First published back in March of 1984, over the years ‘Chainsaw Terror’ has become somewhat of a notorious rarity for British splatterpunk master Shaun Hutson; mostly due to the ban it received early on and then the heavy censorship that followed.

The book was originally commission by Hutson’s publishers at the time, Star / W.H. Allen, who wanted a novelisation of Tobe Hooper’s ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974).  However, after they enquired about the rights to the film, they found that the cost was too high, so instead suggested that Hutson merely write a novel about a psycho wielding a chainsaw instead.  Their brief was for Hutson to go as far over the top as possible.  However, his publishers didn’t realise the extent at which Hutson could go, and after receiving the manuscript, they informed Hutson that substantial cuts would have to be made.

Initially the book was intended to be the first book in a trilogy, with the subsequent books being ‘Chainsaw Slaughter’ and ‘Chainsaw Bloodbath’.  Due to the banning and savage cutting for the heavily censored version which was retitled ‘Come The Night’ (which is cut by about 25 pages and is missing entire sequences), these sequels were never written.

There have been many rumours of an uncut version of Hutson’s original manuscript being passed around.  Hutson himself has confirmed that a friend in Birmingham had run off several dozen copies of the fully uncensored manuscript and at one stage he had been selling them off for £75 each.  Whether this is just the stuff of an urban myth is yet to be confirmed.  I for one have never encountered a copy of the original manuscript.  But that’s not to say that they are not out there.

The most complete version of the story to have been published has become quite a rarity.  Entitled ‘Chainsaw Terror’ and published under his pseudonym of Nick Blake, it is the most uncensored version to be published to date.  This is the version that the following review is of.

DLS Synopsis:
It was April of 1978 when twenty-six-year-old Edward Briggs witnessed the death of his parents.  From outside of the master bedroom in their family home, he watched as his father, the carpenter Ralph Briggs, murdered his wife with a piece of broken mirror, before turning the viciously-sharp weapon on himself.

Now, five years later and Edward is living in the very same house with his sister, Maureen Briggs.  However, since their parents died, Maureen had noticed that Edward had become increasingly possessive of her.  It was a feeling that played on her mind whenever she was around her brother.  But she didn’t know the full extent of his feelings for her.  If she had she would undoubtedly have left the house a long time ago.  For ever since their parents’ death, Edward’s love of his sister had turned to lust.

Nevertheless, Maureen wanted to get out of their house and away from Edward and their suffocating life-style.  Over the past six months Maureen had been seeing a work colleague named Michael Ramsey.  A blossoming relationship which she had purposefully kept from Edward.  She knew he’d take it badly.  She knew that he’d react to the news and do everything he could to stop them seeing each other.  However now it was time she stood on her own two feet and told him she was planning to move in with Ramsey.

But what twenty-nine-year-old Maureen Briggs hasn’t taken into account is the true extent of her brother’s infatuation with her.  What Maureen has misjudged is the lasting affect that the brutal death of their parents had had on Edward.  His simmering hatred for women that had been caused by their late-mother’s adulterous past.  And the horrific lengths he will go to vent his anger.

Meanwhile, twenty-five-year-old Vicki Powell has been working the grimy Soho streets, trapped in a life of prostitution through her oppressive and dominating pimp, Danny Foster.  And when fellow-prostitute, Penny Dawson, doesn’t return after agreeing to spend the night with a punter, Vicki starts to get concerned.  However, a relationship has been forming between herself and the journalist Dave Todd.  The thirty-year-old reporter had been working on a series of articles about vice for The Herald newspaper.  A job that would put him deep in the dirt and endless sleazy grime of the Soho streets.

However, one by one, people have been going missing.  Each one connected to Edward Briggs in some way.  Behind closed doors, in the old Briggs household, the carpenter has been busy with his tools.  And in the darkened hallways of that house the clinging stench of lust-fuelled slaughter remains thick in the air…

DLS Review:
Over the years Hutson’s ‘Chainsaw Terror’ has become a notorious splatterpunk novel for good reason.  Quite simply, it’s one hell of a nasty and brutal novel.  And from the start of the book, Hutson doesn’t hold back one iota, and instead dives straight into a veritable maelstrom of vulgar horrors with absolute gusto.

In a nutshell we have a novel that’s clearly heavily influenced by the true crimes of Edward Gein along with Tobe Hooper’s film ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) and elements of Alfred Hitcock’s ‘Psycho’ (1960) – both of which were also based upon aspects of Gein’s crimes.  Inject in a misogynistic prostitute-killer who stalks his victims similar to that of William Lustig’s ‘Maniac’ (1980), and you’ve got something close to the general plot of ‘Chainsaw Terror’.

The novel is an early Hutson offering, and reads like one too.  Indeed, there’s a sort of Guy N Smith ‘pulpish’ quality to the story that works well with its unashamedly no-holds-bared and truly over-the-top violence and gore.  In fact, Hutson doesn’t hang around at all before getting straight into the thick of the escalating atrocities.  We’re barely five minutes into the tale before we’re treated to the brutal murder of Edward’s mother and the subsequent suicide of his father.  From here it’s straight into the incestuous lusting that Edward has for his sister.  And don’t expect Hutson to hold back here either.  Peep-holes and middle-of-the-night snooping into his sister’s bedroom is the order of the day – complementing the overall ‘80’s video nasty’ vibe perfectly.

The tale is structured with two distinct storyline threads which run parallel to each other for much of the novel.  The first one follows Briggs and his sudden eruption of sadistic murder towards women which had followed from the revelation of his sister’s relationship with Michael Ramsey.  The second storyline surrounds the character of Dave Todd and his gradually blossoming relationship with the prostitute Vicki Powell.  Indeed, Todd only really shows himself as the novel’s main protagonist in the latter half of the novel, whereby the two storylines finally begin to converge.

There’s certainly nothing clever or particularly inspired in the tale.  The whole structure and presentation is simplistic, with its two very linear storylines just gathering a textbook momentum, without any detours or surprising twists in the plot.  However, clever twists and turns are not what we want from a novel like ‘Chainsaw Terror’.  Let’s be honest, it’s all about the over-the-top violence and unrelenting gore.  It’s going for the gross-out factor time and again.  Mixing in as many taboos as possible.  And thankfully Hutson does just that.

Incestual necrophilia, dismemberment and brutal murder are all on the menu.  As such, the novel packs one heck of a punch – with escalating nastiness pummelling the reader until the unsurprisingly savage final sequence brings the carnage to a shuddering end.

As well as packing in the adrenaline-pumping violence and explicit gore the novel also delivers all those delightfully clichéd phrases that we’ve become so accustomed to within Hutson’s work.  Characters who constantly “smile thinly” and when things turn nasty that “knot of muscles at the side of their jaw pulses angrily”.  Oh yes, even in his early days Hutson was using the exact same descriptive phrases.

All in all if you’re a gorehound or a splatterpunk / pulp-horror fiend then you honestly can’t go far wrong with picking up a tattered old copy of ‘Chainsaw Terror’.  The cover alone should be enough to entice you.  And in all honesty – Hutson delivers the blood-drenched carnage with his petrol-powered McCullough chainsaw in absolute and unrelenting abundance.

The novel runs for a total of 173 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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