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Case Number 04130

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

New Line // 2003 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // March 22nd, 2004

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our review of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) (Blu-Ray), published October 23rd, 2009, is also available.

The Charge

The saw is family…again!

Opening Statement

In the realm of cinema, remakes are a very tricky business. Sometimes, they can result in brand new classics. David Cronenberg took one of the corniest premises in all of sci-fi and made his man/insect version of The Fly, one of the most twisted, tragic love stories ever conceived. Martin Scorsese managed to take Robert Mitchum's macho menace and Gregory Peck's perplexed power and channel it into Robert DeNiro and Nick Notle—respectively—for his powerful reconstruction of Cape Fear. Even pulp pieces like The Blob got a 1980s polish that saw grue and gore supplant the original's cheesy teen traumas. But there are other times, like when a hot shot independent auteur trades in his Oscar-winning blockbuster credentials to make a shot-for-shot color retelling of a true visionary's black-and-white "psychotic" shocker, that the redux results are a cinematic hate crime that no one should be allowed to live down. Any director, even one with a certain commercial clout like Stephen Spielberg, can step outside his or her high-minded respect for classic Hollywood once in a while. His Always turns A Guy Named Joe from something romantic to nothing but static for 123 laborious minutes. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert always argued that filmmakers should only take on redos of disappointing movies. They should take up their promising premises and interesting, if awkward, storylines for updateable product. But, no, it seems like everyone wants to tackle a titan. For every elegant Wings of Desire there is a cockeyed City of Angels.

Michael Bay is one such misguided moviemaker. When he announced that he wanted to produce a remake of one of horror's penultimate powerhouses, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, film fans worldwide chocked on their churlishness. "Abomination," they screamed. "It will desecrate the memory of a legendary film," stewed many others. Well, naysayers, get ready to snack on some crow and slice yourself a nice healthy wedge of humble pie. Not only is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 not a bad film, it is one of the better horror movies to come out in the last few years. Tobe Hopper's hyper-real hayride is still as safe and unsound as ever. But this new version is equally unnerving.

Facts of the Case

It's 1973. On a trip back from Mexico, four friends (Kemper and his girlfriend, Erin, along with buddies Morgan and Andy) pick up a slutty hitchhiker named Pepper. They are all headed to a Lynyrd Skynyrd Concert in Dallas. While traversing some backwater burg, they nearly run over a young woman. They stop to help her. She's dirty, bloody, and in shock. They ask her what's wrong. "I want to go home," she mutters. They take her in and continue on. The distressed girl babbles about "a bad man." Next thing they know, she produces a gun. The end results require the attention of authorities.

They pull over to a BBQ restaurant. The owner calls the police and the gang gets a menacing message. "The sheriff wants you to meet him by the old mill," she says. Waiting around at the abandoned granary, the kids meet a peculiar child, all dirty and disgusting. He seems to suggest something ominous. They wait. No one comes. For a long time, they argue about what to do. Kemper and Erin go off for help. They come across a lone house in the middle of nowhere. The legless owner lets Erin use the phone. And when Kemper decides to sneak a peek inside, all hell breaks loose. The Hewitt family has a secret. And our five young people are about to discover it, first hand.

The Evidence

It is an image so disturbing and yet so beautiful that it defies easy mental incorporation. The rising sun backs a rotund murderous man in a human skin mask. He has just killed several people and is speckled in blood. He is about to finish off another when the wild, wounded girl manages to escape. As her shocked and horrified visage fades down the road, the manic monster swings his weird weapon of choice, a raging, revved-up chainsaw, in a ritualistic manner. He does a macabre dance in the rays of light pouring off the mourning. He is wrath unsatisfied. He is death as whirling dervish. And he is a cinematic god. One of the most notorious movies of all time, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been equally celebrated and castigated ever since it first hit movie screens in 1974. It is one of the few movies to be banned in Britain on three separate occasions. It is also one of the few films to have a pristine copy of its so-called "grotesque geek show" sitting in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. It is a fantastic, frightening work of warped evil and taboo malevolent perversity. But it has also been very misunderstood. Many people think it's just a slasher flick. In actuality, director Tobe Hooper intended it to be a dark social commentary on the early 70s generation gap. It is often labeled a glorified gore fest when, in actuality, very little blood is shed (Hooper had hoped for a PG when he made it, but the censors kept slapping his bleak vision with an R). Since most of the deaths happen off screen (and mostly sans the title tool's help), Hooper's horror happening is regularly cited as a brilliant work of psychological terror, more effective for what it implies and suggests than for what it actually shows. That is why many people consider it a classic…and untouchable.

