People stopped trying to make sequels and the franchise looked to be quietly slipping into history. Then, in the early 2000’s Michael Bay formed Platinum Dunes and purchased the rights to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Instead of going the sequel route, Bay opted for a remake. This was also a reboot of the franchise. The film was still set in 70’s and featured a young CW TV type of cast…before the CW existed.
The film opens with the same basic narration of the original (with John Laroquette reprising his role as narrator-which is a fun reference to the original) before introducing us to a group of friends on a road trip. They pick up a hitchhiker (much like the original), a young woman who seems very traumatized (unlike the original). She kills herself, which results in the kids looking for help. They meet local sheriff Hoyt. He is gruff and seems a bit off, but it is only later the kids realized what danger they are in.
Directed by music video director Marcus Nispel (among his video work? An Amy Grant video short) the film is definitely stylish. There are all sorts interesting camera shots (one gruesome shot pulls out from the terrified friends through a head wound an out of the bullet hole of the van’s rear window). The various citizens of the small Texas Community are all slightly creepy. Every location is unnerving. The film’s color scheme causes it to feel like it could be filmed in the 70’s, giving a gritty look to the film. Nispel went on to direct the glossy Friday the 13th reboot a few years later.
Leatherface is big and imposing…and R. Lee Ermey steals a lot of scenes with a character who is like his Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant, but slightly nicer. Okay, kidding. Ermey’s Sheriff Hoyt is disturbing and genuinely frightening.
The film’s cast is actually quite good, though the central young women are overly sexualized (not a big surprise from a Bay production). The film lingers especially on shots of Jessica Biel in her midriff top (well, technically, Erika Leerhsen is in less).
This is one of those remakes that manages to be pretty decent in it’s own right. It manages to take the things that matter from the original while choosing to tell it’s own version of the story. After the first two films, this is probably the strongest entry in the franchise.