The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
If you grew up in the 1980's, then you found yourself in the age of the 'Video Nasty'. The tabloid press coined this phrase when it became apparent that the increasing sales of home video recorders meant that the BBFC, ITC and other governing bodies were losing their control over what we should or shouldn't be able to watch. It used to be easy to restrict the age groups allowed when movies were confined to being shown in cinemas, but now that most people had the ability to watch any film they wanted in the comfort of their own homes, alarm bells started to ring. So, in typically draconian fashion, the government swiftly banned a number of films that it deemed unsuitable for the younger members of the family to stumble across when searching through the parents video collections. Most of these have now seen the light of day, some in cut editions and some in their original uncut format and it's sometimes difficult now to see what was so terrible about movies like 'The Evil Dead' that forced the ban in the first place.
However, the grandaddy of all video nasties was Tobe Hoopers 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre'. Released in 1974, the low budget movie told the story of a group of teenagers who fell foul of a family of murderous rednecks. It is, without a doubt, one of the most disturbing movies ever made. Shot through with an unrelenting sense of dread and shackled with one of the most lurid titles in history, '..Massacre's reputation spread throughout the world as the most gruesomely shocking horror movie - even though it is almost entirely free of any blood and gore.
And now we have a remake - a 'Chainsaw Massacre' that the 21st can call it's own. The very idea of a remake is enough to fill horror purists with dread, worrying that the new movie will be full of self-referencing irony as has been the case with most recent horror flicks, but I'm pleased to report that the new '...Massacre' is every bit as good as could have been hoped for. The plot is pretty much the same as before - still set in the 1970's, our unsuspecting band of teenagers are heading through Texas, this time to a Lynrd Skynrd concert, having just spent a few days in Mexico. They pick up a dazed hitch hiker who mumbles some warnings about them all dying before she shoots herself in one of the most blood drenched scenes of the year. From there it's a hop, a skip and an ill-advised trip to the local sheriff's department before we are plunged into a full on fright fest, as the notorious 'Leatherface' tries to pick off the group one by one.
Of course, it's very difficult to review this film objectively, having been one of the millions who found the original so disturbing thanks to it's low budget, almost documentary style. TCM2003 is certainly a movie of it's time, so the editing and direction is much more polished. Even the acting is much better than the original, now that the studio have actually employed professionals to play the parts. All of this should add up to a much better viewing experience but, sadly, it doesn't. All the shocks and jumps are in the right place and most are very effective but nostalgia is a terrible thing and I couldn't help myself remembering the original with much more fondness.
Having said that, if you've not seen the original then this will be one of the best horror films you'll see in a long time. If your horror diet has been made up of 'Scream', 'Final Destination' and 'I Know What You Did Last Summer', then this will provide a timely wake-up call to what horror movies are all about.