Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (2003) Review:

How often are remakes regarded as decent properties? When audiences hear that one of their favorite properties is being rebooted or remade, most roll their eyes and complain. Majority of the time, this is an understandable opinion. Many studios do not understand why remaking a fan’s beloved movie over again is practically complete sabotage. Much of the reason is that producers want to introduce a new generation of viewers to the series. However, many would argue to just watch the original. Yet for some cases, remaking a franchise is probably the best way to go. When a franchise begins to sink so low in its capability to entertain the fewest of audiences, then it's time for an overhaul. After three releases with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (1986), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre III: Leatherface (1990) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) and all failing harder than the last, it seemed that it was time to take a break. That is until literally in 2003 almost three decades later, it was decided to run the chain saw once more.

The five teens
Surprisingly as tough as it is to get people to come back and see a remake, when a studio fails as hard as The Texas Chain Massacre: The Next Generation (1994), you really can only go up from there. Scott Kosar wrote the script for this remake. Kosar would later write the script for The Machinist (2004), another body horror film. Since it is a remake, the story has similar plot points to the 1974 original but there are a number of changes and added scenes too. Five teenagers in 1973 are reported to be killed. The last being seen near the Hewitt house. Originally headed to Mexico, Erin (Jessica Biel), Morgan (Jonathan Tucker), Pepper (Erica Leerhsen), Andy (Mike Vogel) and Kemper (Eric Balfour) are traveling through the Texas flat lands. However after coming across an emotionally and mentally scarred female pedestrian, the group end up getting involved with a terrifying local family. Directing this in his debut for movies was Marcus Nispel. Mostly known for doing music videos, Nispel does have an eye for horror films too.

What's enjoyable to see about Kosar's remake script is that he easily changes around the reason as to why these teenagers come in contact with Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) and his family. On top of that, there's a bit of backstory given about the new Leatherface named Thomas Hewitt. It's not deep in its explanation but it does give insight as to why Leatherface is what he is when seen on screen. This doesn't get rid of the glaring continuity errors though. For example, audiences are introduced to the premise with cops going through evidence. One piece of evidence is a video of cops going through the Hewitt house. How did the cops recover that? Was it sent back to them? Also the fact that this remake is not as bizarrely terrifying as the original predecessor that inspired it is somewhat disappointing too. This remake comes off more direct in its approach when it comes to being grotesque. There's not a whole lot of unknown here especially for those who have been through the first movie and its subsequent sequels.

The one thing to be happy with though is that the tone is much more grounded that of any sequel that came after Tobe Hooper's first. There are no outlandishly over the top actors in this story. The family itself is crazy enough; there's no need to surpass them with family members that are beyond their range. Speaking of which, the acting is fine. All actors including Leatherface and his family are effective on screen. Of the cast Jessica Biel had the best role. Coming in second was Andrew Bryniarski for playing Leartherface as such a hulking monster. Even R. Lee Erney who plays an individual named Sheriff Hoyt has some intense scenes. Although the psychological aspect isn't as terrifying, the horror is still fairly gruesome. The gore itself isn't too disturbing yet it is tough to sit through. The set decoration by Randy Huke had a nice touch. So much of the Hewitt house looks like it could've been condemned years ago. The exterior looks rather similar to that of an insane asylum.

Peak-a-boo,....I C U
Complimenting the visuals was Daniel Pearl as cinematographer. This is a highly respectable addition because Pearl was the original director of photography to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Everything from the lighting, the exterior shots and the interior shots of the Hewitt house are all shown to the point where it's enough for the viewer to enjoy. One of the best scenes shown in this remake takes place in a slaughterhouse. It truly is a well-shot sequence. Composing the film score to this production was at the time newcomer Steve Jablonsky. This was Jablonsky's first major theatrical outing in the scoring industry and it is nothing like his later works in the Transformers (2007) series; something he's best known for now. Unlike what listeners would hear from those scores, the tracks are much more natural with less reliance on synthesizers. There is a reoccurring main theme, which is important because prior to this, not one of the past films had a released musical score.

While it may still lack explanations for certain plot points and is not as psychologically scary as the its first parent film, it is by far better than any sequel that came after it. The actors are cast well, the horror is still there, the musical score is a commendable element and the set design plus camerawork help drive home the grounded tone.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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