So imagine their chagrin when a remake was whispered about. Actually, you don't have to imagine it, since a quick skip through the 21st-century soapbox known as the World Wide Web illustrates the ire associated with the decision quite nicely. The name Michael Bay became part of the fray as well when it was discovered that he, the maker of such mediocre moneymakers as Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, would have some involvement. Eventually, music video veteran and motion picture newcomer Marcus Nispel was pegged to helm the heresy (Bay's brain-dead hand would be all over the production as main producer), and, again, bulletin boards were alight with criticism. It was easy to understand why. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a one-of-a-kind experience in terror, a misdirection mind game where what's around the corner, behind that massive metal door, or deep inside a forest glen may be a motorized mincer with your name scrawled along its jagged-toothed shaft. The performances were all first rate, and the seedy script was soaked with such shocking subject matter as cannibalism, grave robbing, and corpse desecration. But the kicker might have been the "inspired by a true story" tagline. It inferred that, somewhere out there, someone like Leatherface and his cracked clan of flesh-eating butchers actually existed…or still exists. Ed Gein was not the household horror name in 1974 that he is now, and the reputation for reality put Saw (as it's lovingly referred to by devotees) at the head of the horror hierarchy. The hulking skin-suit savage with the blazing buzz saw has been made into a cultural icon. He is now an action figure, a merchandizing maverick, and a hero of worship. He is part of the popular lexicon, and you don't easily mess with the people's pedestal placement.

With all this battling against it, then, the new remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre should not be very good. As a matter of fact, for merely using the classic's moniker and main boogeyman, many diehards are hoping that it gets nothing right. But this is not the case here. There is no "meet the new Saw, same as the old Saw" situation between the two. In one of the bravest, most amazing jobs of updating ever accomplished in a direct attempt at a full-fledged remake (The Fly, for all its finesse, takes the original storylines and styles them into a freakshow all its own), the new 2003 version stands on its ground as a good old-fashioned serious horror romp. It is safe to say that when you watch this new take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you'll occasionally be reminded of the original. But director Nispel and writer Scott Kosar (who liberally borrows from Hooper and Kim Henkel's script) realize that the reason most horror movies fail nowadays is that they have forgotten the basic tenants of terror. Instead of remembering why dread and panic are such favored filmgoer fare, the modern auteur wants to baffle them with bad camerawork, amateur effects, and zany, illogical humor. Call this new style The Blair Witch Syndrome, or the House of 1000 Excuses, but very few current filmmakers know how to make things go "bump" in the night without an aside. But not Nispel and Kosar. They have rediscovered the formula for making fright flicks and have applied those patterns to the new technology and new notions surrounding film. Unlike Scream, which used irony instead of ideals to fart all over the faceless killer genre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-imagines the scary movie as a serious tale of thrills and suspense. It never once cheats the audience with moments of gratuity or stupidity. It works hard to be rational and unreal at the same time. And the combination is indeed heady and horrifying.

Any fan of fright will tell you that without mood and atmosphere, your fear factors and suspense stats are severely undermined. People love to be afraid, but only when they can sense the fear: they have to see it in their nerve endings, taste it on their tongues, or feel it gnawing at the napes of their necks. Thanks to the stunning visual pallet created by Nispel and cinematographer Daniel Pearl (who's been in B-movies so long—including the original Saw—that no one would ever expect gorgeous, grotesque images like this), there is an ambiance of decay and rot engulfing Saw 2003. The sky is never blue, but dust-bowl beige. Suggesting a look back in time, there is a washed-out, amber accent to everything. This entire movie looks like someone's last known photo (to borrow a line from MST3K), but here it is meant as a requiem, not something ridiculous. From the unreality of the Hewitt House of Hell, backlit like an ethereal entity all its own against the deep purple Texas night, the look and feel of this film is just perfect. Bordering between monochrome and sepia tones, the surreal and the sinister are welcome members in this universe of suggested atrocities. Color creeps in when necessary and is splashed and spackled across the screen in torrents and tides. Those who initially bellowed against Bay's participation will have to reconsider and start thanking him now. It is obvious that his box-office bankability allowed his creative crew to experiment with color and texture to bring the movie's macabre to sickening life. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a near masterpiece in set and scenic design. Avoiding the human natural history museum of the first movie, this is a look at an abattoir as artistic statement, an actual landscape of the angel of death's domain.

