By: Justin Hopkins
When I was thinking about which movies to pit against each other this month. Kind of struggled to think of one. Was sort of leaning towards The Longest Yard, due to football being synonymous with Thanksgiving, but wasn’t sitting well with me. So, I kept thinking. What could be a good movie to go with the month, where we celebrate by having a massive family dinner, and soon it became clear, that only one family dinner fit the bill. While I did plan on covering this movie at some point, Texas Chainsaw Massacre being in a polarizing state over which one is better, but polarizing with myself. This two, Original and Remake are great and stick with you no matter how much time has passed (More on that later) For all intended purposes, should be right down my alley. The first one was enjoyable and before I watched the remake for this review. I haven’t seen it since its theater run in 2003 and I remembered it so well, because it was one of a handful of movies to legit scare me, but for some reason. Just never have the desire to watch them after first viewing. As always though, this series is all about leaving personal grudges aside, along with nostalgia and give it a genuine honest review as I can. Lets jump right in with the original good times roll.
Special Shoutout to John Larroquette, for narrating both.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974
The story opens up with a narration, telling us that we are about to see a tragedy befall our main characters. Setting the story up like it is a retelling of a true crime. We hear a bit of shuffling around and flashes of grizzly images like they are photographs and then a decomposing body and radio report. Five teens on their way to check on Sally and Franklin’s Grandfather’s grave, to make sure it wasn’t vandalized and plan on stopping at their old families house. A regular road trip, that makes a turn for the worse when they pick up a hitchhiker. Who turns out to be real psychopath. Laughing maniacally and going into vivid details on cow slaughter and even sharing pictures with the group. The situation gets worse, when he takes Franklin’s knife and uses it on his own hand. They get it off of him, but when they try to get him to leave. He brings out a knife of his own and cuts Franklin’s arm, before they get him out. Continuing with their trip to the house. Ignoring the warnings and make it. Kirk and Pam venture off to the swimming hole when they hear a generator from another house. Aware that they need gas, they go over to buy some, and we get our first meeting of LeatherFace, who makes quick work of Kirk and sticks Pam on a meat hook. Forcing her to watch the dismembering. Then Jerry gets it when he goes looking and Franklin falls next. Leaving Sally alone and fleeing for her life.
The story was fantastic. It was dark and gritty. Borderlining psychological by how in your face and mocking the Sawyer family were toward Sally. Laughing at her misery. Characters all brought something different to the table and stood out. The shots were all well done, especially around the deaths. You don’t get much in the way of a kill shot, closest being Kirk, with the body twitching after the sledgehammer shot, but I feel that it works better in this case. They leave it up to your imagination of what is happening and that can be more impactful than actually seeing it.
Acting was spot on. Edwin Neal was tremendous as hitchhiker. Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn were perfect as four of the teens. Enough praise can’t be showered on Marilyn Burns. Her performance as Sally was spectacular. Gunnar Hansen created a horror movie icon and one I don’t hear really anything on and that is John Dugan who played Grandfather. He didn’t do much. Decrepit old man, but the little motion and bouncing in joy as he sucked her finger was beyond disturbing. Extremely disturbing.
The thing is, the positives are a double edged sword. The shots in the woods are at times, a bit hard to follow. The dinner scene is one of the best of the film, but the screaming bits lasts about a minute too long. Doubled down on the same thing with the Get’er Grandfather scene. Great, but goes on a bit to long. Then there is Franklin. Still confused on what his role actually is. He comes across as the unlikeable one you want to see die, but thinking about it, I would be pretty worked up to. Our first look at him he falls down a hill when a trucker freaks him out. Causing his chair to roll down a hill. Sliced by the Hitchhiker, and taken to a place where his chair can’t go, and kind of ditched by his group. Plus, him being in a wheelchair, means there is not much he can actively do to defend himself or his friends.
