VOLUME THREE: MOVIE REMAKES- The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Unnecessary

The Mummy 13 Ghosts The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Haunting Godzilla

On Halloween night, after thrilling the neighborhood with my annual scary yard setup, I went to see the big, budget remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. To prepare myself for this, I watched the original Tobe Hooper classic the previous evening. I wasn’t any further into the film than the first frames when the memories came crashing back. This movie shocked…, no, stunned…, no, totally freaked me out when I first saw it in the theater in 1974. I can’t remember another film that had the same impact on me and my friends as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We were slack jawed and speechless when we shuffled out of the theater. The reason was horrifically simple. Prior to walking into that theater, nothing in life, real or imagined, had prepared us for the stark shock, horror and insanity that we were about to experience. There was no precedent for this film. Although there were some groundbreaking horror movies that had been released in recent years, The Exorcist and Night of the Living Dead in particular, they were still somehow manageable. Your mind could take them in and disseminate the information into rational slots of reason. T.C.M. was inexplicable! There was no justification to the madness, no way to comfortably explain away the grisly acts of violence, depravity, and horror. Once the carnage begins, the movie does not allow you to escape, or to find a comfort zone, or offer you any relief until it ends. And even the ending leaves you unsettled. There is no real hero, the bad guys are not dead, and there is no justice. This is why the movie was and is great, and why the remake didn’t have a chance.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Simply, there was no way the remake could shock us in the same manner. The ground had been broken and all Hollywood could do is pretty it up with state of the art effects and cinematography, add a cast of Abercrombie & Fitch models, and mainstream the storyline by giving us the cliché female hero. Is anybody out there tired of this act besides me?!? Alright, already with the damn Ripley thing! We get it! Girls can be tough! Enough already. In this film in particular, the girl hero is just totally unbelievable. Think back to the first film. Sure, the girl survives, she’s tough, but by the end of the film she is also stark, raving mad from her experience!! That’s real, man! That’s how someone, anyone would be after living through and surviving that sort of terror. They would not be cunning, and plotting, and thinking with a rational mind, as is our hero in the new version. That’s the kind of crud today’s movies think they have to spoon feed the public to reach a larger audience. Unfortunately, the product suffers as a result of this “safe” thinking. Tobe Hooper was clearly not looking to make a mainstream film with redeeming qualities. No, he was trying and succeeding in scaring the hell out of us! Let’s examine a few flaws in this new, big scream version, of a classic (read that, DOESN’T NEED TO BE REMADE!) film.

Abercrombie & Fitch presents The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

1.) In the original, there was a perfectly simple reason for the van of kids to be in the desolate back roads of rural Texas. Graves were being robbed and they were going to check if one of their relative’s graves was in tact. In the new version, our “hipper” kids are on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Houston. Just what the hell are they doing on these dirt roads out in the middle of nowhere?!?! Even in 1973 I’m sure there were paved highways leading to Houston that did not wind through the inbred outback of the Texas dustbowl region.

2.) What’s with the dope? This stupid story arc adds nothing to the film or story. It sets up nothing. It is just needless drug pandering to the teen audience. In the original, which was made during the dope glory days, there is no mention of drugs. Why? It serves no purpose to the story and adds nothing to the characters.

3.) In the original our gang picks up a lunatic hitchhiker who will later be revealed to be a member of the depraved slaughterhouse family. His early entry into the film starts the mounting terror and gives us the background story of the slaughterhouse and its methods that will be important to the story and the shocking acts that take place later in the film. In the new version, the gang picks up a hitchhiker, who later is revealed to be an escaped victim of the depraved family. Inexplicably, when she has somehow managed to escape, and therefore survive her ordeal, she shoots herself dead in the van. This goofy arc is clumsily used to capsulize our characters and their various personalities and setup some needless tensions between the group.

4.) Soon, in the new version, the carnage begins, and at the first appearance of Leatherface, huge, menacing, crazy, and wielding a high powered chainsaw, the protagonists are not even stunned by his presence! They actually show the presence of mind to attempt to fight off the advancing madman. Sure, they act surprised, but c’mon!! Think about it, its you, you’re in some weird ass farmhouse with a no-legged redneck and his giant mutant of a friend who is wearing someone else’s face and firing up a chainsaw and COMING AFTER YOU!!!!! Are you surprised, but still able to think on your feet and mount a defense plan, and evaluate escape procedures? Or, like most real human beings, are you screaming in bug-eyed terror and trying to figure out what that stuff is that just fired into the rear of your trousers? The answer, I think, is obvious.

5.) In the new version, the heroine finds herself in a slaughterhouse and meat processing plant near the end of the film. Now, if you have not seen or are not familiar with the original story, this nod to the slaughterhouse is superfluous. At no time in the new film do they establish that the crazy farmhouse family has ever had anything to do with animal slaughter or meat processing, or making BBQ out of people. These facts, of course, are central to the theme of the original movie, but here in the new film, they are just used for location changes.

Anyway, I think you get the point. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did not need to be remade. It is one of those rare films that find its impact and perfection in its simplicity. It is what it is. That’s all.

Now, in fairness, the new film gives us a true to form visualization of Leatherface. They didn’t mess with his look, or behavior. Thank, God! He’s one of the great horror characters and the director took great pains to preserve this fact. The movie is not horrible, just disappointing for those of us who know the original. It is riddled with modern plot devices and clichés, many of which are unnecessary, but the film does manage to have some scares and genuinely frightening situations.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon King Kong

It is my considered opinion that there are plenty of movies that deserve and would benefit from a big budget Hollywood remake. The Creature of the Black Lagoon is a perfect example. Yeah, we love the guy, but let’s face it; the original movie is a stiff B film at best. Today they could make a killer version and there is plenty of room for modern plot devices and story arcs. Some movies have come into the 21st Century and benefited; The Mummy, Thir13en Ghosts, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Others have sucked; The Haunting, House on Haunted Hill, and Godzilla. It all boils down to subject matter and interpretation. Too often the horror films are pawned off on inexperienced directors and writers just building their resumes, not familiar with the source material. That’s a damn shame but it’s a fact. I have recently heard that they are making a big budget remake of, get this, “KING KONG”! I can’t believe it. If ever there was a movie that did NOT need another telling, King Kong is it. Even though I won’t have very high expectations, I’ll be right there in the theater on opening day. And in the end, I think the makers of the films know this and are counting on it.

HEY YOU! Got an opinion? Shoot me an email and let me know what you think.