such a stong sense of hopelesness throughout the second half, such negative emotions are elicited without so much as a second of comic relief. Yes, there is some comedy, but its all in the first third or so of the movie. The movie drags for a bit at the beginning, but once it all begins, its some scary s**t. I am an avid horror movie fan, I watch everything that comes out. Nothing has really scraed me, at least not in years. This movie scared the crap out of me. I actually wanted to turn away at one point. I wanted to run, I had second thoughts, kind of like being on a rollercoaster for the first time. I left the theater with an uneasy feeling. I couldn't stop laughing nervously, I guess I was trying to cope with what I had seen. My girlfriend was absolutely terrified. Two girls behind us were literally crying becuase they were so terrified. All around us people were screaming, jumping, squirming. After the movie, everyone was saying "that was the scariest movie I have ever seen" and "that was nuts." I couldn't agree more. This movie really, actually, truly scared me. It was just so brutal. I felt terrified for the victims; I felt afraid of the villian (Leatherface was awesome). I loved this movie. It obvioulsy has flaws. The beginning was slow, there were like thirty "jump scares," people walked around exploring stuff alone, etc etc. But this movie, if judged based on how much it did what it intended to do, gets a 10 out of 10. Easy. I thought this remake was going to be easy to stomach, I figured it was going to be "hollywoodized." I was dead wrong. This movie was insane, period.
This is the remake of the 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I thought this remake was done very well, it was very scary and very brutal. Much better then many recent attempts at horror. Im not saying that this is better then the original or worse, because in my opinion the two films were made very differently. This isnt the exact same movie, there are different characters, and many scenes are different. There are lots of similarities and references. The movie had one of the darkest atmospheres ive ever encountered in a film and was extremely brutal and gorey. A must see for a fan or the original and its sequels and horror films. If you like this definitely check out Wrong Turn, another recent horror film that i was impressed with.
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