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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

What you know about fear... doesnt even come close

Directed by:

Marcus Nispel

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

Country: United States

When Tobe Hooper's classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released in 1974, it generated a furore of controversy, and was banned from this country for 25 years. How times have changed. Marcus Nispel's 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' has been allowed to pass entirely uncut, in contrast to the hapless teenagers it portrays, who are sliced and diced in gorily explicit detail before our eyes as they never were in the more restrained and blood-free original – but I doubt that today's viewers will find much controversy in this reimagining of the massacre, even if it leaves far less to the imagination. While the film's action is fixed in 1973, and many elements from the original script by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel ha ve been retained, screenwriter Scott Kosar has taken his material apart and then stitched it back together again much as Leatherface does with the bodies of his victims. The faux-documentary voice-over at the beginning, again narrated by John Larroquette, is this time accompanied by a 'Blair Witch Project'-inspired black-and-white 'police film' of the murder scene. As the five teenagers travel in their beat-up van through the backwoods of Texas, the hitchhiker that they pick up is not the manic blade-wielding local of the original, but a distraught young woman who informs them that they are all going to die and then shoots herself. The gas station offering 'Great BBQ' is run by an old woman rather than a man, it is not one of the teenagers but one of the local family who is wheelchair-bound, and in fact all the characters (apart from Leatherface) are either different or completely new – like the young boy Jedidiah (David Dorfman) or the spit-hawking Sheriff Hoyt (the brilliant R. Lee Ermey). These and other changes will leave fans of the original knowing that they are on familar territory, but no longer entirely sure how to read the map, which only adds to the sense of paranoid powerlessness and entrapment which made the first film so creepily effective. While far more unflinching in visual terms than the original film, especially in the already notorious meathook scene which is here far longer and more detailed, strangely the new 'Massacre' comes over all coy with respect to the taboo of cannibalism – it would be entirely possible to leave this film with no idea that Leatherface and his family of whackos are using their prey's bodies for more than mere sewing practice. There is no doubt that the original's torturously elongated, psychologically traumatic closing scene set around a family dinner table has a far greater visceral impact than the rather conventional cat-and-mouse chase sequence which ends this film. In fact, there is little if anything in Nispel's remake which improves upon the viciously brilliant original – but it is different enough to keep those who have seen the first film on their toes, and similar enough to scare the hell out of those who have not. And now is the right time to revisit this 1970s tale about a group of young co-eds trapped in the power of a family of demented hillbillies – after all, there's a Texan redneck family in the (White) house, the whole world is in the grip of its violent whims, and no-one can be certain anymore of escaping in one piece.

It's Got: The best camerashot filmed through a gaping bullet hole in a persons body since 1980s Cannibal Apocalypse, and an armless antagonist who, as in the old joke, hasnt got a nose but still smells bloody awful...

It Needs: More psychological terror to match its visual horror - and to dump the baby-rescuing scene.

Alternatives:

House of 1000 Corpses, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Wrong Turn

Summary

Going head to head with one of the greatest horror films of all time is bound to end in bad blood, but while this reimagined 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is no real match for the original, it has just enough mad mayhem and hysterical helter-skelter to satisfy most horror-fiends – and a film about a terrifying family of mad Texans wielding ruthlessly lethal power from a big white house has never seemed more pointedly political.

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