Deep in the Bowels of Texas
Film review by: Witney Seibold
It was dark and filthy and horrifying. The evil cannibal hicks guffawed and thrashed with glee. The scenes of torture lasted a long, long time. We could practically smell the decaying flesh in the basement room of the hot, fly-infested shack. The film stock itself even looked as if it had been sitting on a shelf in a slaughterhouse for a few years. These are the strengths of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 film “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” It set out to be a raw, amateurish, hurtful, disturbing, filth nightmare, and it succeeded. It can easily be called one of the scariest films ever made.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is now a 2003 film, directed this time by Marcus Nispel, and moneyed by Capital-B schlockmeister Michael Bay. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it is this: young people get lost in Texas. They stumble upon a group of hicks in an old house. One of the hicks wears a mask of human skin and wields a chainsaw. Without motivation, the hicks torture and kill and sometimes eat said young people. The end. Oh, and, just for a little comfort, one of them gets away.
What does it say that the 2003 films is not as good as the original? That it didn’t make me feel dirty and scared? That is wasn’t able to instill the urge to bathe and to never go outdoors again? That – through its skilled photography, slick production design, carefully chosen color palate, professional acting, story arcs, and attention to character – it was almost laughably (or maybe tear-inducingly) bad? The logic seems a little skewed for the average filmgoer, who tends to favor overall quality over …well, the opposite, but one cannot be dirty and clean simultaneously. It tries to do with a huge heap of money what can only be done for none.
We get to know a few characters. R. Lee Ermey plays his usual screamy Southern Asshole. Jessica Biel, who only exists from her sternum to the top of her low-slung jeans, is the heroine after a fashion, and the other young people are all minor cast members from other teen primetime soaps. Don’t give me these pretty, recognizable people! Give me anonymous people who will grunt and squeal like quivering meat before they’re fed to grandpa. I assure you, I will be more disturbed if I don’t know the people.
I guess my point is that the original was a onetime phenomenon. Its magic (?) will never be recaptured by a second film. Nispel doesn’t realize that the original was only effective because it was a) bracingly original, and b) raw and immediate. There’s nothing original, raw, or immediate about a remake of any stripe. A remake of this film, was such a staggeringly horrible idea, and this production so horribly overwrought, well, I just shake my head sadly, and pine for a time when I will be scared again.