Director – Marcus Nispel
Jessica Biel - Erin
Jonathan Tucker - Morgan
Erica Leehrsen - Pepper
Mike Vogel - Andy
Eric Balfour - Kemper
R. Lee Ermey -Sheriff Hoyt
Andrew Bryniarski - Thomas ‘Leatherface’ Hewitt
David Dorfman - Jedidiah
Year - 2003
Rating - 3 Howls Outta 4
I tend to dislike remakes, or re-imagining as Hollywood calls it. I really don't see the point of trying to redo a film unless something is added to make it better than the original. My mentality is, why waste money on something we've already seen when you can just watch the original? When the 2003 version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was announced, I was really ticked off. I mean, I loved the original and thought that it should never be touched. It was almost blasphemous, as if redoing the original was a sign of disrespect. I wanted to hate the idea, but I felt that I should be fair and actually watch the damn movie first before judging it. So that opening weekend, I went to see TCM 2003 with an open mind. And you know what? I liked it alot.
While the plot is somewhat similiar to the original, there are a few changes:
Most of the movie doesn't take place in the present day, but in 1973, as a present newsreel details the horrible actions by the Hewitt family and especially Thomas Hewitt aka Leatherface (played really well by Andrew Bryniarski) that very August. Again, we get five teenagers riding in a van, but for different reasons. We have Erin (Jessica Biel in a great performance), her boyfriend Kemper (Eric Balfour), hitchhiker Pepper (Erica Leerhsen), and friends Morgan (Jonathan Tucker) and Andy (Mike Vogel). They drive through Texas to reach Dallas for a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. Their plan backfires when they pick up a woman lurching along the side of the road. She's crying, bloody, and spouting off some crazed comments about people dying. The group is spooked by the girl, who decides to get over her grief and trauma by killing herself in the van. The concert becomes a second thought as the group decide to seek help in the nearest town, looking for the sheriff to help them with the dead girl. While Pepper, Andy, and Morgan wait for the sheriff, Erin and Kemper decide to head off to a pretty beat up mansion in the middle of an overgrown field. The home's owner, some old dude in a wheelchair who could use an attitude adjustment, decides to exploit his disability to separate Erin from Kemper. Kemper, frustrated by this, decides to enter the mansion to look for Erin. Cue Leatherface, who takes out Kemper with a sledgehammer to the head [similiar to the original]. Erin, who can't wait to get to Kemper, decides to go back to van, where she's informed that the sheriff has already taken the body. This leaves them wondering where Kemper is, beginning what would be a night of terror with the Hewitt clan.
If I were comparing this version to the original 1974 version, this version wouldn't stand a chance. The original was terrifying and mind-numbing in every way. But as a stand-alone movie, this version of TCM ain't that bad. The style of this one is very different than the original. This one is more in your face - more gore, more running around, more screaming, and more chainsaw. The film had polish [which the original lacked] and it was more a night and water movie than a day and desert movie like the original. It's not a carbon copy of the original, which I definitely appreciated, because it showed the producers had enough respect for the original to leave that story alone.
The one thing this version did have over the original was definitely character development. Jessica Biel as Erin was a delight to watch. From the beginning, we understand her. She lives a drug and smoke free life, wants the same for Kemper, and she just wants to get married to him and live a normal life. Anyone can relate to that, and to her. As she move into the film, we see this girl fall apart at the seams over what happens to her and her friends, but suddenly becomes stronger and fights back to avenge her friends. I started respecting Jessica Biel when she did Rules of Attraction, which I thought was an awesome film, and I knew she'd be bigger than Seventh Heaven. She really makes Erin a sympathetic character and you root for her to get away during the film. Plus she can scream really well and look great in a wet tank-top and tight jeans. Yeah, anyone could have played this role, but I'm glad Jessica did. She really did a great job making you somewhat terrified with her, though it was nothing compared to what Marilyn Burns did in the original. The rest of the group did their thing and were very much less developed than Erin, which right away tells you that they're cannon fodder. But they didn't annoy me to the point where I actually wanted them to die, so they did good with the material they were given with.
Andrew Bryniarski did well with Leatherface. He was huge and intimidating with that chainsaw. Plus I kinda felt bad for the guy. He was deformed and probably mentally retarded, and had to wear human faces to make himself look more handsome. Unlike the original, we see a more human side to Leatherface, given reasons as to why he does what he does. It doesn't help that his entire family is crazy, which is not going to help raise his sanity factor. He was much more serious and sinister in this version, and I liked it. But the real villain of the film was the sheriff, played by Full Metal Jacket's R. Lee Ermey.
What an evil bastard that old fuck was. Intimidating the group [poor Morgan in that interrogation scene in the van] and almost making Jessica Biel sniff his crotch in that living room scene [that whole scene was perverted]...he enjoyed every single minute of torturing those poor visitors. He shouted, threatened, and frightened them in a way few actors can. I wanted him dead, and a good villain makes you feel like that. The rest of the family were pretty much there. While it nice to see a better variety, I would have liked more character development between them. I guess that's what the new one is for, huh? And what was up with Jedidiah (David Dorfman aka the kid from The Ring)? Why did the family hate him and why was he helping Erin and the others? I didn't see the point of him being in the film. I guess not every movie can be perfect.
But all in all, I wasn't offended by the 2003 version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was very well made and had great performances by Jessica Biel and especially R. Lee Ermey. I also liked the fact that they respected the material of the original and tried to make this remake it's own story and feel instead of copying the original. I wasn't scared of this film, but I was highly entertained and never bored with the movie. I look at this movie as more of a sequel than a remake, and a good sequel at that. While nowhere the calibre of Tobe Hooper's classic, I still enjoyed it enough to recommend to anyone who's interested in a well-made film with some decent intensity and suspense.