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Photograph by Jim Sheldon/New Line Productions

The True Face of Horror: Jessica Biel discovers Michael Bay is behind the remake she's trapped in.


'Texas Chainsaw' remake is a bloody mess

By Steve Palopoli

First of all, let's not act like every remake of a horror classic is a what-the-hell-was-Gus-Van-Sant-thinking-type fiasco. Both remakes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers were remarkable in their own way, and Tom Savini's 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead is an overlooked minor masterpiece in itself.

I'm pleased to tell you that we now also have a great remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: it's called House of 1000 Corpses, and it came out several months ago.

Unfortunately, this officially sanctioned remake sucks. Its producer, Michael Bay, is best known for Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, and here brings to horror films the same level of hollow stupidity he brought to NASA and World War II. Director Marcus Nispel is best known for Faith No More and Janet Jackson videos, any one of which is no doubt thousands of times more entertaining than this film.

Not that this film doesn't look like a music video--it certainly does. It's stylish in that way that MTV clips are: basically, pick one color and texture and run with that bad boy! This movie looks ridiculously '90s, despite the fact that it claims to be set in the 1970s. And despite the fact that original TCM cinematographer Daniel Pearl is behind the camera again, there's not one square foot to be seen of the raw, hyperrealistic look that made people--well, some people anyway--love '70s horror films in the first place. Even the sad attempt to re-create Bob Burns' psychotic set design--which is a huge part of what made the original so interesting--winds up looking like a slick and sanitized version created by VH1 or robots. Or possibly VH1 robots.

The worst thing about it is that all the meat, if you'll pardon the expression, has been hacked away from Tobe Hooper's 1974 original. Entire books have been written about the significance of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and films like it, the best being Carol Clover's Men, Women and Chainsaws. But literally everything that made it thematically subversive and interesting is missing here. All the scenes showing the family dynamic of the redneck lunatics are gone--hell, even the fact that there is a family isn't even touched on. Are the killers supposedly just random townspeople who happen to be conspiring to knock off tourists? Is the woman hitchhiker at the beginning supposed to be the survivor from the original film? Beats me! This remake is so confusing and half-assed that it's actually somewhat of a relief when it turns into a mindless chase film, and never stops.

Years ago, the TCM rip-off Pieces had a great tag line that proclaimed: "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!" And this time, you shouldn't.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (R; 98 min.), directed by Marcus Nispel, written by Tobe Hooper, photographed by Daniel Pearl and starring Jessica Biel and Jonathan Tucker, now playing at Santa Cruz Cinema 9.

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From the October 29-November 5, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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