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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour

Directed by Marcus Nispel
Rated R
for strong horror violence/gore, language and drug content

out of Stars, Movie Grade: D+
movie trailer

Theatrical Release: October 17, 2003
Running time: 98 minutes

by Kevin Lang

Director Marcus Nispel's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was an exercise in the grotesque, cycling from one set of gruesome images to the next with almost no character development or intelligence. These isolated scenes were sewn together by a weak story that formed loosely stitched patterns of bloodstained violence.

The film, which was a remake of the popular 1974 Tobe Hooper horror classic, was filled with shallow characters contained within a story that was equally as hollow. The plot was centered around a group of five young people, who we met as they were driving cross-country to a 1973 Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. As the story progressed, I came to know very little about these characters. The movie didn't seem to be concerned with telling us. The little that we came to know was that Erin (Jessica Biel) and Kemper (Eric Balfour) lived together. As for the other three, one was a hitchhiker and we can only conclude that Morgan (Jonathan Tucker) and Andy (Mike Vogel) were friends of Erin and Kemper.

Along the roadside, they picked up a frightened and injured girl who said things like "they're all dead," "you're going the wrong way," "don't take me back there," "you're all going to die," as if someone was pulling a string from her back. Of course they continued in the wrong direction, causing the girl to commit suicide from the fear of going back to the chainsaw wielding psychopath known as Leatherface. As they tried to get rid of her body, they gullibly end up in Leatherface country, where they begin to die one by one. Since I had never been given the opportunity to get to know the characters, I cared very little about what happened to them. As a result, I never felt the suspense and fear that a better story could have induced.

We met one strange character after another, leaving one question after another as to who they were. This included the offbeat Sheriff (R. Lee Ermey), the strange gas station worker, and the small boy played by David Dorfman ("The Ring," 2002). I only vaguely learned of their connection to Leatherface toward the end, which explained far too little and came too late in the film.

"The Texas Massacre" was full of vomit inducing violence, yet it was barren of everything else that could have made it a good film. The characters were identical paper cutouts of one another, each waiting to be shredded by Leatherface and his chainsaw. I didn't care enough about them to share their fear.

In the end, all of the film's severed limbs and splattered blood couldn't fill the absence left the by the underdeveloped characters and story. The morning after seeing "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" I awoke to the sound of my neighbor trimming his tree with a chainsaw. I wish that it had startled me. I wish that it had brought back memories of a much scarier film. Instead, I just rolled onto my side and fell back to sleep, not even making the connection to the film that I had seen only several hours earlier.

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Review written October 16, 2003, CTF.

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