Film Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Release Date: October 15th, 2003 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Scott Kosar
Based on: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre by Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper
Music by: Steve Jablonsky
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, David Dorfman, John Larroquette (narrator)

Radar Pictures, Focus Features, New Line Cinema, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Excuse me, you mind getting the fuck outta my way, son?” – Sheriff Hoyt

Very few horror franchise reboots are good. This is one of the few that are and because of that, it kind of started a trend where a new generation of filmmakers, inspired by the old, started trying to resurrect the most iconic horror franchises of their youth.

I know many people that actually prefer this movie to the original. I don’t but I also don’t think that those people are insane, either. I think there actually is an argument to be made about it and it’s one of my favorite horror debates to listen to between people that actually know and are passionate about these movies.

I think that in 2003, I would’ve rated this much higher. Seeing it 18 years later, I do find some of the dialogue to be a bit cringe and poorly written. I also find some of the director’s choices in how he shoots certain sequences to be a bit weak and trope-riddled.

The biggest highlight of the film for me was Jessica Biel and not just because she looked fucking magnificent but because she really dived into this and gave a convincing performance. So much so, in fact, that I hadn’t seen a “final girl” this good in a decade or more at the time that this came out. Honestly, I think in that regard, she actually exceeds the vast majority of “final girls” in horror. Granted, it’d be hard to put anyone in front of Jamie Lee Curtis or Heather Langenkamp.

I also immensely enjoyed R. Lee Ermey in this, as the town sheriff who is actually a part of the killer family and directly related to this franchise’s top monster, Leatherface.

Ermey gave a performance on the same level as his best work. He committed to this role so greatly that you really want to see him get what he deserves in the end. When he does, it’s beyond fucking satisfying. Without Ermey and Biel, this would’ve probably just been a standard, cookie cutter, forgettable slasher flick.

Now the rest of the cast is pretty bad and it kind of bogs the film down in the scenes where it focuses on them. In fact, the stuff in the van at the beginning was pretty awful and it almost wrecked Jessica Biel but luckily, they didn’t stick to that too long and the horror started almost from the get go.

This is also plagued by the cinematic style of the time, which I didn’t like back then and still don’t like now. It’s nothing I’ve started to feel nostalgic for as time passes. What I’m referring to specifically is the overuse of color filters, which makes all films look unrealistic and like a music video. This may have started with David Fincher in Alien 3 but it’s something that would be used to death in just about every “hip” film of the mid-’90s to mid-’00s from Fincher’s other movies, The Matrix films, nearly all horror that wasn’t Scream, as well as action flicks and crime movies. It’s not such a big deal when used sparingly but it’s not here. The film is either unnaturally bronze or bluish green in every scene.

Still, the positives outweigh the negatives and this is a movie carried by two solid performances and a version of Leatherface that is the scariest of them all.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Release Date: August 11th, 2011 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui, Leo Howard, Bob Sapp, Ron Perlman, Nathan Jones, Morgan Freeman (narrator)

Lionsgate, Millennium Films, Cinema Vehicle Services, 113 Minutes

Review:

“I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.” – Conan

I put off watching this for a really long time. But finally, after nine years of ignoring this movie, I said, “fuck it!” and fired it up because it was free on Prime Video and because I’m a hardcore fan of the Conan franchise. Also, I believe that this is the only film based off of Robert E. Howard’s literary work that I hadn’t seen.

It’s actually not as bad as people led me to believe but it is far from a good movie and it’s honestly, really fucking boring.

Jason Momoa was a decent choice for the role of Conan but I feel like he was chosen a few years too early, as he hadn’t reached the level of fame that he has now and because he hadn’t developed more as an actor. He’s got some of his charm here but it is nowhere near as much as it was in 2018’s Aquaman.

That being said, if they made a Conan movie with him now, I’m pretty sure it would do really well. And hopefully, it would be better than this was, as it didn’t seem to understand what it needed to be to be successful.

The main issue with this movie is it doesn’t feel larger than life. It relies so heavily on CGI and green screen that it lacks the scope and scale the Schwarzenegger Conan movies had. Hell, 1985’s Red Sonja looks much more grandiose than this digital cartoon that looks more like a syndicated television show than a blockbuster movie featuring one of the biggest and greatest literary and comic book heroes of all-time.

Adding to that problem, Conan only really tangles with one monster in this movie. Now it doesn’t need to be overflowing with mythic beasts but it should take more cues from the books and comics, which saw Conan come face to face with big creatures a lot more often than he does in this picture.

Now I did like the casting of Rachel Nichols as the female love interest of Conan and I thought that Nichols and Momoa had pretty good chemistry but overall, they didn’t get much to work with between the mundane script and uninspiring story.

On the other side of the coin, the villains felt completely wasted.

I just wasn’t feeling Rose McGowan as the witch character and her performance here borderlined on cringe, which I found surprising as she is typically pretty good. But I think that the script failed her, as did the overall look of the character.

As far as Stephen Lang goes, how do you take the guy that stole the show and was really the only good thing about Avatar, and make him so lame and generic? Who the fuck was this guy? Why the fuck should I care? He just looks like a boss from the second level of a side scrolling beat’em up game from the ’80s.

I also thought the mask was stupid and they could’ve come up with a much better MacGuffin than that. I mean, there are countless books and comics to pull material from and you basically come up with Gran Naniwa’s crab mask? For those that don’t know, he was a goofy comedy wrestler from Japan in the ’90s: Google that fucker. Side note: he was actually really entertaining, unlike this movie.

Conan the Barbarian was hard to get through. I wanted to turn it off just about every three minutes. I had to watch it in spurts of twenty-to-thirty minutes because it was dreadfully slow, terribly lame and didn’t feel as badass as something with the Conan name on it should.

But I am definitely not against giving Jason Momoa another shot as the character. The studio just needs to get their shit together and give fans something worthy of the Conan brand.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other modern sword and sorcery films.