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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/15/2006

The Synopsis:

In 1939, an obese woman named Sloane (L.A. Calkins) works in a Texas meat processing plant called Lee Bros. Meats.  She is pregnant, and one day while on the job, her water breaks.  She gives birth to a severely deformed boy, and she dies immediately after.  The workers take the grotesque child and put him in the trash.  Luda Mae Hewitt (Marietta Marich), looking for food in the garbage, finds the boy and takes him home to her husband Charlie (R. Lee Ermey.)  While she thinks that the baby is beautiful, Charlie thinks that he is ugly.  They adopt him anyway, and the movie flashes forward thirty years to 1969.  Eric Hill (Matthew Bomer) has come back from Vietnam in his first tour in the Marine Corps, and he has already decided to reenlist…much to the distain of his fiancée Chrissie (Jordana Brewster.)  He is mainly reenlisting to protect his recently drafted younger brother Dean (Taylor Handley.)  Dean doesn’t plan on going though…which is something he hasn’t told Eric yet.  The Hill brothers, Chrissie, and Dean’s girlfriend Bailey (Diora Baird) are going to Mexico for a vacation before heading off to Vietnam, but Dean has already worked it out with Bailey that they are going to stay in Mexico rather than to Vietnam.  Meanwhile in the world of the Hewitt family, the plant has just been closed due to health code violations and everyone has been laid off.  The only one left attempting to do any work there is Thomas Hewitt (Andrew Bryniarski), the deformed child that Luda Mae and Charlie adopted.  His boss, Ed (Tim De Zarn), orders him to leave, and he does…but he comes back later and kills Ed with a sledgehammer.  Thomas then spies a chainsaw, which he can now use to continue his bloodthirsty work at home.  Sheriff Winston (Lew Temple), the only law enforcement left in town (everyone else cleared out when the plant shut down), comes to Charlie to have him help arrest Thomas, who Winston heard just killed someone.  Winston goes to arrest Thomas, but Charlie takes a shotgun from Winston’s squad car and kills the sheriff.  Charlie likes Winston’s badge, and that night during dinner (the meal is the remains of Winston cooked into a soup), he announces that he has changed his name and he will be taking over the role as sheriff.  Welcome…Sheriff Hoyt.  Back in the soon-to-be victims’ world, the four young people stop off at a convenience store, which happens to be run by Luda Mae.  The girls get some souvenirs, and Holden (Lee Tergesen) and his girlfriend Alex (Cyia Batten, a former member of The Pussycat Dolls)…two bikers with bad intentions in mind…watch them.  As they head down the road to Mexico, Dean finally confesses to Eric that he doesn’t want to go to Vietnam by burning his draft card.  Right at that moment, Alex pulls alongside of them and orders them to pull over with her sawed-off shotgun with the goal to rob them.  Eric tries to overtake her, but their Jeep accidentally hits an animal.  Chrissie is thrown into the bushes, and the rest are badly injured.  Hoyt arrives at that moment, but instead of helping the accident victims, he kills Alex.  He takes Eric, Dean, and Bailey back to the Hewitt farmhouse to become that night’s dinner.  He has Old Monty (Terrence Evans) tow the wrecked Jeep back to the house.  After recovering from the accident, Chrissie stows away in the Jeep with the hopes that she will be able to help her friends.  Hoyt tortures them first, partly because he is offended that Dean burned his draft card.  I won’t spoil things, but Thomas later kills one of them and slices off that person’s face to make into his first human mask (he had previously only made masks out of animals.)  Chrissie escapes out of the Jeep and runs through the woods to the road, where she flags down Holden.  Together they attempt to help their friends escape from the messed up Hewitt farm.

The Review:

When I saw the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I heard that there might be a prequel.  When it was announced that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning was being made, I was intrigued.  I didn’t think that the first remake was that bad, and now we might finally get to see how Leatherface came to be.  Did it deliver on that promise?  Not completely.

There are two major problems with the movie.  First is the fact that “the beginning” is wrapped up in five minutes.  After we see Thomas’s birth, we see news clippings of his formative years during the opening credits.  It then jumps to thirty years later, and we begin with your standard dumb-kids-in-hillbilly-land plot.  Sure…we get to see Thomas fall in love with his new sharp toy, and we get to see how “Charlie” got his job (and introduce his family to the joys of cannibalism), but overall, we didn’t get to see what made Thomas turn into Leatherface (aside from crafting his first leather face.)  That leads into the second major problem…since this is a prequel, you know that none of the Hewitts are going to bite the dust.  If there is any suspense at all, it’s if any of the victims made it out alive.

Both problems contribute to the prequel being an ineffective one.  In the three Star Wars movies, we knew what was going to happen, but we wanted to see what led up to Episode IV.  Audiences were able to see the natural evolution of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader.  I’m not saying that Beginning’s tale had to be spun over the course of three movies, but having it wrap up by the end of the opening credits is cheating.  I think that director Jonathan Liebesman (who helmed the awful 2003 flick Darkness Falls) and screenwriter Sheldon Turner were so eager to get to the killin’ that they stuffed the origin story in the corner.

The only saving grace in the movie is yet another entertaining performance by Ermey.  He was great in the 2003 version, but he has more camera time in this one to ham it up (even more than Leatherface.)  It is odd that he constantly has to fall back on the role that made him famous though…1987’s Full Metal Jacket.  Even in this one, he makes Dean do push-ups as if he was channeling the drill sergeant from Jacket.  I hope that he will someday find success that isn’t a horror movie or doesn’t require him to bark out military orders.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning could have been so good, but since they didn’t follow through, I left the movie very disappointed.  If they make another sequel, let’s hope that it’s called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The End (why do I have a feeling that they are already working on that script?)

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