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Reinvented villain invokes terror in remake

Mark Bemenderfer | Wednesday, April 14, 2004

According to your average horror movie, the teen has a lifespan of about 20 minutes, which can either be shortened or lengthened depending on the actions that they take. The horror movie genre has rules that must be followed, and only rarely are they broken. When they are, it is usually a noteworthy event that heralds a new trend-setting film.The 2003 remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” based loosely on the true story of Ed Gein, is not one of those films. While the original was considered highly innovative and terrifying, the remake reflects the almost 30 years that passed between the two. What was innovative 30 years ago is now formulaic.Almost all of the usual movie rules are followed to the letter. Promiscuous behavior will get one killed, as will any drug use or endorsement. The killer has to appear unstoppable, but still manages to be defeated in the climactic showdown. The rules are practically common knowledge, and movies that follow them become a practice in tedium. What is surprising however is how “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” still manages to entertain the viewer, albeit in a sick and depraved way. The scares are hardly original, with the staple “startle” scare still used abundantly. The plot itself is old. However, the style and direction follow modern standards, which elevate the film into an enjoyable ride. Another thing that elevates the film is the icon of the film, Leatherface.People that saw the original probably remember the old Leatherface. Indeed, they probably find it hard to forget him. For those who don’t know, Leatherface gets his name for his penchant of wearing human skin as a mask. No, Hannibal Lecter wasn’t the first to do it. Leatherface first donned his mask in 1974, and scared audiences with his chainsaw and piglike noises. However, the old one doesn’t hold a candle compared to the new.The new Leatherface has a quality that was lacking from the old one: malevolence. While the old was certainly crazy, he didn’t have the evil persona the new one does. The new, improved Leatherface is huge, and can seemingly run faster than your average football running back. He chases the hapless teens with a vengeance, unrelenting in his task. Part of the twisted joy of the movie just comes from watching Leatherface in action.Thankfully, the video quality on this DVD is up to today’s standards, and looks great. The sound is also nice, although there isn’t much variety to the sounds in the movie. Mostly, there’s just a lot of screaming, chainsaws and heavy breathing. Horror genre staples, in other words.There are two different versions of the DVD out though, a fact that needs to be taken into account. The special edition costs $10 more and is not carried by most video rentals, facts that prevented this viewer from reviewing that version. The special edition comes with deleted scenes, commentaries and everything you would expect from a special edition. The standard copy comes with limited extras – basically a music video and some TV spots. It is fairly bare when compared to the special edition. If you’re curious about the special version compared to the standard one, add a half a point to this DVD’s rating for the special edition’s added features. Overall, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is an enjoyable film. The formulaic nature, and the rather barebone extras drag the standard edition DVD down a little.