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Marcus Nispel
Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, Andrew Bryniarski, R. Lee Ermey, David Dorfman
Writing Credits:
Kim Henkel (1974 screenplay), Tobe Hooper (1974 screenplay), Scott Kosar

What you know about fear ... doesn't even come close.

A group of friends takes a detour while traveling through the back roads of Texas and encounter a chainsaw-wielding maniac. What happens next is beyond anyone's darkest imagination and will leave you speechless and horrified.

From filmmaker Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II) and starring Jessica Biel ("7th Heaven") comes this year's most hardcore and terrifying film.

You've been warned.

Box Office:
$9.2 million.
Opening Weekend
$28.094 million on 3016 screens.
Domestic Gross
$80.148 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
English DTS 5.1 ES
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 3/30/2004

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Producer Michael Bay, Director Marcus Nispel, Executive Producer Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, and New Line Co-chairman/Co-CEO Robert Shaye
• Audio Commentary with Director Marcus Nispel, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Production Designer Greg Blair, Art Director Scott Gallagher, Supervising Sound Editor Trevor Jolly, and Composer Steve Jablonsky
• Audio Commentary with Director Marcus Nispel, Producer Michael Bay, Screenwriter Scott Kosar, Executive Producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, and Actors Jessica Biel, Erica Leerhsen, Eric Balfour, Jonathan Tucker, Mike Vogel, and Andrew Bryniarski
Disc Two
• Alternate Opening and Ending
• “Severed Parts” Deleted Scenes Documentary
• “Chainsaw Redux: Making a Massacre” Documentary
• “Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainfield” Documentary
• Screen Tests
• Art Galleries
• Trailer
• TV Spots
• Music Video
• DVD-ROM Materials


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Platinum Edition (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 25, 2004)

When a new version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre hit screens in 2003, purists howled. They felt that the 1974 original was untouchable and a new version bordered on blasphemy. Audiences disagreed, as a new crowd flocked to Massacre. With a budget of only $9 million, the 2003 Massacre raked in a pretty sizable $80 million and opened the door for more horror flick remakes to follow.

Specifically listed as being set on August 18, 1973, we meet a group of young folk traveling through Texas in a van. They head toward a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. The van includes Erin (Jessica Biel) and her boyfriend Kemper (Eric Balfour). We also meet the nerdy Morgan (Jonathan Tucker) plus Andy (Mike Vogel) and a hitchhiker they picked up named Pepper (Erica Leerhsen); she and Andy hit it off well and make out in the back of the van.

On the way, they find a dazed teen girl (Lauren German) wandering in the middle of the road. They take her with them and she cries about how “they’re all dead”. She tries to stop them from their current path and seems to be in a state of shock.

Soon she pulls out a pistol and blows out her brains in front of the others. After they regroup, they head on their way to report the act to the police. Soon they stop at a rundown gas station and barbecue stand to contact the cops. The owner (Marietta Marich) calls the police, and she reports that the sheriff (R. Lee Ermey) wants them to meet him at the Old Crawford Mill in two hours. This seems odd so the kids resist, but they appear to have little choice in the matter, so they head to the specified location.

They wait with no luck, and some parties want to dump the dead girl’s body and split. However, Erin wins the day, so they stay. When they hear a noise, they investigate and find a creepy little kid named Jedidiah (David Dorfman) in hiding. He acts weird but tells them how to get to the sheriff’s house.

Erin and Kemp head that way while the others stay back at the Mill with the van and the corpse. They arrive at the home of a legless old man (Terrence Evans) and he allows Erin to call the sheriff. However, this goes nowhere, for in the meantime, the officer has arrived back at the Mill.

Things weirden at the old man’s home, as before they split, he claims to need some help from Erin. Not sure about the delay, Kemper roams the abode and... well, let’s just say that things don’t go well for him. The rest of the movie follows the terror executed on our young protagonists by various parties, mainly from the psycho, chainsaw wielding Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski).

Time to prepare myself for flames: I preferred the 2003 Massacre to the original 1974 version. Granted, the latter has some strengths that don’t appear in the remake. Primary among these are its documentary feel and tone. The remake offers much more of a traditional horror movie, with all the conventions that accompany the genre.

