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

Film Review: Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)

Also known as: The Party (working title)
Release Date: June 12th, 1998
Directed by: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
Written by: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
Music by: David Kitay
Cast: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green, Robert Jayne, Michelle Brookhurst, Chris Owen, Jason Segel, Clea Duvall, Jaime Pressly, Sean Patrick Thomas, Freddy Rodriguez, Donald Faison, Eric Balfour, Selma Blair, Sara Rue, Marisol Nichols, Jenna Elfman (uncredited), Jerry O’Connell (uncredited), Melissa Joan Hart (uncredited), Breckin Meyer (uncredited), Jennifer Elise Cox (uncredited)

Tall Trees Productions, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, 100 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know about you, but I really believe that there’s one person out there, and for me it’s gotta be Amanda.” – Preston

I didn’t see this right when it came out, as it was a year after I had graduated high school and also because there were already dozens of similar movies that I had watched from the ’80s and ’90s, growing up.

I first saw this when it hit regular television but once I did, I thought it had a lot of heart while also having that heart in the right place. Sure, this is nothing new for the coming-of-age teen comedy subgenre but it’s hard not to like the main characters and their multiple story arcs.

Honestly, it also doesn’t hurt that this movie has a pretty stacked cast and even if most of these kids weren’t stars when this came out, they started to become them by the time I saw this.

The vast majority of the movie takes place in one location, a big ass house party. There are some school scenes early on but the bulk of the story takes place over one night.

To sum up the primary plot, the male lead has been in love with the female lead since his freshman year. But now that they’re graduating and the girl and her boyfriend split, this guy has one last chance to try and win her over.

Beyond that plot, the rest of the kids are dealing with the fact that high school is over and they have no idea what’s going to happen now that their lives are starting. The party is there as a way to blow off steam and distract them from the inevitable future but they all learn a lot about themselves over the course of the night.

There’s too many characters to feature for any great length and the two leads take up the bulk of the running time but each story is pretty enjoyable and endearing. I think there’s actually things that people can relate to with all of them, as they all share their own versions of doubt, insecurity and fear over what’s next.

Can’t Hardly Wait also feels a lot more like an ’80s teen movie than a ’90s one despite the music and fashion in the film. It just has that ’80s vibe to it and it’s easy to tell that the filmmakers were inspired by those movies and drawing from them.

That being said, this kind of feels like the last film of that subgenre of comedy. Sure, there were others after this but none of them are all that memorable, except for Not Another Teen Movie, which was a parody of this subgenre and kind of exposed all the tropes, making it hard to follow with another picture of this type.

In the end, the boy gets the girl and we leave these characters in a pretty positive way. Granted, the jock’s future isn’t all that promising but he went from dick to nice guy back to dick and well… karma is a bitch.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other teen comedies, specifically of the ’80s and ’90s.