With all of that said, this is still a solid film all the way through. It was unique and terrifying without being weighed down by senseless gore. They let the story, actors, and well timed shots tell the tale, and delivered in spades. Although, I do wonder what happened to the truck driver at the end. He was kind of just left their on the side of the road. If I missed something or they did give one; let me know. Final Grade: A
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003
This time around, the prologue consisted of police footage of a cop heading into the Hewitt basement. Before we jump to the five teens. On their way to a concert, where they once again, pick up a hitchhiker. A woman who is in a state of shock and has to be brought into the van. Who immediately panic when she realizes they are heading back the way she came. After saying that she won’t go back and warning them they were all going to die. Produces a revolver and blows her brains out, in an extremely graphic visual. They stop off at the gas station to call the cops, and show Erin’s ability to use a knife. They are told they have to go meet the sheriff at the Mill and have a moral dilemma on whether or not they should just leave the body. Where they meet a small kid named Jedidiah. Who tells them the Sheriff is drunk at home and Kemper and Erin go off to get him themselves. There they meet a man an old man in a wheelchair who distracts Erin while LeatherFace takes down Kemper. Meanwhile back at the truck, Sheriff finally arrives to collect the body. Erin returns but without Kemper, and herself and Andy to go and find him. Only to be cornered by the old man and then, attacked by Leatherface. Andy tries to run, but gets his leg cut off and placed on the meat hook. Erin makes it back to the van, but the Sheriff returns and places them under arrest, only to begin to torment them. Forcing Morgan to act out the suicide and after a failed kill attempt the sheriff. Morgan is taken and LeatherFace is sent in to collect Piper and Erin. Who dispatches of Piper in quick fashion. Leaving just Erin on the run, but this time, the family is much larger, more demented and not going to say anymore for those who have not seen it.
Signs of a good remake is to take a well known story and make changes and twists on the ball. You get the same story, but add to it, and this movie should always be held to a gold standard for that. We got to see LeatherFace making skin masks and look at what was underneath. The ending was longer and her escape was earned. Then there was the introduction of the Sheriff. In these types of movies, the audience tends to be waiting for the main killer, I.E LeatherFace, but with his character. Being a huge mix of psychological and physical violence added to it. Making him as creditable of a threat as LeatherFace himself and that is a massive task to pull off. Giving Morgan a sort of a redemption arc was a good addition as well. Seeing him going from the one who wanted to abandon the body at the beginning to throwing his broken and battered body at Leatherface to protect Erin. He stood no chance and ended up getting chainsawed, but was a nice moment for his character. The shots again were all fantastic. Leatherface and then Erin using spyholes was nice. Helping to build the tension. You got a lot more gore and violence shown, with the suicide and some shots here and there, but utilized cutaways to similar effect as the first.
The actors had big shoes to fill, but they did a perfect job at casting. Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, and Eric Balfour were excellent. Jessica Biel was absolutely stellar. Taking the main lead spot from Marilyn Burns, and she definitely shined, with so much more to do. They gave her a slight edge a bit, but showed vulnerability as well. Her torture went further than what the family was putting her through, but also had to take the life of her friend Andy to put him out of his misery. Erin was likeable and wanted to see her succeed. With her longer escape scene and attacking LeatherFace straight up with a butcher knife. Then ran over the sheriff for added measure. Jessica Biel took all of that and blew it out of the water. R. Lee Ermey was straight gold. He created a menacing character and the movie was that much better for having him. Andrew Bryniarski really took the classic role of LeatherFace and made it his own. Came across as threatening with his sheer size and came across more lethal than ever.
Going to tell you the truth. I don’t have much in the way of negative to say about this movie. Everything they did just worked so well. If I did have to say something negative. They could have ended with Erin escaping in the truck. They didn’t really need to have what they had afterwards, but at the same time. It helped Erin’s victory by giving the Sheriff his comeuppance and make off with the baby at the same time. It was nice, but not needed. Final Grade: S
Winner- The Remake.
I have to give it to the remake. As enjoyable and dark and gritty the first one was. The remakes extended story, R.Lee Ermey and Andrew Bryniarski adding so much more brutality and psychological elements. There presence alone automatically rampts up the tension to a high. The family as a whole seems much more lethal than goofy. You throw in Jessica Biel playing a stronger character and they were about to spin it into a much more satisfying and compelling story all the way around.
Thank you for reading