DIRECTOR: Marcus Nispel
WRITER: Scott Kosar
R. Lee Ermey
When a group of five friends who are travelling through the backwoods of Texas on their way to a concert decides to stop to pick up a young traumatised hitchhiker. The group is left shaken when she commits suicide in the back of their van. Stopping at a local gas station, they are told that they will need to meet the sheriff at the local mill. Soon their day goes from bad to worse when the group come upon an old farmhouse that is home to a family of evil cannibals and their chainsaw-wielding son Leatherface.
Being born in the late eighties, a child of the nineties and just entering my formative teenage years in the noughties. Most remakes of classic horror films are where I first discovered they had an original counterpart or were apart of an established franchise. I'd previously brought up in my review for the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre that I decided to bite the bullet and watch the original before seeing the remake because I wasn't always a huge horror fanatic. The cover for the original always terrified me. So when I watched the original in preparation for the remake, my life was changed.
Going into the remake, I wasn't a decade's long fan of the original. It was fresh in my mind at that time. The original is a movie that over the years and as I've matured has become a film that I hold in high regard and consider a masterpiece. I never had the hostility for remakes like a lot of the older horror fans have because I didn't grow up with the original films. The remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best remakes that I think I've ever seen. With the hundreds that have been made and with varying degrees, that says a lot.
What the remake does right is that it compliments the original pretty well. It doesn't go shot for shot and only takes certain moments from the original that it needs to set up the events. We have the evil family, we have the hitchhiker and an old farmhouse. Everything else feels different enough to set this movie apart. Every moment that is used here in the remake basically subverts expectations. The hitchhiker scene being the first. A brutal and horrific scene where a traumatised hitchhiker pulls a gun from between her legs puts the barrel in her mouth and pulls the trigger. The tracking shot from the front of the van, through the back of her now missing skull and out through the blown out glass of the van, is just the first of many effective moments of horror.
The remake from the very first minute never stops. As our friends begin to wander off and locate the old Hewitt house and Leatherface begins firing on all cylinders. The shit hits the fan and never slows down again. You can disown or even hate on the remake all you want, but as a fast-paced, gruesome, and tension-filled house of horrors, this works. It took what made the original so fun and harrowing and tried to ramp up all the elements. Is the remake always successful? No, but as a film in the franchise. It comes in second place for me. It's the closest we've come to the original in terms of a quality Texas Chainsaw Massacre style horror.
Where the remake missteps for me is that it uses some pretty silly tropes to keep the group of friends stuck in their hellish environment. One being the horrible car starting and the wheel coming off. The moment happens without the audience ever seeing a possible cause as to how the wheel may have come loose in the first place. So in a moment of levity, the movie quickly throws out the old wheel falling off the van and it still inspires groans all these years on. The remake also contains a ton of goofs that are pretty noticeable throughout the film. A severed leg being massacred yet the next shot is a clean cut. The van having no one in it in the long shots. The dead hitchhiker changing hair colour from scene to scene. While distracting, I can look past them and not rip apart the movie too much.
The cinematography in the remake is outstanding. With the original cinematographer, Daniel Pearl returning to the remake was a pretty smart decision. The original having a lower budget and an almost gritty, exploitation feel to it and he returns to shoot the remake where he has a lot more to work with is great. It really shows here. We have a lot of gorgeous landscape shots. Backwoods filled with fog. The shots of the giant creepy house. Almost every shot in the film feels like a beautiful setup or angle. While a pretty gruesome film, I still found a lot of beauty in the way it was shot and looked.
I also thought the acting was solid in the remake. Jessica Biel is Erin, our final girl. I love her early noughties where she took on risky roles just to send a big fuck you to the producers of 7th Heaven who wouldn't let her out of her contract. Her role in the remake where she is put through the wringer was a standout leading role for her. She really got to show a lot of suffering here. Not to be upstaged, R. Lee Ermey plays our villain Sheriff Hoyt who basically outshines Leatherface. He's pretty sick and twisted and tortures our group of friends. A big of character actor thrown into the mix.
The supporting cast is also in fine form. Erica Leerhsen as Pepper while getting a pretty lame death scene is one of the best screamers ever in a horror movie. Eric Belfour plays the nice boyfriend of Erin and his final moments in the movie actually hit you in the feels. Mike Vogel is great as Andy. His character is the one who suffers the most. Jonathan Tucker is my least favourite here, and I think he is written pretty annoyingly. Lastly, we have Andrew Bryniarski as Leatherface. He's probably the most towering and powerful of the incarnations. He's like an unstoppable force in this film.
Lastly, we come to the gore and violence. Owning the uncut version of the film. This is a pretty grisly remake. From the opening hitchhiker scene to people having their limbs sawn off with a chainsaw or hacked off with a meat cleaver. This movie doesn't ever really shy away. We get some pretty nasty violence, and gorehounds should eat this up. Jonathan Tucker being split up through the groin and up the middle with the chainsaw in the uncut version of the movie is the standout moment for me. For being the most annoying character, to see him go out like this was a cheer-worthy moment.
DEATH TOLL: 8
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A hitchhiker pulls a gun out of her vagina and blows her brains out.
- A guy is hit in the head with a sledgehammer.
- A woman is hit in the back with a chainsaw and then hit in the chest.
- Leatherface drops a chainsaw on his thigh cutting into the muscle.
- A man's fingernails break off when being carried downstairs.
- A man's arm is hacked off with a meat cleaver.
- We see a basement full of body parts.
- Skin and flesh are seen hanging on meat hooks.
- A man is shoved onto a meat hook.
- A guy is smacked in the face with a bottle, and several teeth fall out.
- A sheriff is repeatedly run over by his own car.
- Someone is stabbed in the chest to end their suffering.
- A man is sawn up the middle with a chainsaw, entrails fall out.
- A man's leg is sawn off with a chainsaw.
- Salt is rubbed into a bloody stump.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake has the honour of being one of my top ten fave horror movie remakes of all time. With beautiful cinematography, the pretty ominous soundtrack, solid performances, bucketloads of gore and some decent suspense. It's one remake that doesn't tarnish the original. The movie has a few missteps when it reverts to some typical horror tropes and a pretty silly bit of book-ending, but for the most part, this is a pretty excellent remake that most horror fans should enjoy.