Impressions: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

It has been a while since I have seen 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. In fact, it’s been long enough that I couldn’t remember parts of it. This was also the first time I’ve watched it since I decided to try not to be so uptight about remakes and give them more of a chance.

So as mentioned, this remake came out in 2003 and was actually years ahead of the trend when we were given a lot of remakes of 70s/80s era slasher films. One might even give credit to or blame (depending on how you feel about remakes) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the later trend.

It stars Jessica Biel as Erin, our survivor girl/final girl as they are driving through Texas. Like the original movie, things go wrong when they stop to pick up a hitchhiker. Unlike the original, the hitchhiker is a victim rather than a member of the family. Either way, it sets up the group having to go through a series of tasks, all leading them to be hunted down by Leatherface at the behest of his cannibalistic family.

Throughout the course of the movie, it seems that it put considerable effort into being its own thing, while still honoring the original. Some moments are clear reflections of the original, even kills that are meant to reference some of the most terrifying scenes. Yet it seeks to make its own mark stylistically and with tone. It tries to bring more suspense to the table with the group slowly building up to the killing spree, and the teens discovering different hints and clues as to what is happening. The problem is that a lot of this doesn’t land. Sure it’s gross and pretty terrifying when they find teeth, for instance, but none of these moments really have the impact expected.

This is also the case with the other characters they meet. R. Lee Ermey makes an appearance as the Sheriff and gives a solid and creepy performance (which he had a talent for), but it’s rather clear that he’s tied to the family. I could never make out if the movie wanted you to be surprised by that or not. In fact, overall, I had this problem with it. Each person the teens meet is eventually tied to the family, but none of them are surprising.

Stylistically I was, divided. There are a lot of really well-done shots in this movie that stand out. Also, like movies that were coming out at the time, there was a definite gore fact to it. However, there didn’t actually seem to be much in the way of its own “style.”

The original was a rough movie, both in content and execution, but that’s part of what makes it such a stand out. It doesn’t have a lot of spit and polish, and it works so well for the movie because it does have a very recognizable and in your face style to it.

The remake, on the other hand, in an attempt to add too many elements, was unable to land that. It repeats moments for the original, but not with the same roughness, so they don’t exactly work. It does have more gore, which is well done, but being gory is not a style of its own. Also, it feels a little too polished, and that there were choices made to suit interesting looking shots rather than the movie itself.

But that is not exactly a bad thing. Not every movie has to be a standout, and logically, not every movie can be even. Also, for all the struggles I found stylistically it doesn’t struggle to be an entertaining movie. It has some decent jumps, a few shocking moments that land for horror fans, and is pretty solid from start to finish. It is not something that will end up on a favorite list of mine, but it is good slasher flick fun without going into “dumb but fun” territory.

I also think it’s not a terrible remake. It did take a unique slasher title and bring it into the modern time. The original is still easily better for me, but this movie is not bad. It suits for the early 2000s of horror movies and managed to be better than a lot of later slasher movie remakes despite coming so much earlier.

So bottom line. Well, I imagine a lot of horror fans have already seen it. I would say it’s worth a re-watch. If you haven’t seen it, I think it might be worth a go. I am glad I gave it another watch, and it’s made me consider what other remakes I should give a second chance to.

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