Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Film Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Review)
United States/2003
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Erin (Jessica Biel), her boyfriend Kemper, Morgan, Andy, and Pepper (Erica Leerhsen) are returning from Mexico and heading to a concert. After almost crashing into her, the group pick up a confused hitchhiker. This hitchhiker eventually reveals a gun and shoots herself - bringing this group into a nightmare she couldn't escape from...

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a gory slasher. The situation quickly escalates after the bloody suicide. As the the group search for the sheriff, they find old photographs, ritualistic objects, and disturbing human parts - this helps create the dark mood for the story. Eventually, the group slowly begins to separate, and two characters are introduced; the large and intimidating Leatherface and the blunt, eccentric Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey). Leatherface brings the terror, suspense, and gore as he wields his chainsaw and chases the group. The sheriff brings some dark humor and tension with his tasteless dialogue and vulgar actions. Thereafter, the story consists of gore, chases, and hiding. The path the film follows is formulaic, which leads to a predictable yet satisfying ending.

The story isn't perfect, however. There are quite a few inconsistencies and moments that aren't logical (I suppose it wouldn't be a slasher if it were.) The small inconsistencies may not be worth pointing out - like the handgun that seemed to appear out of nowhere, or the inability to use Leatherface's chainsaw against him, and small annoyances like that. I won't fault the film too much as I feel like I'm nitpicking. Other flaws in the story include the lack of detail and explanation for certain scenes, and a empty feeling - the film moves at a fast pace but ultimately feels like it lacks significant events, some scenes feel disconnected.

The cast does a great job in this film. Jessica Biel delivers a solid performance as the lead, and plays the character well demonstrating happiness one moment and dread during the next; she's also fantastic to look at. R. Lee Ermey is fantastic as usual, he really plays his sinister character well. Although she's a supporting actress, Erica Leerhsen delivers a weak, overacted performance - maybe it's her character overreacting, but she just never hits the right emotion. The cinematography is great, creating a dark gritty vibe. The music works well with the film. The special effects are very effective and graphic, this is a treat for gorehounds. Leatherface has an intimidating design, which I really enjoyed.

Now, as a standalone, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is great. As a remake, it doesn't quite match the raw realism and disturbing content of the original. The remake is overwhelmingly violent - as I said, a treat for gorehounds - which in turn makes the film less realistic. For example, the hitchhiker in the original is disturbing through his eccentric dialogue and actions, while the remake has a hitchhiker that quickly and violently kills herself. The original being much more believable than the remake, I think these scenes alone show the difference in the film. Another comparison is related to the chase scenes; whereas the original has a chase scene that is dreadfully suspense as it is so close and realistic, the remake uses a longer range between Erin and Leatherface which lowers the tension and sets up the hide-and-seek scenes. I think both work well, but the original chase scene is much more effective. As for style, the remake is a more stylistic slasher with a dark, slick atmosphere - its also clearly a remake as it uses a lot of gore, jump-scares, and it's over-sexualized.

Overall, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a great slasher - it's a gory and suspenseful thrill ride that genuinely entertains. It doesn't live up to the original, but that's okay because this remake really tries to develop its own identity - it adds so much to the original story that it feels like a new ride. I strongly recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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