Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Written by Sheldon Turner
Directed by Jonathon Liebsman
Hoyt...R. Lee Ermey
Remakes are a risky endeavour, especially when it comes to pleasing the horror fan. Drafting a prequel to that remake, well...that's just ballsy.
The film begins in August 1939 with a painful birth at the slaughterhouse. The woman in question births a hideous excuse for a baby boy, and he is promptly deposited in the dumpster. A brief time later, a member of the Hewitt family finds this monstrosity ("That's the ugliest thing I ever saw."), and raises it as if it were her own.
Thirty years later: The slaughter house has closed. The town has gone bankrupt, and ceased to even be called a town. There are only the Hewitt family (who have lived in the area for generations) and a few last minute stragglers left. Before long, the stragglers are gone. And not of their own volition.
Cut (no pun intended) to four attractive youngsters--brothers Dean and Eric, and their girlfriends Chrissie and Bailey--on a roadtrip of sorts, a final hurrah before the boys head off to Vietnam. But there are a lot of things standing in their way: a gang of bikers, an exploding cow, and yes, the crazy motherfuckers known as the Hewitt clan, who kidnap and torment them for one night of utter terror.
Led by Charlie (AKA Sheriff Hoyt), enforced by former-dumpster-baby-turned-serial-slaughterer Thomas (AKA Leatherface), cared for by Luda Mae (AKA Mama), and aided by Monty (AKA The Full Monty), the Hewitt family is the Wu Tang Clan of Texas. They ain't nothin' to fuck with, son.
Scenes of gruesome carnage, gooey gore and tubs of the red stuff abound in this film. It's very well shot, scored, and acted. It's exciting, it's gross, and it's a lot of fun. So why, pray tell, is Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning so underrated?
One word: Surprise.
More specifically, the lack of surprise. Sure, it's nice to see when ol' Tommy H. discovered his first chainsaw, and how Charlie managed to win the election for Sheriff, and even how Monty lost his legs. But the problem is, going into this film we already know that Charlie is going to be Sheriff, Monty is going to lose his legs, and we sure as hell know that Tom-Tom is going to get his hands on a chainsaw. We already know the fate of every character involved in the film before the opening credits start to roll. It's almost as if a rather obnoxious friend spoiled the end to the film while we were waiting in line to buy tickets. You know the guy I'm talking about: The one who said "You haven't seen Sixth Sense yet? You have to see it! It's awesome! Bruce Willis is the reincarnated spirit of H.P. Lovecraft."
NOTE: Bruce Willis's character in Sixth Sense was not actually the reincarnated spirit of H.P. Lovecraft. But there are probably 8 or 10 people left in the world who have not actually seen the film, and I don't want to become the very asshole friend that I'm speaking of above.
This, of course, is the danger of all prequels--building up to events that we have already seen. This is obviously not a completely original film. It's more like...original twice removed, if that makes any sense. But, as with the previous entry in the franchise, if viewed as just another heretofore-unseen outing of the Hewitt family, it's still an enjoyable (if somewhat vapid) flick.
Its just too bad that the filmmakers seemed preoccupied with giving backstory to superficial plot elements, rather than answer any real questions. You know, like, why the hell is the entire family utterly insane? How did Leatherface go from being just another ugly baby to being a chainsaw wielding maniac? Thirty years of his life are skipped completely over, making the subtitle The Beginning negligible at best. It feels as if the two films were accidentally released out of chronological order, The Beginning seeming more like Part One than an actual prequel. So just do what I did: Wait a few years between viewings, then watch them back-to-backwards.
Call me crazy, but I'm clammoring for at least two more films in this franchise: one that shows the actual beginning (i.e., Lil' Leatherface exploring the world as a wide-eyed burgeoning mini-maniac), and another that shows an actual finale (i.e., the members of the Hewitt clan meeting their grisly end). I know, I know...four films may be pushing the limits of good taste. But it can't be any worse than Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.
Otherwise known as the movie that inexplicably didn't kill Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey's careers.
All right, all right, all right.
"Meat is meat. Bone is bone."