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STUDIO: New Line Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
• Commentary with director Jonathan Liebesman and producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller
• Bad to the Bone: documentary on making of the film
• Deleted and extended scenes.
Grab your favorite hardware and take a trip down memory lane and see just how Leatherface and his deranged family got its start.
Jordana Brewster (The Fast and the Furious), Taylor Handley (The O.C.), Diora Baird (Accepted), Matthew Bomer (Flightplan), R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket), Andrew Bryniarski (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre )
Four young adults are on one last road trip through the lone star state before the men folk of the group ship off to fight in Vietnam. Unbeknownst to them though, the Hewitt family is at the same time giving up life at the slaughterhouse and taking up the new business of killing everything in their site. When these two groups meet up, let’s just say they mix like oil and water…with a whole lot of blood thrown in as well.
When done right, horror movies are modern day Grande Guignol Theater. They scare you silly, while teasing you with glimmers of hope for the main characters. Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 Chainsaw Massacre knew the rules of horror movies, and was able to create a few new twists in the template of horror movie making. It is not only one of the best horror films ever made, but it’s also a film that transcended the genre and became noticed by more than just audiences on 42nd street. It was dark, moody, and extremely scary without using much of the red stuff at all. It created Iconic characters like Leatherface, the chainsaw wielding man child who butchers humans for the family barbecue shack. Well, its thirty-plus years later and after a successful 2003 restart of the franchise (it hurts to type the word franchise about this series) we are finally learning the backstory of the Hewitt clan, A.K.A. the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is a prequel, but as far as prequels go, it’s U.S.D.A. Grade D. The easy complaint is that even though it says “The Beginning” in the title, you never get a sense that this story came before the events that took place in the 2003 movie. Yes, we see how Leatherface is born. We even learn his real name, but it’s all thrown out their in the first twelve minutes of the story and then the movie just rolls on being another slasher movie, while occasionally throwing out a one liner that offers a tidbit of information on the characters motivation, but hardly qualifies as real exposition. Call me crazy, but I thought prequels were supposed to delve into what made the characters the people or things that they are later. This picture misses that one very important point in major ways.
The director, Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls) tries to make a case throughout the commentary that various torture and murder devices, like sheriff Hewitt’s trusty cling wrap, is used in this movie to show that its has always been a part of his arsenal. Well, that hardly counts as something that is essential in telling a backstory of the most murderous family in Texas lore. This kind of exposition is not terribly important for me to know as a viewer. What is important is why the family turned to their special brand of sadistic murder.
The acting is fine. The various performers run around and act scared, and occasionally jump through windows before being killed by scissors, or guns, and even the occasional chainsaw gouging. R. Lee Ermy is apparently the standout performance in this film as Sheriff Hoyt, the father of the chainsaw family. It’s his movie and he chews up every inch of the screen with that patented yelling and growling that he does so well. Forget the fact that his whole style has become clichéd and rather tiresome, he at least keeps your attention. The rest of the cast are mainly fodder for the mill. The one character in this film that is genuinely scary is Marietta Marich, who plays Luda Mae, Sheriff Hoyt’s wife. When she speaks a line of dialogue, I get the chills.
What hinders this film is the story. Earlier I griped about how simply showing cling wrap being used in this film does not count as backstory as to what makes this family so evil, but that is all this film seems to do. We see teeth get knocked out of the Sheriff’s mouth, because he doesn’t have teeth in the 2003 movie. We see how one of the family members gets his legs removed, because we know from the other film he has no legs. That’s all well and good for continuity, but the writers and filmmakers failed to actually show us how and why the Hewitts turned to slaughtering people in manners most ghastly. Maybe the suit who was in charge of coming up with the emotional reasons the Hewitts went crazy was out of the room when the committee at Platinum Dunes (the company that produced both of the new Massacre films) was brainstorming this part of the script.
All that being said if you like gore, then this DVD doesn’t hold back at all. Restraint is out the window when Leatherface gets a chainsaw in his hands. I’ve seen more horror movies than I care to count, and this one defenitly ranks up there as one of the gorier ones (at least of the mainstream variety). People are sawed in half, faces are removed in graphic detail, and plenty of blood splatters against dingy walls. While I am not squeamish about seeing chunks of flesh flying off chainsaw blades, I couldn’t help but wonder while watching all the carnage if the filmmakers have decided that using massive amounts of gore (instead of using that in combination with a well crafted tone and mood) equals scary?
Scary to the filmakers seems to be a lot of the “BOO” type, jump out at ya variety. There is a lot of people leaping out of the shadows, or popping up near car windows, and while it may get an audience reaction the first or second time, it gets old when you use that as your only means of which to scare people. The best horror films use the “BOO” scares sparingly while cranking up the audiences anxiety like a slow burn. Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is, arguably, the best example of a film having a perfect mix of shock scares and well paced ratcheting up of tension. Sure we aren’t seeing chainsaws go through people, and no, there isn’t really big car crashes or biker gangs involved in the Hooper classic, but there are sequences in that film that have a huge squirm factor, without using an ounce of the red stuff. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning has no time to grow a sense of dread, is too busy making sure the audience sees that Sheriff Hewitt likes to use cling wrap as a favored torture device.
The extras on this disc are pretty slim. There is a nice little documentary about the making of the movie included in the extras, and that turns out to be much more entertaining than the movie itself. It is pretty informative on how the day to day production of a gore movie works. You get a few extra scenes, but since this is an unrated cut, the stuff the M.P.A.A. wouldn’t let pass into theaters with an R rating is back in the film. The commentary is very listenable, if only to hear to the director and the producers explain their vision to the audience. When they aren’t too busy congratulating each other on the epic scope of their film, they seem to be infatuated with the minutia of the films continuity (the teeth, legs, etc.), but assume the audience isn’t terribly bothered with why father Hewitt decides to act like a sheriff, or why Leatherface decides that he will use the chainsaw as his murder weapon of choice, besides the fact that its in the room. They seem like they really love the genre, but again, it’s not a good enough excuse for bad moviemaking.