Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Franchises: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

I knew there was going to be a follow-up to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre '03. I just did. Even though it wasn't that well-liked by most mainstream critics, most horror fans at the time seemed to really enjoy it and, more importantly, it made a ton of money. Knowing how eager studios are to capitalize on the success of a particular movie, I knew it wouldn't be long before we saw another film in the continuity established by the remake. And I was all for it. I really, really liked the remake, as you undoubtedly if you've read my review of it, and whenever I really enjoy a movie, save for a few exceptions, I always welcome any sort of second chapter to it. I was a bit curious how they would continue the story, though, since the ending of the remake felt pretty final: Leatherface's right arm was cut off and he hadn't been seen since 1973, Sheriff Hoyt was dead, Erin warned the police and the house had been raided, and the rest of the family, more than likely, had either all been arrested or had gone into exile and, with the police combing the countryside for them, probably hadn't survived. And it wasn't too long before I found out how they were going to continue the story: they weren't. They instead decided to go back and tell the story of how the Hewitt family and Leatherface came to be. While most are opposed to prequels, I feel that prequels can be good if the story is told well and I thought that this story could make for an interesting movie. Also, this would make another first: Not only had I never heard of a contemporary horror movie like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre being remade but I most certainly had never come across a prequel to a remake. Sequels, yes, like The Fly II (although that's the only one I can think of that existed at that time), but never prequels. So, I felt that this would be very interesting indeed.

However, as the film was actually being made, I found out some things about it that, while I wouldn't say they completely destroyed my interest in the film, I did them questionable. One was the actual title: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. By this point, The Exorcist: The Beginning had been released and when I read that title, I was just like, "Really? That's the only title that you can come up with for prequels nowadays?" It felt very unoriginal to me. And I also wasn't too keen on the plot either, about another group of kids being captured, tortured, and killed by the family. I thought this movie was going to dwell solely on the family, how they came about through the years, how Thomas Hewitt became the sadistic monster he was in the remake and, ultimately, how he became Leatherface. This sounded like they were just rehashing the same basic story that had been done in all but one of the films in the franchise (that different one being the second one that Tobe Hooper did). I was expecting to see how the family killed their first victims but I figured that would be the last act. I wasn't expecting the entire film to dwell on it for reasons that I've already stated above. Maybe it's my fault for giving myself too lofty expectations for the film when I heard it was going to be a prequel about the Hewitt family but that's just what I thought it would be.

In any case, I didn't see the movie when it was released in theaters in 2006. (The reasons for that are, even though I was 19 at that time, I still couldn't drive and I had no official ID on me either, which I would have needed because I've always looked much younger than I really am. So, I couldn't go myself and I couldn't find anybody who would have taken me to see the film either. And I was also in college at that point, having get up at the crack of dawn everyday and drive an hour to Chattanooga to go to school so I doubt I would have had time or had been in the mood to go see it anyway.) I eventually saw it on DVD the following February or so. I wasn't too enamored with it when I first saw it and even now, I'm not too sure about it. While there was some stuff that I liked, I didn't think it was as well-made as the remake and I actually felt that it didn't do a very good job of telling the story that it had set out to tell. I also thought, and I still kind of do think, that it was just a generally unpleasant viewing experience and was a major example of the recent horror trend that I did not enjoy at all then and I don't enjoy now either. It didn't help that I was battling some serious depression at that time and probably shouldn't have watched this type of film anyway but I still did. That was my fault and not the film's so that's not a fair criticism but I still feel that it's necessary for me to mention it since I know that colored my initial opinion of the film. All in all, for reasons that I will elaborate on, this is still one of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films that I watch the least. While I do think it's better than The Next Generation, it's not a movie that I get the urge to watch that much except when I'm doing a marathon simply because, like I said, it's a rather unpleasant film to sit through and I don't think it told its story nearly as well as it could have either.

In 1939, a female slaughterhouse worker suddenly goes into labor and dies while giving birth to a deformed baby. The cruel manager of the plant abandons the child in a dumpster out back but he's found by Luda Mae Hewitt, who takes him home and raises him as her own son. Over the next thirty years, the boy, whom is named Thomas or, as his family calls him, Tommy, grows up while suffering from a hideous skin condition that prompts other children in the town to mock him and he also grows a penchant for self-mutilation as well as cutting up the bodies of dead animals. Tommy begins working at the very slaughterhouse that he was born in but by 1969, the horrid conditions of the place place cause it to be closed down by the health department. This basically kills the small town and forces everyone but the Hewitts to move out. Tommy, enraged at being forced to leave the only workplace that he knows, murders the same cruel manager who left him for dead when he was born. After it's discovered what Tommy has done, the local sheriff takes Tommy's adopted uncle, Charlie, with him to help find and bring him in, hoping that Charlie can reason with him and make him go peacefully. But when they find Tommy, Charlie turns on the sheriff, kills him, takes his identity, and later turns his body into beef stew for dinner. Charlie tells his family that they will not abandon the town that they've lived in their entire life and, having introduced cannibalism to them, says that they will never go hungry again. At the same time, two brothers are driving across Texas with their girlfriends in order to head to Vietnam, with one re-enlisting and the other having been drafted. But, when they arrive in the small town that the Hewitts live in, they are chased by a female biker who intends to rob them but they get into a serious accident. Charlie, now going by the name of Sheriff Hoyt, arrives, promptly kills the biker, and takes three of the kids prisoner (the other, Chrissie, was thrown clear in the accident). As Charlie torments the kids, intending to eventually turn them into dinner meat, Chrissie must try to save her friends not only from him and the reast of the family but from Tommy, whose psychopathic tendencies are being encouraged Charlie and is only a few steps away from becoming the notorious killer, Leatherface.

I was hoping that Marcus Nispel would return to direct the prequel but instead, Michael Bay and his company chose another newcomer, Jonathan Liebesman, to direct this movie. Unlike Nispel, Liebesman wasn't a music video director and had only made a couple of short films, including one that acted as a bridge between the American version of The Ring and its sequel, and one feature, Darkness Falls. I've personally never seen that film but the idea of it being about a killer tooth fairy and the clips of it that I have seen don't make me anxious to do so. Since directing this film, Liebesman has done other films such as Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans and is currently working on a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles movie, which Michael Bay is also producing. Looking at his recent track record of films, it seems like he's kind of become Bay's successor. And I also feel that he has just as much talent as well. That may sound like harsh thing to say, given how this is the only film of Liebesman's that I've seen, but it feels like he's going to go on making the same type of loud, brainless action movies that Bay is known for and I honestly think that's all he knows how to do: cater to the lowest common denominator of movies. Looking at this movie, it feels as if Liebesman didn't know how to do anything other than sort of try to emulate the way Marcus Nispel directed as well as wallow in the horror torture trend that had been introduced by Saw and Hostel and from what I've heard and seen of Darkness Falls, it seems as though he didn't do anything other than throw in a bunch of cliched jump-scares, some of which look and sound really stupid, and make the characters the most typical horror movie victims imaginable. It's harsh but in my opinion, Liebesman is hardly a good director and while he may have some technical skill, doesn't know how to make a movie in any way other than purely by the numbers.

Even though I have problems with this movie, the acting isn't one of them. However, that said, one of the weakest characters in the movie for me is Jordana Brewster as Chrissie. Now, like I said, that's not because of the acting. Brewster handles herself fairly well... for what she's given to do, that is. For someone who's listed first in the credits, she's not in the movie that much. Once she gets thrown clear from the car after they hit that cow, she doesn't do much throughout most of the movie other than sneak around the outside and inside of the Hewitt house and unsuccessfully tries to save her friends. Heck, she does something incredibly dumb early on and attempts to get the boyfriend of the biker that held them up to help her. She actually acts all surprised when he refuses to help when they get to the house, calling him an asshole. You can't help but think, "Lady, you knew he was a member of this disreputable gang of bikers who acted really pervy and threatening towards you and Bailey and, again, his girlfriend chased you guys down with a gun. You should have known that he wasn't trustworthy." So, that dumb move on her part really annoyed me. Also, even though Brewster isn't terrible as an actor, she doesn't have the same kind of presence to her that Jessica Biel had as Erin. While she is sweet enough, cares about her friends, and loves her boyfriend, Eric, she not only doesn't come across as smart as Erin but she certainly isn't as tough. She barely fights back against the family when she's captured, with the only major thing she does being when she stabs Leatherface in the shoulder with a knife in order to make him drop her. Other than that, she does nothing but run and hide for the entire movie and while we see at one point during the climax that she does have a knife to defend herself with, she never uses it. Also, I'm not sure if I like how she was about to leave Bailey and Dean behind after Eric was killed by Leatherface. I know that she was probably in utter shock after having to be under the very table that her boyfriend was on when he had a chainsaw shoved through his chest and then had his face sliced off and made into a mask (the latter of which she saw) but it just seemed for a minute that, now that her boyfriend was dead, Chrissie just wanted to leave. She almost became like that biker: only caring about her lover and after he was gone, she was going to abandon everyone else. And even though Chrissie did decide to try to help the others, it didn't make any difference seeing as how Bailey got her throat slashed, Dean got a chainsaw put through him while trying to save her, and Chrissie herself ultimately got butched by Leatherface's saw as well. So, while I don't think Jordana Brewster did a horrible acting job, the character she played was a very ineffective and rather naive heroine who was nowhere near the level that Erin was.

Of the four kids in the movie, my favorite is actually Matt Bomer as Eric, the older of the two brothers. I really like this guy. He comes across as very charming and likable when he's with his friends for the first bit of the movie. I like the playfulness he exhibits when he's with Chrissie by the pool during their first appearance as well as the joking, brotherly banter between him and Dean when he tells Dean, who's in a motel room with his girlfriend, that they're moving out at 1700 hours and when Dean asks what time that is (acting like he doesn't know), he says, "Dean, you better be getting some." I just like the way Eric said that with a smile on his face, showing that he was playfully aggravating his brother. I also like how, when they've stopped at the gas station, Eric notices that the mirror of his car is broken and he says, "Damn, broke my mirror," but with a smile on his face and not a hint of anger. Weird things to praise, I know, but I just like somebody who's that laid back. However, there is a more serious side to Eric's relationship with his brother. It's obvious that he senses that something is off with Dean as soon as they get on the road and when Dean attempts to burn his draft card, Eric eventually tells him why he's going back to Vietnam despite the trauma that it has caused him: he's going back so Dean won't be completely alone over there. Again, shows how much he cares for his brother, even though he's initially angry about the whole situation and says that their father would be ashamed of Dean. And let's not forget that he claims to be the one who burned the draft card so Sheriff Hoyt wouldn't single Dean out. I also do feel that you get a little sense of the relationship between him and Chrissie, such as that thing where they talk about how many kids they'll eventually have, what their respective genders will be, etc., which comes back in a much more tragic way in the scene right before Eric is killed. It's slight, yes, but I think it works, as well as when he gives Chrissie a ring, which she identifies as being from a Cracker Jack box, and he talks about how many boxes he had to go through to get it. And, finally, there's when Chrissie asks him not to leave her and he says, "I ain't never gonna leave you, beautiful." The way he says that with that look in his eyes, I don't think any woman could resist that or anybody could deny the connection between the two of them. (And, again, it makes what happens all the more horrific.)

You can also see hints of Eric's Vietnam experience once they get into danger. When they're being chased by that female biker, who's armed with a gun, Eric eventually pulls his own gun out of the glove compartment and is about to shoot at her. The only thing that stops him is when they hit that cow. Later on, when they're taken hostage by Hoyt, Eric quietly assures Dean that he'll get them out of this, showing that he's a take charge type of person and has probably been in similar situations over in Vietnam. He also makes it clear that he's going to kill Hoyt the first chance he gets, especially later on when Hoyt is torturing Dean by making him do push-ups and constantly beating him with his police baton while doing so. After Hoyt beats on Dean some more even after he does all of the push-ups, Eric angrily yells at him, "I'm going to fucking kill you!" and the way he said that, you can't help but believe it. Eric eventually manages to get himself free, gets Dean on his feet, and also manages to get Bailey out of the house as well but, unfortunately, what happens next is when I think Eric drops the ball. He distracts Hoyt so Dean and Bailey can attempt to escape but all he does is throw a bunch of trash talk at him and tempts him to shoot him. This is Eric's chance to get some revenge on Hoyt for what he's done and he does that. I would have attempted to pry the gun out of his hand and either shoot him or at least beat the crap out of him. But nope, he just taunts Hoyt, eventually gets knocked out by the butt of the gun, and is eventually taken down into Leatherface's basement, where he's tortured, killed, and his face is made into Leatherface's first mask (a truly grisly scene, which I'll talk about later). So, while I liked Eric for the most part, I do think he could have gone out on a higher note than he did.

Funny thing is that I recognized Taylor Handley, who plays Dean, from a Disney Channel original movie from way back in 2000 called Phantom of the Megaplex. Needless to say, this was a change of pace for him. In any case, I thought he handled himself well enough here as Dean. I could actually relate a little bit to Dean because back in the early to mid-2000's when it was rumored that the draft was coming back, I was actually worried about having to go to Iraq and if that had come to pass, I would have probably done what Dean did: burn my draft card and head to either Mexico (which is where he was going) or Canada. So I completely related to Dean's despair about being drafted and also what my family would think if I did that. Not only is he worried about how Eric will react, he wonders how his brother could even go back to Vietnam, especially when he knows how traumatizing the whole thing has been for him. I'm sure that makes Eric's revelation that he was going back for Dean quite a guilt trip for him, particularly when Eric pretends to be Dean so Sheriff Hoyt will be more aggressive towards him. Although Dean almost folds under the pressure when he and Eric are being strung up by Hoyt, he manages to keep his wits about him and eventually reveals that he's the one who burned the draft card when Hoyt is about to suffocate Eric with saran wrap. That's when Dean shows that he is quite tough, managing to do ten push-ups while Hoyt repeatedly beats him with his police baton. However, Dean collapses after being beaten a few more times by Hoyt and even though Eric manages to get him on his feet and tries to help him escape, he gets caught in a bear trap and is left there for a good while. But, later on when Dean is brought to the dinner table and later comes to only to see that his girlfriend, Bailey, has been killed, he decides to give Hoyt some brutal payback. He gets him down on the front porch and bashes his face into it again and again, knocking some of his front teeth out, and giving Hoyt the same taunts that he gave him, saying, "Now, let's see what kind of soldier you are, sheriff. One! That was beautiful. Two! Halfway doesn't count, dickhead! Three! Is that all you got? Is that all you fucking got?!" Particularly satisfying is when, after he's finished, he says, "My money says you're not going anywhere," the same thing that Hoyt told Eric after Dean finished that sadistic round of push-ups. And like Morgan in the remake, Dean goes out a hero. Unfortunately, he goes out a hero for doing something rather dumb. Like Morgan, he stops Leatherface just as he's about to kill Chrissie but all he does is punch and shove Leatherface aside and then turn his back on him in order to help Chrissie up. Did he really think that was going to put Leatherface out of commission? Well, guess what, it didn't, and Leatherface got back up and put his chainsaw through Dean. But, other than that less than dignified death, I did like Dean and I thought Handley gave a fine performance in the role.

The teen that I have the least to say about is Dean's girlfriend, Bailey (Diora Baird). There's nothing loathsome or annoying about her (unlike another female character who shall remain nameless that has appeared in this franchise) and she does genuinely care about Dean's plight, telling him that Eric will forgive him because he's his brother, and she plans to go to Mexico with Dean but other than that, there's nothing at all to say about her character. She's hot, sure, and despite his situation, I think Dean realistically would have been able to enjoy what she was doing with him in that motel room just a little bit, but she's by far the character with the least amount of depth. That said, though, she suffers quite a bit torture at the hands of the Hewitts and with her constant screaming, it's not hard to feel sympathy for her. She's tied underneath a small kitchen table for a long time, with Luda Mae creepily acting like she's her little girl by washing her face and singing to her; she almost manages to escape but Leatherface hooks her in the chest with a meat hook and carries her back to the house like she was a piece of meat while she screams in agony; she's later tied to a bed upstairs by Hoyt, who did God knows what to her while he had her like that; and when she appears at the dinner table near the end of the film, it's revealed that she's had all of her teeth pulled out for some reason, and she's eventually killed by Leatherface, who slashes her throat with a pair of scissors. So, even though there wasn't much to the character, I still felt bad for Bailey simply because of the sheer horrific crap that's she put through by the family.

