October 21 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 28   

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A Massacre of the '73 classic

By Brent Carpenter
Gazette Staff

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Starring: Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski
Directed by: Marcus Nispel

New Line Cinema/2003
THE HORROR, THE HORROR! Reactions to a terrible movie, from left to right: Chainsaw’s Eric Balfour, Jonathan Tucker, Jessica Biel, Mike Vogel and Erica Leerhsen.

The Texas Chainsaw Massare is one colossal piece of shit. This generic rehash only wishes it were a mere retread of its inspiration, the 1973 indie classic.

There isn't much in the way of plot. Essentially, five kids on their way to a Skynard concert wind up at a creepy farm house, where they meet a "sweet, sweet boy" (Leatherface) and his family of inbred hillbillies.

A shot-for-shot remake of the original wouldn't have been a good idea (see: Psycho), but at least it would have prevented the filmmakers from unleashing their pseudo-creativity on an unsuspecting audience.

So, Leatherface now has a skin condition, huh? It's funny; the thought of the bad guy battling it out with a rash doesn't exactly make him any more intimidating. This was probably done to make it more painfully obvious there are psychological factors behind his penchant for making homemade Halloween masks. No kidding.

The problem is that his "skin condition" is so severe that when he takes his mask off, it makes him look like even more of a monster. More humanized killers are scarier because it is harder for the viewer to distance himself.

Regardless, why did he even have to take the mask off in the first place?

Movie geeks love to complain about how the film's main producer and driving force (and zillionaire action director) Michael Bay is the Satan of Cinema; the Sultan of Schlock.

It may be true that in the past, Bay has sacrificed the need for a good screenplay, proper editing, effective acting and once even faithfulness to history itself (twice counting this) at the expense of mega-budget, often insanely entertaining, eye-popping stupidity.

With The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, EVERYTHING is disregarded, including plain decency, both human and cinematic; there is nothing entertaining about this backwash. The movie is gory, but the few kills we get are shot terribly and usually happen just off screen.

The performances range from decent to pretty good, as acting is one of the few areas where the movie holds up. Biel (as Erin, the important girl) is destined for bigger and better things, as is Balfour (her boyfriend, Kemper), who was great on HBO's Six Feet Under, although he's wasted here.

Texas Chainsaw was shot for about one-fifteenth of the cash it took to make a movie like Bad Boys 2, but you never once get the impression the producers went small-scale for the purposes of making a tighter, more minimalist film. Not that it matters. Now, the movie can end its run with as much money as Pearl Harbor did in its first weekend and still be a hugely profitable investment.

Too bad part of the effectiveness of the original stemmed from its cheap, documentary feel; it looked real, so it felt real.

Original cinematographer Daniel Pearl is back and does a nice job with colour (especially in the daytime scenes), although the overall look of the movie is pure gloss, pure Bay.

If you want to be emotionally unsettled by a movie, see Mystic River. If you want to be entertained, see Kill Bill or School of Rock (again). If you want to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, just punch yourself in the face and light $15 on fire. At least that way, you won't have to drive around Masonville Place looking for a parking spot.



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