Film Reviews

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING

By • Oct 6th, 2006 •

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New Line Cinema / Platinum Dunes
Running time — 90 minutes / MPAA rating: R

As a prequel to a gruesome horror movie, this one does the family name proud.

If you are over 35, stay home. But you already knew that. If you are a fan of teens-meet-torturers horror movies, and you have a shrine to Leatherface, this prequel does his family name proud.

Yes, I saw and liked the 2003 remake of the 1974 TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. The original terrified me – the low, low budget made it all too real.

How is a Leatherface made? Well, he starts off as an ugly baby thrown out in a slaughterhouse dumpster and found by a crazy woman dumpster-diving looking for food. But it is the woman’s husband who really nurtures and guides Leatherface’s personality. We quickly go through a montage of photos of Leatherface growing up. His childhood wasn’t picture-perfect. He’s hiding his face in all the photos.

It’s now 1969 and Leatherface is working at a slaughterhouse – a brilliant career choice. However, when the town goes belly-up and everyone leaves, Leatherface gets mad because he isn’t given a severance package and hacks up his boss.

The town’s sheriff goes to arrest Leatherface and is killed by Leatherface’s Uncle Charlie (R. Lee Ermey). He tells his adopted son to bring back the body and serves him up in a stew for dinner. He sets the tone by announcing: “We ain’t never gonna go hungry again.”

See? Leatherface is just trying to get along with his father.

Uncle Charlie, who has now christened himself Sheriff Hoyt, is the real monster. He’s still fighting the Korean War and intends to keep his family well fed regardless of the dire circumstances of an empty town.

Why kill animals when there are fine humans in automobiles who will stop for a cop?

Here come The Young, Stupid Victims. I forgave them their stupidity since it is 1969 and the dawning of The Age of Aquarius and Flower Power Love. They just do not know how to deal with torture-happy people. It’s going to be years before WOLF CREEK and HIGH TENSION write the rule book for fighting back.

Rule Number One no one ever follows in a movie: If you escape, don’t go back for your friends alone.

The two uninteresting young couples are bland Chrissie (Jordana Brewster) and dull Dean (Taylor Handley) and ordinary Bailey (Diora Baird) and someone named Eric (Matthew Bomer). This is the fault of the screenwriter, not the actors. Dean has done a tour of duty in Vietnam and is going back. He is forcing his younger brother Eric to enlist with him. It’s for his own good and we never find out why. Will becoming a killer make him a better man? Get him a paycheck? Chrissie and Bailey are standard issue young girls who are carefree idiots without a clue, but we are constantly told that Dean has been war-hardened. Okay. He’s the smart one. He’s killed before. He knows how to use a weapon.

Except there is never a smart victim in U.S. made horror movies.

Sheriff Hoyt starts off the killing spree by summarily killing a motorcycle chick who stops The 4 Victims on the road. Sheriff Hoyt takes them back to the forbidding House. And he has a good reason, though it is rather primitive. Let me explain.

“Probably the most inhuman practice of all is to be met with among the tribes who deliberately hawk the victim piecemeal whilst still alive. Incredible as it may appear, captives are led from place to place in order that individuals may have the opportunity of indicating, by external marks on the body, the portion they desire to acquire. The distinguishing marks are generally made by means of colored clay or strips of grass tied in a peculiar fashion. The astounding stoicism of the victims, who thus witness the bargaining for their limbs piecemeal, is only equaled by the callousness with which they walk forward to meet their fate.” From “Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice” by Garry Hogg. The section quoted is from“A Voice from the Congo”by Herbert Ward, published in 1910.

Unfortunately, the ‘Chainsaw’ movies are inspired by a family who killed 33 people. And, this being the prequel, you already know the outcome. But it is sadist Sheriff Hoyt who is insane. Leatherface just doesn’t have anyone to talk to. Will the Nam vet at least put up a good fight? Does he have a war plan? Will anyone get away? Will someone pick up a pipe and kill Mom in revenge?

There was enough gruesomeness that at one point I just covered my eyes. Ugly, mean and downright nasty in the bloody sadism of its torture, THE BEGINNING will not disappoint fans.


Credits:
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Screenwriter: Sheldon Turner
Producers: Michael Bay, Mike Fleiss, Tobe Hooper, Kim Henkel, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller
Executive producers: Toby Emmerich, Mark Ordesky, Guy Stodel, Jeffrey Allard, Robert J. Kuhn
Director of photography: Lukas Ettlin
Production designer: Marco Rubeo
Costume designer: Mari-An Ceo
Music: Steve Jablonsky
Editor: Jonathan Chibnall

Cast:
Chrissie: Jordana Brewster
Dean: Taylor Handley
Bailey: Diora Baird
Eric: Matthew Bomer
Sherriff Hoyt: R. Lee Ermey
Leatherface: Andrew Bryniarski

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