The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Why do it? Why go there? They asked that of Gus Van Sant in 1998, when he remade Psycho shot-for-shot. Surely, it is better to let the dead lie and allow memories to fester in their own sweet time? Leatherface is not a creature that deserves resurrection. Would you invite Satan to the Pentecostal Whit Sunday brunch?

The director Marcus Nispel is German and, as far as anyone can tell, has only made pop videos. The scriptwriter Scott Kosar was an assistant editor in the early Nineties. This is his first produced screenplay. With the exception of R Lee Ermey, who was an ex-army drill sergeant when Stanley Kubrick plucked him from obscurity for Full Metal Jacket, the actors are known only to their mothers.

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With so much untested talent buzzing around, anything could have happened. What does, in fact, emerge from the lunar isolation of this Texas hinterland is a compelling thriller that neither apologises, nor explains. Nispel avoids farty camera tricks and the gushing gore so enamoured by Quentin Tarantino. His hillbilly inbreds are no relations to those in Cabin Fever and only distant cousins of the sexually abusive murderers from Deliverance.

With horror pastiche the flavour of the moment, Nispel and Kosar pay tribute to Tobe Hooper's low budget 1974 original. The story has a basis in truth and no-one connected to this film is smirking behind their hands. It would seem incredible, considering the number of Wrong Turn-style repro spin offs, to inject fear into something as worn out as a loony-in-the-basement scenario. These guys have managed it and that's without snapping bra straps, or disembowelling a teenager.

The story is well known - five young people wander into the territory of a deformed, mentally deranged cannibal, who wears a mask of human skin to hide a face ravaged by disease, and are hideously cut down and cut up. The immediate family of the chainsaw slasher accepts such behavior as an aspect of the poor boy's condition, neither condoning, nor interveneing. Strangers, after all, have no right to put themselves in harm's way and, if they do, have only themselves to blame.

Kosar avoids nudgeable one-liners, keeping the script as far as possible in the realm of probability. The cast do an excellent job of suspending disbelief and Nispel hammers home his advantage of being new to the genre and possessing a fresh approach to atrocity.

Reviewed on: 30 Oct 2003
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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre packshot
Remake of the slasher classic.
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Director: Marcus Nispel

Writer: Scott Kosar, based on screenplays by Kim Kenkel and Tobe Hooper

Starring: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, Andrew Bryniarski, R. Lee Ermey, David Dorfman, Lauren German, Terrence Evans, Marietta Marich

Year: 2003

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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