HOLLYWOOD — Nearly three decades after sawing his way into film history books in Tobe Hooper’s classic gorefest “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Leatherface is storming out of the vaults. New Line has just come on as domestic distrib of a “TCM” remake that “Pearl Harbor” director Michael Bay is producing via his low-budget shingle, Platinum Dunes.
But don’t count on meathooks, dismembered bodies and hippie chicks suffering hammer blows to the temple. His prowess at blowing things up notwithstanding, Bay sits on a director’s committee against violence, and he’s let it be known his take on the material isn’t explicit or gruesome.
That means less splattering blood and more MPAA-friendly, stripped down, “Blair Witch”-style scare tactics. Bay sold the pic on the basis of short teaser, most of which features a dark screen, stampeding footsteps and heavy breathing. (Sound familiar?)
That creative choice points up just how far the horror film business has shifted since the original “TCM.”
That pic was distribbed to an indie circuit of arthouses and grindhouses that no longer exist. Thanks to the flood of fright pics that followed, horror films have become a niche-marketed, cross-merchandized commodity. And New Line has long been at the vanguard of that trend, riding the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise to mainstream success.
Movies like “Blair Witch,” “The Sixth Sense” and “The Others” demonstrated that pics can be scary without being bloody — and that means less guff from the MPAA.
Fine Line Features prexy Mark Ordesky says the new “TCM” will be R-rated and won’t stint on bone-chilling effects.
“The idea is to make a really frightening film. An R rating is not some ghetto where films go to do marginal business. ‘Silence of the Lambs’ was R-rated.”
But one has to wonder whether Leatherface would happier if the slaughter were out in the open.