Much like the original movie was the first of the slasher movies, today’s movie was the first of the slasher remakes in the 2000’s. When I first heard that they were remaking this movie, I will admit that I was extremely nervous about what they would do with it. I mean, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was such a groundbreaking horror movie, that I felt like anything the did would not come close to matching it. Still, I was willing to give it a chance, but didn’t get around to seeing it in theaters and had to wait for it to come out on DVD. I ended up just buying it as I was buying the original movie on DVD and the sequel on DVD when the remake came out. Now let’s see if this impulse buy was worth it as I watch today’s movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003).
The plot: On August 18th, 1973, Erin, her boyfriend Kemper, and their friends Andy, and Morgan are driving up to Dallas for a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert after spending several days in Mexico. Andy is making out with Pepper, a hitchhiker they picked up in El Paso, and Morgan and Kemper are sharing a joint and when Erin throws it out the window, Morgan accidentally lets slip that they had smuggled 2 pounds of marijuana back from Mexico. Suddenly, they see a strange girl walking in the middle of the road and Kemper swerves to avoid hitting her and Erin and Pepper get out of the car to see if she is ok. The girl says she wants to go home so they bring her back to the van but as they are driving along, the girl starts saying that they are all dead. When they pass by the Blair Meat plant, the girl freaks out and says they are going the wrong way, then tries to get Kemper to turn around. When Kemper stops the van, the girl says she can’t go back to the bad man and pulls out a pistol from underneath her dress, puts it in her mouth, and shoots herself. Everyone freaks out and gets out of the car and as they try to figure out what they should do, Kemper says they should call the police, then grabs the pinata full of marijuana and throws it into a field so that they won’t get busted for it. Driving down the road, they come to a gas station and Kemper, Morgan, and Andy head inside and ask the woman behind the counter to call the sheriff. The woman makes the call and tells them that Sheriff Hoyt asked them to meet him at an old mill down the road, or else wait there for 2 hours. The group reluctantly heads to the mill but when they get there, they see no sign of Hoyt. Morgan and Andy want to just leave the body there and leave and Kemper is inclined to go along with them but Erin convinces him to wait for the sheriff. Suddenly, Pepper sees something moving in the building behind them and they head inside to investigate, finding a little boy named Jedidiah hiding in there. Jedidiah tells them that the sheriff is getting drunk at his home but it is only a short walk away so Kemper and Erin head out to find him. When they reach the house, they knock on the door and an old amputee named Monty answers the door and tells them that the sheriff isn’t there but lets Erin in to use the phone. Back at the mill, Andy runs Jedidiah off after he was messing with the body and a short while later, Sheriff Hoyt arrives at the mill. Back at the house, Erin finishes her call and goes to leave when Monty asks for her help getting up off the floor where he fell, keeping her distracted as someone moves around behind her. Meanwhile, Kemper gets worried and heads inside the house to check on Erin but as he investigates, Leatherhead comes up behind him and strikes him over the head, then drags him into another room and slams the door. Erin hears the sound and leaves the old man on the floor, worried that something might have happened to Kemper but when she finds no sign of him, decides to head back to the van. Meanwhile, Hoyt is examining the scene and when he asks about the gun the girl used to kill herself, Andy and the others tell him she had it with her and Hoyt places it in his ankle holster, which happened to be empty. Hoyt then has Andy help him wrap the body in saran wrap, then tells Andy and Morgan to place the body in the trunk of his car before he drives off. Erin arrives shortly after he leaves and is surprised to hear that the sheriff was already there and that there is no sign of Kember. Suddenly, the hear a car horn going off among some wrecked cars nearby and when they investigate them, find a picture of the girl and her family in one of the cars. Worried about Kember, Erin heads back to the house and Andy joins her, arming himself with a tire iron. Erin distracts Monty outside, allowing Andy to make his way inside the house to try and find Kember. When Andy knocks over something in the kitchen, Erin rushes in to see if he needs help but Monty confronts them about being in his house and summons Leatherface to deal with them. Andy manages to fend off Leatherface’s chainsaw with the tire iron, yelling at Erin to run, and he runs out after her but as Leatherface chases him through the rows of sheets drying in the back yard, Leatherface chops off his leg with the chainsaw, then drags him down in the basement of the house, where he hangs him on a meat hook. Erin runs back to the van and as she tries to start it, she asks where the Morgan and Pepper where the gun is and they tell her that Hoyt took it. Suddenly, Hoyt appears outside the van and as she tries to tell him about what happened to Andy, but Hoyt sees a joint on the dashboard and has them all get out of the car. and lay down on the ground. While Erin and Pepper continue to lay on the ground, Hoyt has Morgan head into the van and reenact how the girl killed herself, handing Morgan the gun to show him and forcing him to put it in his mouth. When Erin asks what is going on, Hoyt turns to yell at her and Morgan uses the distraction to point the gun at Hoyt. Erin yells at him not to do it, though Pepper says to go ahead and kill him, and as Hoyt taunts him, Morgan pulls the trigger only to find the gun wasn’t loaded. Hoyt then handcuffs Morgan and places him in his car and drives off, taking the keys to the van with him. As they are driving off, Hoyt asks Morgan where they were headed and Morgan tells him to the Skynyrd concert and offers him the tickets, prompting Hoyt to pistol whip him