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Erin (Jessica Biel), her boyfriend Kemper (Eric Balfour) and their friends Morgan (Jonathan Tucker), Pepper (Erica Leehrsen) and Andy (Mike Vogel) are travelling through rural Texas, en route to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. After picking up a distraught young woman wandering on the roadside, the group stops at a remote gas station and calls on Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) for help. The situation quickly turns into a nightmare when they encounter the bizarre Hewitt family, whose mutant son Thomas (Andrew Bryniarski) wears a mask made of human flesh and mutilates his victims with a chainsaw.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
In a word: pathetic. The sorriest spin-off yet from the 1974 masterpiece is a scare-less, witless and amateurish freak show with no redeeming qualities. What made Tobe Hopper's original so frightening was the almost complete absence of gore and a wickedly humorous screenplay that played like Father Knows Best gone berserk. None of that survives as first-time feature director Marcus Nispel (who, ominously, has 1000 music videos and commercials to his credit) wallows clueless in a sea of blood and guts for 98 minutes. Nispel and writer Scott Kosar get it horribly wrong right from the start as they throw in Blair Witch-inspired "archival footage" of the original police investigation while a solemn narration tells us that "new evidence about the real-life crimes of Thomas Hewitt has been discovered after 30 years".

This gimmicky opening gambit may have worked but from the moment we meet the five young travellers we may as well be watching a summer vacation teen movie as they smoke dope and make out in the back of their van. From there it descends into a lazy and cynical body count barrage made for audiences with attention deficit disorders. There's no attempt to generate any psychological tension - just a mechanical repetition of brutal stabbings, slayings and flayings as these kids learn what it is to be feckless pieces of meat in a formula horror movie.

The filmmakers sole purpose is to present a menu of disgusting set-pieces and hope that audiences will embrace its bleak, relentlessly depressing tone and imagery as a hip, postmodern take on contemporary fears. Sadly there is no intelligence in the writing or
execution of this travesty produced by Michael Bay who comments in the production notes that he wanted to make this film "because of its name value alone". That's all this is - a banner and brand name recognition that will lure the curious into cinemas for one of the worst experiences of the year. There's no need to slavishly remake classics and new ideas are welcome, but this time around the filmmakers have been at pains to eliminate everything that made the first edition so successful. With new family members recruited from the Barnum and Bailey freak show casting agency and R. Lee Ermey still playing the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket there's nothing fresh or remotely interesting about this cast. Anyone who's seen Hooper's film will remember the disturbingly comic dialogue between members of this creepy clan and its effect on our imagining the horror that the unfortunate travellers were subjected to.

You won't find any such style and subtlety in this abject piece of garbage. When the censor
ban on the 1974 film was finally lifted in the early 1980s I remember seeing audience members screaming for the exits and vomiting in sheer terror. This remake may well provoke similar reactions, but they'll be regurgitating in revulsion at this worthless mess.

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CAST: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, Andrew Bryniarski, R. Lee Ermey, David Dorfman

PRODUCER: Michael Bay, Mike Fleiss

DIRECTOR: Marcus Nispel

SCRIPT: Scott Kosar [Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper - 1974 screenplay]


EDITOR: Glen Scantlebury

MUSIC: Steve Jablonsky


RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 20, 2003

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertaiment

VIDEO RELEASE: March 17, 2004

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: October 7, 2004

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