[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 17 – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

 

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.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th, click here.

[Happy 5th Birthday!] The A-Team (2010)

 theateam2010a

Director: Joe Carnahan

Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Patrick Wilson

Screenplay: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods

117 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking.

 

It is difficult to turn a popular television series into a movie. How do you condense years of storytelling into two hours? It has been attempted multiple times for multiple series, and while many of these attempts do not fare well, some happen to slip between the cracks. One of these rare finds is 2010’s The A-Team from director Joe Carnahan (The Grey, Stretch).

theateam2010c

In the adaptation of the popular 1980s series, viewers get to see how the famous team was formed by Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List, Entourage). We see the meeting of the team, the inciting incident behind their court-martialing, and their fight to reclaim their freedom. After they are betrayed during a mission, Hannibal, Face (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, Aloha), Murdock (Sharlto Copley, TV’s Powers, District 9) and B.A. (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, The Midnight Meat Train, Miss March) must outrun the cops, led by Face’s former flame Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel, The Illusionist, Accidental Love) and try to prove their innocence with the help of the mysterious Lynch (Patrick Wilson, Insidious, Home Sweet Hell).

The A-Team is a perfect example of updating a classic scenario using all the bells and whistles of a big production. Getting strong performances from top names like Neeson, Cooper and Copley to play the infamous mercenaries (notice I didn’t mention Jackson here…) really elevates the level of excitement and fun had in this movie. We even get a unique and comedic performance from Wilson as Lynch, a notable character from the series.

Carnahan’s cinematography skill here is his ability to maneuver the camera constantly without resorting to shaky cam. It has a frenetic yet focused chaos to it. He also knows how to get a near-perfect flow from his films. The A-Team never lets up for the entirety of its near-two-hour runtime.

The subtle use of the original theme helps to homage the original musical cues. This is assisted by the great makeup and costuming. These characters are allowed to look damn cool no matter what they do. It is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s treatment of his characters. Everyone in this film is so cool it made me jealous.

The visual effects work quite well for a bulk of the film, but their overuse in the finale is noticeable aged and comes off much more cartoony than it should, making many of the stylized action pieces look a bit like a video game cut scene, which ultimately takes away from the “Wow” factor of the explosive ending.

theateam2010b

Thanks to some dated effects and the poor casting of Rampage Jackson as a carbon-copy attempt of Mr. T, The A-Team has some faults, but it is a rather underappreciated and sadly forgotten action spectacle. I suggest you take some time to revisit this oft-unloved film from a great but largely unnoticed director like Carnahan.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