out of Five
Running time: 98
Pointless but effective remake that manages to be much gorier than the original.
Given the success of the re-release a couple of years ago, coupled with the general high opinion in which Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original seems to be held, it's a genuine mystery as to why they bothered remaking this at all. Perhaps producer Michael Bay just really wanted to see a bunch of people get chopped up. "Yeah, let's remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but make it much gorier. Mmmm...BRAINS..." etc.
Directed by music video maestro Marcus Nispel (his feature debut), the film pretty much follows the original plot, but it's framed with Blair Witch-like "real life footage" of the police crime scene investigation and they change a few things, such as dropping the wheelchair character.
Disturbed Youth Shoots Face Off
Five attractive teenagers (Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel and Johnathan Tucker) are driving though Texas, having just returned from a secret (from Biel) dope run to Mexico. They're on their way to a Skynnrd concert when they pick up a dazed girl wandering on the road.
When she suddenly freaks out and shoots herself in their van (the camera pulls back through the hole in her head and then the blood-spattered windshield - it's that kind of film) they're left wondering what to do with the body, so they decide to call the police. "We passed a house back there, let's see if they have a phone..." etc. Cue the chainsaws.
The main problem with the film is that it feels like a cynical repackaging of an already established classic. However, as remakes go, it's very well made and decently acted and it never approaches ‘bad movie’ levels – even the script is pretty good.
Hack, Slash, Chop, Kill, Maim…
It is, however, much gorier than the original - the violence and pain on display here is worse than anything in Kill Bill. Legs get chainsawed off (chainsawn?), people get hung on meat-hooks (as in the original), people get chainsawed in the back, and so on - it's pretty much non-stop terror from the moment the first one of them disappears and you’re more or less guaranteed to end up hiding behind your hands at some point.
Some of the changes work well - the sequence in the meat factory is really good, for instance and there's a neat diversion with some other characters ("That poor, sweet boy..."). Probably the most amusing scary moment (and biggest change) involves Leatherface's penchant for ‘new skin’ and the scene where the characters get a look at his new face.
It's also highly amusing to count the ways in which the film-makers try and dampen Jessica Biel's already skin-tight top (sprinkler, basement full of water etc), although they don't really exploit the sex angle in the film at all. (It’s worth seeing purely for Shallow And Obvious Reasons, as Jessica ‘The Rules of Attraction’ Biel is so unbelievably perfect-looking that it's hard to believe she isn't computer-generated.)
Basically, if you like gory, scary slasher-flicks, then this delivers in spades. It maintains a tense atmosphere throughout and definitely ratchets up the terror factor towards the end. Not for the squeamish though and it’s still hard to see the point of remaking it.