That seems like something of a negative, but the 2003 Massacre manages to kick some life into the old clichés nonetheless. The main problem with the original stemmed from its terrible acting and reliance on gross-out moments. I felt it showed a lot of disgusting sights but only included a few truly scary bits. The poor performances often undermined otherwise potentially potent moments, and the original generally seemed rather amateurish.

That issue doesn’t affect the 2003 Massacre. Again, it suffers from some lack of ingenuity, as it doesn’t attempt to stray from the boundaries of the genre. At least it manages to alter the story for its own purposes; the two go along fairly similar paths but more than enough different elements occur to make sure the 2003 flick doesn’t just provide a shot-by-shot reiteration.

It definitely improves on the weaknesses of the first one. No one will claim that this Massacre includes acting that makes one forget Olivier, but the performances seem infinitely superior to those of the original. No one stands out as particularly noteworthy, but at least the acting doesn’t undermine the film, whereas the work in the first version actively took me out of the story.

The 2003 Massacre includes plenty of unpleasant sights, but they feel more natural than those in the original. With the older flick, it seemed like we saw nastiness for little reason other than to provoke a reaction. Some of that occurs during the 2003 film, but those moments still feel a bit more natural and organic; they match with the story in a more coherent way.

While the 2003 Massacre presents a more traditional horror film, it doesn’t rely too heavily on simple clichés. We get some of the typical cheap scares, but mostly the movie relies on a dark and oppressive atmosphere to do the trick. In that way, it works well. According to the DVD’s supplements, the filmmakers wanted to avoid the form of self-referential Scream style irony, and they do so. In many ways, Massacre reminds me of flicks like The Silence of the Lambs and Seven in that it forces a certain mood on the viewer that makes it consistently murky tone. This pervades the film and leaves the viewer with an unsettled stomach and a case of jittery nerves. This places us on edge and helps make the flick more successful.

I won’t call The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a great film, but it succeeds in ways that the originally failed. It presents an appropriate atmosphere and seems like an effective exploration of a dark topic. Massacre presents a solid little horror flick.

Cool footnote: John Larroquette offers the film’s opening and closing narration. He performed the same duty on the original flick.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus A

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. New Line usually bring their movies to DVD well, and Masscre followed suit.

Sharpness looked terrific. At no time did I discern any instances of softness or ill-defined shots. Instead, the movie consistently came across as nicely accurate and concise. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. The movie lacked any examples of print flaws. I witnessed no specks, marks, or other defects during this clean and smooth presentation. (This excludes the film’s opening segment, which displays intentionally flawed footage.)

Massacre gave us a pretty restricted palette, mainly to connect with the sizzling Texas setting. This mostly gave the flick a somewhat golden look, and the DVD seemed to replicate the movie’s intended palette. The colors were appropriately vivid when necessary and seemed accurately depicted. Black levels also came across well. Dark shots demonstrated good depth and clarity. Low-light shots were nicely displayed and seemed clear and adequately visible. Shadow was clean and tight. Given the darkness seen in much of the film, those components became especially important, so their high quality was an important factor in the success of the transfer. Overall, the image of Massacre appeared very strong.

For the DVD release of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we got both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 soundtracks. As I compared the pair, I noticed no differences. To these ears, the two sounded virtually identical.

Massacre didn’t present a tremendously ambitious soundfield, but the audio seemed to accentuate the visuals well. Most of the time the sound stayed focused on the forward channels. Rear usage concentrated mainly on ambient material. The film didn’t portray the creepy atmospherics of something like Willard, but it used the surrounds to bolster the feeling of eeriness and intensity. In the front, the track showed good stereo music and presented various elements in a logical and natural manner. The elements blended neatly and created a seamless sense of the environment. Not too many standout moments occurred, but the track remained smooth and engaging at all times.

