Film Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Release Date: October 15th, 2003 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Scott Kosar
Based on: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre by Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper
Music by: Steve Jablonsky
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, David Dorfman, John Larroquette (narrator)

Radar Pictures, Focus Features, New Line Cinema, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Excuse me, you mind getting the fuck outta my way, son?” – Sheriff Hoyt

Very few horror franchise reboots are good. This is one of the few that are and because of that, it kind of started a trend where a new generation of filmmakers, inspired by the old, started trying to resurrect the most iconic horror franchises of their youth.

I know many people that actually prefer this movie to the original. I don’t but I also don’t think that those people are insane, either. I think there actually is an argument to be made about it and it’s one of my favorite horror debates to listen to between people that actually know and are passionate about these movies.

I think that in 2003, I would’ve rated this much higher. Seeing it 18 years later, I do find some of the dialogue to be a bit cringe and poorly written. I also find some of the director’s choices in how he shoots certain sequences to be a bit weak and trope-riddled.

The biggest highlight of the film for me was Jessica Biel and not just because she looked fucking magnificent but because she really dived into this and gave a convincing performance. So much so, in fact, that I hadn’t seen a “final girl” this good in a decade or more at the time that this came out. Honestly, I think in that regard, she actually exceeds the vast majority of “final girls” in horror. Granted, it’d be hard to put anyone in front of Jamie Lee Curtis or Heather Langenkamp.

I also immensely enjoyed R. Lee Ermey in this, as the town sheriff who is actually a part of the killer family and directly related to this franchise’s top monster, Leatherface.

Ermey gave a performance on the same level as his best work. He committed to this role so greatly that you really want to see him get what he deserves in the end. When he does, it’s beyond fucking satisfying. Without Ermey and Biel, this would’ve probably just been a standard, cookie cutter, forgettable slasher flick.

Now the rest of the cast is pretty bad and it kind of bogs the film down in the scenes where it focuses on them. In fact, the stuff in the van at the beginning was pretty awful and it almost wrecked Jessica Biel but luckily, they didn’t stick to that too long and the horror started almost from the get go.

This is also plagued by the cinematic style of the time, which I didn’t like back then and still don’t like now. It’s nothing I’ve started to feel nostalgic for as time passes. What I’m referring to specifically is the overuse of color filters, which makes all films look unrealistic and like a music video. This may have started with David Fincher in Alien 3 but it’s something that would be used to death in just about every “hip” film of the mid-’90s to mid-’00s from Fincher’s other movies, The Matrix films, nearly all horror that wasn’t Scream, as well as action flicks and crime movies. It’s not such a big deal when used sparingly but it’s not here. The film is either unnaturally bronze or bluish green in every scene.

Still, the positives outweigh the negatives and this is a movie carried by two solid performances and a version of Leatherface that is the scariest of them all.

Rating: 6.25/10