But something that looks great can still crash and burn without good, professional performances. Thankfully, Saw 2003 doesn't rely on stunt casting (those familiar with R. Lee Ermey may disagree) to sell its shocks. Instead, it decides to let the talent do the talking, and the results are realistic and gut-wrenchingly horrific. Jessica Biel gives a super starmaking performance as the last remaining resident of the realm of the sane as she stumbles around this horrifying world of body parts and preserved perversity (unlike the original Saw, the Gein style of domicile decoration is avoided). Her work on TV's 7th Heaven and Summer Catch does not prepare you for how well she pulls the audience into her dilemma. With an open face and a no-nonsense bravery, she reminds one of Ripley from Aliens crossed with the original Saw's scream queen, Marilyn Burns. Ermey (The Frighteners, Full Metal Jacket) is also very good here, walking the tightrope between helpful civil servant and full-fledged blood-lusting loon with expert perception. Eric Balfour (Six Feet Under) provides Kemper with an inner strength that supports his dangerous decision. Jonathan Tucker's Morgan (think of him as Franklin from the original without the wheelchair) spins his character in a strange, pseudo-stoner mode that has him swallowing half his lines as he delivers them. And Mike Vogel as Andy has one of the most grisly, torturous scenes of unintentional self-stabbing ever committed to film. Indeed everyone here appears cast because of how he or she looks and adds to the atmosphere of uneasiness and fear. The actors have permanent terror tattooed across their foreheads, and everyone in this rural part of the West stinks of the soil and sins suggesting something far more disturbing. Taken together as our victims and their victimizers, a stellar dynamic is created that propels the thrills and chills of this movie ever onward.

Still, those with the biggest bone to pick with this film will argue that it's the plot changes that really disrespect the original Saw's station (remember, these are the same voices that would have argued just as emphatically had Saw 2003 been a direct, Van Sant-style Psycho redux). The differences here are important, since they help the new Saw establish its own identity and distance itself from the original masterwork. As said before, cannibalism is barely implied here. We do see some questionable cuisine "hanging" around the Hewitt house, but there is not a smorgasbord of human hors d'oeuvres being served up. There is no replication of the original's family meal around the table. Since the new Saw family (renamed Hewitt instead of Saw-yer) is more of an all-consuming presence—the members seem to be everywhere—there is much more of an insane nuclear concept at work. As such, there are scenes of the Hewitt's going about their daily "lives," much more maddeningly mundane than the over-the-top flesh feast of the original. The role of the hitchhiker has also been excised. As played by Edwin Neal in the original, his port-wine-stained sibling rivalry with lunk-head Leatherface was sick and twisted in an almost funny, familiar manner. But honestly, something like his character is not missed in Saw 2003, perhaps because the twist on ride-catching highlighted here offers its own potent pleasures. What is missing, though, is a more "fleshed out" Leatherface. Oddly, in the new Saw, our dermis-decorated demon is shown without his mask (revealing another stellar shock), but he's just a block of killer concrete. Gunnar Hansen gave his characterization in the original a retarded child of corporeal craving. In the new Saw, Mr. Face lugs the motorized mania and wants to kill…that's about it.

But if there is one institutional aspect of the original Massacre that is absent here and truly missed, it is the underlying concept of grave robbing. The opening to Saw 1974 was memorable in that it immediately told us that we were entering the realm of a nightmare. The famous credit sequence, utilizing still frames of the frozen dead as a flashbulb blasts and bakes the images directly into our minds, introduced us to the face of fear almost immediately. Then we learn a lot of the facts. Dozens of burial plots have been disturbed. Bodies are strewn about, parts missing or defiled. There is even a sick tableau of rotting corpses festooning a marker that appears to taunt and tease the world. Saw understood that by addressing the deplorable right off the bat, the audience is taken completely by surprise and then is left off guard. These are images that will stay with them for the rest of the movie, leaving them with the uneasy notion of never knowing what to expect next. Saw 2003 has no such setup. We may be beginning in virgin territory again, a past land location where no one thinks that a hitchhiker will be anything other than a fun backseat date. But a police crime-scene film bookend hints at horrors to come (scratches on a wall, a hunk of hair in a stairwell) and the whole "it really happened" edge to the narration (in a masterstroke, original Saw narrator John Night Court Larroquette is back as the voice of detached doom) sets us up for something dreadful. The fact that it delivers the devious goods means that, like its predecessor, this movie knows it can never look back or question its commitment. Thanks to director Nispel's attention to detail, his love of mood, and his ability to evoke it perfectly, this new version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre makes a case for its inclusion in the hierarchy of excellent shock cinema. It may be a different take on a well-known story, but it's as encased in its times as the original Saw was.

