Yep, TWO stars. One for each of Jessica's Biels. Beyond those, only CineSchlocker idol R. Lee Ermey is even remotely reason enough to endure this effing disaster. Initially, yours truly was enraged by the notion of this Hollywood remake, then totally backpedalled upon seeing its knockout trailer and chatting with R. Lee about his deliriously demented role. So, I purposefully hit a pre-theatrical release screening with the burning desire to LOVE this movie! But it's awful. Terrible. And they do something that not even THREE sequels dared -- that's UNMASK the big guy. Unforgivable! As any CineSchlocker will tell you, yours truly is no stickler for "realism" except, and yes I'm putting a fine point on this, I most certainly DO demand realism in breast acting. Jessica spends the whole flick oiled up and jiggling all over Texas, yet never once did her nipples strain against the confines of her wifebeater. NOT ONCE!!! Now, that wouldn't be any big crime if they hadn't purposefully stuffed her in a sub-zero MEAT LOCKER -- in a state of hysteria -- in a WET T-SHIRT!!! Nothing. Not a hint. I suspect CGI shenanigans. They actually digitally removed those high beams! Sheriff "R. Lee" Hoyt says it best: "I SMELL BULLSHIT!!!"
Ah, the summer of 1973. Five youngsters, fresh from carousing south of the border, burn rubber toward Dallas eager to make good on front-row Lynyrd Skynyrd tickets. If only they hadn't done ONE LAST THING each of their sainted mothers surely warned against: Pick up a hitchhiker (Lauren German). This poor gal blubbers hysterically like Tammy Faye Bakker after she found out Jimbo diddled that bimbo, except she keeps whining about a "bad man" and how they shouldn't oughta go for help in THAT direction. The majority being comprised of potheads, they consequently DO, so she's left with no other choice than to remove the .38 secreted within her holiest of holies and splatter-paint her purty lil brainpan all over Eric Balfour's shagadelic upholstery! To their credit, and ultimate D-O-O-M, our bloodied road-trippers seek the nearest authority figure, who ain't exactly Barney Fife, and his killer kin don't take kindly to nosy Nellies neither. But it isn't until about 40 minutes in that a chainsaw's revved in anger and Ms. Biel really starts to earn her paycheck. Speaking of performances beyond the call, how 'bout the costume designer who somehow engineered that midriff-baring knot in Jessica's tee to STAY precisely twisted and in place even when confronted by the most cantankerous of cannibals? Miraculous. Wish the same could be said of the flick's failed finale, which in a quasi-admirable effort to set itself apart from the original, strays into the tired model of dern near every dash 'n' slash fest that followed it. The net result isn't inventive, nostalgic or even that interesting unless Scream or its sanitized spawn are one's base of reference.
But, boy howdy, that Jessica gal's got skills. Ms. Biel is, beyond debate, the most smokin' scream siren in years! Andrew Bryniarski's also the most FEROCIOUS boogeyman since Kane Hodder. An apt comparison, because Big Andy imbues Leatherface with an X-gamin' Jason Voorhees-esque tenacity. More Great White shark than Gunnar Hansen's inbred redneck with questionable dining and decorating preferences. Pulling meat hook duty, and affording the audience's only real squirms, is hunka-hunka beefcake Mike Vogel. Holy gender reversal, P.C. Man! Wheelchair'd whiner Franklin has been replaced in favor of Jonathan Tucker's suitably obnoxious John Lennon starter kit, "Morgan." And that's free-lovin' Erica Leerhsen showing off the lung capacity CineSchlockers first heard in the much-maligned Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.
No breasts. 10 corpses. Bubble blowing. Gratuitous opossum. Puking. Ol' reach into the hole scare. Gratuitous urination (via catheter). Multiple amputations. Bottle to the brainpan. Rerun hit and run. Necro noodling. Cranial crushing. Amateur dentistry. Implied infant harvesting. Reefer madness. "Not So Cool" head on a platter. Unsanctioned use of Saran Wrap. Mr. Ermey gets in all the best lines -- most of 'em unscripted -- "She ain't gonna bite you, she's deader than a goddamn doornail!" and "You know, back when I was a young patrolman, I used to LOVE wrappin' up these young honies. Cop me a little bit of a feel now and then, you know? Ooo! Look at that! She's kinda wet down there. What have you boys been doing with this dead body, anyway!?!" and, a personal favorite, "Protect and serve. That's what we do!"
