“Bring it! Bring it now!” demands a grizzled old Texan in a wheelchair. And suddenly it appears, a humming chain saw in the hands of Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski), a monster who knows how to carve up horny teenagers. In that moment, I thought The Texas Chainsaw Massacre might actually capture the spirit of the 1974 Tobe Hooper horror classic that cost two cents (actually $150,000) and grossed more than $100 million. No sex. No blood. Just nonstop tension generated by being at the mercy of a family of inbred cretins in some Texas backwater.
Three misbegotten Chainsaw follow-ups, trapping the likes of Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zellweger, have been made since then. The new one is an improvement, but just barely. Director Marcus Nispel, acclaimed for his ads and music videos, has a sharp eye and the good sense to hire Daniel Pearl, who shot the first Chainsaw. But all the bad-rehash mojo from Friday the 13th to The Blair Witch Project has infected Scott Kosar’s script. Hooper went for primitive, Nispel goes for slick. Hooper went easy on the gore, Nispel pours it on. What can the actors do? Well, R. Lee Ermey as a local sheriff not above copping a feel off a corpse is wonderfully repulsive. But Jessica Biel and Erica Leerhsen have clearly been hired for their lungs, be it to scream or fill a tank top. And the guys (Eric Balfour, Jonathan Tucker, Mike Vogel) are just fresh meat for Leatherface. Chainsaw is produced by Michael Bay (Bad Boys I and II), which explains its soullessness. But nothing explains the flaw in this bad boy: How can a movie scare you when you’ve seen it all before?