CHAIN REACTIONby ROY MAGEE
How do you re-create a masterpiece? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is widely regarded as one of the most original and ground- breaking horror films of all time. So when film producer Michael Bay decided to have a go at a remake he had a lot to live up to. He recruited Markus Nispel, a young director best known for his advertising and music-video work. Nispel, having a penchant for the genre and being a self-confessed fan of the original, jumped at the chance to make his first feature-film. Scott Kosar, another fan, was hired to write the screenplay, and to top it all Daniel Pearl, the cinematographer who worked on the original seventies movie, returned. Pearl, who swore he would never do a re-make of Chainsaw Massacre, said yes immediately he got the phone-call from Bay. Secretly I think I wanted to do it all along he said.
Well, did they succeed? More of that later, let's give the original gore-fest its due. Personally speaking, I admit to not having seen the original 1973 movie until recently and I have to say it was a bit of an eye-opener. The visceral content and almost documentary style cinematography make for an effect similar to that of a so-called 'snuff movie'. Most horror fans will tell you it has never been surpassed. The director Tobe Hooper got the chainsaw idea while he was stuck in a shopping queue. He spotted some chainsaws and thought he could get to the top of the queue a lot quicker if he cut his way through. He built on this gruesome daydream using the horrible crimes of real serial killers, in particular Ed Gein, as his inspiration. The result is undoubtedly a horror classic, the largest grossing horror film of all time too, made on a budget of only $80,000.
What's the plot? It's simple, much like the original film. A group of young hippy type friends in a camper van are travelling from Mexico through Texas, carrying a couple of pounds of 'weed', on their way to a Lynard Skynard gig. When they pick up a very distressed and bloodied young girl by the roadside. When she suddenly pulls out a gun the nightmare begins. From there on in it's pure carnage, suffice to say 'Leatherface' the deranged protagonist of the film, is on his way, chainsaw at the ready. No-one in the town is quite right though, in particular the Sheriff to whom they turn for help.
Is the cast up to scratch? Jessica Biel , child star of U.S. TV's Seventh Heaven, is very easy on the eye and gives a great performance in her lead role as Erin. R Lee Ermey, who played the vindictive sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, is suitably revolting as 'Sheriff' Hoyt. Andrew Bryniarski replaces Gunner Hansen in the role of old 'Leatherface' himself, and is slashingly good. All in all they are an excellent ensemble cast.
But is it better than the original? As a piece of pure horror, in my own humble opinion, the answer is no. But nevertheless it is still an extremely enjoyable ninety-one minutes of gore. You can't make movies like that any more as director Markus Nispel said, paying homage to Tobe Hooper's startling and original creation.
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