The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) Recap

Jamie

Leatherface is back, Jack! Or am I just (re)imagining it? When a group of friends find themselves trapped by a sadistic family of murderers led by Hoyt and his nephew Leatherface, they must try to escape with their skin intact. Can they find a way out (and finally take down the family) before it’s too late? Find out in… The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003).

How?! We open on a backcountry road of Texas. A group of teenage-to-mid-thirties teenyboppers are on their way to a concert after visiting Mexico for some illicit fun. They include couple Kemper and Erin (who is obviously pregnant, but this seems to be abandoned part way through the film), Andy and his new hitchhiker boo Pepper, and jokester Morgan. When they see a young woman wandering the road they pick her up only to have her pull out a gun and kill herself. They try to find the police but are directed to an old mill, where a creepy kid directs Kemper and Erin even further into the wilderness to an old house. There, Kemper is taken by Leatherface, one of a family of psychos that prey on ne’er do wells like them. Freaked out, Erin gets Andy to go back with her and search for him, resulting in him also getting captured. She runs back to a van only to have a crazy cop, Hoyt, come and brutalize them and arrest Morgan. Erin and Pepper try to drive away, but Leatherface tracks them down and kills Pepper. Erin runs into the woods, but is taken in by a couple of other creeps and drugged. She wakes up with the psycho family, who explains to Erin (aka the audience) about everything that is going on. She’s put in the basement where she finds Morgan and is helped by the creepy kid to escape. They get to an abandoned house where Morgan sacrifices himself to help Erin get away. She makes it to the slaughterhouse where she is able to subdue Leatherface and escape to a truck. In a final climactic scene she is able to steal back a baby that the family has taken and get Hoyt’s cop car. She kills Hoyt with the car and escapes to freedom, thus ending The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Big Question: wait… this actually isn’t that bad, right?

Why?! Unsurprisingly the motivations in horror films get real weird the longer the series goes on. So we get a little breather with the reboot as they get to start over. Here they add in the wrinkle that the family doesn’t just kill and eat people, but also steals their children to raise as their own… in fact, it’s not till the prequel that they make it clear that they even eat them. Additionally, they goad Leatherface into murderous rage by invoking his childhood bullying due to his skin condition. So that’s slightly different than the previous films.

Who?! There are a couple Special Thanks that maybe seem music related. But I think the most notable thing for this film might end up being something that we focus on for a future cycle or just for this portion of the recap: the narrator. Here we get some opening and ending narration that is done by none other than John Larroquette. And you might be like “Wow, how did they get superstar John Larroquette to narrate this film?” Well… it’s because he narrated the original. Say whaaaaaaaaaa?!

What?! There apparently was several attempts at product placement for this film, but they didn’t come to fruition. It’s explained on the director commentary, but we unfortunately didn’t listen to it. While researching that I also stumbled across a book that posits that this film is a shift in the series to more erotic objectification male bodies rather than female. Which is interesting because Biel spends the latter half of the film running around in a tight white t-shirt in a rainstorm. But perhaps that’s a clash between director (Nispel – who directed Pathfinder and the new Conan and stuff) and producer (Bay).

Where?! It’s actually starting to get boring just writing over and over that these films are A+ films. Obviously set in Texas, obviously in the title, and obviously plays a role in the film given the isolation and backwoods characterization of the psycho family. 

When? I do have to give the new films some BMT props for really nailing down the timeline. They make it abundantly clear that it’s August 18th, 1973 when the events of the film take place. It’s an interesting quirk of Texas Chainsaw Massacre that they seem to feel compelled to keep the film set in the 70’s in the reboot. It’s not like when they rebooted Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street that they were like “no, it has to be set in the 80’s”. I think for that reason only it crosses from B+ to A-.

