Expectations of this remake have been so low they clocked in several million miles below sea level. Despite that, this "reimagining" (as the producers would have us call it) is probably slick and sick enough to win as many fans as detractors.
Completely ignoring the events of Tobe Hooper's original, the new film opens in 1974 with a Scooby-Doo van full of hippy kids headed by Erin (Jessica Biel) driving through Texas after a pot-smoking holiday in Mexico. Picking up a deranged hitchhiker with predictably gory results, the kids get a taste of some Southern hospitality in a nearby town.
It's become something of a cliché to say that Tobe Hooper's censor-baiting film wasn't actually that explicit. Leaving most of its violence to the imagination, Hooper scared audiences into thinking they'd seen something more gruesome than they actually had through grubby production design and a relentless soundtrack of screams and buzzing chainsaw blades. Yet, no matter how clichéd that observation has become, the fact is it's true. And it worked a treat.
Here, debut director Marcus Nispel (under the watchful eye of producer Michael - Bad Boys II - Bay) simply shows too much: gory scenes of the kids being tortured in the slasher's abattoir-esque back room, Leatherface wandering about without his trademark mask, and perhaps most insultingly of all a ridiculous story about how he was bullied as a child because of a facial disfigurement.
Aside from this, it's a gory, stylish, and occasionally scary push-button factory of shocks and shrieks remarkably better than anyone had the right to expect. Yet, it begs the question: if the filmmakers could churn out something this decent, why didn't they shoot an original script, or even a sequel to Hooper's 1974 classic instead of a remake?
The only answer, it seems, is a total lack of imagination. And it's that which ultimately makes this redundant movie truly terrifying for anyone interested in the future of American horror.