The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Original vs. Remake


"“The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” (Narrator, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974)"

In this battle of original vs. remake, which version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre will reign as the victor?

In 1974 Tobe Hooper directed and produced the iconic American slasher film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for less than $300,000. With a cast essentially full of nobodies, Hooper introduced the world to the beloved Sawyer family, a pack of twisted individuals resorting to cannibalism after the town they lived in became deserted.

In this film the Sawyer family consists of a young hitchhiker who enjoys cutting himself, a store-clerk/cook that takes pleasure in smacking people with broom handles, a very dead looking grandpa, and the infamous Leatherface. This extremely large fellow serves as the executioner of the Sawyer family, and his weapon of choice is a chainsaw. As if that does not make him frightening enough, Leatherface also takes pleasure in wearing his victims faces as masks.

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The original film brought viewers to a place not well-known in the mainstream film industry at the time. People experienced a new brand of fear as they witnessed four demented individuals destroy four members of America’s youth. As the 83 minute film progresses, one finds themselves becoming more and more uneasy with every sadistic cackle, window-shattering scream, and off-color visual effect.

What makes the 1974 version incredible is its lack of blood and guts. Today we immediately associate The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise with extreme amounts of gore. However, the original film has very little of it and still brings out the scaredy-cat in everyone. Hooper did a marvelous job setting up the violence but then letting the viewer’s imagination take control and finish the scene.

In 2003 Marcus Nispel and Michael Bay decided to take the classic horror flick and add a little modern-day flavor to it. Although the remake follows the same plot as the original for the most part, some slight changes to were made. The biggest alteration to the franchise was the transformation of the Sawyer family to the Hewitt family. The Hewitts were larger and some females were added but the same level of sadistic behavior was present.

What the original film left to the viewer’s imagination was put in plain sight on the big screen in the remake. Every kill, amputation, and other not-so-appealing action was displayed for the world to see. The amount of gore brought a new form of discomfort and uneasiness to the audience that was missing in the original.

With remakes normally turning out worse than the original, the 2003 version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre surprised critics by being quite good. Nispel and Bay took advantage on modern-day special effects and built on an already incredible horror story.

Horror film purists may kill me for saying this, but in this original vs. remake battle, the victory belongs to the 2003 version. Unlike most other cases, both the original and remake of this movie are fantastic. The remake just so happens to be better because the creators used improvements made in technology and special effects to their advantage. The 1974 version was used as the base model to make improvements on.

As mentioned earlier, the amount of graphic violence and gore used in this film brought levels of fear and disgust to new heights. In this day and age, people tend to be disturbed or shocked by less and less. However, there is no way you can finish watching the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre without having a pit in your stomach.

The reality of it is that every movie that is remade should come out better than the original. The blueprint has already been drawn up and the producer and director just have to make improvements when necessary. Unfortunately this is not necessarily what happens. Remakes tend to fall short of their predecessor due to sheer lack of effort. Bay and Nispel did their homework and took their time in the recreation of a classic and it paid off.

Luckily for horror fans, we do not have to choose between the two. We can enjoy what both of these masterpieces have to offer!

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