Extras wise, fans and foes alike are in for a two-disc FEAST! Yours truly being the latter, "Chainsaw Redux: Making a Massacre" provides an irresistible feature-length gander at what the heck went wrong. It begins, appropriately, with an outstanding six-minute salute to the 1974 classic as both a profound cultural and cinematic landmark (featuring insights from drive-in guru Joe Bob Briggs) and THEN the horrid spectre of Hollywood mogul Michael Bay snaps into focus. But seriously, folks, it's infinitely worth the 75-minute investment, especially for those interested in that DELICIOUS camera-through-the-skull shot or Mr. Ermey's unique contributions. Also intriguing is "Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainville," an engaging half-hour profile that sometimes plays a bit too much like "See, even the original movie wasn't, um, original!" On to the commentaries ... er, "essays" as they're dubbed, likely due to the maddening fact each is a chaotic patchwork of umpteen voices:
Track 1: Production -- Director Marcus Nispel, producers Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller and New Line suit Robert Shaye -- Decisively the most vapid of the lot. Bay blathers about Saw's "name recognition" and crows about the threefold return on his nine million dollar investment opening weekend. Cha-ching! A hot-shot advertising auteur, Mr. Nispel confesses he'd never seen Saw nor did he "get" the infamous dinner scene upon screening it after landing the gig. Leaves little wonder why his remake, and first feature film, lacks the pervading sense of D-E-P-R-A-V-I-T-Y that crescendos during said din-din unpleasantness. Marcus also claims to have bonded with Tobe Hooper at the premiere (who was no doubt giddy from the sizeable chunk of change in his pocket.) Collectively, the marketeers marvel how their flick is "fresh" because "it hasn't been seen in awhile."
Track 2: Technical -- Mr. Nispel, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, production designer Greg Blair, art director Scott Gallagher, sound editor Trevor Jolly and composer Steve Jablonsky -- Turns out hiring Pearl, who shot the original fresh out of college, was purely coincidental as he's a routine collaborator on Nispel's commercial projects. Oddly, Daniel downplays numerous visual homages as only echoes of his compositional style. While to Marcus, the craggy "look" of a snuff film restricted to the colors of "puke" was his mantra. That's certainly achieved, often artfully so, but it's as though he fails to realize what's disturbing about snuff films isn't the image quality, it's the macabre atrocities that transpire! Meanwhile, exceedingly deserved praise is heaped upon Bay's UNNAMED scout(s) who scoured the Austin-area for truly inspired locations. The Tea Lady's trailer was the only set built.
Track 3: Story -- Mr. Nispel, The Producers, screenwriter Scott Kosar, Jessica Biel (Erin), Erica Leerhsen (Pepper), Eric Balfour (Kemper), Jonathan Tucker (Morgan), Mike Vogel (Andy) and Andrew Bryniarski (Leatherface) -- "Someone wants to remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!?! That's about as audacious as it gets!" That was Kosar's first reaction and he and Mr. Bryniarski are who make this the best track of 'em all. Thankfully, the generic soundbites from the kiddos, obviously recorded on set, are brief enough as to not negate that fact. Big Andy says he studied Gunnar's Leatherface, opted to turned his "confusion into anger" and "blow it out in my own rock 'n' roll way." That he did. As for Kosar, if only his clever backstory and intended plot cues had translated to the screen. And his original ENDING!!! May've left the producers palefaced, but oh, how CineSchlockers would've stood in our seats with applause! Not to worry, Scott, there's always the sequel!
While the MPAA butchered Morgan's chainsaw-through-the-nethers demise, it's kindly tucked among the deleted and alternate scenes. Huzzah to New Line for going beyond traditional voiceovers by providing the option of a documentary-style presentation with video explanations by the director on why certain cuts were made alongside before 'n' after takes. Finally, a nod to that goldang trailer that surely suckered yours truly and was roundly lauded among Tinseltown insiders. Turns out it was based on a black-screen, audio only teaser used to pre-sell the flick overseas with nary a script in hand! Both versions afford audiophiles a robust 'round-the-room workout of the ol' home theater. (2003, 98 mins, 1.85:1 anam, DD 5.1 EX & DTS ES & DD 2.0, Commentaries, Documentaries, Deleted scenes, Screen tests, Music video, Concept art gallery, Trailers, TV spots, DVD-ROM doodads, Leatherface tin and eight "evidence" postcards. Note: Single disc, bare-bones release is also available.)
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.