The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [2003]

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was originally released in 1974. It was a low budget, gory horror film with an uncomfortable atmosphere featuring a faintly ridiculous family of sick hillbillies murdering some teenagers in the Deep South. Tobe Hooper co-wrote and directed and the film spawned many copies so a remake seems unnecessary.

The 2003 version is directed by Marcus Nispel and the screenplay has been slightly altered. The cast is an array of pretty American teens like Jessica Biel; some excitement is generated by R. Lee Emery (the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket) featuring here as the scary sheriff. Bizarrely the film also credits no fewer than 9 producers, how many executive and associate producers do you need? Does the film get exponentially worse the more you add?

Brainless teens are cannibal fodder

The action kicks off on the Texas highway, obnoxious teens returning from holiday in Mexico, smoking pot and groping each other. The pretty virgin do-gooder is revealed almost instantly and you know that she will end up getting everyone killed and yet survive herself. The kids nearly hit a girl on the road and so they stop and take her on board. She bizarrely kills herself because they are driving the wrong way (which is incidentally the way she was walking when they picked her up) back towards the "bad man"; yeah this is a "bad script".

A catalogue of disasters and stupid decisions ensues as apparently the entire neighbourhood contrives to chase the kids around slowly picking them off one by one. The sick hillbilly clan are everywhere and there is no escape for the hapless kids, especially from the sheriff, who is so glaringly psychopathic that they should have fled the moment they encountered him. Led by Erin (Jessica Biel) they are each killed in turn, usually trying to protect her, a favour which is never returned. We follow her bouncing cleavage on many a run and there are no fewer than three scenes where they make sure it gets wet, the director is adept at ending nearly every shot with a close up of her chest and bare midriff.

The film is violent and gory and seems to revel in its grotesque moments although they are more likely to make you squirm than scare you. Leatherface is busy throughout torturing people and killing them in no discernible order. The rest of the clan are all grotesque in a trailer park kind of way but the situation is not convincingly portrayed and feels disjointed.

The trouble starts early on with this film, the initial scene with the girl in the van is much less affecting than the creepy psycho hitchhiker in the original. The hot sweaty tension of the original is missing and the action scenes have less reality about them. The details are also wrong here; they substitute the hillbilly rundown shack for a colonial mansion and can´t resist using the slaughterhouse as a location although it is not mentioned in this version.

The film offers no shocks or surprises and simply goes through the motions resorting to gross out tactics to try and scare the audience. A Blair Witch style black and white, supposedly real, police film is tagged onto the start and end of the film but it doesn't improve things any and kind of sums up the way this film stuck doggedly to convention by copying ideas from elsewhere but doing them much worse.

This remake looks very much like a cash in of a classic title and it fails to live up to the original by a long way. There is no innovation here, the direction is boring, the script is drivel and there is no tension at all because the whole thing is so damn predictable. I always reach a point watching films like this where I think they could redeem themselves slightly if they´d just kill the stupid bimbo who has been boring me to tears and making countless stupid decisions throughout the movie but they never do, yet again she gets everyone killed and saunters off into the sunset.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

Return to Top