It has been 30 years since the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 30 minutes since its last rip-off. But in Hollywood, a town where original ideas are so scarce they should be raised in captivity, the return of Leatherface was as inevitable as The Return of the King.
Rural Texas is that desolate place where civilization is almost as rare as teeth and certainly less welcome. It’s a long and lonely stretch of road with nothing but the occasional coyote, the occasional road runner, and the occasional falling ACME anvil.
A never-ending dry and flat stretch of nothingness – and that’s just the part of Jessica Biel’s belly we can see!
Yes, Jessica Biel. She of the WB series 7th Heaven and commercials L’Oreal. She whose pristine complexion has never made the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Zitty O’Zit. She whose cute tee is tied up in a cute knot that no amount of dastardly evil can untie or un-cute.
Jessica is the biggest name here, and she carries with her two of the other biggest things in this movie, too.
She plays a former juvenile offender. That’s right. This means you have to suspend reality just as if Jessica played a former brain surgeon or pro linebacker or cable installer.
Ah, remote, rural Texas. And several of the prettiest young people you ever did see. Is an Abercrombie & Fitch opening up in Timbuktu?
Once again tragedy befalls five good-looking youths. And by “tragedy” I don’t mean a development deal with UPN, although that usually ends tragically, too.
Movies of this genre are a refuge for that variety of no-name young actors who confuse hanging on a meat hook with career momentum.
When Jessica and her friends pick up a listless hitchhiker, the girl blows her brains all over Jessica’s van. This loss seems like a waste until one of our heroes realizes he can mount a magnifying glass in the bullet-hole and terrorize a line of ants with burning sun rays. It makes you wish for a violent video game, doesn’t it?
Good news! The director of this movie can actually direct! According to the breezily hyped production notes, he’s “the mastermind behind many of the most powerful images and story-telling themes in contemporary music videos and commercials.” Powerful images and themes? In music videos and commercials?! That’s like boasting you just invented “Caviar-flavored” Cap’n Crunch!
At least this guy isn’t director Joel Schumacher, a man who couldn’t direct his own farts – even if they were pay or play.
If ever a presumably straight dude needed the Queer Eye guys, Leatherface is that dude. What a lurching disaster! First off, a chainsaw? You’re not going to attract women to your basement torture chamber with that. Try some salon clippers! Now Leatherface, you can still wear Jessica’s boyfriend’s face as a skin-mask, but have it tailored to fit and fix it in a permanent ironic gaze, okay? And that name, “Leatherface,” how about “Luxurious Leatherface” or “Plush Velvetface” or “Oak Leaf Damaskface.”
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a bad movie. I figured high expectations would be the first fatality, but I was pleasantly, if gruesomely, surprised. This movie’s no suspense machine and the sadism may be unbridled, but who would bridle sadism, anyway?
No doubt there’s some kind of post-millennial “sex equals death” anxiety resonating in the image of a lonely madman chasing nubile youths with a phallic instrument that at once signifies his pleasure and their pain.
Or maybe it’s post-millennial “logging equals death” anxiety.
What do I know.
Photos Copyright ©2003 New Line Pictures