I had to get the teenage victims out of the way because, let's face it, the members of the Hewitt family are the real stars of this movie. The whole point of making this movie was to show how they came to be the way they were in the remake. And did the movie succeed in that aspect? Eh, in some ways I think they did but in other ways, I feel they messed up. In any case, though, this movie shows us that the Hewitts are, indeed, cannibals, something which was only hinted at in the remake. And I do think the film did a fair enough job in showing how they came to be cannibals, although it's pretty much the reason that had been hinted at in past films: they've been put out of a job and, with no money to buy food, they have to find another way to fill their stomachs. They go into more depth about it here, with the entire town shutting down and being abandoned because of the closure of the slaughterhouse, where most of the townsfolk found work. Because of that, we have a more concrete reason as to why they had to resort to cannibalism to survive (and even though Luda May still runs the gas station, the lack of any townspeople or visitors to buy gas, save for the occasional passersby like the group of kids and the bikers in this film don't bode well for that being a solid source of income). Some may say that the fact that the slaughterhouse was clearly up and running by the time of the remake is a huge plothole between the two films, that if the place did open back up, there would be no reason for the Hewitts to continue to cannibalize people. I would agree with that except I think, if you remember back to the reason why the Sawyer family in the original films resorted to cannibalism, automation of the slaughterhouse, that could be what had happened by the time of the remake. The place had opened back up but now, everything was automated and the Hewitts still didn't have a way to make a living. That made since because in this film, the slaughterhouse looks more rundown and dirty whereas in the remake, it was almost spotless and had a lot of shiny steel surfaces as well, suggesting a major refurbishing. However, this is just speculation on my part. (Even if that was the case, why they would open the slaughterhouse back up in a town that was almost completely deserted by this point is a good question.)

In talking about the family, I might as well start with Charlie a.k.a. Sheriff Hoyt because he's the real star of this movie and it makes no since that R. Lee Ermey is listed last in the opening credits. While the filmmakers have said that they made this movie in order to show how the family came to be, I've also heard that the character of Hoyt got a lot of praise from fans. So, they decided to make a movie that would star him in order to capitalize on his popularity and since he was killed at the end of the remake, this was the only way to do so. In any case, there is no question that Hoyt dominates this movie, which is both a good thing and a bad thing in my opinion. The good thing is that we get to see Ermey chew the scenery to his content in this film and he does appear to be having fun in making even more sadistic and loathsome than he was originally. We learn that he took charge as the head of the family, killing the local sheriff when he tried to arrest his nephew Tommy after he killed the manager of the slaughterhouse, taking his identity, and introducing the concept of cannibalism to his family as a means to survive since the same thing happened to him years ago. You learn that, while serving in the Korean War, Charlie was taken prisoner and, in order to survive, he and the other POWs would single out one poor soul and eat him. Charlie also makes no secret that he enjoys the taste of human flesh with how matter-of-factly he tastes the sheriff's blood after he kills him as well as how nonchalantly he introduces it to his family. And he assures them that they will that they will survive and never go hungry again. I must say that the image of Hoyt parking his car on the side of the road and stepping out in the middle of it with a shotgun, waiting for some hapless people to come that way, is quite strong and has a sense of doom about it, that the Hewitts' reign of terror has truly begun.

As I said, Ermey seemed determined to make Hoyt far more evil and loathsome in this film than he was in the remake and I think he succeeded above and beyond in that aspect. The way Hoyt is here makes his characterization in the remake seem downright mellow. He takes full pleasure in killing and torturing people, particularly those of the younger generation, which he absolutely despises. His first act as "sheriff" is to blow away the biker chick who attempted to hold the kids up before she knew what hit her, beat Eric in the face with the butt of his gun when he doesn't do what he says, and force Dean and Bailey, who has bits of glass stuck in her from the crash, out of the wreck at gunpoint (on top of that, in the unrated version, he cops a feel on Bailey and then removes a piece of glass from her chest after she sits down). His contempt for these members of the younger generation grows even worse when he discovers that one of the guys attempted to burn up his draft card and he then decides to dish out double the punishment. He strings Eric and Dean up by their arms in the barn and does stuff like spray them with water and attempt to suffocate Eric by wrapping plastic wrap around his face. This forces Dean to admit that he was the one who burned his draft card (although there are hints that Hoyt already knew that and just tortured Eric in order to get Dean to admit it) and once he does so, Hoyt cuts him down and then puts him through a sadistic round of push-ups, saying that he can go free if he does all ten. He continously beats him with his nightstick while he does the push-ups to make it even more painful and takes full enjoyment out of it too, telling Dean, "Are you going to be the motherfucker who eats... or are you going to be the sorry motherfucker who gets ate?" (That's a reference to his Korean War POW experience.) Even though Dean does all ten push-ups, Hoyt beats him a few more times and stomps on his back, and then tells Eric, "My money says he ain't going nowhere." After the kids' failed escape attempt, he leaves Dean outside with his foot caught in the beartrap, lets Leatherface deal with Eric, and ties Bailey to a bed upstairs. We see him hovering over Bailey, sniffing her and saying, "I love you," in a very perverted way. Who knows what else he did to her while she was tied up there. It's very likely that he raped her, knowing how sick he is (and I have a really, really bad feeling as to why her teeth were pulled out-- let's just say it might have been so she couldn't bite... something off).

We also learn just how instrumental Hoyt was in Thomas Hewitt's transformation into Leatherface. Even though he said Tommy was the ugliest thing he'd ever seen when he first saw him as a baby, Hoyt does seem to be rather protective of his adopted "nephew" (even though he would technically be his adopted brother since they both see Luda May as a mother figure). Besides the fact that he killed the sheriff when he attempted to arrest Tommy, there's a deleted scene that takes place during Tommy's childhood where Hoyt sees some kids bullying him (it's off-camera, though) and he yells at them to get away from Tommy. However, without that scene actually being in the movie, there's a hint that his killing the sheriff could also have been him ceasing an opportunity to take control of both his family and of the now deserted town, something that he might have been planning on doing for a while given how sadistic and evil he had become by this point, and he was probably using the situation with his nephew as an excuse to do so. (Although, he did tell the sheriff that Tommy isn't retarded but just misunderstood.) Whatever the case, once he introduced the family to this more gruesome way of life, he certainly encouraged Tommy's psychotic tendencies in order to get things done. He tells Tommy to get the body of the female biker out of his police car and when he takes it down into his basement, Hoyt tells him, "Come on, Tommy. It ain't no different from the slaughterhouse. Meat's meat, bone's bone. Get it done." He also calls on Tommy to help recapture the kids when they're about to escape and he lets him "play" with Eric. Most importantly, he encourages Tommy to use his chainsaw as a murder weapon for the first time, telling him that the male biker is one of the bullies who used to pick on him when he was a kid, and he also gets him to use it again in order to amputate Monty's legs. Finally, when he's made his first face mask out of Eric's face, Hoyt tells him, "I like your new face" (I like that line, by the way), which may have encouraged him to continue doing so with the faces of other victims over the years. When Chrissie runs out of the house and Leatherface chases after her, there's a quick shot of Hoyt watching him chase her with an evil smile on his face, no doubt admiring what he's molded his nephew into. He even says, "There comes a time when a boy becomes a man." He feels that he's "taught" Tommy everything he needs and now, he knows exactly what to do with it.

Finally, there's a feeling that, despite how cruel and sadistic he is, Hoyt doesn't see anything wrong in what he and his family is doing. When they're about to have dinner, they say grace, with Hoyt saying, "I was hungry and he gave me meat, I was thirsty and he gave me drink." I can't exactly remember but I think they also give thanks for their"bountiful harvest."In any case, when Chrissie asks them whether they, "fuck all their relatives or just the ones they find attractive," Hoyt retaliates by saying, "You blasphemous bitch! This is redemption, lady! That's what this is. Oh, you're all going to pay for your sins, and especially you!" Even though he could just be saying that so as not to be judged for what he and his family has been doing, he could also sincerely believe that as well, that they're not doing anything wrong, that they're just trying to survive, whereas Chrissie's generation is the one that has caused all of the evil that's going on in the world at this time. Whatever his true feelings, Hoyt does actually pay for some of the horrible stuff he's done, getting attacked by Dean and having his front teeth knocked out. (Too bad Dean couldn't kill him since he had to be alive for the remake because I think that would have been far more satisfying. But, Erin eventually killed him so I guess there was retribution; it just took a while.)

While I do think it's great that they gave R. Lee Ermey even more to do in this movie, I also feel that, by expanding his role so much, they short-changed the character that was supposed to be the actual focus of the film: Leatherface. While the movie is also meant to be about how the family came to be, the filmmakers said many times that the primary concern of the movie was to show how Thomas Hewitt became the notorious chainsaw-wielding killer and while we do get that to an extent in this movie, I think they could have fleshed it out even more than they did. As I said in my introduction, maybe it's my fault for creating such an expectation, but I was expecting this film to show Tommy's childhood through the years, shen show him become an adult and culminate in his becoming Leatherface. While the film does begin with his actual birth, and I do like the idea that Leatherface was literally born in a slaughterhouse, all we see of his childhood are suggestive snipits in a montage that the opening credits play over: his birth certificate, a brief medical report about his skin condtion, a file that tells us that he developed a tendency to mutilate himself (which we do see during this montage), a shot that shows when he first started wearing something around his face (a cloth in this case), a couple of shots suggesting that he mutilated dead animals and used pieces of their flesh to cover his face, etc. That's all fine and dandy and I do think those opening credits are well done but I wanted to see those parts of his life in full detail. I wanted to see him first develop his skin disease, get picked on by other kids because of the way he looked (I really wish they had finished that scene of Charlie yelling at those kids to get away from Tommy and put it in the film) and how this made him despise his face, which led to him mutilating himself as well as trying to hide his face behind something else, which would come full circle when he makes his first face mask, how exactly he came to work at the slaughterhouse, and so on. If they had spent more time on this than simply skipping to 1969 after the opening credits, I think the events that happen in the latter part of the film would have had a greater impact (plus, I also think it would have added more depth to that part in the montage where he burns the pictures of himself as a baby). Some might argue that would make the movie over two hours long but so what? Where exactly is it written that horror films have to be around 90 minutes? (I know I took that from the Never Sleep Again documentary but it's a good point.) Now, I do like some of the things they did with his history, most notably how he spends most of his life working in the very place where he was born and also that his first kill is the very man who left him for dead right after he was born, but I do think they could have done much, much more and made those aforementioned aspects even more impactful.

Besides his childhood, there are two others aspects to Leatherface's story that I think they could have done better. One is, as one producer put it, "how the love affair with the chainsaw began." Well, according to this movie, there wasn't much to it: after he killed his boss, he just saw it sitting there and he took it with him. Other than a brief shot in the opening montage of him petting the blade, that's pretty much it. While I do like the idea that his adopted uncle is the person who encouraged him to use it as a murder weapon, and that scene where he kills someone with it for the first time is quite epic, they could have gone into much more depth about why he liked chainsaws to begin with. Maybe he liked how much easier it was to cut up big slabs of meat with them or maybe he admired the sheer powet they project when they're running. Heck, show the first time he saw one working and how much it mesmerized him. Just give me more meat is all I'm saying. The other aspect is when he decides to make his first face mask and, again, if they'd gone into more detail about how much he hated the way he looked because of how much misery it caused (in fact, other than that medical report, his skin condition isn't mentioned at all), it would have made the scene where he skins Eric's face and turns it into a mask even more powerful than it already was because we would truly know why he decides to do so. There was a build-up to it when he first starts touching and feeling Eric's face and then touches his own, but they could have given it more depth and impact. In fact, that would have added even more to a brief bit at the end of the movie. After Leatherface kills Chrissie in the car, before he gets out, he touches and rubs her face the same way he did Eric's, suggesting that he will probably turn her face into a mask as well. Again, that would have had more meat to it if they had showed us how much he hated his own face when he was a child. I'm just saying that if you're going to make a movie about how Leatherface came to be, go all out instead of just giving us not even half of it.

One aspect about Leatherface that I do think they did well is the explanation of how he became such a merciless killer: it was all due to Hoyt. When he chases after Chrissie with his chainsaw roaring during the climax of the movie, it's the end result of everything his uncle has "taught" him. Hoyt encouraged Tommy's psychotic tendencies by introducing the concept of cannibalism to him and telling that cutting up these people for meat is no different than what he was doing at the slaughterhouse. And, as I said, Hoyt is the one who inspired Tommy to use the chainsaw as a murder weapon, actually cheering him when he slices that biker in half with it. Now that he's been inspired to use it, Tommy wastes no time in killing Eric with the saw as well as using it to perform "surgery" on Monty. Hoyt also approves of his wearing other people's faces, cementing his transformation into Leatherface. So, I thought that the filmmakers did a good job in showing how pivotal a role Hoyt played in Thomas Hewitt's "coming of age" so to speak but, that said, I do think yet again that they could have done more with it. They could have gone deeper into why Tommy was so loyal to his uncle, what he did that earned him his complete trust and devotion, and why what Hoyt thought was so important to him. If that had been explored more, then I do think that shot of Hoyt, with that evil smile on his face, watching Tommy, now having fully become Leatherface, chase after Chrissie would have been more impactful, that this was truly what it had all been leading up to. And also, I think it would have been better to give Leatherface just as much screentime as Hoyt rather than letting Hoyt dominate the entire film. In fact, Leatherface is in so little of this movie that I sometimes forget that I'm watching a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie and by the time he skins and puts on Eric's face, there's only like twenty or so minutes of the movie left. If they had made the movie equally about both of them, I think it would have been stronger. So to sum up, I think the filmmakers did have some good ideas about how to tell Leatherface's story but they could have expanded and fleshed them out a whole lot more. If they had done that, I think the movie would have been better and more generally liked.

I must say that I do think Leatherface looks effectively creepy in this film. For most of the movie, he wears this thing that looks like the bottom half of a leather bandage mask which covers every part of his face from his nose down. Whatever this thing is, it gives Leatherface a look that we haven't seen before and it allows us to see his eyes as well as the top half of his face. That way, we can see his facial expressions and get just how full of rage and anger he is. Plus, I do think he looks genuinely unnerving when he has that thing on. If a big guy with that thing on his face came after me, I would be pretty freaked out! And then, there's the mask he makes out of Eric's face and like the Kemper mask featured in the remake, this thing is uncomfortable realistic. It does look like he skinned Matt Bomer's face, sewed it up, and started wearing it. The shot of him in that mask that gets me is when you see him standing on the stairway when Hoyt tells him that he likes his new face. The way it's lit when he looks up at Hoyt after he says that makes it look all too real. It does look as if he's wearing that guy's stitched face. It looks good in the rest of the movie as well but that one particular shot makes me go, "Oh, God!" So, I have to give this movie props on the way they actually made Leatherface look.

