Retro Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
 By John Marrone

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Sep 25, 2006, 2:36 pm

Directed by:  Marcus Nispel
Running Time:  98 minutes
Body Count:  6

- trailer (windows media)

In the 1970's, good horror films were dirty.  The good ones felt like they were in league with the devil.  Taboo.  Almost pornographic, with one foot in someone's grave,  capable of staining our souls with its evil.  A landmark of its genre and time, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was this.  In this day and age, when remakes are the surge of todays ocean of theatrically distributed filmworks, it was only inevitable that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake would wash upon our body strewn shores.  Fortunately for genre fans from yesteryear who respected its power, and the new generation to be exposed, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 also weilds a fear factor to be remembered.

Its extremely rare when lightning strikes the same place twice, and when retelling one of the pillars of horror history, that's what you're aiming for - else its to fall short and be cannibalistically ripped apart by fans.  TCM 2003 does fall short of hall of fame status, but it does hit hard and gouge deep.  Five young adults taking a cross country road trip in their love bus derail outside a small nowhere town, after a hitchhicker they pick up kills herself in the back seat.  Simply looking to hand the suicidal passenger to authorities, the five youths are lured into a fly ridden trap where one by one they're picked off, captured and dissected by a basement dwelling, chainsaw weilding maniac whose name, around here, is as well known as Santa Claus.  Leatherface.

The plot is reflective of the original without being an identical imprint, as The Omen 2006 was to its predecessor.  As the character Leatherface is loosely based on the real life of Ed Gein, an American cannibal killer who enjoyed wearing the flesh of his victims, there are all the vague indications to his persona and familiar patterns of a typical Texas Chainsaw film.  Severed and cured flesh stitched together, the psychotic family that's all in on it together, the skin gobbing shreddings of a three foot mega-chainsaw.  Taking place in the 1970's as did the original story, director Marcus Nispel approaches this film as a documentary wrapped, detailed flashback to what happened, replacing the bizarrities and endless nerve straining screaming of Tobe Hooper's film and embedding a slight bit more character development and mainstream plot development.

What Marcus Nispel never looses sight of is delivering the power that the original film had to disturb its audience on a deep, psychological level that remained with you for days after watching it.  What makes this film succeed is Nispel's passionate devotion to what the film should bring across - gut wrenching fear - and the powerful, non-transparent acting of Jessica Beil and counterparts.  Breaking the mold of the television star amped to film status through the 18-35 year old drenched horror medium, she gives a performance that seems prudish and sweet at first, breaking it down to a totally hellshattered soul quivering to survive.

Having seen TCM 2003 in theaters and at home, I should say that this film is best watched with the volume turned up and concentration focused on the story - not amongst a group of friends chattering and distracting people for attention as the next beer is emptied.  If you are allowed to immerse yourself in this film, you will be drawn into a lull and then knocked out, as some fairly innocent youths are taken through deaths not even fitting for some of those on death row.  Guts spilled open, legs sawed at the knee, crotches ground and split by a jagged chainsaw blade - most of the wounds are amply shown and the film takes its time to sting you with their pain, instead of offering up diced skin and gore as eye candy for genre fans.  When I took a date to see this in theaters back around Xmas '03, she and a lot of people around her were choking on fear - tears welling in her eyes - her lips quivering as she held back a potential scream.  A proper concentrative medium for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 should extract ample amounts of geniune fright.

Final analysis:  No remake or sequel will ever display the force of horror that Tobe Hooper's original TCM did.  However, producer Michael Bay really brought in an outstanding director to handle TCM 2003.  It is said that Marcus Nispel had been offered 100 million dollar gigs before but had turned them down, wanting his first feature film to be something dear to his heart, so that all his passion would come through.  Between his devotion to bringing fear into the guts of the viewer, the dominance of the chainsaw weapon pushing you further back into your seat, primo acting and wincing scenes of violence - TCM 2003 delivers the essence of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, revamped and updated, but still true - so that fans of old and new alike will continue to hold respect for the franchise and what it stands for in horror film history. 

CLICK HERE to purchase the 2 disc TCM 2003 set from

CLICK HERE to check out a bunch of clips from the film, provided by Yahoo: Movies




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