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John’s Horror Corner: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), a worthy remake bringing new levels of meanness to the franchise.

September 4, 2019

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MY CALL: This film is just plain cruel and mean, bloody and shocking. But it does an exquisite job of all that. So if that’s your jam, you’ll love this remake which I consider a most worthy rekindling of the franchise. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake: Well obviously you should have already seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). After that, you could try The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) and perhaps Texas Chainsaw 3-D (2013; I wasn’t at all thrilled with it as a Texas Chainsaw movie, but I generally loved it as a popcorn horror flick).

REMAKE/REIMAGINING SIDEBAR: For more horror remakes, I strongly favor the following: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Thing (1982; yes, this was a remake), The Fly (1986), The Mummy (1999; adventure genre), The Ring (2002), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), Let Me In (2010), Evil Dead (2013), Carrie (2013), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), It (2017) and Suspiria (2018). Those to avoid include The Thing (2011; a prequel/remake), Poltergeist (2015), Cabin Fever (2016), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Night of the Demons (2009), Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), War of the Worlds (2005) and The Mummy (2017; total adventure-style reboot-imagining). I’m on the fence about An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), Halloween (2007), It’s Alive (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Fright Night (2011) and Pet Sematary (2019), which range from bad to so-so remakes (in my opinion) but still are entertaining movies on their own.

After a nostalgically familiar opening narration (John Larroquette; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) briefly recounting the horrors that would transpire, we meet road-trippers Erin (Jessica Biel; The Tall Man, Blade: Trinity, The Sinner), Morgan (Jonathan Tucker; The Ruins, Hostage), Pepper (Erica Leerhsen; Wrong Turn 2, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2), Andy (Mike Vogel; Cloverfield, The Boy) and Kemper (Eric Balfour; Skyline, Backcountry) driving across Texas. Much as in the 1974 original, they pick up a troubled person on the side of the road… and this disturbed young woman sets the brutally uneasy standard for this remake when she swallows a bullet and erupts bloody chunks from the back of her head! She may not have been as psychologically disturbing as 1974’s hitchhiker, but she has set a powerful precedent for this movie.

To report the harrowing suicide and turn over the young woman’s dead body from their car, our road-trippers meet the quirky Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey; The Rift, The Frighteners, Up from the Depths, The Watch). Hoyt is a maelstrom of backroad yokel awkwardness, crude misogyny, and blunt malevolent brutality. I winced as I watched him handle the girl’s dead body (with Glad Wrap!!!) and got nervous for the protagonists almost every time he spoke. Hoyt will readily elicit uncomfortable giggles in this role that actually reminds me of John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor (Wolf Creek; a likewise just-plain-mean movie), particularly when he shatters a liquor bottle across a guy’s teeth (poor Jonathan Tucker).

Following in writer/director Tobe Hooper’s (Lifeforce, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, The Funhouse) footsteps must be daunting. But director Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder, Friday the 13th, Conan the Barbarian) has quickly proven his worth in terms of pleasing gorehounds. For me, a significant upgrade this remake enjoys over its source material is the old Hewitt house, which is notably more creepy, rundown, remote and time-forgotten than when Marylin Burns approached in the original in the same iconic butt-cam shot as Jessica Biel, who assumes the role of Marylin Burns here.

Appearing as disturbing as ever (across TCM films old and new), we meet Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski; Mother’s Day) with the same abrupt brutality as seen in 1974 as he drags a victim off to be literally butchered. He’s the same hulking menace you’d know from the other movies, but he lacks the overt sexual repression and depravity exhibited so strongly in the other films.

Recounting the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and transmuting all the slapstick nonsense of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) through a contemporary torture-porn-ish filter, this remake is just plain mean. Our protagonists end up covered in blood! We’ll find flesh-torn chainsaw dismemberment, hanging meat hook impalement, a cruel chainsaw to the crotch, and other such vicious maladies.

This film delights in being gross—like, chunks of gore gross. Leatherface’s workshop is a menagerie of excised human body parts; some preserved, others just laying about to wither in the humid basement… the thought of what it’d smell like horrifies me. Car graveyards, piled up human teeth and collections of severed fingers, an extended demented apparently inbred family (including David Dorfman; The Ring 1-2), and macabre imagery of human butchering will also remind you of such “mean-spirited” film fare as Wrong Turn (2003) and The Hills Have Eyes (2006).

In the end, this film is just plain cruel and mean and bloody. But it does an exquisite job of all that. So if that’s your jam, you’ll love this remake which I consider a most worthy rekindling of the franchise.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2019 7:26 am

    This was a great film. My stomach tightened watching so many scenes. Some of the hate it got… I just didn’t get that.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 4, 2019 7:33 am

      A lot of folks just don’t like these more “mean-spirited” movies. I for one adored this remake in 2003 and still like it a lot.

  2. September 8, 2019 9:39 am

    I went to see this movie hating it because I knew it was going to be a big disappointment and wreck the original TCM. But all it took was one camera view through a hole in the head and I was hooked, then it just got better and better. Jessica Biel was… quite healthy, and R Lee Ermey was just as awesome. Great review of a fun, gore filled movie.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 8, 2019 11:52 am

      Being 22 when this came out, I had a major crush on Biel (along with half the planet at the time, I’m sure). I also had no contention for it since, back then, I had maybe only seen 1974 TCM perhaps once in middle or high school and was not yet so understanding or appreciative of how transformative it was to the genre. So my approach was neutral, and my result: wowed.

      And is it me, or is R Lee Ermey awesome in basically everything he ever did? That guy was excellent on screen.

      • October 6, 2019 10:16 am

        He was awesome and came out strong in everything he did. Whether Full Metal Jacket, TCM, or Seven, he was always spectacular and it seemed no one else would have worked in the role. And of course you can’t forget him from Toy Story and even Apocalypse Now (uncredited).

  3. John Leavengood permalink
    September 8, 2019 3:39 pm

    A podcast discussion entirely on the chase through the drying line sheets in the movie:

Trackbacks

  1. John’s Horror Corner: Friday the 13th (2009), a remake/requel love letter to the early 80s featuring brutally familiar death scenes. | Movies, Films & Flix
  2. Bad Movie Tuesday: Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), squandering the strong final girl and slapstick bonkers violent legacy of part 2 (1986). | Movies, Films & Flix
  3. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix
  4. John’s Horror Corner: Maniac (2012), a brutal remake of a slasher classic, and starring Elijah Wood. | Movies, Films & Flix
  5. John’s Horror Corner: Child’s Play (2019), the fun reboot of the 1988 classic evil doll franchise that we deserve! | Movies, Films & Flix
  6. John’s Horror Corner: Child’s Play 3 (1991), Chucky goes to military school and breaks his Voodoo rules in this serviceable sequel. | Movies, Films & Flix

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