The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Rated 4.0 Armed only with a glibly prophetic bumper sticker reading “Shit Happens,” a vanload of Texas teens on their way to a Skynyrd concert are intercepted by a deranged sheriff (Emrey), who introduces them to his family… and to a whole new world of shit.

The original 1974 drive-in classic is arguably the ultimate horror film, especially if you’re applying the strictest definition of the term. Happily, the remake smoothes out some of the weaker aspects and builds on the stronger elements of the original (which was primarily effective due to its snuff-film-quality photography and an unrelenting last half, punctuated only by the roar of a chainsaw and the unceasing screams of the surviving teen). Director Marcus Nispel retains the original cinematographer, evoking visual echoes of the original without creeping into Empty-Vee styled gloss. Although Nispel dwells a little too long at first on “character development,” once the camera pulls back from the shocked faces of the teens and through an exit wound, the bar is lowered and the roller-coaster ride begins.

My only reservation is with the recasting of the doomed teens with rejects from Dawson’s Creek. The movie is set in ‘74, so Jessica Biel is particularly anachronistic in low-cut, tight-assed jeans and knotted-off white T-shirt … and sports bra. It’s especially galling considering how many times Biel gets drenched—major loss of exploitation cred there. Otherwise, a very well-crafted re-imaging of an enduring cult classic, especially considering it was produced by Michael (Pearl Harbor) Bay.