Scriptwriter Kosar's pitch for the remake of Tobe Hooper's 1974 horror movie featured a job-clinching opening switch. The hitchhiker picked up by the five hippy college kids, now en route to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, is not one of Leatherface's mutant kin but a dazed female survivor of his rampage. Just when you're wondering, however, if this might be Sally Hardesty, the 'final girl' from the original, the film splatters our seductive sense of familiarity all over the back of the camper van. Perhaps, hoping against hope, we're going to be treated not to a slavish re-tread of Hooper's meaty Southern Gothic but an inspired riff on its disturbing, ghoulish themes. There's no denying the technical skill displayed by Nispel (a 'contemporary commercial visualist' here directing his first feature), but he has no feel for narrative rhythm, cumulative tension or raw terror. The best one can say is that his version is not slavishly in thrall to Hooper's: boring, fright-free and pointless, maybe, but not craven. Most damagingly, the beefing up of the local sheriff's role - with some demented gallows humour and intimidating eyeballing from
R Lee Ermey
(the sergeant in Full Metal Jacket) - divides our attention. Stranded between the kids menaced by him and those being terrorised in the feral family's crazy house, we lose the remorseless intensity of a nightmare from which we cannot wake.