THE TEXAS CHAINSAW
1974ís THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is certainly one of the most infamous horror movies of all time, which is why many genre fans couldnít see the need to remake this seminal classic. Because the original version of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is one of the most gut wrenching exercises in terror, I personally could understand where those genre fans were coming from. However, after having experienced the 2003 re-envisioning of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, I feel that the new movie is more than a worthwhile enterprise. Fortunately, the new version of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE avoids the mistake of being little more than a shot-for-shot remake of the original by changing the characters and adding embellishments to the story- donít worry Leatherface is still here. Of course, the remake does maintain continuity with the original by featuring the same cinematographer (Daniel Pearl) and the same narrator (John Larroquette), not to mention keeping the story set in the same early 70ís time period.
The plot of 2003ís THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE finds a vanload of teens crossing Texas, while returning from a trip to Mexico. After picking up the young woman they nearly ran down on a dusty Texas road, our teen protagonists have to deal with her shocking suicide. Stopping off in an isolated community to get help, and hand over the body to the local authorities, the group soon find themselves embroiled in a deadly waking nightmare featuring a chainsaw wielding madman, who wears a mask stitched together from the faces of his previous victims. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE features a solid cast of young performers, lead by the beautiful Jessica Biel, plus Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel and Eric Balfour. Of course, the filmís standout performance comes from R. Lee Ermey as the creepy/sadistic Sheriff the teens encounter. Also lending support are Andrew Bryniarski, David Dorfman, Lauren German, Terrence Evans, Marietta Marich, Heather Kafka, Kathy Lamkin and Brad Leland.
New Line Home Entertainment has made THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This being a New Line title, it should come as no surprise that the movie looks incredible, despite the cinematography being gritty and atmospheric. The image is very sharp and highly defined, even when portions of the picture drop off into impenetrable darkness. Much of the time the colors appear muted, but there are also some rather vibrant moments, plus flashes of saturated reds mixed into the more somber color schemes. All of the hues are rendered without noise or smearing. Blacks appear deep and inky, whites are crisp and contrast can be a bit harsh in places. Shadow detail can be very good, or intentionally truncated. The film element used for the transfer is pristine, although the intentionally grittiness of the photographic style makes a grain structure rather noticeable in places. Digital compression artifacts are always very well concealed.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE comes with 5.1/6.1 channel soundtracks in the varieties of Dolby Digital and DTS. Both tracks are knockouts and prove that even modestly budgeted films can have ass-kicking soundtracks in this age of digital wonder. There is a healthy dose of creepy atmospheric effects to rev up the filmís level of tension, plus there are plenty of activity ping-ponging around the soundstage during the moments of outright horror- gotta love the buzz of the chainsaw as Leatherface chases his more elusive victims. Fidelity is excellent, with the sound effects coming across in an exceedingly convincing manner, plus the filmís music having a rich, full-bodied sound. Dialogue always sounds quite natural, in addition to being completely understandable. The bass channel packs a punch, without ever sounding overblown. As for the differences between the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks, they arenít extreme, but DTS does edge out the standard bearer in sonic warmth and clarity. An English Dolby Surround track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice body of supplement materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one includes three separate audio commentaries/audio essays: The first features producer Michael Bay, director Marcus Nispel, producer Andrew Porm, executive producer Brad Fuller and New Line Cinemaís Robert Shaye. The second is with director Marcus Nispel, producer Michael Bay, writer Scott Kosar, producers Andrew Porm and Brad Fuller, plus actors Jessica Biel and Erica Leerhsen, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Johnathan Tucker and Andrew Bryniarski. Chiming in on the third are producer Michael Bay, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, production designer Greg Blair, art director Scott Gallagher, composer Steve Jablonsky, director Marcus Nispel and supervising sound editor Trevor Jolly. Each of three tracks covers different aspects of the film, are highly detailed and focused. Fans will find a lot to chew on in all three tracks, although casual listeners may want to start with the track featuring the performers, as it is the most accessible and entertaining of the three.
Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental materials. Starting things off nicely is Chainsaw Redux: Making A Massacre, a seventy-five minute documentary that examines the making of the film in extensive detail. Not at all fluffy or self-congratulatory, this is truly an excellent documentary, which should be used as a guideline for all making of programs. Next we have Ed Gein: The Ghoul Of Plainfield, a twenty-five minute program that looks at the real life Wisconsin murderer/ghoul/necrophiliac, who served as the inspiration, not only for Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but also for Norman Bates in PSYCHO.
In Severed Parts, we find seven deleted scenes that include different opening and closing sequences, as well as a gorier death scene- the deleted scenes can be viewed with a directorís introduction, which explains why they were excised. Also featured on disc two are screen tests for Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, and Erica Leerhsen, plus a still gallery, theatrical teaser, theatrical trailer, seven TV spots and the Suffocate music video from Motograter. Bonus trailers for HIGHWAYMEN, WILLARD, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT and RIPLEY'S GAME close out the supplemental programming. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is also DVD-ROM enabled with web links and Script-to-Screen access to the film. Finally, I should also mention the DVDís cool fold out packaging that is reminiscent of a chainsaw- itís nice to see that that the designer had a sly sense of humor.
While not the genre classic that the original is, 2003ís re-envisioning of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is an unnerving horror film by its own right, and it certainly makes a rather gory impact. As for New Lineís Platinum Series DVD, it is a first class production all the way. Featuring excellent visual and audio quality, plus the kind of quality supplements that are actually worth watching- this is another superb New Line DVD. If youíre a horror hound that likes top-notch DVDs, then New Lineís Platinum Series Edition of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is a disc well worth acquiring. Recommended.
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