There’s a severed foot on the floor. Bit of bone, a lot of blood, not much body. It also looks rather fake. The flier for the Texas Chainsaw DVD launch had taunted us with the threat of “Leatherface’s room upstairs!”, and before being led up to a room out the back of Islington’s (rather charming) metalworks, we’d been made to sign waivers. “This is a horror experience”, “I confirm I have no pre-existing medical conditions” and various other bits of morbid legalese attempted to hide the fact that we’re really signing to allow recordings of our experience be used in a viral video.
So up we went, passed the joke foot, through a door and into Leatherface’s den. There were cameras, cages, and an actress pleading with us to come closer. Having never been one for audience interaction, this was where I started to get scared. Happily, a guy in a fright mask quickly leapt out at us and we were able to discharge our obligation for any more interaction. After the build it up, it was all a bit perfunctory – they’d captured the film beautifully.
Picking up in the wake of the 1974 original, Texas Chainsaw has the estranged daughter of the cannibalistic Sawyer family returning to Texas to claim her inheritance. That means a big old house, some nice cutlery, and a murderous cousin in the basement. Obviously, he doesn’t stay in the basement for long and soon teenagers are getting gutted.
When presented with the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the BBFC famously found that nothing they could cut from the film reduced its horrific impact. It was, in their words, the atmosphere of threat and impending violence that was the issue – rather than any specific representations of violent acts. Texas Chainsaw 2013 has a lot of very specific acts of violence, but not much threat.
While the new film pinpoints the scariest moments of the original – and inexpertly recreates them – it doesn’t understand why they were scary. Horror is a self-referential genre, but here the references are being used to dress up a generic piece as something with currency. Give the kids some branding, some guts and some boobs, then send them onto Nando’s. (And boy are are there some boobs – if the Star Trek screenwriters had to apologise for Alice Eve getting her kit off, the people behind Texas Chainsaw should be spending a very long time on the naughty step.)
True, many horror classics were prurient in their own ways, but they managed a crude profundity despite that. Texas Chainsaw has ideas it thinks might be interesting, but, having held them up for you to look at, chucks them away. It can’t be bothered to puzzle out the meanings when it can get an audience without the effort. People do stupid things in horror movies, but the characters in Texas Chainsaw go to heroic lengths to get themselves killed. (As an escape route, a Ferris wheel has one obvious flaw.) The studio doesn’t care and they don’t expect you to either.
Texas Chainsaw is horror designed by spreadsheet – the only frightening thing is that it’s enough for some people. There wasn’t much reason to see it in the cinema, and on DVD there’s even less; the original’s just as easy to get hold of and a lot cheaper. And if I did scream like a little girl when the man jumped out at us on that video, well… nobody likes am-dram.
Texas Chainsaw is available on DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, and download to own and rent on 27th May.