One Of The Scariest Scenes In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake Features A Surprisingly Stealthy Leatherface

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Matt Donato and Ariel Fisher. In this edition: Matt remembers 2003's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" as a work of pure evil, while Ariel resents Matt immensely for making her rewatch this movie.)

I never fully remember how grotesquely mean Platinum Dunes' 2003 "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake is as a smokehouse flavor of once modern horror trends. Dismemberment and practical gore shots are wicked, but that's just the violence. I'm talking about Kemper's proposal ring dropping into his bloody body gunk without Erin ever knowing or R. Lee Ermey's necrophilia-nasty comments about the dead hitchhiker. It's truly an evil flick, and that's considering Tobe Hooper's cannibalistic source.

Marcus Nispel takes a more traditional horror approach loaded with squeals and frantic chase sequences, less about Leatherface popping out and bonking victims on the head. That means jump scares when Leatherface somehow becomes stealthy — I didn't know chainsaws had silencers — but jokes aside, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" doesn't mess around. Shove your remake stigma conversations somewhere more helpful because this Texas take-two-step hones a next-level intensity. Andrew Bryniarski's menacing portrayal of Leatherface as a hulking brute like a heat-seeking missile makes an impression that dares to suggest maybe 2000s horror titles were better than blanket stereotypes. Something I'll always argue, especially after squirming and yelping during another "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" rewatch.

The Setup

The date is August 18, 1973. Five sweaty friends are driving through Texas with eyes and hearts set on a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. Erin (Jessica Biel) and Pepper (Erica Leerhsen) convince Kemper (Eric Balfour) to allow a wandering hitchhiker aboard, who then blows her brains all over the van. Morgan (Jonathan Tucker) wants to ditch the body, Andy (Mike Vogel) consoles Pepper since her stomach can't take the corpse in their backseat. Kemper drives to a nearby barbeque joint to seek help, but their nightmare is only just beginning with no aid for miles.

The Story So Far

A less-than-helpful hostess behind the counter sets the quintet on their way when insisting Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) is at the mill, which becomes their next stop. There's no sheriff, only lonesome child Jedidiah (David Dorfman) and his figures made from animal bones. Jedidiah points the group towards Sheriff Hoyt's house, where he's supposedly getting drunk. Erin and Kemper chase the second lead and happen upon the Hewitt plantation residence, where a handsy amputee lets Erin phone for help. Kemper is somehow less lucky — he wanders inside calling for Erin but instead meets Leatherface's sledgehammer.

From here, it's utter chaos and carnage as the remaining travelers scramble for answers. Erin and Andy return to the Hewitt's asking about Kemper, only to encounter Leatherface and his swinging chainsaw. Andy isn't lucky enough to escape when running through drying blankets on clotheslines and becomes Leatherface's second victim. He's hung on a meat hook, with Erin nowhere to help as she meets Morgan and Pepper at the van to regroup.

Sheriff Hoyt returns to the scene of the inciting suicide and torments Morgan when he finds marijuana on their dashboard. Sheriff Hoyt is not a lawful protector, and the petrified stoner's antics get Morgan handcuffed and driven back to the Hewitt mansion. Pepper and Erin are left behind, only for Pepper to be sawed by Leatherface when he attacks from the darkness. Erin scampers to a nearby trailer, where she's offered tea by two women, one holding a baby. It turns out the tea's drugged, and Erin awakes in the Hewitt house surrounded by the whole deranged family. Hoyt quips about staying for supper — Erin has other ideas. She bolts from the basement with Jedidiah's help, a wounded Morgan over her shoulder, and they find a shack where Morgan then becomes another sacrifice to the saw.

Erin's had enough. She sees Blair Meat Co. and dashes towards the facility. Here's where she'll make her last stand.

The Scene

Erin, alone, has lost Leatherface for at least a few seconds. She sprints towards the livestock entrance of the complex, where cows still moo. Erin vaults the iron corral gates leading into the animal entrance, which are tight enough for a single-file line. The girl's eyes frantically dart side-to-side, anticipating Leatherface at any moment. Still no chainsaw rev, so the coast seems clear.

Onward she runs, coming to a heavy gate that she forces open, then slams shut. Still no Leatherface, but it's been too long without another appearance. Worse still, the gaps between bars are plenty spaced for a whirring slicer to poke through like in 2004's "Dawn Of The Dead," where modded buses had tactical slots so blades would slash zombies outside. Erin isn't ready to be carved apart, so she runs up a slight incline ramp to the final passageway.

As she rushes into the last obstacle, Erin presumably stands where cattle would meet execution. Metal walls create silver confines, so she peers through a circular hole cut where a prod or executioner's tool would push through. Still no Leatherface. Erin assumes no visible threats means the slaughterhouse will make a good hideaway. In one motion, Erin hops on all fours to dive through a gap in the bottom of the chamber — cue the inevitable.

The camera is portrait-tight on Erin; we have no idea Leatherface has finally hunted his next victim and is within sniffing distance. As Erin's halfway clear of the small enclosure, Leatherface dives into the steel box and starts grabbing at Erin's legs as she flails kicks until he loses his grip. It's such an expected yet properly teased scare since the score does a tremendous job of never letting the high-adrenaline runaway vibes flatline. Yet, Erin's ample time alone still hides the inevitable.

Leatherface's belly flop into frame is the proper antithesis of a Dread Scare™.

The Impact (Ariel's Take)

Hoo boy! Yeah, I do not like this movie. And not because I actively dislike it, just because it's so damn nasty. Like the "House of Wax" remake two years later, it's brutal, mean, and disgusting.

The original "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" from 1974 is one of the rare films that expertly manages to put a smell on screen. The production was famously awful to work on strictly because they shot it in 115º weather. Because of the film's low budget, they could only get one shirt for Gunnar Hansen's Leatherface and it was dyed, so washing it wasn't an option. That meant he was in the same shirt for upwards of 12 hours a day for four weeks of shooting in the sweltering Texas heat. Pair that with the various rotting things used as props and set decoration and boy howdy did that place smell purdy. But the thing is, Tobe Hooper managed to make it so vile and revolting that the film became notorious for its gore that didn't actually exist.

Enter this iteration, and it's gross and unpleasant, but in a manufactured kind of way. Not that I'm complaining, it's effective! It just feels so much more deliberately awful and gross, like it's trying so hard to be revolting. Add in the jump scares and [full-body shudder]. Seriously, though, per Matt's previous question, when did chainsaws get silencers? And since when was a giant lumbering murderer lugging heavy machinery stealthy?

I digress, but anyway. The short and sweet of it is that I jumped so f***ing hard when he fwumped down and grabbed Erin that I accidentally threw my mouse across the room. It's one hell of an effective jump scare! And the look on Biel's face, when she's frantically running through the factory trying to get away from him, feels so genuine. 

I'm not good with being chased. Stuff running at you fast in a horror movie is a surefire way to get me to jump out of my skin.

Mission accomplished.

Touché, Donato.