Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Jordana Brewster, Matt Bomer, Diora Baird, Taylor Handley, Lee Tergesen, R. Lee Ermey
Screenplay: Sheldon Turner
91 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language, and some sexual content.
It seems like so many people are out to criticize graphic violence in movies, but they don’t even know that the movie we are going to talk about today, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, is so much more than that. This movie is a love story. Well, not really, but lead actress Jordana Brewster (Furious 7, Hooking Up) met her future husband, producer Andrew Form, on the set, and they fell in love amidst all the gore and blood. So that’s pretty close right? We’re just one sequel away from Leatherface in a romantic comedy, and I’d pay to see that.
The Beginning tells the story of the Hewitt family in 1969 and the start of the most heinous crime in American history. When Thomas Hewitt loses his job at the slaughterhouse, he cannot control the rage within him. As he returns home, chainsaw in hand, the family is forced to make a stand to protect one of their own. After, Charlie Hewitt (R. Lee Ermey, Full Metal Jacket, Se7en) assumes the role of Sheriff and begins his own brand of justice, starting with a group of teens on the road attempting to enjoy one last bit of fun before shipping out to Vietnam.
Let me start by saying I’m pretty uninterested in most prequels, and I’ve criticized the hell out of movies that forcibly tell you how EVERYTHING happened with the original film or the original character. In fact, that was the worst aspect of Solo: A Star Wars Story (here’s how he got his name!), but most of this film worked for me. I’m not even sure I can qualify why, but let me make the distinction like this: the MASSACRE in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre seems to always be described as a singular event instead of a series of them, but when you consider the original series of films has 6 entries with each having their own massacre, it seems like you would stop describing it as such because it’s become another thing entirely. This duology of the 2003 TCM and this prequel seem to treat the MASSACRE like an actual singularly disturbing event “in the annals of American history” as the narrator puts it. Since this film is only tied to the 2003 remake, it seems that there can be a lot of checklisting without going too far. Whereas Solo tried to explain in 2 hours how Han Solo’s entire character was crafted and summed up, this film is really only aiming at adding to and setting up the 2003 film, so it feels like less of a stretch to explain the origin’s of Leatherface, Sheriff Hoyt, and the events of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a piece of “historical” context. It has to set up a single event, and in that way, I buy it a whole lot more than most other explain-y prequels. As the story goes, Platinum Dunes was not really interested in doing a sequel, but fans kept clamoring, asking questions about the Hewitt family, and they eventually tried to take a crack at a prequel. Not sure if that’s true at all, but I feel like the set-ups in this film have payoffs in the 2003 TCM, so they work very well as a double feature.
This group of teenage chainsaw fodder is really not much different from the ones in the 2003 film, which gives the real shining star to the Hewitts, particularly R. Lee Ermey’s Charlie. Ermey stole the show in the 2003 film, and he does so again here, and that’s not an easy thing to do given that Leatherface is a horror icon. To have someone of Ermey’s caliber in this film and really chewing on his dialogue and downright having fun in the role is very helpful to the movie’s entertainment value. Outside of his role in Full Metal Jacket, I’m not sure if there’s a better performance on his resume than Charlie Hewitt/Sheriff Hoyt.
Outside of all that, I can genuinely say that the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a better made film than The Beginning, but I enjoy watching The Beginning more. It’s that classic Karate Kid Part II argument. For me, entertainment goes a long way, and I can look over most of the faults of this film without issue.
All that being said, The Beginning definitely has faults. The group of potential victims are written a little more blandly than the 2003 film (particularly when you realize that the only one actually doing anything in the narrative is Jordana Brewster’s Chrissie), and the mystery elements of the 2003 film get undone by having them spoiled in this film (something that is always hard to avoid in any prequel) and it would be better to see this film after the 2003 for the first time. I also find a number of logic gaps, particularly in how the film wraps up (though I’m thankful it doesn’t force itself to lead right into the 2003 film, allowing us time to question what else happened between installments. All of these problems are lessened by a break-neck pace run time that just races to the conclusion, keeping the excitement level pretty high.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is not a film for everyone, but there’s a solid entertainment factor if you can handle the more gruesome and bloody beats of the plot. The technical display is quite high, and if you don’t get hung up on some of the more obvious logic gaps of the story, and especially if you liked the 2003 film, this is definitely something worth checking out, and perhaps even seeing in a double feature with the remake.
-Kyle A. Goethe
- For my review of Marcus Nispel’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, click here.