and knock his teeth out. Hoyt then gets on the radio and radios someone to head to the mill and take care of Erin and Pepper before pulling up to the house and forcing Morgan inside. Back at the mill, Erin works on hot-wiring the van and they start to leave only to have the front tires fall off the van. Suddenly, Leatherface starts attacking the van, killing Pepper when she runs away, and as he turns to deal with Erin, she is horrified to see that he is wearing Kimber’s face as a mask. Erin climbs out the back window and makes her way through the woods, coming across a trailer parked out in the woods. She starts pounding on the door and asking for help and when it opens, she ducks inside and asks the people inside, an old woman and a young woman named Henrietta, to use the phone but Henrietta says they don’t have one. Henrietta offers Erin some tea and as she drinks it, tells her that Leatherface won’t come around there as they are family, then goes to tend to a baby that starts crying. Erin notices a picture of the girl and her family just as a phone rings and Erin realizes that they stole the baby from the girl’s family before she passes out from the drugged tea. Erin wakes up to find herself at the Hewitt’s house where Hoyt, Monthy, and Hoyt’s mother, Luda Mae, are surrounding her. Jedidiah calls out to be allowed inside but Luda Mae tells him to stay out there until he can play by the rules. Luda Mae then tells Erin the same story that Henrietta did, about her son being tormented because of a skin disease disfiguring his face, and then yells out for Thomas (Leatherface) to take Erin to the basement. In the basement, Erin sees the various dismembered and decayed body parts of the Hewitt’s previous victims before she sees Andy hanging from the meat hook. Seeing that he is still alive, she tries to help him get free but when she can’t, he begs her to put him out of his misery and she reluctantly does so, then cries out in anguish over it. Hearing a noise, Erin heads further into the basement to find Morgan in a bath tub and she helps him get out. Jedidiah appears and tells her to follow him and Erin grabs Morgan and helps him move but Leatherface was watching them and races down after them with his chainsaw. Erin and Morgan make it to the basement stairs and she yells at Jedidiah to come with them but he tells her to run and he will be fine. They make their way to an abandoned house and they work to barricade it to keep Leatherface out but he cuts his way inside and they are forced to hide. Leatherface finds Erin and goes to kill her but Morgan jumps out of his hiding space and attacks him. Leatherface grabs Morgan and suspends him from a chandelier, then proceeds to saw him up through his groin to kill him. Erin runs out of the house, with Leatherface chasing after her but as she ducks through a barbed wire fence, Leatherface gets hung up and ends up cutting his leg. Reaching the road, Erin tries flagging down a passing car but it drives away so she heads to the meat plant. Leatherface continues to chase after her and she grabs a meat cleaver and hides in a locker. Getting Leatherfaces attention, he starts searching the lockers for her but when he discovers the pig that she had placed in one as a distraction, Erin leaps out of her locker and starts hacking at his arm, cutting Leatherface’s right arm off. As Leatherface collapses to the ground in pain, Erin heads out to the road and manages to flag down a passing semi. The driver brings him into his truck and starts asking her what’s wrong but when she sees him heading back to the gas station where Hoyt’s car is, she yells at him not to stop. The driver stops the car and yells at her, then heads in to the gas station to get some help and Erin ducks out of the truck and looks in the window to see Hoyt, Luda Mae, and Henrietta inside with the baby. As they all head outside to see what the driver is talking about, Erin grabs the baby and heads to Hoyt’s patrol car. As Hoyt approaches the semi and checks it for Erin, Erin hotwires the patrol car and uses it to run over Hoyt, then drives off. As she comforts the baby sitting next to her, Leatherface slashes at the car but doesn’t do much damage and then stares at it as Erin drives away. 2 days later, the police head to the Hewitt house and as an investigator is recording the crime scene, both he and his cameraman are killed by Leatherface.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) met with poor results from the critics, holding a 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “An unnecessary remake that’s more gory and less scary than the original.” Though they tried to get Gunnar Hansen to play the role of the trucker at the end of the movie, but he declined so the only person from the original movie to return for the remake was John Larroquette, who played the narrator in both the original and the remake. The scene with Leatherface taking off his mask to show his real face was originally supposed to occur in Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, but the scene was cut in order to keep an R rating, making this movie the only time Leatherface’s “real” face is seen. Despite the poor reviews, the movie was a box office success, earning $108 million off of a $9.5 million budget.
This is a decent horror movie but compared to the original movie, this really did feel like nothing but a bunch of cheap scares. The acting was ok, with Jessica Biel doing a good job as Erin while R. Lee Emery played the role of the sadistic Hoyt to perfection. I also liked Andrew Bryniarski’s portrayal of Leatherface, playing keeping the somewhat beaten down side of his character but losing the mental handicap that the original had. The story was interesting, changing the motivation from a family of cannibals to a family taking retribution for the bullying of Thomas/Leatherface as a child on anyone that stopped in their town. The special effects were pretty good, with some scenes having to be cut in order to keep the movie at an R-rating, but I felt that in some cases, they tended to be overly graphic when it wasn’t really necessary; as there are times where less is more works a lot better in horror movies. It’s not a bad horror movie but definitely is a pale imitation to the original.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5