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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Starring: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker
Director: Marcus Nispel
Rated: R
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: October 2003
Genre: Horror

*Also starring: Eric Balfour, Andrew Bryniarski, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, R. Lee Ermey, Terrence Evans, Stephen Lee, David Dorfman

Review by Jerry Saravia
1 star out of 4

Sequelizing the original fright classic "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" might have seemed fruitless, but remaking it is cruel and unusual punishment. You only need to think back to 1998 to recall such a glaring error in filmmaking standards - Gus Van Sant's recreation of Hitchcock's "Psycho." "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is Michael Bay and company's dreadful, spiritless remake of a film that has since been deemed the ultimate experience in terror (sorry "Evil Dead" fans).

The movie is set in the early 70's as we witness a van carrying young people on their way to a Skynyrd concert - they listen to Skynyrd's own "Sweet Home Alabama" on the radio so we don't forget what time period it is. A woman is walking on the road, having just survived some ordeal. The compassionate women in the van (including Jessica Biel) pick her up. This scared, comatose passenger suddenly picks up a gun from under her dress and shoots herself in the head. Why? Because she couldn't take it anymore? She suffered too much? No. Because music video director Marcus Nispel and producer Michael Bay want to provide a sensory overload of pumped-up images and music so that the audience never grows restless. The rest of the story focuses a great deal of time on these young, heartless people and their decision on what to do with the corpse and the bloody brains in the backseat of their van (accent on the brain matter). I might believe young people would act in such a way today, but in the 1970's? To be fair, the women are more caring than the men who just want to go to the concert. They do the right thing and call the sheriff (R. Lee Ermey), who proves to be as creepy as the family of savages that live nearby. But never fear my young horror enthusiasts, Leatherface and his buzzing saw are near.

Despite using the cinematographer of the original film, Daniel Pearl, nothing in this "Massacre" is likely to scare you or thrill you. The movie has lots of screaming and running and jumping and some loud chainsaw sounds, nicely amplified by the DTS soundtrack. What is missing is whatever soul the original film had - there was a sense of growing dread cultivated by our hopes that the young victims would walk away from inevitable death. The original "Massacre" was new for showing what depths humanity had sunk to when you would find a house with human bones, skin masks and meathooks. If nothing else, it was a documentary of horror, a living nightmare one couldn't wake up from. Oh, and they were cannibals but this movie barely considers that for a moment - the family in this retro, souped-up version is simply nuts.

"Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is, as correctly mentioned by Roger Ebert, a geek show where frigid close-ups of slimy, bloody fluids and hand-held camera footage of people running suggest hysteria, not fear. These young people seem to have ample opportunities to run away from these crazy folks, thus the urgency is missing. There is mostly sadism for the sake of having sadism (and maybe someone can explain Biel killing a guy who keeps sliding into the same meat hook he is hanging from. I know the guy is suffering and asks to be put out of his misery, but did she need to use a big knife and thrust it into his gut?) The buzz in this new "Massacre" may be loud but the thrill is gone, folks.

Copyright 2003 Jerry Saravia

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