I usually don't do movie reviews. It's not my forte, but anyone whose known me for 15 minutes or more knows I've always been a big fan of the franchise, and it pains me to have to express my serious discontent for this cinematic turd - more pain than any unenthused and lackluster chainsaw to the my toenail can induce.
The 2003 remake of TCM wasn't bad: highly stylized, raising the bar a bit on the gore, but eventually failing to capture the "schizo-frantic," claustrophobic feel of Tobe Hooper's original. TCM2003 would rate a 3-star fare as it really didn't bring anything new to the table, but had a director who made an effort to push the envelope and spin the mythos a bit.
I tried to like this film, God knows I tried.
There are several problems, the first being the overhanging feeling of "its all been done before." This movie is so ripe with horror movie cliché, and right up until the cop-out ending I was calling out what would happen next. Thank goodness this showing wasn't ruined further for anyone by my groaning and occasional sighs of boredom, as I was the only person in the theatre (consequently, this particular showing only made $6 ... which I will be writing New Line Cinema to have promptly returned to me).
Might I say, "Prequels" should cease and desist immediately. George Lucas proved they're unnecessary (three times!), so what makes anyone think another "franchise" can hold up to such treatment?
The biggest problem with Prequels is we know exactly what's going to happen in the future - thus stealing away the anticipation of what will happen next, and as the original queried: "Who will survive?" and "What will be left of them?"
The victims with the misfortune of stumbling across this updated cannibal-clan are as disposable as any I've ever seen, merely fodder for some extended torture scenes. A "war commentary" was haphazardly inserted with a Viet Nam tie-in, but only in conversation. Pursued less than half-heartedly, as if it was an afterthought, this could have easily been left out of the film. The clothing, vehicles, setting, and overall feel of the film did nothing to capture this era of tension in US history. The least they could have done was cast a few no-names with the body-type or style of the era. I could have picked up all four of the future nubile team Leatherface-Lunchables™ and dropped them directly into any direct-to-video release in the last decade, such as "Final Destination 3," and they'd have blended right in.
Okay, now, let's get to my next point: Gore. Either you bring it or imply it. There's no middle ground in this matter. The current trend in throw-away horror films the likes of Saw IIand Hostel is to sacrifice psychological suspense for buckets of the red stuff, poured over piles of meaty chunks of what used to be a character. The film makers fell short on turning this die-hard's stomach.
Dear future horror film makers, if the words 'chainsaw' and 'massacre' are in the title of your film, you'd best bring it the hell on! Advise for the next director to tackle the eventual follow-up: QUIT PULLING THE CAMERA AWAY OR CHANGING ANGLES! There's been grosser and gorier shown on ER. Oh look! Another person dispatched by a chainsaw to the torso before the camera angle changes or is cut short.
There are only two motivations I can see for a horror film maker to cut the gore down: (1) The dreaded "NC-17" rating, which will cut into box-office proceeds. (2) They can release the "Un-Cut" DVD and double the income on both ends! Hollywood Greed-heads have pooped on the public, yet again.
TCMB falls into relying too much on hokey "jump scares" from loud noises and booming bass. Someone call me when they figure out how a 6' 6" 300-plus pound maniac with a chainsaw, walking through a wooden-floored home which was built in the late 1800s creeps up on people.
As far as psychological tension goes, I've experienced more psychological distress with bouts of constipation.
Finally, my biggest gripe would be on the whole "creation" mythos surrounding the character of Leatherface. The film promised a look into what made the character the way he is, and it didn't deliver.
We get a deformed baby pulled from a dumpster, a couple scrawled notes on skin disease and a propensity for self-mutilation during the opening credits, then our anti-hero is a grown man working at a recently shut-down slaughterhouse, who has the entire show stolen by character actor R. Lee Emry (yup - the one of Full Metal Jacket fame) who plays the enigmatic and evil patriarch of the cannibal family from the badlands of Texas. The only tie-in to Leatherface's descent into becoming a murderous, hulking loony being Emry shouting: "He's just like one of those kids what picked on you on the playground!" It sure would have been nice to actually see this development and provide us with an ounce of empathy for the psycho swinging the saw. Instead, we get time fillers, such as the forgettable "dinner scene" which falls drastically short of the original, seemingly added only because of the original's die-hard fans fussing over its absence from TCM2003.
The modern, souped up Leatherface is a bastardization. The original Leatherface, played by Gunar Hansen, brought out feelings of empathy. Up until this prequel, I've always felt, hidden beneath the face-skin masks, there was a real person. The original film offered glimpses into the world of an individual who was mute, socially retarded, and easily bullied, who actually seemed to have a deep-seated desire to be "a good boy." Hansen's Leatherface showed his distress with the messes he made. The original Leatherface cooked the food, set the table, and cleaned up after himself. He wore a tuxedo to dinner, and even put on a different face to play the warm, doting dinner host to the original scream queen "dinner guest," played by Marilyn Burns.
This updated Leatherface is a walking, remorseless killing machine, who can't pick up after himself unless he's told to do so - his basement is filthy! He's nothing but a lap-dog enforcer and forgettable sidekick to Emry's character. A slow, lumbering brute, stiffly played and devoid of anything human. Andrew Bryniarski returns to fill the boots, but somehow manages to digress in the development of the Leatherface he admirably portrayed in the previous (or is it upcoming?) TCM2003.
I'm going to view the original now and cleanse my palate.
About Chris: Chris is Polish and married. Somehow he makes this work. Every so often he attempts to write stuff. You can visit him here