A review of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for excessive gore, language, and disturbing images

Run Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

 

 

First things first.  Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic splatter fest – grainy, low-brow, and horrific -- does not require a remake.  But some Hollywood honcho saw fit to make the effort (ka-ching!), and I have to admit (albeit grudgingly) that the new millennium edition is darned hardcore.

The song remains the same.  Five laid-back teens on a summer road-trip pick up what appears to be an aimless drifter, who proceeds to blow her brains out in the back of their van.  In a fit of conscience, the group agrees to contact the local sheriff in order to properly identify the body and put some closure on the grisly situation.

Naturally, it’s the first of a long string of horror-cliché blunders.  One by one the youngsters are victimized by a strange leather-faced being who lives in a dilapidated mansion at the edge of a creepy-crawly cornfield.  The guy wields a mean chainsaw and won’t take no for an answer.  His methods of torture are vicious and unconscionably bloody, an indelible descent into backwoods madness.

A healthy sense of dread and a gritty, washed-out look underscore the insanity, while relentless homage to “Deliverance”, “Seven”, and “Silence of the Lambs” pepper the action.  The parade of redneck freaks that frequent the narrative are sickeningly mutant.

The latest incarnation is grossly lacking in the social/political subtext of the original, but surprisingly effective on a sheer horror scale. (Okay, so I checked the back seat for boogie men on the drive home).  “TCM” ratchets up the fear-factor times ten, always at the ready with a bloodcurdling incident or a perfectly-timed jumper.  Teen-queen Jessica Biel is relatively convincing as Erin, the film’s level-headed heroine.

Rent the original, then shell out nine bucks for the remake.  You won’t be disappointed.