One odd thing is that when this movie was in pre-production, I had heard rumors that they were looking for a new actor to replace Andrew Bryniarski as Leatherface. I couldn't find any explanation as to why but I read several actors that made it feel like that was indeed the case. It wasn't until the E! True Hollywood Story on the franchise whose debut coincided with the release of the movie that I learned that Bryniarski had actually played Leatherface. I was glad he did because I did like his portrayal of Leatherface in the remake and, despite my mixed feelings about this movie, I thought he also did well here. Even though he seemed to have slimmed down a little bit in order to get across the fact that Leatherface was younger in this film (which is why, when I saw the TV spots, I thought they had actually cast someone else), I think he's just as physically intimidating here as he was in the remake and with the brutal way he attacks people, I do think you could believe that he would brutally murder you. So, I have no problems with Bryniarski's performance in either of these movies. But it was when I watched making of documentary on this film's DVD that I began to see that Bryniarski is a dick for lack of a better word. In one part of the documentary when they talk about how they brought him back in the role, there was an interview clip of him where he says, "I was born to wear the mask. Nobody can be as scary as me or bring what I can bring to it." I had two initial thoughts when I watched those interviews with him. One was, "What's wrong with his voice?" It's just a random thing that I noticed. His voice sounds weird in those interviews. And the second thought I had was, "What an arrogant douchebag." While he did say that he was born to wear the mask on the documentary on the making of the remake, he didn't come across as arrogant to me but rather as someone who was very enthusiastic about playing an iconic horror movie character. But that statement he made in the documentary on this film rubbed me the wrong way and I hated how he basically buried anyone else who thought they could play Leatherface. That was when I started to have second thoughts on Bryniarski as a person and, as I described in my review of the remake, I would eventually learn that he pretty much is an arrogant asshole. Bottom line: like the performance, not too hot on the man himself.

Marietta Marich has a bit more to do in this film as Luda May (I know I spelled her name as Luda Mae earlier but these two films spell her name differently so I'm just going to spell her name the way I did in my review of the remake). She comes across as more complex here than she did in the remake. She's initially horrified when Hoyt introduces cannibalism to the family as well as by some of the other hideous things that he and Tommy do, like when she first sees Tommy in his face mask and when the two of them perform "surgery" on Monty. But, she adjusts rather quickly, actually cooking food made up of human body parts at one point as well as allowing Tommy to continue wearing his face mask. This points out to her being as unstable as the rest of her family, which is confirmed when she tells Leatherface to kill Bailey as well as the very fact that she allowed both her and Dean to be put at the dinner table, even when she thought Dean was dead. Speaking of Bailey, there was some weird mother thing going on with Luda May when Bailey was being held hostage. She treats her like she's her child, washing her face at one point because they have company coming, singing to her, and even cutting bits of her hair when she's sitting at the dinner table. She tells Bailey, "I never had me a little girl before," (which makes me wonder exactly how Henrietta from the remake is related to her if that's the case) so I guess she wanted to see what it would be like to have a daughter. But, like I said, that doesn't stop her from ordering Leatherface to slit her throat, "setting her free" as she puts it, which adds another level of creepy to her. She actually does show some concern when Hoyt embarks on this new gruesome lifestyle for the family but it's not because she has sympathy for the kids. She doesn't give a crap about them at all, which is evident at the way she scoffs at Bailey's statement that her gas station looked nice when they first arrived into town and when she tells Chrisse at the dinner table, "I will not have you speak ill of this family." She's worried about the consequences of what they're doing, telling Hoyt that people will come looking for those kids, later telling him, after Monty gets shot by that biker, that he's created a major mess by killing the sheriff, and finally tells him that Chrissie will warn the authorities if she gets away, which is right before Leatherface comes charging out of the house after her. While it may not be the most in-depth look into a character's psyche, it does give us a bit of a foundation for the person we saw in the remake.

There's not much else to be said about Old Monty (Terrence Evans) here that I didn't say in my review of the remake. Other than the fact that he has legs for most of the film, he's the same grumpy, crusty old man as he was in the previous film. The only major role he plays in the family's evil deeds is that it's his job to remove any signs of accidents on the side of the road that are caused by the family's acquisition of victims. He drives this wrecker out to the spot where the kids' wrecked car and the biker girl's motorcycle are, loads them up, removes all traces that there was an accident there, and takes the vehicles back to the Hewitt house, where they no doubt became part of that junkyard we saw in the remake. The only other contribution that he makes to the movie is in a brief moment where Eric and Dean ask him for help and he says, "I don't get involved in his affairs." This suggests that he goes along with what Hoyt does out of sheer fear, even if it means having to start eating human flesh. You can't blame him either. If I was in that family, I would no doubt just do what Hoyt told me to as well. Finally, though, I have to wonder what the point was in showing how Monty lost his legs. Was it absolutely necessary for us to see that? It adds nothing to the story save for another scene of gruesome gore. Plus, you no doubt already suspected that Leatherface had something to do with him losing his legs. Heck, even Scott Kosar, the writer of the remake, suggested that in the documentary on that film, so when you watch this movie, you're likely just going to be like, "Oh, Leatherface did cut his legs off. Okay. Whatever." And the reason why he had to have his legs amputated is nothing special either. While I don't mind the character of Monty, I just cannot believe that a lot of people were curious as to how he lost his legs because it's not that compelling of a mystery (and neither was how Hoyt lost his front teeth, for that matter).

The last returning character from the remake is the tea lady (Kathy Lamkin) and she adds as much to this movie as she did to that one... which is nothing. In fact, I feel that this character is even more pointless here than she was in the previous film. All she does is talk to Luda May about how important it is to keep hydrated when the weather is very hot and about how much she loves, "those little chocolates." Why is this scene necessary? Even though didn't care for the scene with her and Henrietta in the remake, at least served some purpose. This is just pointless and it leads up to a moment that is out and out silly: after getting loose, Eric bursts in to save Bailey and actually pushes the table, with the tea lady still sitting at the end of it, towards the door so Hoyt can't get in. He just used an obese person as a way to barricade a door. Something that silly is not a good thing to have in a movie that is meant to be dead serious, particularly in a scene like this that is meant to be tense and exciting. And speaking of which, you really see just how fat this woman is in this movie and... wow. I may not exactly be a fit guy either but, good God! I hope for her sake, that actor loses some weight before her heart explodes one day. Crimeny! All joking aside though, I don't care for this character, I think she's pointless and laughable, and I think both of these movies would have been just fine without her.

The other actors in the movie do okay with what they're given. The two bikers, who, according to the credits, are named Holden (Lee Tergesen) and Alex (Cyia Batten), are nothing more than the typical assholish hoodlums who just like to terrorize and rob people and Holden proves that he's quite capable of violence when he shoots Monty in the leg and holds Hoyt at gunpoint as he demands to know where Alex is (and that, of course, costs him his life). I did feel sympathy for Sloane (Leslie Calkins), the poor woman who gives birth to Leatherface at the beginning of the movie. She just seemed very pitiable with how she begins crying when her water breaks and how she's praying for God to help her. You feel even worse for her because of how cruel the manager of the slaughterhouse (Tim deZarn) is. He's not in the movie much but you can tell that he's an asshole, with the stuff he says and the way he acts. After Sloane falls onto the floor after her water breaks and she's apparently dead, all he can say, "That's what you get for drinking on the job, Sloane." He wouldn't let her go to the bathroom when she asked either. And, of course, let's not forget that he put the newborn baby in a dumpster outside and left it for dead. What a dick. And he's even stupid enough to insult Leatherface when he discovers that he's still hanging around the slaughterhouse after it's shut down, telling him, "Your kind belong in this shithole." (He's referring to the now virtually abandoned town.) It never ceases to amaze me that some characters in horror films are stupid enough to hassle someone who clearly is not to be trifled with. There's this huge man with a weird mask over his face standing in the doorway to his office, looking at him as if he's about to rip his head off, and he says that stuff to him. Did he not realize in all the years that he was working there that this guy is someone you don't push around? Moreover, did he just not notice the enormous sledgehammer he was holding? Either way, he gets what he deserves. And finally, you have Lew Temple in the very brief role of the unlucky sheriff whom Hoyt kills and then takes his place. Honestly, I think this guy also had it coming. First, he made the dumb decision to refer to Leatherface as a retard to his uncle and decides that he doesn't deserve to be called a human being either. Moreover, the guy asks Charlie to come with him in order to help talk Leatherface into turning himself in but when they do find, the sheriff tells Charlie to stay in the car. What was the point of bringing him along then? Perhaps he told him to stay in the car because he didn't expect to find Leatherface walking around with a chainsaw but that's never made clear. I just feel he was another dumb character that deserved to get killed. (Plus, in the unrated version, he talks about how he heard, "You could bring a horse to organism {orgasm} using your finger." Uh, thank you for sharing that with us, sheriff. Sick bastard.) I do like Charlie's line when he kills him though: "Shit, I just killed the whole fucking sheriff's department. Damn it, I wonder what that felt like." Pretty good, as far as I'm concerned, since that character was so dumb.

One of the compliments that I will give this movie is that it actually feels like it's taking place in the same universe as its predecessor, which is a first for this franchise. After four movies that are as different from one another in both tone and style as you can get, we get two that each look and feel pretty much the same as the other does. This feeling is helped not only by the fact that every character returning from the remake is played by the same actor but also because it takes place in the same town with most of the same locations and the film itself was even printed in that same bleach bypass process that the remake was. Granted, the color palette for this film is more of a brown rather than the tobacco green of the remake but it's still identifiable as the same sort of look as its predecessor. While my opinions on both films are very different, I have to say that it is nice that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise finally developed a sense of continuity in terms of tone, story, and character, even if it lasted for only two movies.

Unfortunately, this movie shares something else with the remake: the idea that the teens in the film don't look at all how teens from this period would look. In fact, I think the situation here is even worse since this movie is supposed to take place in 1969. As I said in my review of the remake, I didn't believe that those teens lived in the early 1970's but, in the case with this movie, I really don't believe that these four kids are of the youth generation that was prevalent in the late 1960's. They don't dress like kids from that period did (no bell-bottoms, long, hippie-style hair, or anything like that), they don't talk like them, and they certainly don't look like them either. I explained before why people who look like these kids simply would not have existed back in this time period, due to the simple fact of ongoing human evolution, and I think that concept doubly applies here. Bottom line, Platinum Dunes needs to either stop making films that take place in these time periods or, at the very least, make the effort to get them to feel authentic because when they do this stuff, it just screams, "We don't give a shit," on their part.

Another compliment I can give this film is an extension of the one I gave up above: the production design here looks a lot like that of the remake, just aged backwards a few years. There are three locations that return from the remake: the Hewitt house, the gas station, and the slaughterhouse. The only difference with the first two is that they don't look quite as rundown or dirty as they did in the remake. They still don't look like places you'd want to be in if you could help it but they're not as aged is what I mean. The inside of the gas station isn't as digusting and nasty as it was in the remake and the sight of customers actually sitting at the tables inside give it a bit more of a lively feel than it was originally where it was just a dead place that no one visited. The same goes for the Hewitt house. It's the same big plantation house that we saw in the remake but, I guess since the family has just now started cannibalizing other people, it hasn't become as unkempt and unpleasant as it eventually would. There are no pieces of meat hanging from the ceiling of the kitchen or disgusting, old food inside the refrigerator. You also don't get that sense of mold in the air and on the walls that I feel you could originally (although, the film is so darkly lit that you probably couldn't see it anyway). Even downstairs in Leatherface's lair, it's not as grimy and waterlogged (although there are some shallow puddles here and there) as it was before. And since Leatherface has just now begun his own reign of terror, there are no grisly souvenirs from his victims lining the walls and shelves of the room. He also hasn't become as sophisticated at disposing of people as he eventually would since, instead of the kill table where he would put the bodies of his victims and let the blood drain out, there's nothing but an old-fashioned wooden table on which he straps Eric in order to butcher him. And while you do see some chains where the butchered body of Alex, the female biker, is hung, there's no sign of the infamous meat hook. Even the sliding door that leads down into the place doesn't look as sophisticated as the one that was present in the remake (just watch the films back to back and you'll see what I mean). You also get to see some new parts of the Hewitts' property that you didn't before. You see more of the inside of the house, such as the upstairs where there are bedrooms (including a very brief shot of what could be Hoyt's room when he puts on the sheriff's uniform) as well as some type of sitting room that has glass double-doors leading into it. And since there is a dinner scene in this film, which there wasn't in the remake, you get to see the dining room, which isn't much but it is interesting to see where the family actually has dinner. There's a similar room with a smaller table and a door that leads directly outside as well as another set of double-doors that lead into the actual house. (I'm not sure if that's the dining room and I just didn't recognize it when it was filmed in broad daylight but it seemed a lot smaller than that room.) And finally, there's the barn where Eric and Dean are hung up. The only thing I wonder about that barn is that I don't remember it being there in the remake. They must have torn it down by that point or something. There are other interesting parts of the property like a little fence as well as a more definite road from the house to the highway that wasn't quite there originally and a little area where the wrecked vehicles are dumped that I think add to the feeling of this actually being a house in the middle of nowhere.

The location that changed the most between films is the slaughterhouse. Whereas it was the only location in the remake that wasn't dirty or grimy in some rooms, here it's the exact opposite. First off, whereas there were rooms that were filled entirely with steel cabinets, counters, and doors in the remake, here the only parts of this place that are made of steel are the meathooks and the chopping utensils. Everything else is wooden and you see workers chopping up pieces of meat and wrapping them up the old-fashioned way, both in the beginning that takes place in 1939 and in the scenes that take place in 1969. And, like the other locations were in the remake, you have a feeling of filth while inside that slaugherhouse. It just looks like a place where, after spending a hard day's work inside of it, you would come out feeling completely soiled. On top of that, like the other films in this franchise, the weather is really hot and it's probably stifling inside that slaughterhouse. Looking at the interior scenes of that place when it's working, it does feel as if you couldn't even breathe in there. It's not that hard to see why the place ultimately got closed down by the Texas Department of Health. You also see some other areas of the location, such as the outside where the cows graze (which you briefly saw in the remake) and the spot where they are led into the section of the place where they're killed as well as a room that houses tanks filled with blood and other discarded parts of slaughtered animals. The slaughterhouse in this film is just a disgusting place and you can see why they had to give it a major overhaul in order for it to be reopened by 1973.

The only new location in this film is the small motel where we first meet the kids and that was a place that I think all of us can relate to. If you've ever been on long road trips, then you undoubtedly have had no choice but to stop at little hole-in-the-wall motels such as this one and, as shown here, the accommodations aren't always luxurious. While the room that we see Dean and Bailey in doesn't look all that bad (although it's certainly not ideal either), the swimming pool that Eric is goofing around in is definitely not something that I would swim in if I could help it. There are leaves floating on the water and it's green as well, as if the hotel owner doesn't even bother to try and keep it clean (I was about to ask if they've ever heard of filters but I don't know if they existed in 1969). Chrissie has a point when she tells Eric while he's practicing catching "gooks" (I apologize to any Asian readers for that; I'm just quoting him) in the swamp in that pool that the only thing he's liable to catch in that water is a disease. While I've seen, and stayed in, far worse motels than the one featured here, I do think this scene captured that feeling of having to stay somewhere that isn't the best out of sheer necessity.

Finally, I have to compliment the way the open roads of Texas are shot in this film. While they are beautiful when juxtaposed with the landscapes and the countryside in the part of the movie before the kids are taken hostage, when things become sinister later on, they give off a sense of extreme isolation. This is best exemplified in the part where Chrissie runs out onto the road and screams for help. She gets no response at all and in the miles and miles of empty road and countryside that you see all around her, you realize that there is absolutely no help coming and, as she tells Dean later on, there's no help to go to either. Even though I do have mixed feelings about this film as a whole, I do think that one part shows the atmosphere that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies can give off: the feeling that you are completely alone out there and you'll have to fend for yourself, which is quite a frightening concept.

