Director: Marcus Nispel
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Andrew Bryniarski, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey
Screenplay: Scott Kosar
98 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language, and drug content.
Remakes are a touchy subject, I don’t think that’s an unfair thing to say. People expect their remakes to suck, especially in horror, where it seems almost sacrificial to destroy one’s expectations with a terrible remake. I actually saw remake to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre before watching the original, and it bothered me. There’s one scene in particular that truly haunted my nightmares for years. It stays with me while I write this. The movie is…actually a pretty solid remake.
The year is 1973. Five young adults are on the way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert when they almost run into a young woman walking along in the middle of the road. When they let her board their van, she begins to tell them that all her friends are dead, and that they cannot keep driving the direction they are going. The five are about to discover that the young woman is absolutely correct to be terrified. They are traveling through a remote town in Texas. The town’s law enforcement is run by Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey, Full Metal Jacket, The Watch), an inept and strange man. When Erin (Jessica Biel, The Illusionist, Hitchcock) and her boyfriend Kemper (Eric Balfour, A Midsummer’s Nightmare, TV’s Haven) get separated from the others, they find an old house in an empty and unkept field. Erin and the others are about to find out exactly what the young woman was so scared when they come across a towering man with a chainsaw known as Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski, Street Fighter, Mother’s Day).
The remake is strong because it doesn’t follow the plot of the original to a T. The main characters fit archetypes but they are the archetypes of the original. I would go as far as to say that the remake implores more likable character, but the performances are still just okay. Jessica Biel is a fantastic scream queen in the film, and she makes for a terrific lead overall. The inspires choice to use Bryniarski as Leatherface was terrific. His performance is quite good as the darkly tortured and mentally unhinged Hewitt boy. Perhaps the best casting in the whole film is R. Lee Ermey as Sheriff Hoyt. Hoyt is absolutely terrifying. His performance is so dark and sickening that he steals the movie.
Director Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder, Friday the 13th) uses a terrific dark and dreary tone throughout. The depressing look of the film leads to the draining experience of watching these likable characters become tortured and attacked by Leatherface. I just love the look of the film. It’s unique enough to stay with you.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best horror remakes in memory, and while it isn’t as strong as the original, it’s a damn good experience. It’s hinged by a couple good performances in an otherwise underwhelming pool of actors, but the visual storytelling from its director make the film so much more watchable. This is a fun time even with all the dreariness.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th, click here.