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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) – DVD Review

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) DVD cover art


Written by: Scott Kosar, based on the original screenplay by Kim Henkel & Tobe Hooper
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Starring: Jessica Biel, Andrew Bryniarksi, Jonathan Tucker, Eric Leershen, Mike Vogel, R. Lee Ermey


  • Deleted scenes, including alternate opening & closing
  • Docu: “Chainsaw Redux”
  • Docu: “Gein: The Ghoul of Planifield documentary”
  • Running “production” audio commentary with New Line head burrito Robert Shaye, executive producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, producer Michael Bay and director Nispel
  • Running “technical” audio commentary with director Nispel, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, production designer George Blair, art director Scott Gallagher, supervising sound editor Trevor Jolly, and composer Steve Jablonsky
  • Running “story” audio commentary with director Nispel, producer Bay, screenwriter Kosar, executive producers Formand Fuller, actors Biel, Bryniarski, Leershen, Tucker, Vogel and Eric Balfour
  • Cast screen tests for Biel, Balfour and Leershen
  • Art gallery
  • TV spots & trailers
  • Music video: Motograter’s “Suffocate”
  • Collectible metal plaque cover
  • Crime city photo cards
  • DVD-ROM Content: script-to-screen, storyboard viewer and original website

Released by: New Line Cinema
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Borrow it.

[ad#longpost]It’s 1973. Five travellers are on their way to a Skynyrd concert when they happen upon a dazed hitchhiker. Said hitchhiker has apparently been through some serious trauma, and that leads to a tragedy, which in turn derails the happy excursion to the concert. Desperate for help, our intrepid young people turn to the local yokels. Big mistake. They’re all complete and utter cannibal whackjobs, with the head chef being the bloke with the disfigured face, mask of somebody else’s flesh and the ginormous chainsaw…Leatherface.

Much ballyhoo was made about the fact that someone was daring to remake the cult classic by Tobe Hooper. Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but when I finally saw the original flick, I thought it was one of the funniest, most ridiculous horror flicks ever made. I literally rolled on the floor, howling with laughter. Now, that being said, it’s not a complete wash. At least it had enough sense not to take itself too too seriously. Upon reflection, there are moments that are almost commendable in their balance of the humorous and the appalling: the corpse-like grandfather being urged on by his family to smack the heroine in the head with a nice heavy hammer. But for the most part, I thought: hell, it can’t get any worse.

And in that, at least, I was right: the film isn’t worse. It just went in an extreme opposite direction: it takes itself waaay too seriously. It wants to combine the most sadistic slasher flick genre with the sensibilities and production design of Seven. They don’t mix. Part of the problem is that the set designer got it into his head that he wanted the entire place to look like you’re on location for a Nine Inch Nails video. The rest of the problem is that helmer Nispel decided to spend lots of time with lingering shots on these various props and atmospheric pieces. I think they figure because they spent so much cash on these tidbits, they didn’t want to let them go to waste. It got so ridiculous that I feel like, if you edited all of that extraneous stuff out, the film would probably be forty-five minutes long. Okay, so I’m exaggerating–a little.

Also, the film is off-balance. It’s not the fault of the actors: the main five actors fulfill their roles well, which basically consists of screaming and running and, in more than a few cases, being slaughtered and tortured–sometimes in that order. The film’s villain, Leatherface, is forced to play second fiddle to the evil local law enforcement figure, played by one of Needcoffee’s favorite scene-stealers, R. Lee Ermey. Bryniarski is a Needcoffee fave as well, but when you put Bryniarski behind a mask with no lines up against Ermey, who’s improv-ing his head off and having an absolute blast being sadistic and cruel to the extreme…who’s going to win? Three guesses. As a result, Ermey’s the big villain in the piece and Leatherface is left eating his dust and, in some cases, we forget he’s even around. The very coda of the film serves as a reminder: “Oh, right, this used to be his movie.”

It’s really a shame about the film, because New Line has stacked this release to hell and back. The first disc comes with three, count em, three audio commentaries, split along the lines of production, technical and story. Each person’s comments is preceded by a quick sound bite of them saying their names, because there’s a legion of people and it’s hard to keep everybody straight. The commentaries are good, for the most part, although it’s a shame Ermey couldn’t take part. Bryniarski is wonderfully creepy even as himself, but that’s just him, you know. It’s a lot to take in, however, and only the hardcore fan should try and sit through all three. Kosar’s thoughts on how to change up the film from the original are interesting, as are Nispel’s thoughts on making what is essentially a snuff film.

The docu on Ed Gein, which has served as the template for just about every major cinematic serial killer, is a good primer for those who don’t know the primary source material of the various films. It’s a little unnerving to realize that Gein was so out there, writers could pick and choose bits of the man’s crimes and riff just those into convincing characters all on their own. The behind the scenes docu, “Redux,” is fairly extensive, and almost feature-length all on its own. It takes you through the entire process of putting together the remake, casting it and shooting it, with plenty of set footage for the curious.

There’s also the screen tests for three of the actors, the usual art gallery and trailers. The music video from Motograter is better than most in that at least the song is good. They’re kind of like Incubus if they found themselves possessed by Satan.

Probably the most frustrating feature, though, are the deleted and alternate scenes. It’s nice that they’re presented in docu form, so that Nispel can bookend each with comments. However, there’s a particular deleted scene which provides a nice little subplot that makes the rest of the film make a lot more sense–and Nispel cut it because he found it unnecessary and it took up too much time. I guess he needed those extra two minutes for more shots of random baby doll heads and animal bones. Oy.

A lot of people dug this film, but sadly I’m not one of them. I found it malformed and off-balance, which is a shame considering all the power that was behind it–it really could have been impressive. Fans will want to at least rent it, since New Line has pulled all the stops for a special edition, so they get the appropriate points for that at least.

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