By Jon Roe
Ah, the scintillating sounds of October and the horror-movie push. Leading off the scary season is Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Leatherface is back and this time, it’s personal. Or something.
In reality, Leatherface is less “back” and more “still around” in The Beginning, a prequel to 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was a remake of the classic ’70s horror movie series. Whatever happened to the proper progression of horror movies where the killer keeps coming back in later sequels? Even in the Jason series, we had a demon chopping up astronauts. For fans of the series, the ridiculous leap made sense. Prequels are just confusing.
In all fairness, The Beginning is pretty tightly plotted and not at all confusing, but its reason for existence is still questionable.
The movie begins with a scene depicting how poor ol’ Leatherface, played by Andrew Bryniarski, comes into this cruel world–popping out of his mother onto the floor of a meat processing plant–and goes on to detail why he’s so mad at the beautiful teenagers that continue to invade his domicile. The poor bastard is fired from the meat processing plant–yes the same one his mother dropped him out into–after the plant closes due to the poor economic situation of the town around him.
What’s a misanthrope to do? All Leatherface was good at was chopping up meat. Luckily his brother, Charlie Hewitt, played by R. Lee Ermey, knows of some meat that could use a good chopping. The Hewitt clan as a whole has been hit hard by the economic downturn and the boys decide to use Charlie’s misbegotten position of sheriff (he shot and killed the original sheriff and took his car and badge) to lure victims to their manor. Thankfully, their manor is equipped with all the necessary tools for disembowelment, including the famous chainsaw responsible for the titular massacre.
Enter the victims. Two couples spending one last weekend together before the two men, played by Taylor Handley, who had a short stint on shitty teen drama The O.C., and Matthew Bomer, head off to kill some Charlie in Vietnam.
The plot might sound as though it edges dangerously close to convolution, but even if the backstory were removed, the film would essentially be the same. It’s not Shakespeare, but some kids do get caught and disembowelled by a horrible family, so this one is technically a win.
Most modern horror movies, like the Saw series, try more for the gross-out rather than the freak-out, and The Beginning follows along the same lines. When one of the characters is strapped to a table and Leatherface is working him over with his knives, it’s easy to look away. Unfortunately, The Beginning doesn’t do the gruesome stuff in an interesting way. Three people get speared by a chainsaw. Three! That’s at least two deaths that could’ve been done in more creative ways.
As much as watching some beautiful people getting their insides stirred by a gas-powered tool is a good waste of an evening, The Beginning fails to make it compelling. The ending is so frustratingly cliched, it leaves the audience wanting for at least some sort of twist. Too often, The Beginning goes for the easy quick thrust of the chainsaw through the chest rather than the slow, painful, unnecessarily creative bloodletting.
Similarily, The Beginning is very rarely–if ever–actually scary.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning doesn’t fail in what it is trying to accomplish. People looking for a movie where pretty people run around and then get killed and eaten will be satisfied. Anyone looking for a slick, dark, psychological cult-thriller, though, will be left wanting much, much more.