[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.

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 15 – Cloverfield (2008)

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Annable

Screenplay: Drew Goddard

85 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.

 

Damn, this movie drove me crazy with its marketing. Seriously, I was one of those people.

Cloverfield is presented as found-footage from an incident that took place in New York City in 2008 in which a large creature terrorized the city. We are mostly filmed by Hud (T.J. Miller, How to Train Your Dragon, Deadpool) who is at a going-away party for his best friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David, In Your Eyes, LBJ). While there, Hud and the rest of the party witness the beginning of the attack and flee the party into the streets of New York. Hud joins up with Marlena (Lizzy Caplan, The Interview, Allied), Rob, his brother Jason (Mike Vohel, The Help, The Case for Christ), and Jason’s girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas, Evil Dead, TV’s Gotham) in an effort to seek shelter and hopefully find Beth (Odette Annable, The Unborn, TV’s Pure Genius), who left the party earlier after a fight with Rob.

People don’t give enough credit to director Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes, Let Me In). Over the last decade, he has crafted several films that should be classics of their respective genre, but have largely gone unnoticed or underappreciated. Cloverfield often finds itself lost in the mostly unimpressive found-footage subgenre, but its characters are developed, its visuals are striking, and its pace is excellent. At a tight 85 minutes, Cloverfield doesn’t let up.

Drew Goddard (The Martian, TV’s Daredevil) put out a real nice screenplay with mostly-sharp dialogue, although there are times where his dialogue gets a little too expositional, and T.J. Miller is forced to give that exposition, which isn’t a strong point in his performance.

Overall, Cloverfield is an experience like no other. This is a film that deserves to be seen and have more recognition, and maybe it will with the success of the Cloververse that I still don’t really understand. If you don’t get motion sickness, you just might enjoy the ride.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, click here.

For my review of Matt Reeves’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, click here.

For my review of Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes, click here.

 

 

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