In Marcus Nispel’s retelling of the 1974 classic, you might find
yourself reminded of how good the original “Texas Chainsaw
Massacre” was and how this remake seems to have fallen flat.

Janna Hutz
Courtesy of New Line Cinema

In the great steppe of Central Texas, the lives of five young
teenagers descend into a world of madness where a beastial man and
his chainsaw rule. They fall prey to the Hewitts (named the Sawyers
in the original), a family of pure sadists capturing travelers for
their physically deformed son to torture, like spiders in their
web.

The 1970s setting for this film is overshadowed by the
21st-century time period in which it’s made. The group of five
lacks the flower power that one would expect in a crew of kids
driving to Dallas to see a Lynard Skynard concert in 1973. The film
makes a superficial effort to convince the audience that marijuana,
rock music and a beat-up van are what define hippies.

Jessica Biel manages to hold her own, occupying the vast
majority of the film’s space and does as well as can be expected
having to run around and scream constantly. She provides enough
depth that when she is forced to commit a mercy killing for a
friend, the audience feels the shared pain of her dying companion’s
last moment.

Elements of the plot end up as odd little bits of mystery that
don’t really make much sense. A strange baby kidnapped by the
Hewitts and the wandering woman found at the beginning whose
picture appears on the Hewitt estate are designed to add to the
intrigue.

Part of the elegance of the original was in its somewhat grimy
low-budget nature. This film is set in the poorest sector of ’70s
“silent majority” America. So why then does it seem that one can
feel the money being spent for another elaborate set or overly
ornate monster? “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” seems to have inserted
some of the notions of ghetto fabulous into a setting where it
truly has no place.

To its credit, the film’s visual imagery is extremely striking.
The audience initially feels that disgusting nature of the Hewitts.
Everything from their physical appearances to the pigs that roam
around their living room are effective in revolting the audience.
Yet this effect wanes in the wake of the dark lair for the chief
villain, that’s so ornate, it would clearly have no place in the
destitute circumstances in which these characters supposedly
live.

When the film finally comes full circle, and Biel has evolved
into the hysterical girl she had found the day before wandering on
the side of the road, the audience feels little else but more
educated in the ways of slaughtering human beings.

Rating: 2 stars

 

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