Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)








DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebesman

WRITERS:

Sheldon Turner
David J. Schow

CAST:

Jordana Brewster
Matt Bomer
Taylor Handley
Diora Bird
R. Lee Ermey
Lee Tergesen
Andrew Bryniarski
Lew Temple

PLOT:

When brother's Eric and Dean take one last road trip with their girlfriends before they are drafted and sent to serve in Vietnam. They are heading through the backroads of Texas when a horrific jeep accident leaves them injured and stranded in the company of an evil sheriff. They will soon come into contact with the sheriff's cannibalistic clan and their chainsaw-wielding son Leatherface.







I had originally seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning in cinemas back in 2006. At the time, I remember liking it but not as much as the original or the remake. Rewatching it eleven years late, I think the movie still sits somewhere in the middle of this franchise. While nowhere near as iconic and groundbreaking as the original or as bonkers and left-field as the sequel. The movie also loses some of the freshness that the remake had generated when it burst onto the scene three years earlier. What The Beginning did right was that it kept things dark and brutal.

Up until watching Leatherface (2017) last night. I think The Beginning held the award for being the most brutal and mean-spirited of all the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. Quite an honour when you consider that the series as a whole, deals with murder and cannibalism. Where the remake was dark and violent when compared to the original and the first three sequels. The Beginning takes it that one step further and goes for the jugular. The barrage of nastiness on display is glorious to behold, and that is what this prequel will be remembered for always.

What I think the movie does successfully is that it creates four leading characters who you actually care and root for and that you want to see make it out alive and survive their ordeal. Unlike the remake, where we have the annoying nerdy stoner who ruins more than one scene that he is in. Here, I actually liked both brother characters and their girlfriends. I also think the whole Vietnam drafting subplot played well in making them come across as likable guys even if one didn't want to go to war. It also served Sheriff Hoyt to be extra harsh and violent towards the brothers.

Again, the prequel like the remake is a gorgeously filmed horror movie. There are some beautiful wide open shots of the Texas landscape. Where the remake is darker, and we see a lot of fog-filled backwoods and grey skies. I found this prequel to be a lot more bright with golden brown hues. This prequel feels like it tries to match the look and feel of the original in terms of aesthetic. While this is much more polished than most of the sequels and the original. It still felt very similar in tone and feel. I think Lukas Ettlin has done a great job with the cinematography.

Where the prequel goes wrong is that the movie is pretty predictable. Going into this movie, you know exactly where this will end up heading. There is no way that any of these characters can survive and make it out of this alive because that would throw away everything that came after it. If someone survived this ordeal and went to the police, there would be no remake. So for an hour and a half. We know exactly where this story is heading. While a very dark ending for the film which I enjoyed, it's still extremely predictable as it could have only gone one way.

Another element of the story that I didn't like was the biker subplot. While the two biker characters serve up some decent gory fodder when it comes to being victims. They don't really serve much of a purpose other than adding to the death toll. Both are written pretty terribly as well. Both walk into their situations and are immediately killed. They offer no threat to Leatherface or Sheriff Hoyt. They simply enter the big creepy house or confront and are immediately killed off. They are around for all of a few minutes and are just disposable.

When it comes to being a suspenseful horror film. I think the movie has some solid scenes of tension. The jeep chase and crash with the cow are outstanding. I thought the entire scene was solid in building up the tension. Sheriff Hoyt taking three of the characters back to the rural farmhouse with the reveal of Leatherface is also great. I think the movie has enough tension that it gets a pass for me on that front. The gore is also outstanding. This is one of the most brutal slashers you'll see come out of a major Hollywood studio.

Lastly, the acting in the film is solid. Matt Bomer, Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, and Diora Bird are put through the wringer in this movie. Every single actor gives it their all as well. I think Jordana Brewster is a solid lead here. While I prefer Jessica Biel, I still think Jordana does well with her performance. I think Diora Bird for my first time seeing her in this film is also fantastic. Every single character is made to suffer. R. Lee Ermey is also excellent as Sheriff Hoyt. Just like the remake, he is a despicable human, and you love to hate him.







DEATH TOLL: 11

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman dies giving birth to a deformed baby.
- Leatherface is seen hanging up meat in a slaughterhouse.
- A man is repeatedly hit with a baton as he tries to do push-ups.
- A man is shot in the kneecap.
- A man is cut in half with a chainsaw.
- A biker has a chainsaw rammed through his stomach.
- Someone runs and steps in a bear trap.
- A police officer and civilian are hit by a speeding car.
- A woman has a chainsaw slammed through her back.
- A man's legs are sawn off.
- A woman is hit in the shoulder with a fisherman's hook.
- A man is beaten to death with a mallet.
- The sheriff of the town is shotgun blasted to the head.
- A cow explodes when hit by a speeding jeep.
- A woman is shotgun blasted in the chest.
- We see a man have his skin and face cut off.
- A woman's throat is sliced open.
- A man has a chainsaw slammed through his back.
- We see the corpse of a woman with no feet or hands.
- A woman is seen preparing a stew using human parts.
- A woman is shown to have had all her teeth pulled out.
- The Sheriff has his head repeatedly slammed against the porch.







The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning sits at number three in the franchise for me. It just edges out Tobe Hooper's sequel for me. While not as great as the original or remake, this is still a vicious and mean-spirited little film. While it doesn't add all that much to the mythology of the series or the Hewitt family and has a predictable ending. I still think this is so dark and gory that I can't help but enjoy the carnage on display here. Gorgeous cinematography and some solid performances raise this as an above average entry in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.


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