I've already talked about one of my two major problems with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning: that I feel the filmmakers kind of dropped the ball when it came to telling the history of Leatherface. The other one will seem like a strange complaint for a movie in this franchise but it's honestly how I feel: this movie is 90 or so minutes of sheer unpleasantness. Moreover, it's a prime example of a trend in horror films in the 2000's that I never liked and I'm glad has pretty much died out now. Once Saw and Hostel came out and were both enormous hits, it seemed like every horror film made over the next three or four years had to revolve around torture, just watching people suffer in all sorts of horrific ways. I know that those types of films existed before this period but it was after those two movies came out that they started popping up everywhere and it got old really fast. While I did enjoy the original Saw since that had elements of thriller/mystery as well as the torture stuff, I never got any enjoyment out of those films. In fact, I don't get why they were so popular to begin with. What is fun about watching somebody being slowly mutilated, getting their fingers and toes cut off, getting their tongue and eyeballs removed, and so on? To me, there's nothing fun about that and while the makeup effects in those movies are often well done, I can only watch that kind of stuff for so long before I start to become uncomfortable and wish it would just end. And that's where we have this film. Since this came out a little less than a year after Hostel, the filmmakers thought they had to outdo that movie in terms of sheer gore and unpleasantness and I do think they succeeded on that score. While there are some things in Hostel that do make me wince, I just thought that movie was stupid for the most part. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, on the other hand, has a lot more stuff in it that, while effective in what they're trying to do, make me want to turn the movie off in some scenes rather than keep watching. Now, in my review of the original film, I did acknowledge that there are some elements of the whole torture thing in that movie, like Pam being hung on the meathook and all of the physical abuse that Sally is put through, but it didn't feel as excessive to me in that movie as it does here. This movie just absolutely wallows in its torture scenes, having them go on and on, like when Hoyt is beating the crap out of Dean as he does those pushups and when Eric is strapped to the table in Leatherface's lair and he cuts his shirt off of him, slices his arms up, and such. It's like, "Okay, okay, just get on with it already." Some of you may feel that I'm being overly sensitive about this and it's possible that I am but I just feel that the movie lingers on the suffering of the characters for far too long and, for me, that doesn't make for an enjoyable picture; it makes for one that I wish would just ened, which is not what you should be wishing for when watching something that's meant as entertainment.

Even though I think a lot of the scenes in this movie are borderline unbearable to watch, I will say that the makeup effects by KNB are very well done. KNB almost always does quality effects-work despite the type of film they're working on and this is no exception (though I don't know why these types of movies have to have blood that looks like chocolate sauce for the most part). And unlike the remake, which wasn't much bloodier than the original, there's wall to wall gore in this film. I know some feel that the baby Leatherface at the beginning of the film looks fake but I thought it looked fine. I've seen much worse as far as stuff like that goes. I thought they did well in making it look as if Sloane really was giving birth, with the water and the blood spilling out from between her legs, followed by the slimy, deformed baby crawling out (she apparently wasn't wearing underwear too). The first kill scene in the movie is where Leatherface beats the slaughterhouse manager to death with a big sledgehammer and there are some real wince-inducing shots of the guys' legs getting smashed and broken by the hammer before Leatherface finishes him off by hitting him right in the head. The death of the sheriff is nothing special and neither is the death of Alex but what becomes of their bodies afterward is truly gruesome. You see how the sheriff's body parts have been cooked up into stew by Hoyt, with some good shots of certain pieces of meat, and when Leatherface brings Eric down into the basement, you see the horrific image of Alex having been chopped up, with her arm and leg missing, and she's hanging off some chains. There's a quick shot of some glass sticking out of Bailey after the car accident and it's another little thing that can just make you wince. Speaking of which, the way the accident happens, by the kids slamming into a cow that's crossing the road, results in an explosion of pure gore. That was the one makeup effect in this movie that I thought was so over the top that it was ridiculous and kind of funny (plus, people in horror films seriously need to stop running into cows because it's becoming overdone with this film and Rob Zombie's Halloween II). For a while, there aren't that many makeup effects or kills, just Eric and Dean being tortured by Hoyt, including that sadistic round of pushups (although the shots of Hoyt's nightstick hitting Dean's elbows and arms is painful to watch), but there are some during the kids' botched escape attempt, like when Dean gets his foot caught in a beartrap (simple but painful-looking) and when Leatherface stabs Bailey right under the chest with a meathook and then carries her into the house that way. That really looks painful and her screaming amplifies that feeling ten-fold.

Things really start to ratchet up when Leatherface takes Eric down into the basement (by the way, when he does so, Eric tries to grab onto the sides of the door and the walls and, remembering what happened to Andy in the remake when he did the same thing, I was thinking, "Dude, don't. Just don't.") After he straps him to the table and inspects his face, there's a brief moment where Leatherface slices Eric's arms up to the point where they're very painful-looking in just how torn to pieces they are, with exposed muscle, flayed skin, and blood everywhere. After that is when Leatherface kills Holden by shoving him down on top of his chainsaw, starting the thing up, and then yanking it upward, slicing the guy in half. There's an added shot of his blood flowing over the floor just for a little more impact. And then there's the kill in the movie that really gets to me. Leatherface puts his chainsaw right through Eric's chest and then proceeds to skin his face and turn it into his first face mask. The kill with the chainsaw is just a typical gory kill but the flaying of the face is truly sick. When I first saw this movie, I went, "Aah!" at that visual. It's not bad enough that we see Leatherface cutting along the sides of the guy's face, with blood oozing out all the while, but when he's finally got it cut all the way, we see a reverse shot of him pulling it off. The part of it that gets me is, even though it's darkly lit, you can see slimy, stringy stuff going from the face to where it used to be. I cannot tell you how downright gross that is to me. You also Leatherface take the face in his hands and then bring it over to his chair wear he proceeds to sew it into the mask. The part where he finally puts it on is quite memorable, partly due to the image and also simply because of the feeling that Thomas Hewitt now truly is Leatherface. Whatever else I have to say about this movie, I do think that was a well-done moment, despite how sick it was.

The rest of the makeup effects in the film are good but none of them had the visceral impact that face-skinning scene had on me. Leatherface slicing off Monty's legs with the chainsaw does look pretty good and is well, with blood and bits of flesh going everywhere as well as the visual of his bloody stumps. When Luda May and Hoyt are preparing dinner, there are some small and hideous shots of fingers lying on the floor as well as a sickly funny exchange of dialogue about whose tongue Luda May has at one point, which Hoyt says is from Holden. At the dinner table, we see that horrific visual of Bailey's teeth having been yanked out and that's soon followed by Leatherface slicing her throat open with a pair of scissors. A lot of blood flows out all over the table afterward. There isn't much to say about the effect when Hoyt's front teeth get knocked out but it looks good enough and the vats of blood that Jessie hides in at the slaughterhouse are pretty disgusting looking, with the chunks of meat floating in the blood as well as the sound of buzzing flies. And then, Dean gets killed when Leatherface shoves his chainsaw through his back and out his stomach, sort of like the reverse of what Lefty did to Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Leatherface even lifts Dean's body up on the chainsaw and lets the blade grind his insides a little more before continuing to chase after Chrissie.

Now, the final death in the movie, that of Chrissie, is the only part of the movie that legitimately made me mad instead of just making me cringe. The death itself is nothing special: Leatherface puts his chainsaw through the back of the driver's seat in the car and it slices all the way through Chrissie. Seen kills like that before so whatever. But the circumstances leading up to that death made me go, "No, you cannot do this!" After Leatherface kills Dean, Chrissie runs out of the slaughterhouse, makes it to the manager's car, and drives away. When I first saw this movie, I realized where this movie was possibly going and I went, "No, don't you dare!" But it did: Leatherface pops up in the backseat and then kills Chrissie with his chainsaw. Now, there are two ways in which this final kill is completely idiotic. First, Chrissie was well ahead of Leatherface when she got to that car and yet, he still managed to show up in the backseat. Even though he gets lumped in with them a lot, Leatherface is completely different from Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. He's just an insane man who is a cannibal and wears other people's face. There's nothing supernatural about at all. And yet here, they have him teleport the way Michael and Jason tend to do. Since those two characters are clearly more than just mere human beings, it's easy to let it slide. But this doesn't cut it. While I'm happy that it took a long time for them to do this type of horror cliche with Leatherface, it was still infuriating when they finally did do it. And now for the other way in which this is stupid. Let's just suspend disbelief and accept that Leatherface somehow managed to get to that car before Chrissie. How in the name of God did she miss such a huge man with a big chainsaw lying in the backseat of such a small car? You would have to absolutely blind in order to not see him. In fact, they originally realized how preposterous that idea was and originaly filmed it to be that Leatherface stabs Chrissie with a knife instead. But, because Leatherface's signature weapon is his chainsaw (ignoring the fact that he has killed with other weapons before, including in this very film), they reshot it to include the chainsaw. Even if you can buy that she didn't see him lying back there, how did Leatherface line that saw up with the back of the driver's seat and crank it up without being seen or heard? It's too preposterous to swallow whichever way you choose to look at it. It may be the very end of the film but you need to go out on a better note than that. All in all, I do think the makeup effects in the movie are well done but that last kill is really cliched and stupid for a franchise that up to this point had, more or less, been quite believable.

As with the remake, the music for the film was composed by Steve Jablonsky. While I don't like this score quite as much as the one for the remake, there are still some effective themes present here. The best one by far is the creepy theme that plays over the opening credits as well as over the sadistic pushups and the first part of the ending credits. That theme captures the nightmarish feel of this franchise perfectly and works well with the horrific, suggested images that we see playing behind the opening credits. It's almost enough to make me forgive the fact that I wanted to actually see that stuff in full detail (emphasis on "almost" though). I also like foreboding themes that play when Leatherface is walking away from the slaughterhouse with his chainsaw and when Sheriff Hoyt parks his car on the side of the road, waiting for his first victims to come by. Those themes give a feeling that the nightmare has begun. The music that plays when Leatherface makes his first chainsaw kill gives that scene a very epic and monumental feel and theme that plays when he skins Eric's face and makes it into a mask does a good job in signifying the birth of a monster. And finally, I do like theme that plays over the last part of the movie as Leatherface, having killed Chrissie, walks back to his house, while John Larroquette informs us that the Hewitts' reign of terror from 1969 to 1973 claimed the lives of 33 people. That music combined with the visuals and the narration give the feeling that this truly was just the beginning of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As good as those themes are, though, the music that plays during the "scare" scenes as well as the chase scenes is not as memorable to me as its counterpart in the remake. Maybe it's because I've watched the remake so many times that I've memorized almost all of the music in that movie but I felt that Jablonsky didn't do as well with that type of music here. But, other than that, this score does have a lot of good themes and cues on it.

While the remake only had Sweet Home Alabama as well as some obscure country songs on its soundtrack, this film has a couple of songs that most would recognize. Unfortunately, though, they made a huge mistake in that they put in the song All Right Now by Free in the scene at the beginning where Dean and Bailey are making out in the motel room. Why is that unfortunate? Because that song wasn't written until 1970, a whole year after this movie is supposed to take place. It's a very minor nitpick, I know, but this is why, if you're making a period piece, you should read the year on the copyright information of a song before you put it in there. They also play the song Vehicle by Jim Peterik when the kids leave the motel and are driving down the road. I'm really glad they did, too, because I like that song a lot (I love ya, I need ya, Good God in heaven I love you!) There were some other songs on the soundtrack like The High and Low of the Blues and A Church At The Foot Of The Hill but those first two were the ones that grabbed my attention.

This may surprise all of you, seeing as how my opinion on this film is rather mixed, but I wish there was one more Texas Chainsaw Massacre film made in this continuity. I'm dead serious. Even though this one isn't one of my favorites, I still enjoy the character of Hoyt as well as this incarnation of Leatherface and I wouldn't have minded seeing one more movie featuring them. I actually hoped that it would have been a "midquel" (that is a term that has been created in recent years, just so you know) that told the story of that hitchhiker in the remake. Like I said in my review of that film, I think it would have made for a quite horrific film if we were to see what exactly happened to that poor girl. In fact, I thought there was going to be another one since I saw a trailer on YouTube that purported itself to be for a movie called The Legend of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that Marcus Nispel was back as director... but it turned out to simply be a fan trailer and I was not at all happy when I discovered that. It wasn't too long after that that I learned from a statement issued by Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, who were executives at Platinum Dunes as well as having been producers on both of these films, that there was no third film coming. I was disappointed to hear that. While the franchise did start up again when Lionsgate bought the rights from New Line Cinema and produced Texas Chainsaw 3-D, I still think it's a shame that we didn't get one more movie featuring the characters created for this continuity.

Needless to say, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is not one of my favorite entries in the franchise. While I would definitely watch it over The Next Generation any day (I'm never watching that thing ever again, though, so it's not much of a contest), I still feel that it's a severely flawed film that doesn't tell its story nowhere near as well as it could have and its attempts to take advantage of the so-called "torture porn" trend that was big at the time end up making it a very unpleasant film in many respects. While I do still enjoy this incarnation of Leatherface as well as the character of Hoyt and I didn't mind the kids in this film either, I just feel that this movie had a lot of potential that was not properly tapped into and is a real missed opportunity. I know that, like the remake, this movie does have its fair share of fans and if you're one of them, power to you. However, while I feel that the remake was a great flick and a nice companion piece to the original, every time I watch this movie, I come away from it with the feeling that it could have been so much more.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Franchises: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

If you remember back in my review of the original film, I mentioned that this was my first real exposure to this franchise. This was another instance where everything came together all at the right time. When this came out in 2003, it was right when, despite my initial reservations about seeing any of these films, I was becoming interested in them and saw that trailer for the original that freaked me out so much. The idea of the original being remade also intrigued me because, at that point, movies that were no more recent than the 60's were the ones that were remade. Putting aside the 80's remakes of 50's science fiction films such as John Carpenter's The Thing, David Cronenberg's The Fly, and Chuck Russell's The Blob, remakes around that time referred to those of Psycho, The Haunting, and House on Haunted Hill: again, all from the 50's and 60's. So, the idea of a movie from the 70's being remade struck me as being very unusual since, being someone who watched almost nothing but films from the 30's to the 60's for the first part of my life, I always viewed the time periods from the 70's onward as being contemporary and, therefore, the movies made then didn't warrant being remade and modernized to me. On top of that, remaking the movie would also mean reinventing an icon of modern horror like Leatherface and while many other famous horror characters such as Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the Mummy, and even King Kong, had been reinterpreted many times over, it felt more natural in their case since they either stemmed from classic literature, which can be adapted and redone many times, instead of being purely cinematic creations or, in the case of King Kong, their stories just could easily be moved to modern times, like the 1976 version of that character. Recreating a character like Leatherface, whose foundation is very firmly that of the original film and whose story had been expanded into sequels (that's another thing: movies with a bunch of sequels generally didn't get remade, with the exception at that time being Psycho, and it didn't seem necessary either), was another aspect that felt very alien to me. I thought, "That's like trying to recreate Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, or Freddy Krueger. How would you do that?" (If I only knew what was to come.)

To make a long story short, the very concept behind this remake had me intrigued from the get-go, even though I wouldn't actually see it until a year after it came out, although I did see the theatrical trailer for it on a New Line DVD that I got during the following summer. As I said back in my review of the original, even though I was intrigued, I was hesistant about actually seeing these movies due to that trailer for the original and the simple question of whether or not I wanted to watch some movies about a guy with a chainsaw slaughtering people. By that point, I had become a big of the Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nighmare on Elm Street series but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre always just felt much more extreme due to its title, perhaps a little too extreme even for me. It was some time during my senior year in high school in 2004 when I caught the remake on cable one night (it was either during October or after it because I remember seeing a lot of those documentaries about the original around that same time). I was about to change the channel the minute I saw the title on the TV screen but, after thinking about it, I decided to bite the bullet and just watch it. I was glad that I made that decision because I thought the movie was awesome. While it seems like a cliche thing to say now, I had never seen anything so raw, brutal, and intense at that point. I was like, "Okay, this right here is a horror film!" I know some of you who despise this movie are probably rolling your eyes at that statement but that was my honest reaction. After I saw it several times on cable (although I think I saw it all the way through only once), I knew this was a movie I had to have and so I got both it and the original on DVD that Christmas. Another thing you might remember from my review of the original is that this movie, along with other factors, rather hampered my first viewing of the original. While I love the original very much so now, it seemed rather tame and dated to me the first time I watched it, no doubt due to my being much more familiar with this film. I guess the lesson there is don't see a modernized version before you see the original. But, in any case, while my opinion of the original grew and grew over time, the remake was a movie that I liked very much from the get go and my high opinion of it has lasted through the years. Looking at it today, while I have come to agree that the original is the superior and I do admit that it does have some flaws, I still think it's a worthy companion piece to the 1974 classic, a lot better than the majority of the remakes that followed it, and a good horror film in its own right.

