CRITICAL MASS; Ebert Slices and Dices 'Chainsaw'; Box Office Gives Director Last Laugh

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

CRITICAL MASS; Ebert Slices and Dices 'Chainsaw'; Box Office Gives Director Last Laugh


Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Marcus Nispel, the director of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake, rejoiced when he read influential critic Roger Ebert's scathing review of his film.

"While I was reading it, I couldn't help but laugh," Mr. Nispel says. "I should feel depressed, but it's like if you make a prank on the schoolteacher and you really get him going, you've succeeded."

Mr. Ebert says in his review: "I doubt that anybody involved in it will be surprised or disappointed if audience members vomit or flee."

"What he complains about is what I'm most proud of," Mr. Nispel confirms.

Mr. Nispel can afford to be cavalier about the critical flak. His film earned about $28 million in its opening week.

The first-time director says Mr. Ebert's rave for Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill: Vol. 1," a film that spills more blood than arguably any other American film in recent memory, hardly squares with the reviewer's condemnation of his own far less gruesome debut.

"Ebert says that was all campy," the director says of the oh-so-culturally-aware and referential violence in the Tarantino film. "This one is real. I'm going, 'Thank you.' It's the type of review that makes people want to watch it even more."

The German native didn't initially jump at the chance to direct a remake of the horror classic. He changed his mind after talks with his friend Daniel Pearl, who served as the cinematographer on the first film and does the same on the remake.

"That's how it all started," he says. "He was telling anecdotes [about the original shoot], and it sounded like great fun.

"A few weeks later, you're in the heat of the summer in Texas," he says.

The director viewed the project as his entry into film after a career in commercials and music videos.

The trouble is, he never saw the original film. Screening it with his wife proved an eye-opener.

"It wasn't what we thought it would be," he says. "I thought I'd see a splatterfest. Back then, people said it was the goriest movie of all time, but there was no gore."

Like "The Blair Witch Project" more than two decades later, 1974's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" induced audiences to create the carnage in their own minds. …

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