For, you see, if the old Saw was about the era after the 1960s, about evil unknown yet ever present in even the most remote locations, then Saw 2003 is about evil forgotten. Saw 74 warned the counterculture that the enemy was everywhere. Saw 2003 notifies us that it still has never really gone away. The Chainsaw redux is filtered through the jaded ideal that we think we have seen it all, have done it all, and know it all. Nothing can distress us now, and so what if it did? Through our cynical, shifty eyes, we've watched popular culture deteriorate to the point where suicide is a Live at Five moment and violence is blasé unless it happens in a super-sexy tabloid fashion. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre reminds us that beyond the media façade of crime and exploitation, there is still a real threat simmering just below the surface of normality. It's like a cinematic representation of that old news report interview where the innocent neighbor opines "Well, they were such a nice family…" It implies that trust is a lousy commodity and the only real help is within oneself. The original Saw suggested that the so-called close-knit family could actually hide a deceptive, perverse paganism. It argued that families who slay together might actually stay together…and that is not necessarily a good thing. The new Saw takes this ideal one step further. It says that such clans do cling together and that they are all tainted by a murderous mass hysteria that becomes progressively more antisocial and deadly. The Hewitt family is the cinema's first serial-killing conclave. Mother will run a man-meat BBQ shack. Sister will kidnap babies as long as her brother butchers the rest of the brood. No one is safe, not the tourist, not the truck driver, not the authorities. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 is a grand horror film because it understands one of the primary precepts of scares: "anyone can die at any time." And here it adds a coda of its own: "…and at the hand of anyone."

With each new DVD release, New Line Cinema cements its reputation for creating the benchmark digital treatments of mainstream Hollywood movies (Criterion and Blue Underground holding up the end for classics and the cracked, respectively). This Platinum Series release is the true culmination of everything a fan of horror, lovers of the original Saw, those interested in the foundation behind the story (read: Ed Gein), and anyone wanting to witness the technical side of making movies could ever want. Over the span of two discs, we witness the casting and directing choices, the trials and tribulations of making the movie, the marketing and merchandising of the film, and the reactions the actors and crew had to the finished product. There are three commentary tracks, a deleted-scenes documentary, a series of screen tests, a look at the life and crimes of Ed Gein, a thorough making-of featurette, and more chimes and chimera than you can shake a laser at. But it would all add up to nothing had the sound and vision been less than spectacular.

Thankfully, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a magnificent sensory experience. Nispel is a visionary director who uses deep shadows, hard contrasts, and a muted palette to get his point across, and the DVD interpretation of this image presentation is flawless. The 1:85:1 transfer is pristine and perfect. The open vistas of Texas resonate heat and dust, and, like David Fincher, who loves to up the silver in his prints, Nispel experiments with the stock and how it is processed to recreate his optical desires. Cinematographer Daniel Pearl (who did shoot the original Saw, by the way) worked in tandem with Nispel to tone down and terrorize the screaming screen images. The resulting artistic aesthetic is flawlessly fixed here and makes for a moody, gorgeous Grand Guignol of purification. The transfer of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a near-reference-quality triumph.

But sound is equally important to this film. When he first conceived of the remake, Michael Bay created a teaser trailer in which the entire setup of the movie was told only through sonic sensations. The stalk-and-slaughter mentality was aurally implied through this in-theater, channel-tripping ad in which the entire cinema space seemed to be a house of horrors. Footsteps tripped across the floor. Screams were heard. Then silence. Then the sickening roar of the saw. Like that bit of soundscaping, the actual home movie DVD here is ripe with misdirection and speaker-specific cues. If you have a DTS system, you should select such an optimized setting (it was unavailable to this critic). But in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, the film is fantastically atmospheric and the elements you hear really add to the images that are implied or shown directly.

