The Texas Chainsaw Massacr

Mikey 2 comments
The Texas Chainsaw Massacr

The 2003 version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a remake of the original 1974 Tobe Hooper classic, as many would have you believe. They are in fact, different films with some similarities.

Hooper's original film was entirely made up, although there are some fanatics out there who will tell you otherwise. Hooper was however inspired by actual events, which apparently was enough to justify the 'based on a true story' statement in the film's beginning, but in real life Texas there was no massacre, no 'Leather face', and no chainsaw.

The character of Leather face was inspired by , a Wisconsin farmer who robbed graves (his own mother's supposedly among them), allegedly engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism, and murdered at least two women in the 1950s (one of whose corpses was found hanging naked - decapitated and disembowelled in Gein's residence). Gein was also the inspiration for the fictional characters Norman Bates (Psycho) and more recently Buffalo Bill (Silence Of The Lambs).

Hooper decided to have an entire family based on the characteristics of Gein, and thus the script for the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was born.

Nispel has made a valiant effort to 'remake' Hopper's classic, which also includes the 'based on a true story' tag line. This is not true as Nispel would no doubt concede. Technically, it is based on a story that was loosely based on a true story. Somehow I don't think that particular tag line would have had people lining up at the cinemas in a hurry.

The plot.
Five teenagers pick up a wandering girl while on their way to a rock concert who warns that they are all going to die. She then promptly shoots herself in the face with a gun she had concealed in a questionable bodily cavity.

They stop at a nearby diner for help where the residents conspire to have the mutated hillbilly Leather face hunt them down one by one for the purpose of torture. And so it begins. One by one they fall except for the lead female (Jessica Biel - 7th Heaven) who manages to survive despite several instances of stupidity on her part.

The town's backwards corrupt sheriff played brilliantly by the legendary R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket) helps to keep the victims within striking distance for Leather face.

The formula.
Unfortunately most of us have become desensitised to tired old 'killer + victim + sprained ankle = suspense' formula thanks to heart stoppers like Evil dead, Halloween and Friday the 13th parts 1 to infinity, so the 'BOO!' factor is somewhat lacking but by no fault of it's own. Having said that, generation X may get the occasional fright out of it. I recommend those who have never seen a horror film (both of you) wear the brown underpants just in case.

In true horror film style, all characters must must defy any sense of logic in any given scenario. These tried and tested (ad-nauseum) formulas have all been incorporated:

  • When being chased by a chainsaw wielding maniac, always run into abandoned warehouses or other premises lacking easy escape routes.
  • If you have a weapon and the killer has his back turned to you for plenty of time, do not use the weapon before he spots you. It is more dramatic if you give yourself away at the last moment.
  • If you do manage to disable the killer, instead of taking the opportunity to kill him with the weapon he has dropped, run away instead so he can hunt you down later with it.
  • Always give away your hiding position by breathing heavily or making other obvious sounds. Additionally, your hiding area must be easily accessible to the killer. Slightly ajar closets or shadows are always good places to hide, as long as they are infested with rats or other creatures that might cause you to scream and give away your position.
  • When being chased by a killer, it is imperative that at least one character either sprain an ankle or trip on a conveniently placed object.

In order for certain scenes to work, other certain small elements have to be excused as well, like the laws of physics, the human medical condition, and object interactivity. In a classic 'what the?' moment, the killer drops his chainsaw on the floor, and the chain blades miraculously keeps ferociously spinning while inching towards the victim. As anyone who has operated a chainsaw will tell you, a common safety feature built into them is for the chain to stop spinning when you let go of the trigger. This is so you don't accidentally cut off your genitals when you drop it.

In another 'what the?' moment, one of our hapless victims has his leg chain sawed clean off after a mediocre attempt to out run the killer. Moments later he is hung up on a meat hook which is driven into his back. Did I mention he survived all this? Even though one would have lost several litres of blood and endured excruciating pain causing you to at least pass out, the 'hero' somehow manages to keep it together.

There are several other moments of 'why did that just happen?' throughout. Two girls being chased by the killer arrive at their van and hotwire it before speeding off. Within a few seconds, all the wheels of the car fall off and it becomes apparent the killer previously took the time to remove all the lug nuts off the wheels to foil any escape attempt. This would have required a lot of effort and about 10 minutes at least. If the killer's intention was to disable the car, wouldn't it have been quicker to simply take out the battery? Or rip out the distributor cap? Either of these alternatives would have taken around 60 seconds and required less effort.

It is moments like this that distract you from any chance of enjoying the film. I make no apologies though. My brain just doesn't have one of those 'turn off all common sense and rational thought process' functions that is necessary to enjoy such films like Mission Impossible II or Gone in 60 seconds.

A scene near the end of the film has Nispel pay homage (or completely rip off - you decide) to 'The Blair Witch Project', which is almost identical.

Why did I watch this film?
As a devout fan of the original, I was curious to see what had been accomplished in the new version as I had heard and read good things about it. As is usually the case with me when I hear good things about a movie, it sucks. But nearly all films targeted at generation X do suck so I should not have been surprised.

If you are new to the genre you will probably enjoy TTCM on some level, assuming that you have the ability to look past bleeding obvious moments of stupidity and gaping plot holes. But for those looking for something to scare them, or at least take them somewhere they have never been before, bitter disappointment awaits you in bucket loads.

Rating: 2 human appendages out of 10.

Sidenote: If I had to recommend a recent horror film I would say shame on you if you have not already seen American Phycho, as it is an amazing story that contains some brilliant acting by Christian Bale and excellent dialogue. I refer to it as a 'thinking persons' horror movie.

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Michael Free

Tuesday 30th January 2007 | 09:17 AM

Do you even have evedence to prove that there is no do you know the director based the character on another murderer?

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Tuesday 30th January 2007 | 01:28 PM

The URL I have to the Tobe Hooper interview seems to be dead now. But I did source">this now in Wikipedia:

"The film, like the films Psycho, Deranged, and The Silence of the Lambs, was loosely inspired by Ed Gein. Gein did wear human skin, but he acted alone and did not use a chainsaw. Although the film's opening would have one believe that the events are factual, it is merely a scare tactic, called the false document technique, to frighten the audience."

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