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Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

dir: Jonathan Liebesman
[img_assist|nid=823|title=Even R. Lee Ermey being The Man so profoundly doesn't save this pile o' shit|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=240]
Oh, what a woeful, woeful film. Hopefully it’s an Ending instead of a Beginning. It’s bad enough that they did a remake of the original in the first place, but now, compounding their crime by following the redundant with the plain unnecessary, they’ve gone and prequelled a horror classic. In doing so they’ve so how managed to make it anything but horrific, and substantially less than a classic.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is not so much an origin story about the origins of the murderous Hewitt clan so much as it is the endpoint of intellectual bankruptcy that serves the interests of greed without an ounce of creativity. The TCM remake made some money, so another flick scraping through the bottom of the barrel just had to be made, even though from watching this crap I can see clearly now that they had no idea what they were doing from start to finish.

In ripping the shit out of a review for a prequel / sequel / another trip to the well to whip the dead horse dismembered by a chainsaw, it requires an apologia or defence of the original. For perspective’s sake, at least.

Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic is not a flawless film. It starts in an excruciating fashion with a bunch of irritating stock characters travelling in a van that not only fails to provoke any sympathetic feelings in the viewer, but actually makes you hope Death will appear all the sooner and start slashing away. Especially whiney Franklin in the wheelchair, good goddamn did I want to see him get the chop.

The performances were, to use the understatement of the new century, not very good.

But the film is very strong all the same,. The set design, the necro imagery, the setting, daytime shooting, and especially the sound design, the implied horror and manifest terror exhibited by Sally and the oddness of the cannibalistic household combine to render the film unsettling and unforgettable.

TCM: The Beginning, is anything but unsettling, and remains very, very forgettable. In fact, I’m having difficulty remembering anything about it apart from vague feelings of disappointment, so I’m going to have to remind myself just how pedestrian and banal it truly was before I can keep writing.

Oh yeah, now I remember. Four crazy kids, divided into even pairs by gender, are gallivanting about in a jeep prior to the menfolk going off to Vietnam. Yes, that ever popular war is on, which situates the film firmly in the 60s before the hilarity of the initial remake. Since this is a prequel, we know that a) none of the evil people appearing in the 2003 flick will buy the farm here no matter how much they deserve to because it would make little (or less) sense, and b) our heroes would need a very creative plot device in order to survive but not be able to inform the authorities about the antics of the Hewitt maniacs. Since there’s not a skerrick of creativity in evidence, it’s the tiniest of spoilers to affirm that none of the initial idiots in the car survive.

The four cannibal fodder in the jeep are stock characters with little to differentiate them from furniture and props. There are there to be killed. The only question is: who will kill them? Will it be the evil Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski), who’s a very large mute retard, or the even more evil (and so very, very tired) Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey). Or will it be someone else in their house of horrors?

We see Leatherface’s origin only in so far as he is born as a surprise to his mother obese mother who works the line at an abattoir. Abandoned in a dumpster, and already ugly, he is adopted by some crusty looking woman who brings him to the Hewitt homestead to bring him up all proper like.

It’s never explained why he turns into a violent sociopath, apart from the fact that people call him a retard all the time. “You big retard” they say, oblivious to the fact that he is a big, dangerous looking retard.

I mean, I wouldn’t like being called a retard either. It’s a pretty insulting term, a bit hurtful to the delicate sensibilities lurking within the average human heart.

But none of it bothers to actually represent why, in a family of misfits that, strangely, seem to love him, he would turn into a sociopathic killer. Or maybe it does.

It’s more of an origin story as to how the Hewitt clan get to be isolated and continue to exist without anyone ever getting wise to their wicked ways, rather than an exploration of why they’re who they are. I suspect in-breeding, but you never can tell.

Even these aspects are poorly handled. How is it that they can kill a whole bunch of people and no-one notices? There’s no one around since the abattoir closed down. How does R. Lee Ermey’s kooky character become a sheriff? He kills the sheriff, and starts wearing his clothes, calls himself Hoyt, and no-one’s any the wiser. No one notices, no-one misses the other guy, and no-one cares, least of all the audience members.

Ermey himself managed to be a bit unsettling and scary in the 2003 remake, he just looks tired and cranky here. He was far scarier as the insane Marine drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, which was over twenty year’s ago. Maybe the difference is that he actually was a Marine drill sergeant. I guess he was never employed as a psychopathic sheriff, and doesn’t “feel” the role as much.

Also, Ermey’s mother (who must have been something like 200 years old) died whilst the movie was shooting, so maybe he just wasn’t in the mood for his usual shenanigans. He is as bored throughout as I was watching it.

Leatherface is reduced to just looking and sounding like a particularly poorly thought out professional wrestling character, the house of horrors is just where people come to die, and the victims, who do stupid thing after stupid thing, hardly cause us much heartbreak with their soon-to-be dearly departed status.

Sure, there’s some gore, and some gruesome deaths, and that would be enough if my IQ were about 50 points lower. Gore and gruesome deaths alone are not what made Texas Chain Saw Massacre a classic in the first place.

There was probably one scene that made me smile: for reasons I won’t bore you with, Leatherface has to perform an emergency amputation on one of his grandpa’s legs, at Sheriff Hoyt’s direction. With one gone, Hoyt tells him to cut the other, healthy leg off. When pressed as to why, Hoyt mutters “Balance”. That was the closest I came to chuckling.

The rest is stupid characters running around, running into buildings and trapping themselves, then trying to run out of them again. They run into places they can’t get out of, then cry when they get caught. Oh boo hoo, you brought this on yourself.

Beyond pedestrian, beyond lazy: there’s the level reached where the people making a crappy franchise movie just don’t fucking care, and clearly that’s the case here. Considering the fact that uberhack Michael Bay is producer, it should come as no surprise. The sequels should end here, but they won’t, because that would be too merciful.

2 times I’ll never bother to watch any more of these shitefests out of 10

“There comes a time, when a boy, becomes a man.” – TCM: The Beginning.