In 1973, the discovery of a house of horrors in Texas as well as the most recent atrocities committed by its inhabitants horrified the nation. After thirty years of being filed away in the cold cases section of the Travis County Police Department, the files on the case, which contained over 1,300 pieces of evidence and a walkthrough of the crime scene, are opened and re-examined. The events of August 18, 1973 are then recounted. Five young adults are driving through rural Texas on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Dallas after spending a few days in Mexico. On their way, they come across a disoriented, almost catatonic young woman walking on the side of the road who babbles about having to get away from a "bad man." Although they pick her up and attempt to take her to safety, she panics when she sees that they're heading into a rural town and, after telling them that they're all going to die, kills herself with a .357 Magnum. Afterward, they drive to a rundown but operating gas station and ask the elderly woman who runs the place to contact the sheriff for them. While she apparently does so, she says that the sheriff wants them to drive over to a nearby mill to make their report. With no other options, they do so and come across a bizarre-looking little kid who tells them that the sheriff lives nearby. Two of the kids head in the direction given to them by the boy and come across an old plantation-house. While the owner of the house says that the sheriff doesn't live there but offers to call him up for them, the sheriff seems to arrive at the mill and takes the body away. And unbeknownst to Erin, one of the two girls in the group, her boyfriend Kemper was killed by Leatherface in another part of the house while she was on the phone with the "sheriff" and it isn't long before her and her friends begin falling prey to the chainsaw-wielding maniac and his deranged clan.

Because Michael Bay's name was all over the trailers and TV spots for the film, I assumed that he was the director. However, I, of course, soon learned that, while his production company produced it, the movie was actually directed by Marcus Nispel, who had never directed a feature film before but had done many music videos as well as some video documentaries (and, unfortunately, he was the first in an annoying trend that I will touch on later). While I wouldn't call Nispel one of the greatest directors by any means, I do think he has some talent. As I will describe shortly, I like the look that he gave the film and I thought he did well in filming the more intense scenes as well as giving the locations and such a real uncomfortable rawness that works well. However, it's a shame that, ever since making this movie, Nispel has done almost nothing but remakes. At first, I thought he did something totally original called Pathfinder the year after this movie but I've since found out that was an American remake of a Norwegian film. His other credits include a Frankenstein TV movie, the 2009 reboot of Friday the 13th (which I like despite its flaws), and the 2011 Conan the Barbarian. I think I heard at one point that he was supposed to direct a remake of Escape from New York but I guess that fell-through. While I think lately he's been working on films that are his own, I just find it disconcerting that the guy has spent most of his feature-directing career recreating the works of others and he hasn't tried to follow the path taken by Zack Snyder, whose first film was the Dawn of the Dead remake, and use the success of his first film to try make other movies that are his own.

Given my introduction of this review, you may not be surprised to find that I wasn't shocked when I discovered that, despite how successful it was, this film generally isn't very well liked, particularly by die-hard fans of the original. On the one hand, I very much understand the reasoning of the detractors. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is just such a product of its time that nothing else, be it sequels or remakes or what, will ever be able to recapture what that film is in terms of its cultural significance as well as its unique look and feel. It was just a lightning-in-a-bottle situation that will never happen again. So, I can definitely understand why so many people hate the idea that this movie ever was remade. But, on the other hand, you have people who like not just the original film but the franchise as a whole and they tend to not like the remake as well. To them, I have to say that, after the cinematic abortion that was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, a remake was probably the only way to go. That movie damaged the image of the franchise so much, making both it and its characters, especially Leatherface, a complete joke, that the only way to continue it had to have been to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. (If you think you could make a sequel to The Next Generation, I would love to hear it!) And it paid off. Whether you like the movie or not, you can't deny that it revived the franchise and, also, I would go even far as to say that it may have created new interest in the original, not only repairing the damage that The Next Generation did to the franchise as a whole but to the original in particular (after checking out that last movie, I doubt anybody who hadn't seen the original beforehand would have been enthusiastic about seeing the movie that started it all!) So, if you're somebody who felt that the original movie should have been the only one that was ever made, I understand. If you like the franchise as a whole but don't like this film, then that's your right. But you can't deny that this movie did a lot of good for the series. I don't see how you can.

For me, this movie does what a remake should do: take the basic story of the original and do your own thing with it. The concept of five kids falling prey to a deranged family in the Texas backwoods is the same and while there are other aspects of the original that are recreated here, they're done in a completely different way. The hitchhiker scene is in here but it's the polar opposite of its counterpart in the original. While it's obvious who each of the kids in this film is supposed to be in relation to the characters from the original (Erin is Sally, Kemper is Jerry, etc.), they're quite different and have personality traits and dilemmas unique to them. Apart from Leatherface, the family dynamics are totally different here in that there are no real hitchhiker or cook equivalents here. They're their own characters (and I like the idea of their name being Hewitt more than Sawyer because it's not as eye-rollingly cliched to me). There are more locations here than there were in the original and the last twenty minutes is as different as you can get (no dinner scene), with a much more upbeat ending and so forth. And the idea of what we're seeing being an account of something that really happened is much more fleshed out and comes back to conclude the film, unlike the original. All of this adds up to just one of the many things that I like about this movie: it does its own thing and tells its own story instead of xeroxing the original shot for shot.

I've always felt that Erin, played by Jessica Biel, was a worthy successor to Sally from the original. She's strong, beautiful, has a good heart in that she wants to do the right thing with this poor woman who committed suicide in their van by turning her body over to the proper authorities so her family can be notified, and she also does care about her friends. Late in the film when she finds Andy almost dead on the meathook in Leatherface's lair, she puts him out of his misery after he asks her to do so, even though she really doesn't want to and is completely distraught after doing so, and right after that, she finds an injured and shell-shocked Morgan and she gets him on his feet and helps him to escape, even though she could very much leave him since he slows her down due to his condition. I like that she's shown to have a playful, slightly smart-alec attitude at the beginning like when she playfully flips off Morgan when he asks for someone to make her stop singing and when she tosses the joint that her boyfriend, Kemper, gives her out the window and goes, "Oops!" Speaking of which, she has a rather complicated relationship with Kemper. While she does indeed love him and wants to be with him with her mention of a diamond ring, she doesn't like that he's been drinking and smoking weed while they've been in Mexico and is not at all happy when she discovers that he's been smuggling dope in a pinata that they have in their van. Despite that, she is genuinely concerned when he disappears at one point during the film and is out and out horrified when she sees Leatherface wearing his face as a mask later on. She becomes rather frantic like Sally did during the latter half when she's captured by the family and is chased relentlessly by Leatherface, especially when she's picked up by the truck driver and tries to keep from pulling over to the family's gas station, but she doesn't completely lose her mind like Sally did either. And not only does she fight back but she scores two major blows against the family: she chops Leatherface's right arm off, after tricking him no less, and kills Sheriff Hoyt by running him over repeatedly with his own car. Add to that the fact that she rescued a baby girl that the family had kidnapped and that she obviously notified the real authorities who found the Hewitts' home and you realize that the family picked the wrong girl to mess with.

Now, are there a couple of qualms that I have Erin? Eh, a couple. They mainly have to do with Jessica Biel rather than the character herself. First, there's her acting. Now, don't get me wrong. She is good... for the most part. But there are a few lines here and there that I think could have been done better by her, like when she's telling Kemper that the girl who committed suicide in their van has got a family that's going want to know what happened to her, "not just dumped on the side of the road like a piece of trash," or when she later tells Morgan and Pepper, "If you guys just want to take off, that's fine but I am not leaving without him {Kemper}." It's a weird thing to pick on and I know some may not agree with me but I feel they could have used some better takes of those lines. And the other thing about her that gets me is that they make no effort to hide one of the reasons why they cast her: she's hot. They put her in this white tanktop whose bottom half is rolled up so you can see her flat, toned stomach the entire movie (and later on, it gets so wet from the rain that you can see nipples) and these tight-fitting blue jeans and they eventually do show just how well they fit her in a rear shot while she's walking up to the Hewitt house. I know you could argue that it's inspired by that similar shot from the original of Pam walking up to the house but I can't help but feel, especially knowing that Michael Bay was involved with this, that this was the filmmakers saying, "We're not even going to try to hide one of the big reasons why we cast her anymore. Here's her butt." While it doesn't make me dislike the character, I just look at that and say, "It's okay if you hire beautiful women to be in these movies but do you have to make why you hired them so obvious?"

I like Eric Balfour as Erin's boyfriend, Kemper. Some may not like him in that he's maybe just a little bit of a pervy douche when he tells Andy that if he and Pepper get hot while they're making out in the back of the van that they could take their clothes off and he does seem to have an edge to him when he tells Morgan to stop talking about the pinata full of marijuana in front of Erin but, overall, he has such a likable quality to him that I really enjoy his presence. He does genuinely care about Erin as well and admits to her that, yes, he was smuggling dope, but the only reason he did it was so the two of them could have enough money to start a life together. Some may say that he was only saying that so she wouldn't be mad at him anymore and they might also point out that he hid it from her but, for one, he knew that, being who she was, she would object to the weed-smuggling, and for another, he sounded so sincere when he told her that that I, for one, believed him. Now, I do think that they could have expanded on it a little more, like keeping in that deleted scene where he tells her that he wants to marry her but he wants to wait for the right time, that she doesn't want to marry a, "dirty mechanic." I know they cut that bit out in order to get rid of the needless, and ultimately sad, subplot of Erin being pregnant with Kemper's child but they could have left it in and just cut around the mentions of her pregnancy. I think that the moment where she says that she just wants to go home and he says, "That's fine," is a sign of how much he does care about her. I also felt bad for him when he's torn between Morgan and Andy, who just want to dump the girl's body and get out of town, and Erin's need to turn it over to the authorities. While he does at first suggest that he thinks it would be best to just get out, when he learns that the sheriff supposedly lives nearby, he decides to head over to his house and notify him in person.

I think that there's a realistic side to Kemper when he's talking to the elderly woman who runs the gas station in that he tries to remain as polite as he can but starts to get frustrated when the woman says that the sheriff wonders if they wouldn't mind heading over to the old Crawford Mill to make their report. He doesn't become quite as angry about it as Morgan does but, naturally, he doesn't understand why the sheriff won't just come by the gas station instead of making them drive off to an out of the way location to meet him and he tells the woman, "We're not going to drive around this town with a dead girl in the back of our van!" Given the situation, I'm amazed that he didn't lose it worse than what he did. I know I would have. Ultimately, though, Kemper ends up getting killed by Leatherface and his body is dragged down into his lair, where he is butchered and his face is made into a mask. One aspect of Kemper that I think was a bit of missed opportunity is what happens when Leatherface is hoisting up his body like a slab of meat. A diamond ring falls out of his pocket, signifying that he was, indeed, going to ask Erin to marry him. This revelation, though, didn't hit me the first few times I saw the movie, even when I watched it all the way through for the first time. Maybe I wasn't just paying that much attention and since the ring is mentioned very briefly at the beginning of the movie, that could explain why I didn't get its significance (or it could be that I'm just dumb, which is a distinct possibility) but, in any case, I think more could have been done to punctuate its significance. Again, if that deleted conversation between them, minus the pregnancy stuff, that I mentioned earlier was kept in, I think that the thing with the ring would have hit home a little more in. As it is, it's just something that is mentioned briefly at the beginning of the film and by the time we get to the part where the ring falls out, you've probably forgotten about it. All I'm saying is that, while you don't have to beat the audience over the head with an idea, you also have to do more than give them just a little mention of it and expect them to completely get it when its significance is revealed. Other than that, though, I really do like the character of Kemper.

I hate to say it but the guy that identify with the most in this movie is Jonathan Tucker as Morgan. I've been in very bad, tense situations before and while I would like to think that I could be tough when the need arises, in reality I've cracked and start panicking the way Morgan does here. He's actually right in what he says when he tells everyone that they need to get out as soon as possible, despite whatever happens to the girl's body. When Jedidiah tells them that the sheriff is at home getting drunk, I would have said the same thing that Morgan says: "If the sheriff doesn't give a shit, then why should we?" He also has a good point when he says that calling the cops when they've got a pinata full of weed in their van is hardly a good idea. Even though he's not in a wheelchair, he's definitely this film's equivalent to Franklin in that he kind of annoys everybody, though not to the extent that Franklin did, and he does so not by being whiny, although he does become a bit whiny later on (but, again, I understand where he's coming from), but intentionally being somewhat of a pest. I like the moment at the beginning of the movie when he tells Andy, who's been passionately making out with Pepper, about often STDs occur, prompting Andy to flip him off. Although, he does carry things too far when he tells Kemper, "Didn't your mother ever tell you not to pick up hitchhikers?" after the hitchhiker starts letting on what's happened to her and when he acts like something has grabbed his hand when he sticks it into the hood of a car near the Crawford Mill. Really bad timing on that score, pal. He also suggests that he's willing to get out of dodge and leave everyone else behind when he demands the keys from Erin (again, hate to say it but, unless it was someone I was really close to, I could actually see myself doing that if things got really bad; yeah, I'm a freaking coward). But he redeems himself near the end of the movie when he saves Erin from Leatherface, even though he gets killed in the process.

One thing that Jonathan Tucker is very good at in this movie is being panicked and freaked out of his mind. That's one of the reasons why I identified with him so much because he really did seem like he was on the verge of a panic attack in some scenes and I know for a fact that I've acted that way in some situations. After the girl kills herself, his screaming about why they had to pick her up and his telling Kemper why calling the cops is a bad idea feels very much like it's coming from somebody who is losing it big time. The scene with Morgan that made me feel for him the most was when Sheriff Hoyt makes him reenact the suicide for him. His frightened expressions, quivering lip after Hoyt screams, "Get the fuck over there!" when he's reluctant to sit exactly where the girl was, and stammering way of speaking at one point show how he's quickly realized that this sheriff is a psychopath and he's in a lot of danger. When Hoyt makes him put the gun in his mouth like the girl did and he asks what happened next, the way Morgan answers, "She shot herself," with that gun in his mouth is just disturbing for me listen to. At that point, he sounds like he's almost in tears, he's so scared. What's worse is that his torment doesn't end there. After he attempts to shoot Hoyt and realizes that the gun was empty the whole time, Hoyt takes him hostage and not only does he smash him in the face with a liquor bottle when Morgan "bribes" him with his concert tickets, but when they get to the house, Hoyt beats the crap out of him some more, telling him that he's brought it all on himself, before finally taking him into the house. When Erin later finds Morgan in the basement of the house, he's been so badly tortured (he has a large wound on his back, suggesting that he's been hung on a meathook as well) that he's almost catatonic and can barely speak or walk. But, like I said, he eventually does manage to hold off Leatherface so Erin can escape, going out as a hero when Leatherface finally takes his chainsaw to him.

