That surprised me, actually. My most recent encounter with Scandinavian cinema was the blindingly unique Let the Right One In, which does things to the teen-vampire genre that would make an Eastern European hooker blush. And, before that, there was Cold Prey: also Scandinavian, also snowy, also bloody brilliant. Manhunt doesn’t have the snow. Nor the brilliance.
It’s 1974, the year of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but Tobe Hooper’s film obviously hasn’t made it as far as Norway yet because the four teenage protagonists of Manhunt don’t seem to realize it’s not really a good idea to drive somewhere remote in a camper van, make fun of the locals, and pick up a half-crazy hitchhiker. Pretty soon, the hitchhiker is dead, one of the teens is dead (shotgunned graphically in the heel, and then – oops – the head) and the survivors are on the run from some scruffy, possibly inbred hunters who prefer human prey to woodland wildlife.
That’s pretty much where the TCM referencing stops and, unfortunately, the story along with it. Manhunt offers nothing else beyond running and hiding in the woods for the rest of its scant, 75-minute running time. We never get to understand, or even meet, the killers in any detail, there aren’t any actual set pieces (like Wrong Turn’s masterful keyhole, treetop or waterfall sequences) and it’s not even particularly suspenseful. But then, I wasn’t bored, either... Damn you, Manhunt! You should be a pointless retread but there’s something – something! – about you that keeps you interesting. I’ll be damned if I know what it is, though.
Quite simply, there’s no justice: the use of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre goes way beyond a simple jumping-off point for Mannunt. It’s more like a straight remake-cum-rip-off, only without the second half. Sorta like this:
Is it really feasible, however, that someone would virtually remake a 35-year-old film and not only fall far short in comparison, but also chuck out all the accumulated slasher learnings of the past three decades? Manhunt does nothing new. It doesn’t even try to do anything new, except set itself in Norway.
Speaking of which, I think I’ll remake Halloween and set it in the Maldives. That Michael Myers could really use a nice tan.