Witnessing fan’s disappointment in seeing the feeble origins of Darth Vader – arguably the most fearsome villain in cinema history – in the largely reviled and deeply unnecessary Star Wars prequels still doesn’t appear to be enough of a warning sign for those wanting to breathe life back into a long-dead franchise. The opening scenes in this prequel to the 1974 iconic horror The Texas Chain Saw Massacre can’t help but underscore everything wrong with the notion of trying to explain away the birth of a villain. We’re witness to the twisted matriarch of the Sawyer family (90s US indie movie mainstay Lili Taylor – deserving of a much, much, much, much better film) encouraging her youngest son, whose birthday they’re celebrating, to torture a thief using a chainsaw. You can’t really get more on the nose than that. Subtly is completely out of the window here.
The youngest member of the clan is than carted off to a boy’s home by a vengeful sheriff, played by another familiar 90s cinematic figure, Stephen Dorff (does he and Taylor share the same, lazy agent?). Ten years later, a young idealistic (read: pin-up sexy) nurse begins working at the same reformatory where mini Leatherface was carted off to. She quickly forms a bond with two male patients – the hulking, almost mute Bud, and charismatic, if edgy, Jackson. Before you can say “plot device”, a riot breaks out and the compassionate nurse is forced to become a hostage for the extended gang of Bug and Jackson’s inner circle of misfits.
Directing duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo who made a splash on their home turf with the 2007 French home invasion horror Inside (À l’intérieur) know how to stylishly frame the blood-letting amongst the sweltering Texas heat and cornfields. What threatens to briefly turn into a semi watchable disturbed teens vs. the law coming-of-age film is ditched almost immediately and turns into yet another gore bore with zero substance. It’s a huge insult to the original film, which remains a phenomenal achievement in horror, and is more than capable of still terrorising an audience over forty years after its initial release. Even those diehard fans of the franchise would balk at what has been churned out here – namely, a deeply cynical call-back which attempts to use cod -psychological justifications and corrupted state care as the creation behind a monster. Avoid.