The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 v. 2003)

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* Note : I learned after watching the original that Marilyn Burns had passed away, she was the main character of the original film, and I would like to take a moment to say rest in peace, and all my love to her family and friends. * 

Well, we’re nearing the end of  this little collection of reviews guys. This one is a pretty clear cut decision, and I’m sure you’ll agree with what I have to say about this. The next (and final one) in the series of original v. remake will be A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. So get ready for that one as well.

Alright, anyways, now we’re really going back to the birth of modern horror icons. Before Micheal … there was Leatherface. Lets take a look at

 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

So to start things off we’re going back quite a ways to 1974. This movie really set the stage for what was going to come next in slasher movies. Brutal, and without mercy, we were introduced to Leatherface and his insane family in a movie that goes a little something like this :

Five friends visiting their grandfather’s house in the country are hunted and terrorized by a chain-saw wielding killer and his family of grave-robbing cannibals.

Now, when I first saw this movie, a few years ago, I really didn’t care for it. I can admit that  I had been jaded by the slick, gore-filled movies that were the norm by the time I finally came around to this. Now however, as a seasoned horror fan and a person who really appreciates the origins of modern horror, I really enjoyed this. A low budget, 70s movie, that was released to controversy and directed by Tobe Hooper, who would later give us Poltergeist.

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This movie is extremely effective still, despite its age. The lack of a soundtrack actually makes the movie more suspensful and intense, and adds a different level of tension to the movie. These days, we know when something is going to happen because the music builds, and then we are hit with a stinger that is often more frightening than whatever is happening on screen.

The actors who portray Leatherface and his family are frightening, and the trauma that Sally and her friends go through is surprisingly visceral. There is a scene in particular where the family is holding Sally over a bucket and trying to help their grandfather crack her skull open with a hammer that really stands out. It was the scene that got under my skin the most, and I can’t quite pinpoint why.

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The movie really does look its age, but in this case that doesn’t work against it. It’s got a nice level of Grindhouse-esque-ness about it that I really enjoy. Plus, it has the charm that comes from a capably made, low-budget movie . It’s a hell of a ride, and certainly one that fans of slasher movies will appreciate.

-sigh-

Then we have the 2003 version.

Released amidst the early 2000 remake-boom, this movie is definitely among the ranks of the soul-less remakes. Produced by Micheal Bay and directed by Marcus Nispel, who later gave us the infinitely better Friday The 13th reboot, this one really lacks a lot of the soul and indie spirit that the original has. Not to mention, we completely lose the infamous dinner scene from the original in favor of a slightly longer, more complicated story.

The story of the remake?

After picking up a traumatized young hitchhiker, five friends find themselves stalked and hunted by a deformed chainsaw-wielding killer and his family of equally psychopathic killers.

Very similar, though there are a few changes that don’t really add anything to the movie, except to make it “WAY MORE BRUTALZ BRO” — which, frankly I couldn’t be bothered with.

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So, we’ve replaced the cast with a sexy, glistening group of young people. Apparently, the 2000’s replacement for “disabled guy in a wheelchair” is “stoner” – – which I don’t really understand, but I’m not the boss of Hollywood so whatever. This also has a wildly lack-luster performance from Jessica Biel. I don’t know why anyone ever thinks she can be the main protagonist in a movie, she just offers nothing in her performance, and I really don’t enjoy her performance in this. It doesn’t help that most of the other actors are just as bland as she is, and we’re expected to sympathize with a bunch of actors we couldn’t possibly care about.

We also meet a lot more of the characters this weird little town has to offer, which has some benefit I guess. The scenes with the ‘sheriff’, played by R. Lee Ermey (Se7en) are relatively intense, because he gives up a pretty solid performance. Again though, he is stilted when played against the hot, young actors that make up his co-stars.

The movie also has that real, and insincere “this ain’t your granddad’s Texas Chainsawwwwwwww” that I noticed with the House On Haunted Hill remake, though comparitively this one is probably a stronger movie than Haunted Hill, at least in the production. There are some great special effects in this movie, some grim and disturbing kills, but over all it just feels like a hollow gesture to make some cash, and cash in on the emerging re-make trend.

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I did actually quite enjoy the opening of this movie. That iconic narration, and the ‘found-footage’ of the crime scene walk through were (I thought) quite well put together, and set up the movie quite well. Unfortunately, we then cut to Sweet Home Alabama a bunch of people we don’t get invested in, so that makes it less enjoyable.

All in all, the original takes the win on this one. It just has so much more to it, and the remake offers almost nothing that the original does. The potential exists for this movie to perhaps get a solid reboot or remake or whatever, though after the ABYSMAL pile of shit that was the recent “Texas Chainsaw 3D”, I really can’t imagine that that’s going to happen.

Anyways, over all, neither of these is a FAVORITE, but the original is by far the better movie.

FINAL GRADES
     1974 : B-
     2003 : D+

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One response to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 v. 2003)

  1. Pingback: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984 v. 2010) | Barley Does Horror·

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