The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
by Marcus Nispel
So after a longer time spent on the kids reaction to this event than you'd likely find in a film directed by Bay, they agree to go look for help. The only snag in going to look for a cop is the piñata full of pot in the back of the van they picked up in Mexico. Kemper makes an executive decision to ditch the weed, though mostly I'm thinking he does this to please Erin. An interesting side note here: The others make fun of Erin right away for not drinking or smoking weed while in Mexico. The decision was made to excise the fact that this is because Erin is pregnant (the producers of Deep Blue Sea did the same thing to Jacqueline McKenzie). This would have made her more interesting rather than the typical Final Girl who simply doesn't do drugs because that's just what Final Girls don't do (thank you El Santo). She's also repulsed by Andy and Piper's frantically making out after having known each other for only a day. I'd like to offer Michael Bay a punch in his fucking face for that bit of horseshit. The reason Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains a classic to this day is because it adheres to none of the gender dynamics or cliches of the films that followed in its footsteps. Right off the bat the politics of the remake are no better than a rip-off. Anyway, let's get back to how fucked these kids are. They stop at a barbecue stand to report the girl's suicide to the police but curiously the woman behind the counter insists on making the call for them. Even curiouser, the sheriff's going to meet them by an abandoned mill. The kids, being fucking idiots, go anyway and wait.
The blame for Texas Chainsaw's shortcomings can only be chalked up to Bay to a degree. Sure it takes a particular kind of arrogant fuckface to think he can remake a modern masterpiece to earn a quick buck and to use Jessica Biel's tits to sell it, no less. And to be sure Michael Bay is a fuckface but it's tough to tell his influence apart from Nispel's direction. Nispel's trademarks are hard to know because his sensibility lines up so perfectly with Bay's. The movie is pretty in that kind of color-corrected way that Bay does with his movies, but subsequent efforts have shown this to be mostly a fluke: the color correction in Pathfinder is fucking crazy. I give Nispel credit for hiring Daniel Pearl to shoot the film as he was also Hooper's DP on the original. The production design is definitely new school despite the team's best efforts. There is such a difference between the bone room in Hooper's film and the music video/funhouse aesthetics of the new one. Empty the set of actors (well, maybe keep the legless guy) and you'd be forgiven for thinking Mushroomhead or The Esoteric were about to start playing unplugged electric guitars shaped like bats. Nispel doesn't quite have a handle on storytelling and every scene is undercut by overly dramatic music and I do think it's important to remember that none of the images here are original. And then there are minor problems like that none of these kids has a southern accent, none of them looks, acts or talks like someone would in 1973 and the clothes are more someone's impression of what someone wore back then, not anything you would have actually seen back then. And I can't tell if cutting out the most gruesome parts of the film was a wise decision or not. On the one hand these kids are likable despite their vacuousness (Jessica Biel's final girl is defined more by what she doesn't do than what she does) so I don't really relish seeing them have their shit wrecked by a chainsaw, to coin a phrase. On the other hand it does seem pretty fucking tame considering we don't see much more than we did in the original, thirty years earlier. Nispel amps up the cruelty a bit and makes you really feel the injuries, which is more than a lot of Bay's proteges can claim. The scares and tension still work reasonably well even though now the thing that stands out most in the last scenes is that scads of stadium light comes spilling in through the trees. Hooper and Pearl managed to use darkness and make it look like darkness. Nispel and Pearl worked no such magic. It looks every bit the music video its pedigree would imply and that's just not good enough when you take on one of the greatest horror films of all time.
Friday The 13th
by Marcus Nispel
A moment's digression: Look, I know no one's expectations for this film were super high (though the screenwriters sure were, haigh-o! I laugh to keep from crying) but this scene is one of those things that always fucking kills me. Ok, so Jason's been living in this guy's backyard for who knows how long and he's clearly been the machete wielding giant he is now for at least a few years. Yet this kid manages to grow and care for a giant fucking weed patch without getting killed until this point. So what may I ask finally makes this clearly deranged body-builder finally snap? Some kids wandering into his house? Maybe, but the dude doesn't live there, he lives underground. Damian Shannon, one of the scriptwriters, has said that he thinks of Jason as territorial. Granted, but how the fuck did this kid manages to grow the weed then? Fuck you guys and your bullshit. And what are the odds that a kid in a town that dollars to donuts doesn't even have a roller rink has a fucking goalie mask laying around his barn? It's not like he's got any place to practice his skating. Or come to think of it, that's not even his barn, is it? What the fuck does the old codger who owns the place need with a goalie mask. And where the shit does a loner get a bow-and-arrow or even know what one is? He was fuckin' six when his mom died! FUCK YOU!!! Digression over. The kids immediately start earning their deaths by waterskiing topless, smoking weed, drinking and stripping and then Jason starts killing them in the most disgusting ways possible. At the same time Clay and Jenna go looking for clues as to where Clay's sister Whitney might be and slowly become aware that they're all being hunted by the lug in the hockey mask and he's using a series of tunnels to do it. But what Clay doesn't realize is that Whitney is being held captive in these tunnels and the only reason she's still alive is that she looks like his mother when she was a young woman, so young that there's simply no fucking way that Jason would remember her looking like that, so fuck you, screenwriters!
When my dad and I walked out of that abortion of a Fog remake, he said something that I think about all the time. It really takes a shitty fucking movie to make The Fog look like the vastly superior film. I like The Fog, but it's tone is so light and dreamlike that it doesn't scare so much as just sort of pleases but next to the piece of shit remake it was slapped with, all of a sudden it seemed like a masterpiece. Similarly, I hate the first Friday the 13th so much that I haven't been able to force myself to watch it again to review it despite its undeniable cultural importance. I like 9 out of 10 slasher also-rans more than I like the original Friday the 13th yet next to this fucking remake it looks like The Thing. Say what you will about the original (and believe me when I say that I sympathize with any gripe you have with it) it was made on the cheap and is now thought of as a classic. This movie drips with money and doesn't manage a fraction of that movie's questionable integrity. This is a movie that the dickweed who ruined A Nightmare on Elm Street with his horrid remake turned down the chance to direct. This is a movie that Michael Bay, the movie's fucking producer, walked out of. This is a movie so fucking bad it's almost unreal. First of all the tone is impossible to nail down. What to make of the first stoner singing aloud to Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" moments before his death? Or of Aaron Yoo's character's underdog chances at sleeping with one of the girls being thwarted by Trent, his rich asshole friend? He goes to an old shed and complains about how Trent is rich and an asshole, which is true, and we side with him and feel bad for him, and then he's fucking dead twelve seconds later? Same goes his friend Lawrence who is a genuinely interesting and sympathetic presence for all the ten seconds we spend with him, yet he gets punished for being selfless. This whole movie is a parade of people being really militantly hacked to pieces by a throbbing surrogate phallus.