THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNINGR
After New Line's 2003 remake of the 1974 horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre racked up $80 million at the box office, it was only a matter of time until the studio churned out another installment in the reborn franchise. Instead of shooting a Part II, however, the producers (including one Mr. Michael Bay) decided to prequelize the first Massacre. (Just so we're clear, I'm talking about the second first Massacre, not the first first Massacre.) This seems like an odd choice until you see the awkwardly titled Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and realize that going the prequel route allowed the filmmakers to simply reuse the script to the 2003 movie, with only minor additions here and there to make it seem like an all-new origin story.
The most substantial of these additions are glimpsed in the first 15 minutes, when we learn everything we wanted to know about the franchise's hulking boogeyman Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) but didn't care enough to ask, including who he is, where he came from and how he acquired that chainsaw in the first place. We also see more-much more-of his crazy cannibal family, particularly Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey), who was a minor character in the last movie but almost gets more screen time here than his adopted psycho-killer son.
As soon as the four main victims...uh, I mean heroes appear onscreen, though, the movie turns into a virtual scene-for-scene remake of the remake. Once again we watch a group of nubile teens (two guys and two girls, natch) road-trip their way through Texas until a bad accident lands them in Hoyt's eager hands. While her friends are prepped for slaughter, the brave heroine in the cleavage-baring top (played here by Jordana Brewster) eludes capture and attempts to rescue them before they become carving practice for Leatherface. But eventually she too is discovered and runs screaming out of that house of horrors with a chainsaw-wielding maniac on her heels.
TTCM: The Beginning belongs to the Hostel and Saw school of horror movies, which don't seek to frighten you as much as pummel you into submission with sadistic torture sequences that overflow with blood, gore and severed body parts. On that level, it's effective enough. As in the 2003 film, the production values are top-notch, with special mentions going to the makeup crew and the sound team. (How do they capture such convincing sounds of chainsaw on bone anyway? On second thought, don't answer that.) Elsewhere, Ermey tears into his beefed-up role with gusto, the young actors repeatedly demonstrate the ability to scream on cue, and while director Jonathan Liebesman doesn't prove himself an inspired shooter, at least this movie hasn't been cut to ribbons like his previous feature, the incomprehensible Darkness Falls. But if you're the kind of horror fan who likes your gore to be chased down with something more-like, say, wit, suspense or genuine fear-this picture has little to offer. It's a blunt instrument compared to more elegant recent horror shows like Neil Marshall's The Descent, Greg McLean's Wolf Creek or Takashi Shimizu's underrated Marebito. Those movies burrowed under your skin-this one is content to just hack away at assorted body parts.