THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Produced by Michael Bay, Mike Fleiss, Tobe Hooper, Kim Henkel, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller
Written by Sheldon Turner
Director of Photograpy Lukas Ettlin
Music by Steve Jablonsky
Cast: Jordana Brewster, Andrew Bryniarski, R. Lee Ermey, Matt Bomer, Taylor Handley
2006/89 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1 EX/ DTS 6.1 ES
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the New Line Home Entertainment DVD
If I was to make a flow chart (or some sort of graph) of originality in Hollywood, the sequel to a remake would probably be as far from the center as possible. One is likely to find very little creativity in the second part of a story which has already been told. Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. Filmmakers should feel free to take the story in any direction which they want and bring new things to the series. This thought clearly never entered the minds of those behind THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING, a film which give pointless a new meaning.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING is actually a prequel to the 2003 remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. As the story opens, we see the birth of Leatherface, who is literally born inside of a slaughterhouse, abandoned, and then adopted by the Hewitt family. The story then leaps ahead to 1969. The slaughterhouse in a small Texas town -- which is essentially the only business in town -- closes, but its most dedicated employee, Thomas Hewitt (Andrew Bryniarski) doesn't want to leave. Unfortunately, he devotion leads him to killing his boss. When the local sheriff comes after Thomas, Uncle Charlie Hewitt (R. Lee Ermey), presumably comes to help the lawman, but he actually kills the sheriff and takes over his identity. The family then eats the sheriff and essentially decides that cannibalism is OK.
Meanwhile, a group of youngsters are driving across Texas on their way to California. Eric (Matt Bomer) plans to re-enlist in the Army for a second tour of duty in Vietnam, where he will joined by his brother, Dean (Taylor Handley), who is enlisting for the first time. They are traveling with their respective girlfriends, Chrissie (Jordana Brewster) and Bailey (Doira Baird). After running afoul of a motorcycle gang, they are pursued by one of the gang members and their Jeep is wrecked. Charlie Hewitt, who has now taken on the persona of Sheriff Hoyt, arrives on the scene, and takes Eric, Dean, and Bailey into custody, but Chrissie, who was thrown from the wreckage, manages to elude him. Hoyt takes the group back to the Hewitt family home, where they will endure a nightmare of torture. Will Chrissie be able to rescue her friends?
During the making-of featurette contained on the THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING DVD, the producers of the film claim that they had no intention of making a sequel (prequel) to the 2003 film, but people kept asking them questions about the family in the film, so they decided to make another movie. OK, who are these people and where can I write them to ask to them to stop asking stupid questions? (These statements are seemingly contradicted on the DVD's commentary, where the producers state that the idea for a sequel came up while they were shooting THE AMITYVILLE HORROR remake in 2004, not 10 months after THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE had opened.)
I try to go into movies with an open mind, but I have to admit, I didn't have a good feeling about 2003's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and I was right, as I found the movie to be a pitiful imitation of the original. Having said that, I had no idea how to feel about a prequel to that remake. To be honest, I don't remember much about THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, save for the fact that I didn't like it. As hard as it is to believe, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING is even worse.
I hate to use this word again, but the movie is pointless. Sure, the producers claim that there are people who wanted to see the further adventures of the Hewitt family, but is this true? If so, is this the movie that those people wanted to see? As noted above, the movie opens with the birth of Thomas Hewitt, who will go on to become Leatherface. The implication is that this film will be his story. But, as it turns out, the movie is much more about how Sheriff Hoyt became the insane leader of the family. Yes, we get to see Leatherface make his first mask of human flesh, but he has little else to do in the story.
The story itself doesn't stray very far from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE formula and nothing here feels new. In the making-of featurette, one of the cast members says, "Nothing can prepare you for what's going on in this house." Oh yeah? Try every other movie made in the TCM canon. This movie has the young people traveling through Texas, the first encounter with Leatherface, a dinner scene with someone tied to a chair, and of course, a scene where Leatherface chases someone. It's as if screenwriter Sheldon Turner watched Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (as well as bits and pieces from some of the other CHAINSAW films) and made a checklist of what he should include. The result is a movie which features few surprises, save for the ending. Also, given the fact that this is a prequel, we know which characters are going to live. Maybe there are those who want to see the same thing over and over, but if there are going to be new THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE films (which there shouldn't be), I'd like to see someone take them in a new direction.
And then we have the tone of the film. Simply put, this movie is too mean-spirited. Now, I know what you're saying, "Mike, it's about a group of cannibals. How can it not be mean-spirited?" To that I say, simply look at Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. In that film, we are witnessing a group of degenerate cannibal murderers. But, their behavior is always very calm and balanced because that is simply their way of life. Even when they are torturing poor Sally, it's no big deal to them. That's what makes that movie so creepy. With THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING we've got a group who revels in torture and pain. This puts the movie way over the top and the depravity becomes very numbing very quickly. The scenes in which Sheriff Hoyt is yelling and hitting people blur together and they made my fast-forward finger itch for action.
About the only good thing that I can say about THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING is I like that director Jonathan Liebesman has chosen to avoid the recent trend of making very dark movies, and has utilized the bright Texas sunshine in the movie. The fact that some of the most disturbing scenes take place in broad daylight could have been very effective is the overall movie wasn't so weak. I hate to use this word again, but THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING is a pointless movie. If you want to see Leatherface in action (and you really won't in this movie), do yourself a favor and watch the original again...and by original, I mean the 1974 version.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING cuts through DVD courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture is very sharp and clear. There is some mild grain on the image, but the commentary implies that this was intentional to give the film a period look. The afore-mentioned daytime scenes look fine and the nighttime ones never come close to being too dark. The movie has a very brown look to it, thus when the red blood arrives, it truly stands out. I noticed no major problems with artifacting or video noise. The DVD features both a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track and a DTS 6.1 ES track. Both audio tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects. The movie has a nice sound design and this is prominently displayed in the DVD's audio. The stereo effects are good, while the surround effects are multiple and effective. There is a healthy amount of subwoofer action as well.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING DVD has a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring director Jonathan Liebesman and producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. While this isn't the most exciting commentary ever made, the trio does provide a great deal of information about the making of the film. They talk about the story, the locations, the cast, and the overall shooting schedule. We learn even more about the making of the movie in the 45-minute featurette "Down to the Bone". Here, we have a ton of behind-the-scene footages, bolstered by comments from cast and crew. This segment tackles the script ideas, the cast, the director, the locations, the production design, the stunts, the makeup FX, and the editing. The DVD contains 7 DELETED SCENES, which run about 13 minutes. These can be watched with or without commentary from Liebesman, Fuller, and Form. These scenes offer three alternate endings which don't vary much from the ending in the finished film. The last extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING.
One finale note, I viewed the Unrated DVD of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING for this review. The DVD box states the running time as 89 minutes. IMDB.com lists the running time of the R-rated version at 91 minutes. Having not seen the R-rated version, I can't comment on which elements were different, but I can say that there's plenty of violent gore to be had here.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©