Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)


Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Screenplay: Sheldon Turner
Cast: Jordana Brewster (as Chrissie); Taylor Handley (as Dean A. Hill); Diora Baird (as Bailey); Matt Bomer (as Eric Hill); Lee Tergesen (as Holden); R. Lee Ermey (as Sheriff Hoyt); Andrew Bryniarski (as Leatherface)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #91

Nearing the end of the Texas Chainsaw series, it's become a miserable marathon at this point, carbon copies now which feel out of touch to their source material entirely. In comparison, even the Rob Zombie Halloween films feels more rewarding next to what happened with the 2003-6 remakes of Chainsaw as, whilst they may have had ill advised decisions within them, Zombie was at least attempting something thoughtful within them even if they failed for many, whilst the Chainsaw films feel like cynical cash grabs meant to be nasty for the sake of it without any emotional connection to the material. The Beginning is utterly redundant in itself as it's a prequel, only clearly made because the 2003 film which started this new version of the series also technically ended it. An irony can be found in this knowing that in the eighties such an ending, with a character losing an arm, wouldn't have halted a sequel being made, and even the Chainsaw series wasn't above making sequels in spite of major characters being visibly unable to return, making the point of The Beginning suspect or absurd.

One wishes, after the empty grimness of the 2003 film, that this had some levity like a character returning with a chainsaw for a hand, if they decided to completely ditch this tone in an alternative reality and get back to even the slapstick tone of The Next Generation (1994), looking like gold next to The Beginning. Like the others throughout the series a group of young adults, in this case two men about to go to Vietnam in the midst of the war the US was in the midst of and their girlfriends, ending up enduring the terror of the Leatherface family, the prequel nature in showing the origins of the family in the late sixties. The issue with this is twofold. First, that it skips through most of the back-story in the opening credits. Thankfully the viewer avoids suffering through the adventures of baby Leatherface, already over-the-top with him being born in the midst of an abattoir conveyor belt and discovered in an outdoor bin, but everything it discloses afterwards is entirely worthless, only interesting in terms of if the film was actually going to disclose these details (Leatherface learning to wear a flesh mask of someone else's face, the decision of the family to become cannibalistic) in a far more dramatic, character based story, especially as the premise of depicting a family living in a town without any economy and people leaving that could've been a compelling one, an undercurrent that you can find in Tobe Hooper's original film already. Sadly the film even by the standards of a slasher plot is lacking in being compelling by itself, let alone in any subtext.

Secondly, because this is a prequel, the Leatherface family will not get their comeuppance as a result, the characters we're meant to support put against them already bland but further reduced to nothing knowing they won't be able to end the cannibalistic family, merely figures to be harmed and maimed through violence for the sake of violence that's grim rather than horrifying. A lot of the film as well is also just to have R. Lee Ermey shout and cuss throughout, Leatherface reduced to a side figure, Ermey's character now just tedious to see in this prequel and whose only moment of new character building to him where he got the sheriff's shirt from. This is also a film that attempts to be set in the late sixties, and even for someone like myself born in 1989 Britain, feels completely unlike the period and already dated as a 2006 film, a strange music video grim with the type of figures, like a female biker welding shotgun while she's moving, that you'd find in neo-grindhouse films rather than a period accurate movie in aesthetic and presentation. The film is so lacklustre and dour to withstand - none of the weird humour of the Hooper films, none of the nerve shredding music or visuals, not even cinematographer Daniel Pearl and the style of the 2003 film - and without any sense to its ending baring empty nihilism that its only worth a short review, the real low point of the entire franchise.


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