October 30, 2003

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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It’s around that time of the year again when scary movies are as common as a rainy day in Ithaca. And like those rainy days, most of these movies don’t prove to be anything out of the ordinary. The recent remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is no exception. It follows the general template for a horror movie, with just the right amount of screams, dark settings, and goriness to scare half the audience while leaving the other mildly amused.

Inspired by the original movie with the same name, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre tells the story of five teenagers on their way to a concert who made the fatal mistake of picking up a strange girl. When they try to find out what is bothering her, the girl freaks out and shoots herself in the mouth. Faced with the tough decision of taking care of the girl’s dead body or going to the concert, the group decides to go to the cops. When they finally find a phone to call the sheriff, they are told to meet him by an abandoned farmhouse.

Circumstances become even more suspicious when a malnourished boy playing in the house tells them that the sheriff is probably drunk in a house nearby. Edgy and impatient, Erin (Jessica Biel) and her boyfriend Kemper (Eric Balfour) separate themselves from the group and go off in search of the sheriff.

What follows is a lot of hacking, running, screaming, and crying as the teenagers get picked off one by one by the dermatologically challenged chainsaw murderer, better known as Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) and his creepy, inbred relatives. The only one who puts up a good fight is Erin, while the other four, Kemper, Morgan (Jonathan Tucker), Pepper (Erica Leerhsen), and Andy (Mike Vogel) practically throw themselves at Leatherface. The film aims for a few emotional scenes, but the character development is so minimal and pointless that we hardly care when the costars are killed off.

The creepiest part of the movie is supplied not by Leatherface, but by his family, whose incestuous consequences are downright horrifying. Instead of inspiring terror, it is almost kind of boring when Leatherface pops up on screen with his chainsaw. He doesn’t wield it with any kind of finesse, and at one point, he actually trips over it while chasing after Biel’s character.

The other co-stars are not much better, in the sense of adding more suspense and fear, since they are all pretty much taken care of right away. Only Biel is somewhat memorable, doing a good job projecting the terror of her character into her physical performance as she runs from Leatherface in a very long chase segment.

The film’s greatest weakness is that it fails to develop the story, and instead jumps right into the killings before we have a chance to feel for the characters. Despite the lack of plot, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre deserves at least some credit in that it didn’t depend solely on special effects to create a frightening atmosphere. Instead, the movie relied on its actors and surroundings to supply the scare factor, resulting in a film that’s not so much scary but occasionally quite disturbing.

Archived article by Yiwei Wang