Mike Vogel, who would go on to have a small role in Cloverfield, as Andy is definitely this film's equivalent to Kirk in that he's the most good-loocking of the guys and it's obvious that, like Kirk, he's a jock-type due to his physique, which you see plenty of due his sweaty muscle-shirt, even more so than you did with Kirk with his open button-shirt. He's also like Kirk in that there isn't much to his personality other than he's decent enough guy, although he does say some things at the absolute worst time to say them, like when he's saying, "I guess that's what brains look like," after the girl has killed herself. (In the deleted scenes, they pushed that even farther when Kemper finds out that Erin is pregnant and he says, "So, I guess congratulations are in order. I'll pass out the cigars," prompting Kemper to tell him to shut up.) He also goes along with the possible idea of dumping the girl's body, mainly because, like Morgan, he just wants to get the hell out of this place, although he refuses to leave Kemper behind and goes into the Hewitt house to look for him while Erin distracts old Monty. Even though I identify the most with Morgan, Andy is the one I feel the worst for. Not only does Sheriff Hoyt force him to help wrap up the girl's body and listen to his vulgar, disgusting remarks all the while, but when he gets more messed up in this movie than anybody else, way more than Kirk ever did. Leatherface cuts his leg off, drags him down into the cellar and, unknowingly, causes his fingernails to get pulled off when Andy tries to stop him from doing so (God, looking at that image hurts), puts him on the meathook and proceeds to put a handful of salt on the leg wound (something else that hurts like crap), wraps a paper bag around it, Andy later tries to pull himself off the hook but doesn't make it and falls, forcing the hook in deeper, and when Erin later can't get him off the hook either, she ultimately has to put him out of his misery by stabbing him in the stomach with a knife (and come to think of it, couldn't she have picked a less painful place to stab him?) Watching this movie again and just thinking about it, Andy really suffered during the last few hours of his life. Killing him was undoubtedly the most merciful thing that Erin could have done for him.

Of the five kids, the only one that kind of gets on my nerves is Erica Leerhsen as Pepper. While she's not even close to being as fist-bitingly annoying as Heather from The Next Generation, her constant screaming grates on my nerves after a while. It's not only because she does it a lot but also because her scream is so loud and penetrating. Ms. Leerhsen has a serious set of lungs on her but while that's typically a good thing for someone in a horror film, hers is borderline unbareable. And even when she's not out and out screaming, her panicking is also annoying, like when they find a set of teeth at one point and she yells, "It's someone's fucking teeth!" or later on when Erin is trying to use her knife to start the van but Pepper is so nervous that her hand is shaking while she's holding the flashlight and it makes Erin break the knife-blade in the keyhole. I know she's supposed to be freaked out and I'm aware that I said that I identify with Morgan, who's also freaking out majorly throughout the film, but she just kind of overdoes it. Pepper also comes across as not having much of a brain in her head, even at the start of the film. During the movie's first moments, she's talking about what the odds were of the others driving by just as she was starting to hitchhike and she says that it's like synchronicity, "like this shit just does not happen." Every time I watch this movie, I'm just kind of like, "Okay, you're either stupid or so stoned that you know what you're even saying." I know that's mean but that's just the impression I get from her. I really don't like the idea that she gets killed because she runs out of the van when Leatherface attacks her and Erin while they're inside it. Not only was that, again, rather dumb on her part but it makes her look really selfish since she basically just left Erin behind, even though Leatherface ended up going after her. I know she had sympathy for the hitchhiker but at that point, she was kind of like, "Screw this, you're on your own, Erin!" Doesn't make her that likable to me. In fact, there's a deleted moment between her and Jedidiah that I wish had been left in the movie because I think it would have made her more likable. It's while she, Andy, and Morgan are waiting for Erin and Kemper to come back from the sheriff's house. Jedidiah shows her a picture of her that he's drawn and she sincerely thanks him for doing so and expresses interest in his other works of "art." It was a brief deleted scene but I think it would have added a tiny bit more to her personality and made me like her more if they had left it in. I also kind of wish that they had played a little more with the idea that she's an outsider who became part of this group and is now caught up in this situation with them, like having her say something to that effect but it never goes any farther than what I mentioned above. I just think that could have been an interesting idea. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't out and out hate Pepper at all. I just find her a bit annoying and dumb and I think more could have been done in order to fix that.

Knowing full well that they could not possibly hope to top the hitchhiker scene from the original movie, the filmmakers decided to go a completely different and make the hitchhiker here an escaped victim of the family. Played Lauren German, this poor girl feels like she's been put through the wringer. She's bruised, beaten, and is so traumatized from whatever's happened to her that she can barely speak in a coherent manner. What's really horrific is that there's a lot of blood around the inside of her thighs as well as near her crotch, suggesting that she's been raped (my guess is that Hoyt was probably the one who did it seeing as how sadistic and sick-minded he is). Whatever happened to her is made even more hideous by the fact that we learn later that her family was apparently killed by the family as well and her baby daughter was taken by them. All in all, she's been through such a nightmare that when she realizes that they're driving in the direction of the town where the family lives, she almost causes them to crash by attempting to make them turn around and she ultimately puts a gun in her mouth and shoots herself, though not before warning them that they're all going to die. (I do agree with some criticisms that it doesn't make sense that she seemingly pulls the gun out from between her legs. Where exactly was she keeping it?) It's made all the worse by the idea that the kids have no choice but to keep her body in the van for so long that it begins to smell and Sheriff Hoyt manages to get ahold of it, groping it and such while wrapping it up and ultimately taking off with it. Basically, she escaped the family and freed her soul only for her body to eventually wind back up in their possession and God knows what they proceeded to do it. Life's a bitch, especially in these movies, isn't it? (I feel that if they were going to make a prequel to this, they should have told this girl's story. If you made her and her family very likable characters, then knowing what eventually becomes of her here would have made that movie all the more horrifying than it already would have been.)

I personally enjoy what screenwriter Scott Kosar and Marcus Nispel did with the family in this movie. Besides the simple fact that, apart from Leatherface, they created their own characters instead of trying to make their own versions of the family members from the original, I like some of the other touches they gave them. For instance, I thought it was interesting that they didn't blatantly say that they're cannibals. Granted, we learn in the prequel that they indeed are cannibals, but in this film, it's rather subdued. Other than Andy being put on the meathook, which could be just a means of torture, there's no clear indication that they eat their victims. There's no dinner scene and while there is meat hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen, it's not clear whether they're human or just slabs of beef. There is some blood in a shallow bowl in there as well but that could be blood from some of the pigs and chickens that we see running around the house. The only other thing that hints at cannibalism besides the meathook is what appears to be a pair of bloody long underwear hanging from the ceiling. But, again, it's not human meat and if it's from a human victim, then maybe they just killed that person and one of them intends on wearing it and, in order to do so, they're hanging it up to drain the blood out of it so they can eventually wash and dry it. Or maybe it does belong to one of the family members who got blood all over it from a recent victim and they're doing what I just described. So, I like that, at least before the prequel came out, you weren't sure if the Hewitts were cannibals or if they were just insane and loved killing people, especially city slickers whom they perceived as being snobbish and thinking that they're better than "country folk." It left a lot up to your imagination, which is more fun.

Also, when I first saw Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III after watching this film many times, I was amazed at just how much it borrowed from that movie. I'm not saying that they stole concepts from it but there are a lot of similarities between the concepts of the families in both films. There's a matriarch of the family as well as a disabled person in a wheelchair (the only difference being is that they were one in the same in Leatherface whereas here, it's the characters of Luda May and Monty respectively); Andrew Bryniarski's characterization of Leatherface in this movie is a bit similar to the way R.A. Mihailoff played him in that film; Leatherface has his own private part of the house in both movies; both films have a character who has managed to survive the family's carnage only for them to get killed and for their bodies to, in one way or another, end up back in the family's possession; and they even used a moment that was supposed to have been in Leatherface, the scene where he removes his mask and you see his real face, but was removed from it. (I'm not sure if that scene was actually filmed during the making of that movie or if it never made it past the words on the page. And, interestingly enough, when the hitchhiker killed herself, a brief shot of her ear flying off was cut from the film, identical to a shot involving Tinker that was cut from Leatherface.) Some may call it stealing but I thought it was cool that they, intentionally or not, decided to carry over some concepts from one of the more underrated films in the franchise.

I know some feel that the way Leatherface (or Thomas Hewitt, as he's actually referred to by his family and even in the closing credits) is portrayed in this film, as a typical sadistic mass murderer, is rather bland and unimaginative but I think that it works for this film and is very welcome after the insulting portrayal of him in The Next Generation. Leatherface is a savage beast of a man here. Like I said above, he's kind of like how R.A. Mihailoff portrayed him in the third film, just gone more extreme. While there is still some hint at an underdeveoped, childlike mindset in the scene where he's sitting on the floor in the next room, listening to Luda May talk to Erin and with how he quickly does what she says when she tells him to get Erin out of her sight, those brief moments are the only thing that connects him to the original character. Unlike the cowering, screaming man-child of the original film and the first sequel, this Leatherface fears absolutely nothing and is a pissed off monster who takes a lot of pleasure in terrorizing and killing people, due to the ridicule and teasing that we learn he suffered as a child due to his skin disease. That's another thing that people bash on about this characterization: they gave a concrete reason as to why he wears other people's faces other than it being something that he just does. Now, would I have preferred it to have been left ambiguous like it was originally? Yeah, but since this is a whole new continuity, it didn't bother me (if they had suddenly done that in one of the sequels, though, it would have been a different story). I like how positively relentless Leatherface is in this movie, how he will chase and hunt you down and will not stop until he kills you. The biggest example of that to me is the last twenty or so minutes of the movie, where Leatherface chases Erin and Morgan from the house's basement to this old shack in the woods and after killing Morgan, he continues to pursue Erin. Although he's momentarily held up when he trips over a fence and accidentally cuts his leg with the chainsaw, he follows Erin all the way to the slaughterhouse and continues to chase her inside, stalking her through the meat freezer and into the locker room. Even after she cuts off his arm with a meat cleaver, he follows her all the way back to the gas station and gives the chainsaw one last swing at her. After she drives off, there's a closeup of his face and you can see in his eyes and posture how angry he is that she's escaped from him. Maybe it isn't the most original way they could have portrayed the character but, again, after the way he was in The Next Generation, I'm very happy that they gave Leatherface his balls back for this movie.

As for the mask Leatherface wears in this film, while I do like it more than the mask in the second film and especially the ones he wore in The Next Generation, there's still a bit of an unnatural feeling to it. While it does look like latex to me instead of flayed skin, that's not the problem. The problem is that it looks like they tried too hard to make it look intimidating and scary whereas the mask in the original film just sort of naturally was frightening due to the way it was lit in the various scenes and because its crudeness did make it look like he was wearing an actual face. Here it looks like they tried to make it look more like a monster instead of the sewed together faces of two or more people. However, there are shots of it where I do think it works very well. The one that sticks out the most in my mind is when Andy is looking for Kemper in the house and there's a quick shot of Leatherface watching him through a hole in the wall. The way what little of the mask you can see there combined with the clearest shot of his eyes in the film looks is very creepy. He does look like some sort of hideous creature living in the walls rather than a human being in that instance. They did a good job with that shot. Overall, I don't the main mask in this film is awful but I do wish they had tried to make it look more natural rather than trying so hard to make it look scary. Case in point: the Kemper mask. Now, I thought that was absolutely horrifying because it does look like he's wearing Eric Balfour's face. I actually missed the reveal of that mask the first few times that I saw the movie. I must have just nonchalantly looked away at that moment each time but I remember when I first did see it, I was like, "Oh, shit!" I actually wished he had kept that mask on for the rest of the film rather than going back to the other one, not only because it's so freaky but because it would have been so much more horrific for Erin to be running from and fighting against someone who is wearing the face of her beloved boyfriend for the remainder of the film (like what they did in the prequel) rather than just that brief section.

It's a real shame that the unacceptable behavior of Andrew Bryniarski has tainted many people's opinions of this film. Bryniarski may have played Leatherface really well in this movie, at least in my opinion, but he's made a lot of enemies in real life by acting like an arrogant asshole who treats everyone around him like crap. It suprised me because in the making of documentary on the DVD, he comes across as rather friendly, jokey, and enthusiastic about playing an iconic horror movie villain. Granted, he did seem to terrorize everyone else on the set by maybe getting a little too into the role and his statement in the documentary that he was born to wear the mask was questionable but I didn't think he came across as a jerk. However, a few years after I first saw this movie, my opinion of him began to change due to another interview clip I had seen of him (which I will expound on when I talk about the prequel) and just from horror stories that I had heard about him at conventions. It seemed like every convention he ever went to, he made an absolute jackass out of himself by getting drunk, making fun of people, calling women whores, threatening people, and other disreputable behavior. (R.A. Mihailoff may not appreciate me comparing his characterization of Leatherface to his because I know that the two of them got into a confrontation at one convention and had to be separated before it got violent. I asked Mihailoff about it one time when I met him and he simply said, "No comment.") I heard one story that he showed up late at a Q&A and when he did show up, he was drunk, proceeded to insult a kid in the audience, and proclaimed himself to be the new Jason Voorhees (this was when the Friday the 13th was in pre-production). Another person once said that Bryniarski bullied and insulted him relentlessly on Facebook when he said that he would have rather seen a NECA figure of the Gunnar Hansen Leatherface than his and Bryniarski apparently even threatened legal charges if this guy contacted him again, even though Bryniarski was the once who started the whole thing! His reputation has gotten so bad that you rarely see him at conventions nowadays because no one will invite him. I personally been at one show where he was but I stayed far away from him (I tend to avoid people with bad reputations at conventions anyway but he was someone in particular who I had made a pledge to keep away from). All I remember from him the day I was there was that he loudly blew his nose a couple of times and said that Leatherface had major boogers. (I've heard he does that kind of stuff a lot. Class act.) And just last year, he was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty by keeping over twenty dogs in a small house so he clearly has issues. I know this has nothing to do with the movie but I just wanted to give my two cents on Bryniarski since I know some may be curious. Bottom line, I like the way he played Leatherface but the guy isn't someone I'd want to be in the same room with if I could help it.

Another character that people have mixed feelings about is R. Lee Ermey as Sheriff Hoyt. Some really like him in the role while others feel that he's playing a more sadistic, murderous version of his character from Full Metal Jacket. The thing with me is that this movie was my introduction to Ermey. I hadn't seen Full Metal Jacket or any of the other movies that he's been in when I first saw this movie so I had nothing else to his compare his performance to. And even now, after seeing a lot of the movies that he's been in, I feel the same way about him in this movie as I did when I first saw it: I think he's great. The minute he pulled up in his sheriff's car and got out, chewing some tobacco with an evil scowl on his face, I knew he was bad news. He's somebody who just makes you uncomfortable, with how he nonchalantly lookes over the crime scene of the van and makes off-color comments like, "Wow, look at that mess," and is very hostile towards everyone else, with comments like, "Excuse me, you mind getting the fuck out of my way, son?" towards Andy and such. Things get even worse when he ropes Andy into helping him wrap the girl's body up with ceram wrap and makes some really disgusting and inappropriate comments like, "You know, back when I was a young patrolman I used to love wrapping up these young honeys. Yeah, cop me a little bit of a feel every now and then, you know. {He says that last part while doing so to the body and all of this morbid crap that he says and does makes my earlier theory that he could have possibly raped the girl much more hideous.} Ooh, look at that. She's kind of wet down there. What you boys been doing with this dead body anyway?" Another part that's both appalling and yet rather funny happens when Andy and Morgan are taking the completely wrapped up body over to Hoyt's car. Pepper comments, "It just seems so wrong," to which Hoyt responds, "Don't give me any crap, young lady. Goddamnit, I've got just as much respect for a dead body as anybody." Right after he says that, he sees that Andy and Morgan are about to put the body in the backseat of his car and yells, "Hey! Get that nasty goddamn thing out of the backseat of my goddamn car! Put it in the trunk. What the hell's the matter with you?" He just blatantly contradicted what he told Pepper and doesn't even care.