Since New Line treats this title to its Platinum Series specialization, even those who were only marginally impressed with this movie should consider plunking down the payola to get it on DVD. The bulging bank accounts (thanks to LOTR) of the independent film company are really reinvested in their digital projects. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (along with the Blade series and the recent Willard) represents a "no expense too great" ideal. On Disc One, we are enticed with no less than three audio commentaries. Called "audio essays" on the menu screen, one features the "Production" staff of Robert Shaye (New Line honcho), Andrew Form and Brad Fuller (executive producers), Michael Bay, and director Nispel. Our second narrative is entitled "Technical" and offers Nipsel again, cinematographer Pearl, production designer George Blair, art director Scott Gallagher, supervising sound editor Trevor Jolly, and composer Steve Jablonsky. Our final alternative track deals with the "Story" and adds the main cast (minus R. Lee Ermey, dammit!) and screenwriter Scott Kosar to the director/producer/executive producer gang. Together, these tracks give a grand overview of almost every aspect of the movie-making process, from the resistance to the remake to the fun on set.

Individually, the commentaries more or less stay within their categorized focus. In order to keep the names and voices straight, each person is introduced via a vocal moniker reminder of who they are. It appears that these commentaries may have been recorded individually and then chopped up for triple distribution. There is no interaction between the individuals. For the most part, one person takes point while the rest of the participants fill in small facts and details. The "Production" track belongs almost exclusively to Nipsel (with Michael Bay giving him a good verbal run for his money). The director discusses his desire for a "snuff" film feeling and how he wanted to make sure the movie utilized 70s film techniques so that it wouldn't look too modern (for people who enjoy eating a juicy steak "without crappy Kiwi sauce and junk," according to the Nipster). New Line co-chairman Bob Shaye tells about his company's "birthright" to distribute this film, and Bay makes up for a lot of his cinematic sins by discussing how important making a low-budget movie was to him. The advertising aesthetic is shared amongst several on the crew, and the link between marketing and monster movies is intriguing.

On the "Technical" offering, the effects crew are the focus as George Blair, Scott Gallagher, and Trevor Jolly discuss such varying issues as the use and reliance on natural elements and "found" sets, the desire to mix differing sounds to enhance the horror, and the oddly charismatic characteristics of the chainsaw. Indeed, there is lots of discussion about how the tools were given "personality," how they were designed, both pragmatically and aurally. Nipsel dives in once and a while to explain certain choices (Marilyn Manson was once pegged to score the film…hmm), and, as usual, he brings a lot of specified information. Finally, the commentary entitled "Story" gives us the cast's take on the movie. Leatherface Andrew Bryniarski discusses his connection to the role and how it "consumed" him. Jessica Biel finds friendly, effervescent ways to champion her role as hero, and Jonathan Tucker recalls going mano-a-mano with Ermey. But screenwriter Scott Kosar gets most of the narrative as he discusses his hiring and his deliberate desire to change the original film. It is a safe bet to say that as the commentaries mount up, they become less and less entertaining. Once you've heard (and seen and experienced) the film described 20 different ways, it can get weary, and after the initial entertainment of the "Production" track, the detail-oriented "Technical" and the dry descriptive nature of "Story" are a little too much.

On Disc Two, we deal almost exclusively with the background and the making of the movie. Gorehounds will love the deleted scenes, since we get extra-juicy takes on almost all the deaths in the film. Nispel is along for the ride in a documentary that incorporates all the above outtakes (you can view them separately as well), and he brings a great deal of passion and particulars to the talk. Of real interest is the original opening and closing sequences that were supposed to bookend the main story with a modern-day setting (including a very Se7en-esque police hunt). If you are so fascinated, the screen tests of Biel, Balfour, and Erica Leerhsen (Pepper the hitchhiker) are here to ruminate over. We get galleries of design sketches and makeup effects. The marketing is also emphasized through nearly a dozen trailers and TV spots (but avoid the dumb music video for the typical metal muck provided by Motograter). If you have DVD-ROM access (which this critic does not), you can view a script-to-screen storyboard viewer and additional information at the official website link.