While this is not my type of movie, I actually kind of appreciated that they made some changes and choices that were unexpected. I really just expected a rehash of the original with increased gore (people forget that the original really doesn’t have much gore). Instead they added different reasons for how the kids get ensnared, a whole new family, and seemed to consciously eschew certain classics that had been a part of every Chainsaw film up to that point. Like I was truly shocked when there wasn’t a family dinner scene. This may in fact be the only film in the series without one. Add to that some pretty OK acting and if you allow for the fact that these movies generally exchange gore for scares (not a great exchange in my opinion) then I think this actually isn’t all that bad. I daresay it’s maybe even a little underrated in reaching BMT qualification. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! We just couldn’t get enough of our friend Leatherface. Can he redeem his honestly pretty bad turn as horror icon from the original quadrilogy (or is that a trilogy plus a remake … it is hard to tell)? You’ll just have to read to find out. Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – Everything about this preview screams: Patrick you will hate this. Every bit of it suggests it is a sadistic horror film focused on gore. Which is, quite literally, my least favorite sub-genre of horror. So I don’t know what to say, I was going in ready to be disappointed. What were my expectations? To be disgusted and disappointed. I’ve grown to love horror films over the last few years, but really it is mostly the eerie ones focused on hauntings and curses and evil demons and such that I like. The goofy slashers are fun and can be some of the best the genre has to offer, but some time in the 2000s they veered off course into gore. I expected to be very upset coming out of this film.

The Good – I actually wasn’t upset by this film. The R-rated cut is, for the most part, tame enough that I could handle it. It was mainly the Ermey parts that got on my nerves (he was fine, his character was just a bit distasteful, and not in the “I’m a cannibal” kind of way). Overall, surprisingly, the film is a pretty decent reimagining of the classic. At the very least it isn’t nearly as bad as one could have expected. And that’s good. Oddly the very warm sepia look works for 70s / August / Texas, I was practically sweating watching the film.

The Bad – This film is bad in precisely the ways you would think it is bad. It is basically a reimagining of a classic horror film, and that always begs a question (why?). And it is a genre that I would guess only a small portion of the general population genuinely enjoys (gory horror, which some call sadistic horror). There are definitely goofy parts (Leatherface wearing Eric Balfour’s face). And there are definitely weird storyline choices (the hitchhiker and baby are good narrative decisions, but end up requiring a lot of explanations to build a coherent story). But as I said, this is all expected in my opinion. It was basically the least bad it could be.

The BMT – All of that being said it feels like they actually managed to get through this film relatively unscathed. It didn’t damage itself too much trying to reimagine a classic. It built up Leatherface and the family effectively. In an alternative universe this is a pretty decent jumping off point to a larger 2000s Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. But that wasn’t meant to be it seems. Did it meet my expectations? Maybe my constitution is hardening, but I actually didn’t think the film was too bad. I think there was maybe only one moment where I thought the gore was over the top (the suicide scene). Otherwise I handled it pretty well. Which is definitely a plus for the film.

Roast-radamus – Obviously, yet again, we got a Setting as a Character (Where?) with the A+ setting of Texas. And Period Piece (When?) for the clear and present 70s set piece. I don’t think it’ll get much of the other options unfortunately. No real twists or turns or anything, this kids are just here to die by the hands of Leatherface. I don’t think it’ll get Good either, it is too gross, and that is the closest it would have come to those awards. Pretty sparse options in my opinion.

StreetCreditReport.com – Not surprisingly given it got a very rare thumbs down (zero stars) from Roger Ebert, but it beat out some solid competition to be declared his number one worst movie of 2003. Even crazier is that both that video and the Rolling Stone list from that year included Masked & Anonymous, a film that appears to have only been released to 25 theaters which I had never heard of. Wild stuff. Regardless, that thumbs down is all the cred you need.

You Just Got Schooled – I was sitting around last Friday really not wanting to watch this movie when I stumbled onto a horror series which I had meant to watch: Happy Death Day. And perfect, there are two of them available. I knew the vague concept for the first one already (horror Groundhog Day), and it didn’t disappoint for the most part. I like the main actress, I liked the kind of amusing way she goes about trying to solve her own death, and I liked that the film acted as a kind of inventive-kill-buffet at times. But the twist was pretty telegraphed (if you paid attention), and I wish they hadn’t made the time loops semi-persistent (giving her a finite number of loops to get things right basically). It worked well enough, but I’m a bit surprised they decided to go with a direct sequel instead of maybe reworking it into an amusing television premise or something. It seems like they could’ve squared the circle a bit and come out with something even more fun using a rebooted format. I liked it though. Solid B.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

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