He may have just come across as a creep at first but when he pops back up later on in the film, Hoyt proves just how sadistic he really is, forcing Erin, Pepper, and Morgan out of the van on his "suspicion" that they're taking drugs and forcing them onto the ground, ignoring Erin's pleas for help, and making up wild accusations that Kemper murdered the hitchhiker and then ran off. He sadistically shoots right next to Erin's head when she tries to get back up and then, in what I think is the most tense scene in the film, takes Morgan into the van and forces him to reenact the girl's suicide for him. As I described earlier, the crap that he does to Morgan in that van is unreal: scaring him half out of his mind, forcing him to put a pistol in his mouth and put his finger on the trigger, and, when Morgan pulls the gun on him, he tempts him to shoot him by taunting him. When Morgan pulls the trigger only to reveal that it wasn't loaded, Hoyt takes him hostage on the grounds that he intently tried to kill him and continues to torture him, smashing a liquor bottle on his face on the grounds of "bribery" and beats the living snot out of him when they arrive at the house before forcing him inside. He later tortures Erin by forcing her to keep her head right next to his crotch (he doesn't have his pants on at this time) while he's sitting on the couch and pours some liquor onto her face. In other words, he's an absolutely sadistic person, both in terms of causing pain and fear as well as being sexually deviant towards women. All of this is brought home to me at the end of the film when Erin is picked up by the truck driver, who promptly drives her to the family's gas station. The minute she sees Hoty's sheriff's car, she really panics and almost causes the guy to run off the road. That to me is a frightening prospect: to know that the only authority figure in the vicinity is a sadistic monster and that no one else will listen to or believe you (on top of that, I also like how she's acting the same way the hitchhiker did and that we now understand her actions due to what's happened to Erin). All of this makes Erin's revenge on Hoyt as satisfying as it can get. When she hits him with his own car and drives over his body a couple of times, you can't help but get a feeling of pure bliss and satisfaction over him getting his just desserts after all the pain and terror that he's caused.

If there's any correlation between a character in this film and the original, other than Leatherface, it's the matriarch of the family, Luda May (Marietta Marich). You could see her as this film's version of the old man from the original in that she's the public face of the Hewitt family due to her being the most normal looking. She runs the gas station like Jim Siedow's character did in the original and there are two sides to her personality: the side she shows to those who stop by the station and the one that she shows while amongst her family. While she does try to come across as polite as possible in her public persona like the old man did, there's a dismissive and nonchalant tone to her voice that rubs the kids the wrong way. Her smiling, jovial way of telling Kemper that they have to drive over to the Crawford Mill to meet the sheriff and that the sheriff wouldn't say why he just wouldn't come by the station is enough to frustrate anybody. The last straw is when Kemper tells Luda May that they're not going to drive around with a dead girl in their van and she just says, "Young man, what you do is your own business." That would make you think, "Okay, this woman clearly doesn't give a shit so it's no use talking to her." When we see her again late in the film amongst her family, I'm able to draw another tie between this film and Leatherface. Like Mama Sawyer, she gets irritated at the ruckus that Hoyt's causing while he's messing with Erin, telling him, "You already caused enough trouble. Stop bothering her," but when Erin pleads to Luda May for help, she makes it clear that she has no sympathy for her, telling her, "I know your kind. Nothing but cruelty and ridicule for my boy all the time he was growing up. Does anybody around here care about me and my boy?!" Very similar to that scene in Leatherface. I just can't help but like how the movie ties together stuff from the original and the sequels as well.

One family member that's memorable to me simply because of his handicap is Old Monty (Terence Evans). There's not much to his character other than he's a grumpy, crusty old man who doesn't like visitors, is very picky about who he lets in his house, and is clearly a sinister presence but he's unforgettable simply because of the way he looks, with his wheelchair, amuptated legs, the cane that he carries around, and that annoying little dog who won't stop growling and barking at strangers. He does manage to be rather intimidating in the scene where he catches Erin and Andy in his house, telling Andy, "You little turd. You're so dead you don't even know it," and then proceeds to apparently challenge Andy when stomps his cane on the floor and says, "Bring it!" However, you quickly learn that the stomping was a signal to Leatherface and that he was telling him to bring his chainsaw. He also attempts to keep Erin and Andy from escaping and slows Andy down by whacking him with the cane while he's running out of the house, which eventually leads to him getting caught. One scene that I don't quite get is when Erin finds Monty in the bathroom and he asks her to help him get out of the floor. I would assume that she's supposed to get him back in the wheelchair but she's lifting him up right next to the toilet and the wheelchair isn't anywhere nearby. I really don't understand what she's supposed to be doing. I know that the real reason behind it is to distract her so Leatherface can kill Kemper but I still don't get what this action is supposed to accomplish practically. In any case, though, Terence Evans sure was lucky in this scene in that he got to put his hand on Jessica Biel's butt and not get slapped for it. (God, I'm such a pig.)

One family member whose motivations I don't get is young Jedidiah (David Dorfman), the weird little boy that the kids come across at the Crawford Mill. When they first meet him, he acts all distracted and eccentric, looking around constantly and not paying attention to the kids, and shows Erin and Kemper the way to the family's house, basically leading them right into the lion's den. But then, after Erin has been captured, Jedidiah seems to have a change of heart and yells at Luda May and Hoyt not to hurt her. "Kid, if you don't want your family members to kill her, then why did you tell her and Kemper to go over to the house in the first place?" Yes, it is true that Hoyt was on his way to the Crawford Mill so they probably would have fallen victim to the family eventually but I still don't get why Jedidiah did that and then proceeded to show Erin the way out of the basement when she and Morgan are being chased by Leatherface. I don't get whose side this kid is on. Plus, other than that, the kid just looked silly to me. I understand that he's meant to be this raggedy, possibly inbred kid but he looks too over the top and ridiculous with his deformed teeth, messed up hair, and grimy looking clothes. While I don't out and out hate Jedidiah and I do think that the idea of a family member who doesn't like what his family does is an interesting one (the closest we've ever gotten to that before was with the old man's mixed feelings about killing in the original), I feel that they didn't plan the concept out far enough and as a result, Jedidiah's actions in the film are contradictory and confusing.

The family members that I really don't give a crap about are Henrietta (Heather Kafka) and the tea lady (Kathy Lamkin), the two women living in the trailer that Erin comes across while being chased by Leatherface after he's killed Pepper. These characters did not need to be in the movie in my opinion. While it is great that Erin ultimately got the baby that Henrietta had taken from the hitchhiker away from her (and, also, the sight of Henrietta holding that crying baby, knowing what has happened, is quite troubling, particularly with just the way that baby's crying), you could have written that subplot out along with both of these characters and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference. The only other purpose Henrietta serves besides the baby is that she tells Erin about Leatherface's skin disease but by that point, we had already gotten a look at his real face and could tell that he was messed up. We didn't need it to be expounded on. The tea lady (whom technically should be Henrietta since she's the one who actually offers Erin the tea) is even more pointless. There is positively no reason for her to be there because she does nothing. In fact, I think she's kind of annoying due to the remarks she makes, like telling Erin that waking the baby wasn't a good idea and that phones are hassle, all the while nodding like an idiot. And let's not forget her line, "Oh, my, my, my, my, my!" which they put in the movie's trailer for some reason. While she's only in this one scene and Henrietta briefly appears again at the end of the movie, I still maintain that these characters and this whole scene should have been written out of the script. They should have just had Erin run from Leatherface and get ambused by Hoyt, who knocks her unconscious and takes her back to the house. That would have gotten the job done much quicker and kept the momentum going, rather than have it stop dead for this useless scene.

I finally have to mention Big Rig Bob (Brad Leland), the trucker that picks Erin up at the end of the film. The reason for my mentioning such a minor character is that he was originally supposed to be played by Gunnar Hansen. Yeah, they offered that cameo to him but he turned them down because, for one, he didn't like the idea of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre being remade in the first place, and for another, apparently the person involved with the movie who called him said something stupid along the lines of, "Now this time, it's going to be a dark, psychological thriller and not a gore-fest like the original," which made Hansen question whether they'd seen the original movie or not. So, he turned it down, which is too bad because, even though it would have been a small part, it would have been nice to see him in the movie nevertheless.

It's a shame that the very look of this movie, created via the bleach bypass process, has become a cliche now because when I first saw it, that was one of the things that struck me. I know there were movies made before this that used that process, most notably Se7en, but this was the first one I had ever seen and I thought it was a very cool, unique look. The muted colors with the tabacco-like greens and silvers on the palette give the film an atmosphere of something not being quite right as well as an added harshness to the already horrific visuals. The lighting that's created through this process, with lots of contrasting shadows and very black darkness, add to the foreboding nature of the film and some of the visuals are actually quite beautiful as well as impressive. One image in the film that I love is when Erin and Kemper are walking through the forest on their way to the family's house. The image of those slightly darkly lit woods with the pronounced rays of silver light shining through the tree tops is straight out of a painting and it looks ridiculously beautiful. I also appreciate the cold, metallic look that this process gives to the inside of the slaughterhouse and the ugly look to the inside of the already disgusting gas station, all of which is enough to make you want to puke. So, in my opinion, the look of this film was one of the things that drew me to it in the first place. Unfortunately, though, that look has been done to death so much since then, not just in horror films but movies in general, that it's lost its magical quality and is now a cliche that I think needs to pulled back a little bit.

As with the original, the production design in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre '03 has a rawness to it that I think feels quite real. Like in the original, every environment is either downright filthy or, at the very least, cluttered like crazy. While I don't think the inside of the van here is quite as cluttered as the one in the original, it still has a lived-in feel to it and I like looking at a lot of the stuff in there, like that hula-girl knick-knack on the dashboard, the pinata full of marijuana, what appears to be a patterned blanket (which reminds of what Clint Eastwood wore around his shoulders in the Man With No Name trilogy) on the floor, and that MAD Magazine poster on the ceiling. The gas station that they arrive at is the pinacle of all those nasty country gas stations that we've come across on trips that take us through out-of-the-way places. You know just from looking at the outside that it's not going to be pleasant and it doesn't disappoint. The inside is rather old and dirty, with a feeling of choking, stuffy air filling the place, with the worst part being that compartment that the meat is kept in. It's filled with all sorts of disgusting stuff, including a whole pig head, and the thing has flies in it, nonetheless. Morgan's deadpan line upon seeing that sight is great, by the way: "Want some pig?" And, not surprisingly, the bathroom around back is digusting as well. You only see it for a couple of seconds but, trust me, it's enough. And that's all I'm going to say about that. My favorite location in the entire film is the Crawford Mill that the kids are told to go to in order to meet up with the sheriff. Really creepy, rundown place, with a lot of dark corners and spaces, chains hanging down from the ceiling, and some moisture dripping from the ceiling in spots as well. And even though I'm not the biggest fan of the character, the little space that Jedidiah is found sitting in is a creepy touch as well, with weird drawings and ornaments he's made out of various little objects (there's one that's made up of dentures, glasses, and I think what looks like a little toy skeleton) pinned to the wall. And there's one moment where everyone is startled by a loud metallic screech. I'm not exactly sure what caused that, if that was Jedidiaj exiting through a big metal door or if something just randomly creaked as you expect to hear in an old building (although that sound was pretty loud) or what but it was eerie to say the least. The Crawford Mill, to me, is a very unsettling place and just the kind of creepy, isolated location that I like to see in a horror film.

I like what they did with the family's house in this film. Instead of just being a little farmhouse, it's now a big, two-story plantation house with a lot of rooms, most of which we don't get to see. And like the Crawford Mill, I like that the place is isolated and out of the way, with this being in the middle of a big field of tall grass. Like there was in the original film, there are a bunch of vehicles belonging to previous victims that are placed in a small junkyard between the mill and the house. While there's no bone furniture inside the house (making this the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie to not have that in even the slightest respects), it's still a place that you would not want to be in. I heard that the filmmakers had to deal with some mold inside of that house and I think you can still kind of sense it when you look at the walls. It feels like there's a trace of it here and there. As with all of the locations here, the inside of the house is pretty dirty, with animals like little pigs running here and there, grimy residue on the furniture and floor, and weird stuff like a record silently skipping on a running phonograph and some old cartoon playing on a TV in a room when there's nobody in it. The grossest rooms in the entire house are the kitchen and the bathroom. When Andy goes into that kitchen while looking for Kemper, not only do you see those pieces of meat hanging from the ceiling but there are filthy dishes strewn on counters, chickens that are sitting here and there, random little pigs running through, and when Andy makes the mistake of opening up the refrigerator, he's immediately hit by an awful smell and judging from the not so fresh food in there, it's not surprising. As for the bathroom, it's like the one at the gas station in that we don't see much of it but what we do see is enough to get the point across. We've got a disgusting toilet and bathtub as well as some bizarre contraption that the family has rigged up so Monty can flush the toilet more easily... at least, I think that's what it was for. You see little of it that I'm not quite sure what it was actually. And finally, there's the basement, which is Leatherface's domain. The door to the stairs leading down to it is a sliding, metal door, similar to the one leading into the kitchen in the original, and I like the idea that there's a fish-eye, peephole on the door so Leatherface can keep an eye on what's going on in the main part of the house without having to come out. The basement is like hell on Earth in that it's a dank place with water dripping constantly from the ceiling (I'm not sure where all this water is coming from but there's enough to create a large puddle at the bottom of the stairs), the table where places the bodies of his victims for the blood to drain out, all sorts of horrific things strewn about like chain-hooks, fish-hooks, ornaments that appear to have human teeth attached to them, various bladed instruments like knives and scissors, old dentures, wire, what appears to be some sort of varnish and a razor blade (I don't want to know what he uses that stuff for), the meathook that Leatherface hangs Andy on, an old piano that's below that (don't know why that's there; does Leatherface play it when he's not butchering people?) and various body parts from past victims like hands, a severed head, and a seriously decomposed corpse. It really is the butcher shop of a madman and it helps bring home the idea that this place truly is a house of horrors.

There's not much to say about the trailer where Henrietta and the tea lady live. It's a typical trailer: very cramped and a little bit cluttered and dirty but not quite as much as the other locations. One location that's interesting is this small cabin that Erin and Morgan hide in while they're being chased by Leatherface near the end of the movie. I'm actually curious to know what this place once was. We see that it's a couch as well as a small chandelier in one room so someone used to live there but who? And why did they let it become a dump that's infested with rats? It has to belong to the family since it's so close to their house but, again, why did they abandon it? It's an interesting question. And finally, we have another great location: the slaughterhouse. After so much talk about slaughterhouses in the other films, I think it was appropriate that a sequence be set there. One thing that I like is the room that Erin falls into as soon as she enters the place. You know why I like it? Because it's pristine and clean. I like that irony that they only clean environment in the entire film is inside a slaughterhouse. Then there's the meat room that Erin hides in for a couple of minutes but ultimately is chased out of. They actually shot this in a real slaughterhouse so all the meat you see in that scene is real, including the one in which Erin takes cover (there are also skinned cow-heads hanging on one side of the room which, again, are real, adding an uncomfortable touch of reality to the setting). I have to give the filmmakers props for actually filming in a real slaughterhouse because I'm sure that, with a $9.5 million budget (that's not enormous but for a movie in this franchise, it was pretty big), they didn't have to do that. Also, interestingly enough, this leads to perhaps the only instance in one of these movies where somebody is actually cold instead of hot as crap. Since this was an actual freezer, Jessica Biel really was quite cold since she was in there with just a tanktop and blue jeans on so she's not acting when you see her shivering in that scene. Plus, that could have not been pleasant, having to stand in the middle of a slit open slice of beef. And finally, there's the locker room, where Erin hides from and ultimately uses to trick Leatherface so she can badly injure him and escape. Nice looking part of the slaughterhouse but it has an example of one major type of flaw that I think the film falls victim to, which I'll elaborate on shortly. Overall, though, like those of the original, the locations in this lend themselves to the dark, horrific story that's being told.

