|Swag from the premiere of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING
I think that a version of this was published–in French– in L’Ecran Fantastique in 2006, as I remember getting paid for it.
For the last thirty years, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has featured the character “Leatherface,” who has been one of the most enigmatic horror icons in genre films. He chainsaws, he chases, he apparently enjoys himself. Yet we never knew exactly why or how he developed his desire to sink his chainsaw into human flesh.
The new film Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning attempts to explain Leatherface’s origins. That doesn’t mean a wee Thomas Hewitt sitting in a therapists office discussing chainsaws and childhood trauma. Rather, this prequel to the events of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre focuses on the moment when the procurement and consumption of human flesh started to seem rational for the crazy, cannibalistic Hewitt family.
This gritty and darkly-shot film opens with Leatherface’s birth on the slaughterhouse floor. Abandoned by his mother, he’s taken in by the Hewitts. A brilliant and brief title sequence outlines Leatherface’s childhood.
The film then jumps to 1969, when the rural Texas slaughterhouse where Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) works is closing. Leatherface isn’t happy about losing his job, though it’s difficult to read his expression behind the black shroud covering his face.
Meanwhile the Hewitt’s hometown is threatening to become a ghost town without the money the slaughterhouse brings in.
In an effort to remain on the creepily decaying homestead where they have lived for generations, the family is forced to find, er, some very creative ways of keeping themselves fed. A diabolical plan emerges after Thomas’ uncle Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) becomes sheriff…by plucking the badge off the still-warm body of the last sheriff.
Soon after the slaughterhouse closes, returning Vietnam Vet Eric Hill (Matthew Bomer), and his just-drafted little brother Dean (Taylor Handley ), and their girlfriends Chrissie (Jordana Brewster) and Bailey (Diora Baird) are on a last road trip before shipping out to Vietnam.
After stopping at a disturbing country store and BBQ stand—familiar from the 2003 remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre — little brother Dean tells big brother Eric that he doesn’t intend to go to Vietnam. Dean begins burning his draft card shortly before the unlucky foursome crosses paths with Sheriff Hoyt. Those familiar with Sheriff Hoyt’s reaction to a half-burned blunt in the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake can guess what happens when the lunatic lawman gets his hands on a draft dodger.
“This character is a sexually perverted psychotic maniac. There is no over the top,” Ermey said about his portrayal of Hoyt, speaking at a Q&A session following the film’s September 2006 première at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
Like the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning belongs to Ermey’s sadistic scenery-chewing sheriff. While the brunette Brewster does a good job as the plucky Chrissie, trying to survive the Hewitt’s house of horrors, Ermey dominates the film, followed closely by the chainsaw-wielding Bryniarski.
Bryniarski, a 6 foot 5 inch actor with a deep and rumbling voice claims he didn’t hold back while portaying the mutely iconic killer.
“I’ve always wanted someone to let me run and go crazy,” Bryniaski said during the premiere’s Q&A, praising Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning director Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls 2003) for letting him go to extremes.
“Less would have been less in this movie.” Bryniaski said.
“Gore is good” might be the mantra for today’s horror. This Chainsaw prequel is a blood-drenched step forward in splatter-evolution. The graphic and violent film delivers dark and gruesome deaths, including the moment when Leatherface gets his macabe mask. The bloody brilliant makeup work of the K.N.B. SFX team is a key part of what makes the film work.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning aims for the raw survivalist horror of Wolf Creek and Hostel –where the emphasis is on what happens after victims are caught—rather than the “when is the death coming” suspense of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original. The film’s protagonists spend much of their time onscreen having their tautly attractive flesh torn apart and begging for their lives.
During his Austin appearance, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning director Liebesman acknowledged wanting to take his favorite parts of Saw and Hostel in his effort to steal the crown of “almost pornographic gore.”
“We got an extremely hard R” said Libesman, saying that he was very proud of the rating. He explained he was forced to remove some flying human flesh and a final chainsaw penetration of an actress to avoid crossing the line into a box-office limiting X.
As Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is a prequel, the film is working from a disadvantage. You know the Hewitt family characters live to kill again. Yet the film does a great gory job within its prequel limitations.