Audio quality also seemed positive. Dialogue consistently appeared natural and crisp, with no edginess or intelligibility issues on display. Music was clear and dynamic. The score seemed broadly reproduced and complemented the mix nicely. Effects mostly stayed in the low-key realm, but they always were distinctive and concise, and the mix boasted fine clarity for the louder moments. Bass response always seemed rich and firm. The mix lacked the ambition to reach “A” level, but it earned a solid “B+” as a fine soundtrack.

New Line released Texas Chainsaw Massacre in two flavors. For those who prefer the no-frills route, you can get the standard version. For those with a taste for extras, however, this Platinum Series release will be the way to go.

On DVD One, we find a whopping three audio commentaries, which the package refers to as “audio essays”. Entitled “Production”, the first presents producer Michael Bay, director Marcus Nispel, executive producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, and New Line co-chairman/co-CEO Robert Shaye. All five recorded their comments separately, and the results got edited into this non-screen-specific piece.

Expect information on a wide variety of topics here. Among other subjects, we learn about the genesis of Bay’s production company, how Nispel got the gig and his background, issues connected to adapting a horror classic, casting and the work of the actors, and stories from the set. That’s just a sampling of what you’ll hear, however, as I can’t cover everything in this brisk and informative piece. It’s consistently blunt and engaging as it gives a good look at many areas of the production.

For the second “audio essay”, we cover “Technical” elements and hear from director Marcus Nispel, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, production designer Greg Blair, art director Scott Gallagher, supervising sound editor Trevor Jolly, and composer Steve Jablonsky. As with the prior “essay”, this one records the speakers separately and cuts them together for the edited track. Not surprisingly, the focus here remains on the nuts and bolts of the filmmaking. We learn a little about topics like the participants’ prior familiarity with the original Massacre, the set design and location scouting, the use of the bleach bypass process on the film and other cinematographic issues, the score and the audio. Some of the subjects receive particular exploration. For example, we get good details about the chainsaws used as well as the movie’s main house. The track seems a bit dry at times, and it probably offers the least exciting of the three. Nonetheless, it presents a solid examination of the appropriate subjects and gives us a fine exploration of the technical issues.

Finally, called “Story”, the last “audio essay” features director Marcus Nispel, producer Michael Bay, screenwriter Scott Kosar, executive producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, and actors Jessica Biel, Erica Leerhsen, Eric Balfour, Jonathan Tucker, Mike Vogel, and Andrew Bryniarski. As with the other two “essays”, these present separately conducted chats that get spliced together. It’s a useful and informative piece on a par with the “Production” commentary. Kosar dominates as he discusses his script. We learn how he got the gig, some of his early ideas, and variations made to the original document. We also learn a little more about casting as well as characters, development, the historical background with Ed Gein, criticism and comparisons with the original, and other issues. The track seems brisk and engaging as it covers its material.

Finally we move to DVD Two, where a slew of extra pieces reside. Within “The Production”, four subdomains appear. Severed Parts: Deleted Scenes presents its seven cut segments in two different ways. You can watch them individually or packaged together in a documentary. That 16-minute and 40-second piece shows the scenes, sometimes compares them to the bits in the final product, and also includes remarks from director Marcus Nispel. He gives us some background and indicates why the snippets got the boot. Some interesting material appears here, primarily via an alternate opening and ending. We also see a little more gore and some additional character exposition, primarily related to Erin and Kemper.

Three screen tests appear. We get clips for Jessica Biel (three minutes, 23 seconds), Eric Balfour (3:05) and Erica Leerhsen (0:46). These are always fun to see, and this package is no exception. We get a nice look at the actors’ audition footage, especially since both Biel and Leerhsen do some freak-out shots.

For a general look at the film, we head to Chainsaw Redux: Making a Massacre. In this 76-minute and three-second documentary, we find the usual combination of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We discover remarks from director Nispel, producer Michael Bay, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, film critic Joe Bob Briggs, screenwriter Scott Kosar, executive producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, art director Scott Gallagher, production designer Greg Blair, New Line co-chairman/co-CEO Robert Shaye, special effects makeup designer Scott Stoddard, special effects makeup Grady Holder, composer Steve Jablonsky, supervising sound editor Trevor Jolly, and actors Mike Vogel, Erica Leerhsen, Jessica Biel, Andrew Bryniarski, Eric Balfour, Jonathan Tucker, and R. Lee Ermey.

