R. Lee Ermey
Horror Teens Cannibalism Chainsaws
Trivia Yes, it is the severed head of Harry Knowles' (he of Aintitcoolnews.com fame) that can be glimsped in the basement of Leatherface's house, in a moment that spectacularly ruins the atmosphere of the scene.
The narration at the start of the remake is provided (again) by John Larroquette. He was an unknown actor and was uncredited when he first recorded the opening lines for the original film.
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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
8th Jun 04
Five teenagers on their way to a rock concert in Dallas find themselves stranded in a rural part of Texas. They soon find themselves under attack from a strange cannibalistic family, including flesh-wearing freako, Leatherface.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of THE classics of horror cinema, so it was a little worrying when it was announced that Michael Bay (producer / director of over-produced movies such as Pearl Harbour) was greenlighting a glossy high-budget makeover (facelift?) for the Leatherface franchise.
Yet, thankfully it's not that bad, but then again, it's not that great either. The film opens with a very similar voiceover narration to the original (see Trivia) but with different footage as we tour the furnace room, all fingernail scratches and blood-clotted hair, of the Hewitt residence.
Pre-credit sequence dealt with, we cut to the new ‘victims’, as they travel in their van on their way to a Skynard concert in Dallas. There's Morgan (who plays the wheelchair guy from the first film without the wheelchair), Andy and Pepper who have got it on after picking up Pepper the previous day, and Kemper and Erin (Jessica Biel). We know she's going to survive, because she's the only one who doesn't smoke any pot.
As they drive, they almost hit a young girl who is wandering in the middle of the road. Jumping out to help her, they find her mumbling, almost incoherent, so they help the girl into their van. She's a strange one indeed, muttering about death before telling the group that they're "all going to die”. She then pulls a gun from her bloody crotch (eh?) and blows her brains out.
A 'Great!' reverse-track shot then shows the reactions of our young nubile ‘heroes’. As they stare shocked, we pull back through the hole in the girl’s head, and out through the circular hole in the back windscreen. It's one of the last great shots of the film.
The gang argue briefly about their smuggled drugs, and what to do with the body in the van, before eventually arriving at a gas station (with the classic B-B-Q sign!). The place is a dump, flies buzz around the severed pig’s head, the toilet is even worse. The old woman (The Mother!) tells them that the sheriff is not around, so they drive off again (still with the dead girl sitting in the back seat of the van) towards Crawford Mill.
There they encounter weirdy young boy(?) Jedidiah (The Son!) amidst the bone statues and skeleton figures. Jedidiah tells them that the Sheriff lives a short walk through the woods, so Erin and Kemper set off through the sunray filtered forest (it is a Michael Bay movie after all) to find him. Arriving at the house they find a legless (that’s wheelchair-bound legless) old man (The Grandfather!) who allows Erin to call the Sheriff, as long as Kemper remains outside.
Of course, Kemper disobeys, and enters the house to look around. BAM!. We get our first glimpse of Leatherface as he appears, hits Kemper on the back of the head (spraying red blood across the black and white cartoon TV screen) and drags his twitching body off through a door that slides shut. It's not a patch on the original scene.
Meanwhile, back at the van, the Sheriff (R. Lee Emery doing his authoritative and shouty role again) arrives to question the youngsters. He then proceeds to wrap the dead girl in cling film in the only scene in the film that really attempts anything like humour (if you call copping-a-feel of a dead corpse funny).
Erin returns to the gang, scared and without Kemper. After a few close-ups of Jessica Biel’s chest, ass and groin areas, Erin and Andy head back to the house to look for Kemper. From here on in you pretty much know the routine, it's only the order of the victims that becomes interesting.
Andy is next to croak, pursued by Leatherface wielding his chainsaw through a clothes line full of grey bedsheets that seem to strectch on for miles, as if the derelict house is a 50 bedroom hotel! Andy eventually gets his leg severed (in an 'ok' gore moment in a film surprisingly free from blood-letting), before being carried screaming into the cellar where he is hung on a meathook, and his wound is washed in salt. Nice.
A breathless Erin arrives back at the van, but the van now won’t start. The Sheriff returns (Shock! The Father! He's part of the family!!), and finding the joints in the ashtray promptly abuses the three remaining teenagers, forcing them into the dirt, and making Morgan place a gun in his own mouth. Morgan tries to shoot the Sheriff, with the gun, but it isn't loaded, so he is 'arrested' and carted off to the house for a carvery.
From here on in the film tends to get very repetitive and boring. Yes, we get to see Leatherface remove his mask (to reveal a very strange looking man with no nose), but there is little gravitas to any of the scenes featuring the murderous family, and we repeatedly feel short-changed. Pepper is attacked by Leatherface and cut up offscreen. Erin finds herself repeatedly chased through woods and corridors (all lit with the typical overblown shafts of light) and JUST manages to get away time and time again.
There are a couple of side-plots with the family, and a strange female couple who live in a caravan in the woods provide a slightly interesting diversion, but it never really goes anywhere except to set up the baby in the film, which really has no place in there anyway.
Jessica Biel handles herself well in the role of Erin, even though she is forced to go through with endless wet t-shirt shots, and close-ups of her crotch area as she walks past the camera. The other actors are largely forgettable, and only R. Lee Emery and the 2 caravan women seem to be having any fun.
By the end we’ve become tired of the endless chase scenes, pretty-lit dark holes, rats and rain that, like Erin herself, we seem to be muttering “I Just want to go home”. Two slightly mis-judged ‘last-scare’ moments and it’s all over.
Initially interesting, this film is far too glossy and plotless (it doesn’t have the raw energy that made the original survive on it’s thin premise) for it to be long-lasting, although with its successful US box office take, you can bet there’ll be a new instalment of Leatherface (aka Thomas Brown Hewitt) along very shortly.
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