The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Year: 2003
Production Co: Platinum Dunes
Studio: New Line Cinema
Director: Marcus Nisbet
Producer: Michael Bay
Cast: Jessica Biel, R Lee Ermey
Thanks to the resurgence of the horror film and in particular the slasher film, one of cinema's seminal DIY horror fixtures (along with Evil Dead and Halloween ) comes back to life on the big screen thanks to salivating studio suits.

The house on the hill with the ominous steel door, the family of inbreeds, the creepy sheriff and the man/bullock that predated Jason and Michael by a decade - Leatherface - are all back. And in a sly nod to the fans, even John Laroquette reprises his role as the Narrator.

Ain't nobody says 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' better.

The original characters of the hapless victims have been jettisoned in favour of the lovely Jessica Biel as Erin, filling the role of the central Damsel in distress given wide-eyed life first time around by Marilyn Burns. And thank heavens hipster jeans were in fashion in the early seventies the same as they are now, as we're treated to several long, tantalising shots of her swinging derriere.

The paraplegic brother is gone in favour of the nerdy Morgan, and there's Erin's boyfriend Kemper, their amorous friend Andy and hitchhiker Pepper.

This time around, instead of picking up one of the wayward brothers, the gang pick up an escaped (and seriously unhinged) victim of Leatherface's family. Led deeper into the dark recess of the fate awaiting them, they're plunged into a nightmare, gruesomely dispatched courtesy of members of the nightmarish family, including the favoured son and his trusty weapon of choice.

A Hollywood studio retelling of one of the most bloodthirsty and inspiring films of the 20th century could have gone either way. The money was on it being too slick, too neat and too toned down to chase that M-rated teen dollar.

Thankfully, director Marcus Nispel has stayed faithful to the spirit of the original - in production design if nothing else. The cinematography and sound captures the hot, filthy, stained landscape, the dirty, dripping water and bloody rags, cut off ears and prickly-heat terror.

Apparently not under the directorial wing of producer Michael Bay (who would have had Erin blow Leatherface away with an AK-47 while squealing away in her Maserati), Nispel seems to understand the underlying dynamic of the original film.

Taking their cue from Deliverance, Tobe Hooper and Co were capitalising on the fears of a nation - that America is a big country full of deep, dark nooks and crannies where the people aren't quite right, that America isn't all LA gangbanging and Sex in the City.

That amid the buzzing crickets and heat haze of the lethargic south, a giant disfigured man awaits deep in a basement amid hangings of body parts to pluck beautiful young people as they pass, hang them on meat hooks and slice them up with a chainsaw.

One essential aspect that was left out (probably after caving into studio pressure to include a car chase-style getaway) was the family dinner. In the early seventies, Hooper was satirising the whole concept of home life in America. Mom and Dad, Grandpa and the kids all sat round the table to dinner as a family, sharing the things they loved - reading the good book, loving their kin and disembowelling people. It was a nuance Bay and Nispel either missed, or chose to ignore.

But they capture the relentless tension and desperation felt by Erin as she continually runs for her life in panic, and everything looks and feels as good as it could in a big scale homage - just like the original, watching this will make you want a shower.

Everything looks and sounds great, from the twanging of a fiddle to the scream of the chainsaw, and except for the completely redundant 'bookend' subplot of the investigating police officers, Leatherface truly lives, deep in the heart of Texas.

© 2011-2024 Filmism.net. Site design and programming by psipublishinganddesign.com | adambraimbridge.com | humaan.com.au