Past and Present
Comparing the Original 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre classic and its 2003 Remake
Remember way back when, when I was terrified of seeing the original Texas
Chainsaw Massacre because I’d barely survived the remake? Michael
Sheridan, Tail Slate’s very own creator, wasn’t going to let me
off that easy. He insisted I watch both films, then compare and contrast and
oh, yea, live to tell the tale.
Well, I finally got the balls (not literally) to see the original. I swear,
though I canít remember who it was, that someone told me 1974ís
Chainsaw Massacre is a classic. When I think of classics, I think of
or Hitchcockís The
Birds. These are movies that, though made back in the day (in other
words before I was born), still manage to scare the living bejeezus out of me.
Go ahead, correct me if Iím wrong, but after watching the 1974 film,
I canít help but wonder if it was a comedy. Come on, you never know? Maybe
everyone was really supposed to laugh it off. Please donít tell
me anyone was ever scared of this film! I certainly wasnít and I canít
make it through Wes Cravenís A
Nightmare on Elm Street without having a nightmare of my own.
Unlike the fast-paced remake, the original tends to meander geared to an audience
that wasnít yet battling the throes of ADD. As the original meandered,
I found my attention waning. The original spends a good part of the film focusing
on the van ride. The riders ó who we never learn much about ó make
pit stops that donít have anything to do with the story at hand. In other
words, it wanders aimlessly for too long.
I prepped myself for the hitchhiker scene in the original with some deep breathing.
The female hitchhiker in the remake scared me so much it had me shaking throughout
the entire film. The 1974 male hitchhiker mostly disgusted me. Weíre supposed
to be horrified by his unseemliness and general weirdness. He doesnít
blow his brains out of the back of the van (unfortunately) because as it turns
out, heís really in on everything. This hitchhiker returns at the end
to help his brothers torture this versionís sunny-haired heroine.
the word heroine to describe Sally in the original is a stretch. Unlike 2003ís
Erin, Sally (Marilyn Burns) has not discovered womenís lib and the ability
to whip out a can of whoop ass. Not nearly as physically fit as Jessica Bielís
Erin in the film, Marilyn Burns spends a good part of the movie stumbling and
annoying the hell out of me. Although sheís got the decidedly more powerful
set of lungs, she runs likeÖ I donít want to say ďa girlĒ
because that doesnít even cover it. She flails her arms as if sheís
trying to escape a giant arachnidís cobweb for the duration of the entire
by the way, I canít help but discuss the wardrobe. So many comments have
been made about Jessica Bielís tiny, tummy bearing tank in the remake.
Iím not a big fan of Jessica Biel or her abs. I was glad when she disappeared
from 7th Heaven and I havenít watched her career closely, nor
have I cared to. In the remake, she might as well be wearing a turtleneck sweater
compared to the girlies in the original.
No, I did not need close-ups of short shorts and backless tops or the puckered
nips of a braless Sally.
All in all, as a heroine, Sally is embarrassing. We donít sympathize
with her or any of the characters because the film isnít layered enough
to allow for us to get to know them. In the remake, weíre devastated when
Leatherface discovers a diamond ring on the body of Erinís boyfriend.
Erin never quite gets the proposal she was hoping to land. Sally and her band
of hippies are just bland, increasingly infuriating crybabies. Franklin, Sallyís
wheelchair-bound brother, is equal parts mentally unsound and childish. I voted
him as the first to be killed off but alas, I didnít get my wish.
Leatherfaceís entrance in the remake is carefully staged. Before he enters
on the scene, the cast of characters meet the crazy hitchhiker, the even crazier
sheriff and the landscape gets seedier, grittier and still more terrifying.
In the original, thereís none of this careful pacing. When Leatherface
finally shows up, it seems random and mostly, hilarious. His first victim flails
(whatís with all the flailing?) once or twice and then weíre rid
of them both.
Leatherface circa 1974 isnít very scary. Heís ungainly and Iím
pretty sure this baby-voiced fiend prefers to dance with his chainsaw more than
he likes to kill anyone with it. In both films, heís really just the muscle.
Someoneís always pulling the strings. In the original, itís a trio
of trippy brothers and in the 2003 version itís an even more warped town.
Now, the trippy brothers are actually a bit scarier than Leatherface but Iíd
love to get them into a room with the remakeís sheriff. One of the brothers
swats Sally with a (oooh, frightening) broom at one point in the film. I donít
think theyíd get away with that with the remakeís sheriff. I think
theyíd pee in their pants first.
Possibly the scariest thing in the original is Grandpa. Part mass murderer,
part vampire, old-as-death Grandpa dallies in being an immobile totem pole to
the three brothers who like to suck Sallyís blood for dinner. What theÖ!
At the very least, Grandpa made me wrinkle my nose.
Alright, maybe he wasnít so scary after all. He was sort of a laugh riot.
I think I respected him most of all because he didnít have to do any of
that flailing or running.
Ah, the running. The running is a very important part of any chase scene. The
chase scenes in the original are downright side-splitting. The victim is always
about a foot ahead of the killer making you wonder how the heck the killer never
catches up. Maybe none of them had New York Sports Club memberships? Definitely
something they should look into.
Oh, the disappointment, the utter boredom.
Chainsaw Massacre made me sympathize with Leatherface when it should
have been forcing me to experience some spine tingling chills. Whatís
a girl to do? Well, for one, Iím going to reconsider trash talking the
remakes of good ole classics before taking a look at both sides of the story.
Iíd expect that youíll do the same.
With the proliferation of remakes these days, we took a look at how one recent
remake ó Texas
Chainsaw Massace ó compared directly to its predecessor. And
according to our writer, wonders if the original was actually a horror, or a