Director: Marcus Nispel
Screenplay: Scott Kosar
Cast: Jessica Biel (as Erin); Jonathan Tucker (as Morgan); Erica Leerhsen (as Pepper); Mike Vogel (as Andy); Eric Balfour (as Kemper); Andrew Bryniarski (as Leatherface); R. Lee Ermey (as Sheriff Hoyt)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #89
Twenty nine years on from the first film, the Chainsaw series began again in what's arguably the first major horror remake of the current few decades. There were remakes before, films being remade in Hollywood back in the forties, in the eighties especially with horror cinema, and House on Haunted Hill (1999) deserves a mention, but when I was growing up with mainstream film magazines like Total Film, it did feel in hindsight that the 2003 Chainsaw remake was the beginning of the horror remakes we have now, including the baggage where, until fans got tired of complaining, the green lighting of such films got negative heat every time. As someone, in the folly of youth, made an embarrassing online petition to stop the Let the Right One In remake in English without seeing the 2008 Swedish film first, I can attest to how the fans could be as bad in these sorts of grumblings of these horror remakes, but there's as much fault in those too blinkered to think the 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street remake was a good job, so it's a vicious cycle as the fans have justification to roll their eyes. We've been stuck in this scenario for at least over a decade still, and seeing the 2003 Chainsaw film for the first time, which did well enough alongside Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (2004) to help push this trend onwards in the first place, it's kind of amazing its lasted as long as it's done since Chainsaw is poor, something barring the initial box office weekend which couldn't have sustained a franchise for a lengthy period of time, even without the pretty closed ending this remake has.
The film's very different from the original. A van of five young adults including Jennifer Biel are travelling through Texas like the first film, going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert here, only to pick up a disturbed woman who shoots herself in the back seats. Distressed, their search for a sheriff leads them to meeting a deranged cannibalistic clan in the southern countryside, the result even in context of the original film being very ghoulish, (just around the time of Rob Zombie and his film debut House of 1000 Corpses (2003)), but a mess in terms of wanting to be an extreme horror movie but being a Michael Bay produced Platinum Dunes production with music video slickness and little else. So effectively it's a remake of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1990), where here a character can have their leg hooped off and be hung on a meat hook over a saloon bar piano in a ridiculously waterlogged basement, but the whole thing comes off as a theme park ride that would've been closed down by health inspectors. It's a production, consistent in all the films so far in the series, that you have to admire the design of in all its rancid glory, including cinematography from the original DP of the original 1974 film Daniel Pearl, but find the result breeze past as a movie with no bite.
The film tries its hardest but completely forgets to be actually scary or disturbing, the only real fright in realising at this point, whilst the first two films had the sense of pure Southern Gothic to them, how bigoted this particular film feels depicting southern rednecks, as disturbed, visually ugly cannibals caked in dirt makeup, everything else so stylishly murky and swollen in mess without coordination for effective shocks that it feels stuck between glossiness and goofiness instead. Its attempts to be repulsive feel like dangling fake entrails at the viewer without the shock or viciousness required to make it so, and since it's so serious it can't have fun like a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie, and the casting of R. Lee Ermey as a sinister sheriff doesn't lead to an iconic new horror figure but R. Lee Ermey repeating his role Full Metal Jacket (1987) but as a perverted sociopath you see at one point, as a much older man, without no trousers on. Worse, Leatherface is merely a figure in the background who appears with his chainsaw but has little beyond this of interest, none of the interactions between the Leatherface family members from previous films to keep the worst parts buoyant, merely stereotypes of white trail trash that are crass and with little personality between them to latch onto. The only piece of emotional pull that film has, which shows how this is still clearly a horror film made by committee, is that there's a baby for Jessica Biel, a non-entity with the lack of character to go from beyond a cowboy hat and love for Lynyrd Skynyrd, to rescue. Because of this even Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) looks great in comparison.