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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Marcus Nispel, 2003)

 
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 10.18.2003 5:30 pm    Post subject: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Marcus Nispel, 2003) Reply with quote

Talk about bad ideas. The utter failure of its three sequels should have alerted anyone interested in a remake that Hooper?s 1974 horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a movie destined to happen only once. Even Hooper himself didn?t try to recreate his original with Part 2, instead opting to fashion a gruesome dark comedy that serves as a sort of parody of its predecessor?s themes.

But no one has ever accused director-turned-producer Michael Bay of good ideas, and this first endeavor from his new production company does not bode well for the future. A PR report during the film?s production stated that the remake would focus more on suspense than gore. Alarm bells went off in the heads of anyone familiar with the first movie, since, contrary to what the shrewdly chosen exploitative title would lead you to believe, Chainsaw relies on camera angles and a heightened sense of tension to make the viewer believe he?s witnessed more carnage than was ever actually present on screen.

Another problem we now find with that report is that the remake is really all-too-happy to linger on the gooey red stuff. I?m not necessarily opposed to cinematic blood and guts, but I am irritated by movies that mistake it for suspense.

The real problem with this new Texas Chainsaw is that it retreads the same ground as the original. Good remakes, like John Carpenter?s The Thing and David Cronenberg?s The Fly distinguish themselves by offering narratives clearly dissimilar from the original. Texas Chainsaw, on the other hand, not only follows pretty much the same premise of the original, it also takes place in 1973, and stridently claims to be based on a true story.

To wit: Five teenagers in a van encounter a hitchhiker on a remote stretch of road in Texas. The encounter eventually leads the group into the clutches of a deranged, cannibalistic family. Much screaming and buzzing of chainsaws follow.

The most remarkable thing about the original Chainsaw was how effectively it delivered a sense of the uncanny even though the events of the movie are never the least bit overtly supernatural. It?s as though madness has seeped into the walls and foundation of the house, subtly but palpably warping the fabric of world. In fact, though it?s often mistaken for a slasher movie, Chainsaw really feels more like a haunted house movie.

To the remake?s credit, it very nearly manages at one point, for a woefully short time, to recapture this sense of nightmare leaked into the real world. Credit must be given to cinematographer Daniel Pearl, who, not coincidently, photographed the original movie.

Credit must also be given to the actors cast to portray the maniacal rednecks, most notably R. Lee Ermey, who delivers an utterly deranged, yet convincing, performance as the sheriff in cahoots with the family, unbeknownst to their soon-to-be victims.

Where the movie goes wrong is its intentional or unintentional adherence to slasher movie cliches. Yes, as usual, we have largely underdeveloped teenaged characters making lunkheaded decisions, like heading off alone into the dark to investigate a noise so that they may move inexorably further into danger. We have the tiresome it-was-only-a-cat gag, here performed by a ?possum. Most irritatingly, we have a heroin who manages to loose her pursuer and leave him in the dust at least a quarter mile behind, yet is nonetheless pounced upon by the same pursuer moments later from literally out of nowhere.

And yet, I feel this is a movie of missed opportunities. There is one scene, late in the movie, when heroin Jessical Biel (who, it must be said, has strong a screen presence) peers secretly in through a window and regards the family adoring their infant in a highchair. The image is placid and serene as a posed photograph, almost sympathetic; a startling contrast to the lunacy we?ve witnessed so far. But director Marcus Nispel hasn?t the patience to make anything out of this moment, and so we?re back to slasher movie antics. Yawn.
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Al
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PostPosted: 10.19.2003 3:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with the Night Watchman, I checked out this one on friday and was for the most part unimpressed. A couple of thoughts that I had:

-One of the interesting things about the original was the hinted-at explanation about how the family became desensitized to killing through generations of working at the meat processing plant. Hooper really stuck with the idea through all of the evil characters from the mummified grandfather who had been the "best killer ever!", Leatherface running his own "meat" processing operation out of the house, the hitchhiker who rambles on gellfully about life on the killing floor, to the brother running the BBQ stand. The protagonists participate as well, with the females playing the part of the general, meat-eating public who are grossed out by the details of where their steaks come from and the handicapped brother who is disgusted but fascinated with the industry in a macabre way.

I'm not interested in all of this for the point it makes about meat-packing, but for the fact that there was an explanation in the original film about what drove these people (who may have been normal a few generations back?) over the edge. And, to top it off, the thing that turned them into maniacs was an industry that most of the country supports with its eating habits.

In the new TCM the meat-packing theme was only barely hinted at through a couple of shots of cat & mouse around some beef sides, and seemed thrown in because it was part of the original's story. Like many other aspects of the new film it was a detail that was thrown in with no respect for what made it so interesting in the original.

The killers in the new TCM not only have no motive, they have no history (that we are presented with). The audience is expected to accept the idea that psychos live in rural areas and chop up wandering teenagers because we've been conditioned to accept the "motiveless, remorseless killer" by decades of slasher movies. Portraying the villians in this way ignores the fact that the "originals" characters of that type actually had interesting origins, histories, or explanations for their behavior.

I won't say that people shouldn't go see the film, but just that expectations shouldn't be too high...

My favorite part was the performance by R. Lee Ermey as the classic horror film redneck sheriff. Even though he plays the same character in every film he's in, what can I say, I just eat it up. (shows what a film connoisseur I am, eh? Smile )
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matt header
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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PostPosted: 10.19.2003 4:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The fact that R. Lee Ermey was the voice of the main green soldier guy in "Toy Story" is at the same time awesome and disturbing.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 10.19.2003 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The name R. Lee Ermey is early Sumerian for God That Walks The Earth.
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Al
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PostPosted: 10.19.2003 4:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice! Knew we had some R. Lee fans up here who appreciate fine acting. Smile

Now get on your face and give me twenty-five!
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 10.19.2003 5:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, but I'm cryin' to my mama directly afterward.
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filmsRpriceless
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PostPosted: 10.20.2003 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you, but I disliked it more.

Having said that, R. Lee Ermey was the fucking man.
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Dr Giggles
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PostPosted: 10.23.2003 5:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What were you guys expecting?

Were you really expecting it to be better than the original?
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 10.23.2003 5:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I was hoping it would be good (although I wasn't really expecting it). I spent a lot of time comparing the remake to the original in my review, but I think if I hadn't seen the first, or if this movie was an original, I'd still have the same complaints. Also, I think if you're going to bother with a remake, you should do something new with the story, like The Thing or The Fly. Chainsaw doesn't really diverge at all from the first, except in the details.
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Dr Giggles
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PostPosted: 10.23.2003 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

yeah, I know, I've got some hope, but thats all. Im not expecting anything, it only leads to dissapointment.

I heard it made 40mil in its first week,

is that true?

if so....wow!

Nice to see a horror movie earning some coin,

even if it is a dodgy remake.
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Al
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PostPosted: 10.23.2003 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that I was just hoping for something watchable & entertaining. The new TCM could have been that if not for the weak attempts at links to the things that made the original such a "classic".
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