The final two outstanding features on Disc Two are a pair of documentaries, one on the creation of the film and another highlighting the original crime upon which it (and so many other movies) was based. Anyone not familiar with infamous Wisconsin weirdo and his mother fixation and sense of cannibal fashion should watch Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainsfield to understand what an all-encompassing influence his story has had on horror. From Norman Bates to Buffalo Bill and a thousand psychos in between, our cross-dressing deviant has been an icon for fright since his gruesome crimes were discovered. The featurette is filled with excellent interviews, psychological insights, and real crime scene footage. It's very informative and creepy in a "could it happen here" conceit. The second documentary, entitled Chainsaw Redux: Making a Massacre is almost 80 minutes in length and walks us through the entire process of making, marketing, and mastering the new Saw film. With access to the entire cast and crew and a massive amount of shot-on-set video, we really learn what it was like to be in Texas in the middle of summer building a manic monster movie. It's nice to see a notorious detractor of the proposed remake (John Bloom, AKA Joe Bob Briggs) here commenting about the original (and that may be all he is championing), but the majority of the information centers around how the effects were handled, how the actors got into their roles, and the rules of chainsaw care and handling. As a behind-the-scenes look, it is very complete and complex and makes a wonderful addition to this DVD.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Anyone who has read this critic knows that he doesn't pussyfoot around when it comes to horror. As a fan and a sometimes fanatic, he can smell a terror turd a couple hundred miles away. When this remake of Saw was first announced, a lot of negative vibes were vented at Michael Bay and the crew for taking on such a legendary bit of ballistic fright fare. He hoped for failure and prayed for the putrid. But just like Mike Ness shouted for Social Distortion, this critic is now able to say that he was wrong. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake needs to be judged on its own terms, not by how it compares to the past. As a movie, it easily loses you in its own universe, one related to, but not directly mimicking, the original. Sure, Tobe Hooper's testament to the far more frightening facets of rural America was an eerie Easy Rider for the slaughterhouse crowd. It took a twisted idea and a title that screamed scares and made it even more revolting. But what director Nispel and producer Michael Bay have done here deserves a lot of credit as well. They have found a way, through professionalism and artistic tinkering, to reinstate the standard horror movie to its place of prominence. No longer is it the fodder for in-jokes and jest. Never again should fear be fraught with funny business to keep a modern mindset hooked. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a good, old-fashioned terror trip, nothing more or less. It may not try to say something as profound as Hooper's, but it succeeds where so many current thrillers fail. It is actually scary and creepy as hell. So cast aside your bias and simply enjoy.

Closing Statement

It would be unfair to leave these comments without stating the obvious: nothing can replace the original Saw. Dario Argento could team up with George Romero, Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, and Wes Craven to make a new Saw movie, and it would still stink of copycatting. Hollywood is obviously bereft of ideas when a much-despised bit of exploitation terror can be resurrected for big-budget horror. Fans of the original have a right to be upset. If Saw 2003 really sucked, its vilification would trickle back down, all the way to the original's classic status, to soil it as well. And now it's happening again. Thanks to more backward glancing, Dawn of the Dead is seeing a (assumed pointless) redo at the hands of Universal. Trailers have indicated that a great deal will stay the same. But there may be hope inside this forever dopey ideal. The ad focuses on the events that happened the evening before the dead began to walk the Earth, and the bedlam it evokes is wonderfully suggestive. Then again, we could be looking at another Haunting on our hands, a hackneyed Hollywood special effects overdose approach to something that worked because of its human, not blood-pack, parameters. The same could be said for Saw, both 1974 and 2003. The new Texas Chainsaw Massacre took the chance of alienating an entire fan base or pissing off its primary audience and delivering something that was as rote and routine as the original was spellbinding and bizarre. Luckily, it found the old gospels of the gross-out, memorized the more macabre passages, and tested their talents to retell something sacred through nauseated eyes. And it worked. Years from now, when all the dust has settled and the tempers have eased, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 will be seen for what it is: one of the better horror movies to come out of the new millennium.

The Verdict

Case dismissed. Neither this movie nor New Line should even be in this court. Any charges brought against them are dropped.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 99
Audio: 90
Extras: 95
Acting: 95
Story: 90
Judgment: 94

Perp Profile

Studio: New Line
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• DTS 6.1 ES (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Collectible Metal Plaque Cover
• 3 Separate Cast and Crew Commentaries
• Crime Scene Photos
• "Severed Parts"--Documentary about the Deleted Scenes
• Deleted Scenes Offered Individually
• "Chainsaw Redux: Making a Massacre" Documentary
• "Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Planifield" Documentary
• Cast Screen Tests
• Production Art Gallery
• Make Up Design Gallery
• 7 TV Spots and Trailers
• Trailers for New Line Products
• Music Video
• DVD-ROM Content: Script-to-Scene Storyboard Viewer
• Weblink

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