Like the original, while there's a lot of stuff in it that is rather sick, the remake doesn't have a lot of full on gore. It actually was supposed to be quite gruesome, with the aforementioned deleted shots of the hitchhiker's ear blowing off after she shoots herself as well as hideous shots of Leatherface slicing his chainsaw into Morgan's crotch, causing blood and intestines to pour out. But, a lot of this had to be cut to get an R-rating so we got is a film that still has some sick stuff but is quite light on gore. (I actually think that Morgan's death is more horrific when you just see Leatherface hang from the chandelier by the handcuffs he has on and then takes the chainsaw to him. You didn't need to see a bunch of gore in that instance.) What gore there is, though, was done well by Scott Stoddard and Greg Nicotero also did some minor effects as well. Most of the blood that is in the film comes in the form of splatter and spray: blood hitting the back window when the hitchhiker shoots herself and blood splattering on the TV screen when Leatherface clobbers Kemper with the sledgehammer, as well as some shots of blood dripping from the bottom of the kill table. Nicotero created a pretty realistic dummy of Lauren German, who played the hitchhiker, and while I have mixed feelings about Stoddard's design of the main Leatherface mask, I think he did a great job with the fake face mask of Eric Balfour. As I said before, that thing looks quite real to me. The most gruesome makeup effect is when Leatherface slices off Andy's leg. That looked very real and the quick shot of it added to the effect (as well as the way Mike Vogel yelled, "Shit!" afterward; he did sound like he was in real pain). And as I said before, that brief shot of Andy's fingernails cracking against the basement wall makes me wince every time, as well as when Leatherface puts salt into the cut off stump of his foot (that's just foul, right there). Monty's amputated legs look pretty good too and so does Leatherface's sliced off arm at the end of the movie, even if the sight of him trying to grab it while it's still holding onto the running chainsaw is kind of unintentionally funny. All in all, not a ton of makeup effects to talk about in this movie but the ones that are here are done well.

Seeing as how so many people felt that the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based on a true story, the filmmakers of the remake decided to take that idea and expand upon it. Not only do the trailers and TV spots have the caption, Inspired by a True Story (which should let you know right there that, while there is a connection between the movie and something that actually happened, it's a very loose one), but the film opens and closes with what is meant to be archival footage of the investigation of the actual crime. We see bodies being taken away on gurneys from the Hewitt house (though I'm not sure whose body that was supposed to be next to that creek), the collection of pieces of evidence such as bits of bone, fingernails, and so on, and the typing up of the police report as well as newspaper articles on the crime. We're then told that after thirty years of being kept in the cold cases division of the Travis County Police Department, the official files on the case have been made public, including a classified crime scene walkthrough that we see the beginning of right before the actual story starts and we come back to after Erin escapes. The walkthrough was conducted two days after the massacre but the investigating officer and the cameraman were attacked and killed by Leatherface, who had been hiding in the basement because, as we're told, the crime scene wasn't properly secured by the police department. I also like how the film concludes with the piece of information that the flashes of him captured on the footage of the walkthrough are the only known images of Leatherface, that he hasn't been seen since 1973, and that the case remains open to this day. I thought that was a nicely eerie way to end the movie, to give the idea that he could still be out there somewhere. It's also nice that they were able to get John Larroquette back to do the narration. I thought that was really cool and his deeper, more objective voice in this instance I think works just as well for this film as his younger, slightly more emotional voice did for the original. And I think this whole wraparound works as well, nicely complimenting the cinema verite style of the original, and I particularly like how the actual title is shown as the official designation of the crime on its report. It all adds to the idea that what we're seeing is an account of something that really happened.

Unfortunately, I think the remake has some flaws that, while not destroying it completely, tend to hurt that notion of this being a dramatization of real events. What it comes down to is that there's too much artifice here that reminds us that this is, indeed, a genre picture. The most blatant one to me is the shot that occurs after the hitchhiker shoots herself. After she does so, there's a shot that begins of the screaming and horrified faces of the kids and then, the camera pulls back, going through the girl's mouth and out of the hole in the back of her head, proceeding out the bullet hole in the back window, and ultimately pulling back to show the entire van as the kids get out of it as fast as they can. I really, really hate to rag on this shot because it is very impressive and it becomes even more when you learn that it was created without the use of digital technology except for the removal of the opening in the van's roof that they had to make. It took a lot of takes in order to get it right as well so I can appreciate the hard work that went into it. But, it's still a very cinematic shot and reminds us that this is a movie after all. Now granted, Tobe Hooper and cinematographer Daniel Pearl (who, oddly enough, was the director of photographer on this film as well) did do some interesting camera shots in the original, most notably the extreme closeups of Marilyn Burns' eye during the dinner scene, but those fit with the cinema verite-style of that film. If they had tried something like this in that movie, I guarantee that would have felt very out of place and, impressive as it is, would have been distracting. And, sadly, I feel that does kind of happen here as well (God, I hate saying that because it is an impressive piece of camerawork).

There are also a lot of cliched horror movie tropes in this film that damage the credibility as well. There are a few false scares, such as when Erin sees something moving around in a locker inside the Crawford Mill but when Kemper opens it up, it's just a possum, or when Morgan reaches inside the hood of one of the delapidated cars near the mill and acts like something has a hold of his hand. If you've seen a bunch of horror films, then you know these are probably going to be fake-outs since they're so common in the genre. Furthermore, given that we're aware of what the threat is in this film, i.e. an insane family and most notably a big guy with a chainsaw, we already know that these scares are going to be fake since none of them can fit inside these small spaces. And then there's the fact that some of these tropes don't make any logical sense in a movie that's claiming to be something that really happened. For one, why was that possum in that locker to begin with, especially since the door seemed to be closed very securely? And for another, near the end of the film when Leatherface opens that locker inside the slaughterhouse only to find a little piglet instead of Erin, why was that piglet in there? You could argue that Erin put it in there in order to fake Leatherface out but why would there be this random piglet roaming around the inside of a slaughterhouse? I know there were cows and stuff outside but did Erin just find that piglet and stuff it in her shirt, thinking that it might come in useful later? Another example of that would be where the hitchhiker was hiding that gun that she shot herself with, which I touched on earlier. And after Erin comes back to the Crawford Mill without Kemper, they randomly here this car horn nearby and they eventually find stick jammed on the steering wheel of a car with one end pressing on the horn. Why didn't they hear that before? And furthermore, who put that there and why? I tried to say to myself that maybe it was Jedidiah, who wanted them to follow the sound and, as a result, find that jar with the picture of the hitchhiker and her family inside it, as a sort of warning to the danger they're in. But that idea falls apart since I don't even think that was the same car as the one that had the pictures inside it. And who put those pictures in that car? Again, if it was Jedidiah, why didn't he just show them the pictures and tell them about how insane his family is? Finally, I've never understood who Erin was talking to on the phone at the Hewitt house when she's trying to contact the sheriff. Since Sheriff Hoyt is the only "lawman" nearby and since we see that he arrives at the mill while she's on that phone, who was she talking to? If that was a real sheriff's office that she was talking to, why didn't they ever arrive at the mill? I guess the answer to that could be that she's talking to Henrietta, seeing as how the voice we hear her talking to is most certainly a woman's if you listen closely (at least it was when the other line first picked up; not sure about the voice Erin's talking to when we cut back to her).

Finally, there's the most blatant error of all in this film: I don't quite believe that this movie is taking place in 1973. It's not because there are any modern devices present like cellphones, really fancy TVs, or anything of the like. They did good in that aspect. The giveaway for me, though, is the way the main cast of kids looks. They do not look or dress like people from the 70's. Granted, they're not wearing clothes that scream 2003 either in that they wear simple shirts, tanktops, and jeans but one or a couple of them should at least be wearing bell-bottoms or shirts with wide collars. And another thing: people who were that age in the 1970's simply did not look the way these kids do. Human evolution goes on, folks, and someone like Jessica Biel, as good-looking as she is, did not exist back then. There were some good-looking people back then, as there always are, but the look of someone such as Ms. Biel is indicative of the time she grew up in and it sure as heck isn't the 70's. And do I need to say anything about the way Mike Vogel looks? That's a modern day pretty boy model, not somebody who existed back then. They can talk about how much they like Lynyrd Skynyrd all they want but I don't believe that they're from that time period. I will say, though, that the way they made Jonathan Tucker look, with the sideburns and the glasses, does make him look a bit like someone from the 70's (heck, when I first saw the original after seeing this, I thought he and Allen Danziger looked alike) but he's the only real exception (although you could argue that Pepper does look a little like a hippy). And if you want to get really nitpicky, the brand of chainsaw that Leatherface uses in this film didn't exist in 1973. That's pushing it, I know, but I found out that is true. So, yeah, as much as I like this film, it's hard for me to believe that it takes place in 1973 and I do feel that, along with the other variations of artifice that I mentioned above, that notion does hurt the idea that this is supposed to be an account of something that really happened way back when.

The music by Steve Jablonsky is another part of the film that often gets a mixed reception from fans but it's another aspect of it that I rather like. I think all of the themes in the film work very well and I also think some are very memorable. The film opens with a soft piano melody that is later used for a moment between Erin and Kemper but it quickly becomes eerie and turns into a low, doom-laden theme as the archival footage begins. That theme is heard quite a bit throughout the film and it also comes back at the end for the last bit of the archival footage. There's a similar but even more sinister-sounding theme that plays after the hitchhiker and she begins babbling and crying about how she, "won't go back there." It hits home the feeling that there's something rotten in Denmark, so to speak. Another horrific theme is played when the kids drove off towards the Crawford Mill as Luda May watches out the window. You just get the feeling that these kids are screwed, that they're driving towards their own grave. One of my favorite pieces of music in the film is that very creepy piano theme that plays when they come across Jedidiah in the mill. It's not just the piano that makes it so eerie but it's creepy, sort of electronic sound behind that sounds almost like moaning. It's very effective for that scene. There's another low theme that you hear when Erin and Kemper come across the family's house as well as when Kemper is wandering around the house later on. Very foreboding bit of music but even better than that is this theme that starts really low but slowly builds and builds and builds to the point where you're expecting something to snap. You can hear this theme throughout the scene when Andy is snooping around the house up to when Leatherface attacks him and Erin, when Sheriff Hoyt is tormenting Morgan in the van, and near the end of the film when Hoyt is walking up to the big rig truck that he knows Erin is in. There are some really frantic attack themes for when Leatherface is chasing somebody, my personal favorite being the variation that plays when he's chasing Erin through the slaughterhouse and I also kind of like the one that you hear when he's chasing her after having killed Pepper. And that piece of music that plays when he attacks her in the cabin and ultimately kills Morgan is just great as well. Finally, there's the strong, orchestral piece of music that plays when Erin is forced to put Andy out of his misery. It's another piece of music that builds and builds and become absolutely tragic when she finally plunges the knife into him. Not only does it work well for that moment but I also like that it's the last bit of music that you hear over the ending credits, bringing home the notion of the horrific tragedy that happened to these kids who weren't looking for trouble but ended up coming across just absolute hell on Earth.

Knowing that the infamous camera sound from the original is just as iconic as the movie itself, the filmmakers made a smart decision in incorporating it into the remake. Just as it did before, it creates an eerie sound to go along with the creepy images, in this case the archival footage of the bodies being taken away as well as the blurred image of Leatherface that concludes the film. Even though I hadn't seen the original movie yet at this point, when I saw the trailer for the remake on that New Line Cinema DVD that I got and heard that camera noise, I knew exactly what it was because I remembered it from the Bryanston trailer for the original. I wasn't sure what movie the trailer was for when it first started, although I had my suspicions, but when I heard that sound, I was like, "Oh, it's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Just shows how awesome that sound is that I remembered it from a trailer long before I saw the actual film. I also have to comment that I really like the sound of the chainsaw in this film. It's an odd thing to mention but the way that saw sounded in this movie was really distinct (I think they overlayed other sounds like that of a bear over the actual saw) and quite intimidating. I think I may like the sound of the saw in this movie the most out of all of them. Really frightening-sounding chainsaw, in my opinion.

One last thing I have to say about this movie is its unfortunate place in history. What I mean by that is that this is the film that started the remake trend that plagued movies, not just horror films but movies in general, for the rest of the 2000's and is still kind of going on. As I said at the beginning of the film, remakes before this were of old horror and monster movies from the 50's and 60's like House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting, Psycho, and so on. But, once The Texas Chainsaw Massacre '03 came out and was an enormous hit, making over $80 million, Hollywood took notice and before you knew it, just about every relatively famous horror from the 70's and 80's got remade. Immediately following this, you had the Dawn of the Dead remake (which, to be fair, was probably already in production when this movie was released), The Fog, Halloween, The Stepfather, and so on and so on. Even more disconcerting was that a lot of the remakes were produced by Platinum Dunes, including The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Michael Bay has said that the goal of Platinum Dunes was to make a place that could create non-expensive movies and also give directors who had never made a movie before, like Marcus Nispel, their big break. It's a shame that the studio instead became known as the place responsible for remaking a lot of beloved horror films. And that's another thing: besides inspiring a bunch of remakes, this film's success spelt the end of the franchises created by the original films. There were almost no other sequels made to successful films from the 70's and 80's save for Seed of Chucky the following year and the ongoing direct-to-DVD Hellraiser sequels that Dimension was still cranking out. Think about it: Freddy vs. Jason, which came out a couple of months before this, was the last film for the original incarnations for both of those characters and Halloween: Resurrection the previous year ended up being the last sequel to the original film by John Carpenter. After this movie, everything started over from scratch and while I stand by the notion that this particular franchise needed to have the slate wiped clean after The Next Generation, I would also argue that those other franchises didn't. I personally wanted to see a Halloween 9 as well as a follow-up to Freddy vs. Jason that could have possibly involved Michael Myers and I was quite disappointed when I didn't get them. And let's face it, while some of these remakes were at least decent, most of them were not up to snuff and were soulless retellings of stories that had already been done well, which made the fact that we got them instead of those aforementioned follow-ups that we thought were going to get even more frustrating.

And just like his film, Marcus Nispel was the first in another annoying trend: music video directors who get their big break by remaking a beloved horror film. Now, don't get me wrong, music video directors can prove to be quite good filmmakers in their own right (David Fincher being the most shining example of that). But most of these guys, like Samuel Bayer, Rupert Wainwright, and Andrew Douglas, don't know anything other than where to point the camera. They don't know how to tell a good story or how to get good performances out of actors or even how to give their films a good look. Most of these movies look like music videos themselves, overusing the bleach bypass process that this film did well to the color correction technology that also became available in recent years. Personally, I have no problem with music video directors who want to make the leap directing feature films. That's cool. But I feel that it's necessary for them to hone their craft and become more and more adept at making films that have actual plots and stories rather than just doing a few music videos, commercials, or short films and then automatically making the upgrade to making a movie, let alone remaking a much beloved horror film. I just feel that this is not the way you do things. Anyway, the point that I'm getting to is that, because of the trend that it started that still hasn't quite died down, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre '03 gets a lot of hatred and resentment from genre fans. A lot of those probably don't like the film itself as well but many hate it just for what it inspired, which I personally think is unfair. Do I find it disconcerting that so many great films that didn't need to be remade ended up getting put through the machine? Oh, yeah. (The Rob Zombie Halloween films and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake in particular fill me with a lot of anger because I hate those movies so much.) But, on the other hand, I'm not going to hate a movie just because of an annoying trend it started because that's not the fault of the film or the filmmakers. There was no way to predict that would happen. Bottom line, I liked this movie when I first saw it before that trend kicked into high gear and I still do, despite all of the awful remakes that have come in its wake. It's not the movie's fault, guys. If you want to blame someone, blame the money-hungry execs who decided to capitalize on the enormous success of this movie.

While the original is and always will be a classic, I think the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a worthy companion piece to it. In my opinion, it's well-made, has some good characters and some decent acting, a look that was very unique at the time, truly horrific moments and images, great chase sequences and kills, and some very ominous, well done music. While it does have some flaws, on the whole I do think it's not only a great remake but a good horror film in its own right and among the myriad of remakes that have been made since its release, I still think it's one of the best. I also sincerely feel that this movie saved the franchise from becoming a big punchline after The Next Generation. If you don't like this movie because you're a die hard fan of the original who felt that it shouldn't have been touched, I understand. But if you hate the movie just because of the remake trend that it inspired, I would advise putting that aside and giving the movie another shot. I don't think it's quite as bad as you think it is. Regardless, I have liked this movie ever since I first saw it and, despite all of the crap I'm sure I will continue to get, nothing will make me change my mind.