The program covers a mix of issues. We go through reflections on the original, fan resistance, approach to the remake, Bay’s teaser, Nispel’s background, casting, the film’s visual look, production constraints, storyboards, locations and sets, prop and mask design, specific about the Leatherface look, Nispel’s directorial approach, practical effects, various notes from the shoot, editing and sound, music, promotion and ratings issues. If you’ve listened to the commentaries, you probably won’t learn a ton of new info here. Still, we get a reasonable amount of fresh material, and the addition of visuals helps. For instance, we hear about problems with the opossum and get to see these. Despite some repetition, “Redux” acts as a good recap of the production and seems like a tight and briskly paced program.

Note for the ladies: the free-spirited Eric Balfour strips in one of the behind the scenes shots. This offers very long looks at his bare butt and even flashes his schlong at a brief moment. Now that may be a DVD documentary first!

The last part of “The Production” presents two Galleries. We look at “Production Concept Art by Scott Gallagher” (10 stills) and “Leatherface Concept Art by Scott Stoddard” (14 frames). Neither seems terribly scintillating, but they include some moderately interesting work.

After this we head to Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainville. The serial killer whose exploits influenced Massacre and other dark fare, this 24-minute and 15-second program includes information from forensic psychologist Dr. John K. Russell, author Harold Schechter, author David Skal, and Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano. They thoroughly cover the history of the Gein case. They go over the tenor of the era in which he operated, his personal background, his gruesome actions, and their legacy, mainly as reflected in motion pictures. The mass of archival materials makes this piece less than pleasant to watch at times – some nasty shots appear on screen – but this is nonetheless a concise and well-executed look at Gein. Most of us have some acquaintance with his story through the various movies, so it’s fascinating to check out more about him, and “Ghoul” does so well.

Inside “Publicity and Promotion” we locate a few components. We get the theatrical trailer and the Michael Bay teaser trailer. After a text opening, the latter mostly runs a dark screen with the sounds of a chase and attack. It’s damned effective.

We also find seven TV spots plus a music video. The latter presents a clip for Motograter’s “Suffocate”. The song is the usual rap-metal crap, and the video shows movie snippets and some crude lip-synching featuring the apparently blood-soaked band. Yuck! More from New Line simply advertises Highwaymen, Willard, Ripley’s Game and The Butterfly Effect.

The package tosses in some paper materials too. Open up the Evidence Enclosed envelope to find eight “evidence cards”. These show pieces of “evidence” like a skeleton, a chainsaw, and a photo of Leatherface. It’s not a great package of pieces but it’s kind of a neat addition.

In the “nice touch” department, New Line added both English and Spanish subtitles for all the extras. Too few studios do this, so it’s always great when this text appears.

Finally, we get some DVD-ROM materials. On Disc One, we find “Script to Screen”. This lets you read the original script while you watch the movie; the video runs in a small screen on the left as the text displays on the right half of the screen. We also get links to the movie’s “Original Website”, the New Line homepage, and the “Hot Spot”. The latter sends you to a New Line site that offers revolving pieces of information and activities.

More DVD-ROM stuff appears on Disc Two. It repeats the various links and replaces “Script to Screen” with a “Storyboard Viewer”. This lets us look at art for six different scenes, and it includes a total of 61 boards in all.

Perhaps because I didn’t think much of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I rather liked the remake. It lacked the prior flick’s feeling of verisimilitude but it presented a tighter, more engrossing and effective affair overall. The DVD presented very good picture and sound plus a fine roster of extras highlighted by three separate “audio essays”.

I definitely recommend The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to horror fans, and I think that even those with a deep loyalty to the original will enjoy this remake. The main question becomes which version to get. Because I love supplements, I recommend the Platinum Series version, especially since the goodies all seem to be high quality. However, those with less interest in the supplements should be happy with the cheaper standard edition.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3469 Stars Number of Votes: 98
8 3:
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