Movie Review
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Texas Chainsaw... poster
By Greg Ward     Published October 23, 2003
US Release: October 17, 2003

Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Starring: Jessica Biel , Jonathan Tucker , Eric Balfour , Erica Leerhsen

Running Time: 98 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $80,148,000
A truly accomplished remake.
Various horror films these days are unintentionally funny, evoking very few scares in the process. This year we have been exposed to a smorgasbord of bad horror films such as ?House of 1000 Corpses? (D-) and ?Cabin Fever? (C), films that have done nothing to the horror genre but make it look bad.

On the other hand, we got a different approach to horror this year in ?May? (A). That picture was a brilliant film that was undeservedly ignored by moviegoers, proving that many people are only out for blood, guts, poor acting, and an overall bad feeling in the pit of your stomach after viewing an embarrassingly bad horror film.

The last horror film that truly scared me was ?Halloween? (1978) ? at least until now. The new ?Texas Chainsaw Massacre? is a no-nonsense kind of horror film, a film that is truly brutal and intense. The whole time I was watching this film, I was glued to the screen, shivering in my seat, and being scared out of my mind (along with the audience) in the process.

The film tells the story of five teenagers making a trip to Dallas for a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. While making the trip through a desert road, the gang almost hits a wandering hitchhiker; they pick her up, only to see that she is seriously disturbed and traumatized. She commits suicide, which leaves the kids in a bind. Searching for the authorities, the teenagers encounter a sheriff and an old farmhouse with true evil inside. Pretty soon, the kids are introduced to Leatherface, a chainsaw-wielding maniac who likes fresh meat.

Many movie buffs (especially horror film freaks) were very upset when they heard that the well-known horror film of the same title was being remade. The result is a truly accomplished remake, a major improvement of the original. I am in the minority due to the fact that I didn?t like the original ?Texas Chainsaw Massacre.? I found the original to be cheaply made and not scary. None of the characters were likable or convincing, making it very hard to believe how scared they were. Some may say that it was the kind of film that was scary at the time, but I don?t buy that for a minute.

The original ?Psycho? was made over forty years ago and that film still literally scares the crap out of me. I can?t even take a shower without locking the door. And the original ?Halloween,? which was made in 1978, gives me nightmares to this day and kept me awake at night when I was younger. I am glad to say that the new ?Texas Chainsaw Massacre? evokes that feeling of pure terror that one should feel after watching an effective horror film.

The acting in this film is surprisingly solid. The young stars, including Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, are extremely convincing in their roles, allowing us to see and feel how truly scared they really are. It is Jessica Biel, however, that shines here; the way she carries the end of the film is incredible. We know how scared she is because of the way she runs and screams. When we look at her facial expressions, we are just as scared as she is. If I were running from a man wielding a chainsaw, I know I would be as terrified as Erin (Biel?s character) is.

There is one moment in the film where she sees her friend hung over a piano in Leatherface?s workshop. Truly struggling, he begs her to finish him off. At this point, Erin is in tears, knowing that either way her friend will die; it is at this point where Biel?s acting ability shines through. In this particular scene, her expressions and the way she reacts to this situation is so convincing ? we feel her pain and almost make a mental picture in our heads of how we would deal with a situation like this if we happened to be that unfortunate. The fact that Jessica Biel possesses every aspect of a heroine in peril makes me believe that there is no one who could have played this part as well as Biel does.

Making his feature film debut, Marcus Nispel creates a stylish update of the 1974 horror film. He creates an atmosphere of true terror ? a gloomy setting that demonstrates the peril the characters will find themselves in as the film progresses. Each shot and camera angle he uses allows the audience to get a feel for how truly uncomfortable and terrified these characters are. He takes a concept that?s been done and redone and makes it his own, taking a fresh new approach to an old story.

?The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? (2003) proves that there is still hope for future horror films to come. I myself have always been a fan of horror films, and while ?May? was certainly an excellent new kind of horror film, this year has been lacking in terms of truly good, frightening fun. This film is just that, while literally scaring the crap out of you in the process; it is in-your-face intense, a film that grabs you and never lets go until the credits are rolling.

If you are looking for a truly frightening horror film that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time (or if you are just a major horror movie buff), ?Texas Chainsaw Massacre? is for you.
Greg's Grade: A-
Greg's Overall Grading: 25 graded movies
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