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Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Starring Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, Andrew Bryniarski, R. Lee Ermey
Screenplay by Scott Kosar
Based on a screenplay by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper
Directed by Marcus Nispel

IN SHORT: The title's more evocative than the special effects. [Rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language and drug content. 98 minutes]

We are of an age where we can exist just fine without having to sit for slice 'n' dice horrorflicks. That "age" is not one of chronology. It is one of preference. Having been scared silly by films in which sharp pointy things do not pierce virgin flesh (Hitchcock's Psycho -- not a single piercing in the thing) we never needed our stomach turned by any film idolizing a slasher. That doesn't mean we can't sit or be scared for such things. They're just not our preference. That being put to rest, just about thirty years after Tobe Hooper unleashed his original vision of a Texas Helltown upon the world, we get a re-imaged version that drops a van full of fresh meat in the path of a maniac with a chainsaw and a serious need for extensive plastic surgery.

But we'll digress. Do you know what the link between Hooper and Hitchcock, and a certain acquaintance of Hannibal Lecter, is? His name was Ed Gein and you can Google the history of this butcher from Plainfield, Wisconsin whose story was used to scare the crap out of a young Mr. Hooper. Doing our own run through, we found enough commentary from kidlets who thought that the story seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is real that the studio might have been able to stir up another Blair Witch frenzy. For the record, while a Narrator (voice by John Larroquette, reprising his gig in the original) maintains the truth of the Events, the story of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is entirely fiction. That didn't keep us from shrinking up into a little ball at some of the suggested violence in this movie. But we, as we stated, are of a different age. The GexX'ers in our preview audience all exited with some variation of the word "suck" on their lips.

Version 2003, set in the early 70s like its predecessor, begins with a busted up van filled with stoned teenagers tearing down a remote Texas road. They've been partying hard in Mexico for the last four days and are now hell-bent for El Paso (later Dallas), where Lynyrd Skynyrd will be staging a concert for which they hold front row seats. Kemper (Eric Balfour) is driving and intends to use the coming festivities to propose marriage to his main squeeze Erin (Jessica Biel). They won't get that far, nearly running over a young teenage girl (Lauren German), wandering in the middle of the road. The girl is numb with fear and our good samaritans offer to drive her home. When the van drives in the "wrong" direction, things get surprisingly bloody.

Needing to find the local sheriff, the van stops at a rundown gas station to make a call and is ordered to meet The Man at the Crawford Mill, a five minute drive. Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) doesn't show but a local kid, the seemingly retarded Jedidiah (David Dorfman) is there to tell 'em the sheriff is getting drunk. While Morgan (Jonathan Tucker), Pepper (Erica Leerhsen) and Andy (Mike Vogel) remain behind to keep the corpse company, Erin and Kemper hot foot it to the nearest home to make another call to the Man. They have to walk because there is no road that leads to the house, so says Jed.

In the house is an old man with no legs (Terrence Evans) and a younger man with no face. That man is our "star", Thomas Hewitt (Andrew Bryniarski) aka "Leatherface", and while he hasn't got his namesake weapon fired up at that point he does take out one of our cast and sends the other one screaming into the woods. From here on out, Leatherface seems to be everywhere at once, from the Mill to a deserted trailer camp and, finally, in the Blair Meat Co. packing plant. Once the massacre gets cooking, nothing about the story continuity makes a lot of sense.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn't as gory as we'd expect -- the guy with no face kills to try on new faces, you know. Based upon how Leatherface gets taken down and some other supporting characters we've ignored here, we're not sure if the film's Texas location is a town of true idiot hicks or severely inbred fools. That may be a function of a project rushed through to production in a mere six months -- though six months was more than enough time to sneak in appearances by Alfred E. Newman and Harry Knowles. R. Lee Ermey is notable as the sadistic sheriff but the overall tension and thrills in the script fails to continuously build. We can only note that the film's budget apparently didn't allow for the truly graphic violence that the ticket buying kids now expect. We shifted in our seat because of implied violence and pain, not because we were scared silly.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he would have paid . . .


Rent. Oh, and that "no road leading to the house" bit? There is a road and Sheriff Hoyt will use it later in the film. We don't know if that's a continuity error or a mistake by the dumb kid or a cunningly laid trap but we noticed it. Really low budget films make mistakes like that for numerous reasons. We expect better from a studio backed flick, even one as rushed as this one.

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