Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) (Another Horror Classic Slaughtered?)

texas remake

“For them, an idyllic summer afternoon became a nightmare.”

I finally caught The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Or, rather, I caught the REMAKE of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Of course, I’ve seen the original, but after hearing the news of Gunnar Hansen’s death, I thought I’d watch it again. However, I couldn’t find the original, and have had the remake on Sky Plus for a while. I’ve not had the pleasure of watching the original and I hate remakes. But with no other option present, and a curiosity building inside of me, I settled down with some tomato soup, and got ready for the Michael Bay-produced remake (a bad omen!)…

It starts off pretty well, with the fake documentary footage ‘account of the tragedy of five youths.’ We are promised the ‘mad and the macabre,’ as we see photographs of loose teeth, decayed skin, and a chainsaw! No chainsaw, no massacre? However, that grainy, black and white pseudo-documentary footage is quickly ruined by the crisp visuals of the modern slasher film. This is my main gripe against the modern slasher film: everything looks too slick, too well-designed and produced. There’s far too much effort to make this grimy, repugnant, and disgusting. We see at least twice Leatherface’s collection of human body parts, the intricate levels of grime in the family’s houses, people coughing and spluttering in the dirt…And then the gore, oh the gore…far too much. The efficacy of horror is what remains in the mind afterwards; and that usually consists in what the ‘imagination’ believed it saw during the film. Of course, as with Hostel (Achilles’ heel being sliced!) or Saw III (the brain surgery), some gory events will stay with you. But horror/slasher films should rely on more on what they don’t show you, than what they do.

“Well I guess that’s what brains look like… Sort of like… Lasagna… Kind of… Okay, I’ll shut up now.”

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre leaves very little to the imagination. Bits of brain and blood on a backseat, a leg sawed off (by a chainsaw!), excess amounts of blood splatter white sheets…We see Leatherface’s disfigured face, as he stitches a mask made out of someone’s face. It’s very unpleasant, yet instantly forgettable. The acting is neither here nor there, and R. Lee Ermey embarrasses himself trying to emulate his greatest role. Typical licentious teenagers are among the ‘to-be-slaughtered’ cast: sexed-up, drugged-up, liquored-up. These youngsters deserve to die; and I was quite happy to see them get slaughtered. And of course, when the ‘horror’ sets in and the first one gets slaughtered, the horrid murky green colour of the modern horror/slasher movie sets in. This could easily be confused with the remake of Friday the 13th or The Last House On The Left (click here for my review of the latter!). It’s replete with ‘fake scares,’ i.e. the noise that turns out to be a mouse in the cupboard, friends scaring their other friends…and these are used so often that there are no real scares when the ‘real’ scares come about.

This film is so ugly it could be a modern art masterpiece!
This film is so ugly it could be a modern art masterpiece!

But this film will not terrify; well, unless like me, you’re terrified of watching awful horror films. Even the end, when the documentary footage returns, tries for a real scare and it fails. The film may repulse you, but not how the director intended: you’ll be repulsed by the pointlessness of the entire thing. I recently watched the first four films of Friday the 13th (The Last Chapter…they lied!), and they truly are trashy films. But they revel in their trashiness; they are what they are. They are the type of horror films that you’re meant to enjoy and get involved in. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has no idea what it wants to be, so just copies the template of the modern horror/slasher film. It thus ends up as an endeavour to sully the name of the original, like the rest of the horror remakes (which are seemingly endless!). But they make loads of money (Massacre, for example, only cost $9, 500,000 to make, yet raked in $107,071,655.

At one point, the Sheriff says “I don’t have much of an imagination, so I need a distinct image of what went down here.” These words could easily be put into the mouth of the director, as he probably watched the original film and thought: ‘There’s not enough gore or severed limbs ni this film! They also could be the words the filmmakers want the audience to feel: “You don’t have an imagination, so we need to show you everything!” they are saying to us. We should feel offended by this, but maybe it’s true. We are accustomed to extreme levels of gore; when we don’t see that limb get severed, or a penis being cut off (thank you Hostel II!!!), we feel disappointed. But, ah, we humans always want more, don’t we?

VERDICT: 2/10. Poor, pointless, and pathetic remake. Don’t even bother; just watch the original!

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