R. Lee Ermey
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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
3rd Nov 06
More massacres at the Hewitt household in Texas, but now with the added 'back-story' of Leatherface's origins.
As sequels tend to lack the audience appeal that they generally once had, Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes, who have already remade a number of classic horror hits, has now hit upon the idea of making horror prequels for well-known brands. With The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning now out, Bay has also considered revamping the Friday the 13th’ franchise with a prequel detailing how Jason Voorhees came to be the ice hockey wielding maniac we all know and loathe.
Michael Bay isn’t the only one realising that there are big bucks to be made from raking up a well-known ghoul’s past. Even ‘respected’ author Thomas Harris has got in on the act with his book ‘Young Hannibal’ out in paper form this Christmas before the film bites into the box office next February.
So, with director Marc Nispel’s 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre proving a surprisingly pleasing experience – there is nothing more satisfactory than watching pretty people being chased screaming to unpleasant deaths – I was more than up for this prequel. That it just kind of regurgitates the same basic plot – innocent young things caught by the sheriff and then each in turn meeting their maker by a variety of implements – is irrelevant. It’s the way in which they go and the protracted nature of their demise that makes it all the more pleasing.
Writer Sheldon Turner has done his best to tell Leatherface’s story from the start with his facially challenged baby being dumped unwanted into a waste disposal unit before being found and taken under the wings of R. Lee Ermey’s lunatic household. Soon Leatherface, or Thomas Hewitt as he is less menacingly known to any friends he hasn’t dissected, is trying out his newly discovered talent for cutting up humans rather than livestock for dinner. Who he chops up this time round is irrelevant as no time is wasted in terms of establishing audience empathy for the four pretty American youths that happen his way. You want a plot? Forget it, this movie is about being grubby and gruesome and it delivers both in spades.
Apart from the opportunity to milk more bucks from a well known horror brand name is there any reason why an audience would want to know about their favourite ghoul’s early years? Surely this would just strip out any mystery the character has left making him/her/it more of a cuddly monster instead of a stalking, slashing enigma. No fear of that here with The Beginning with a plot geared to provide nothing more than a relentless exercise in protracting a needless and gruesome assault on the audience. I enjoyed it immensely.
Liebesman’s movie is not about building up tension or even administering ‘boo’ moments, although it does try. It’s more about how far it can stretch the on-screen sadism milking every second of torment that the four youths undergo. Whereas Hooper’s original swung away from showing much in the way of onscreen blood letting, this prequel opts not to cut away lingering on the vileness that is occurring. This movie delivers where Eli Roth’s Hostel failed – you want bone-crunching horror, you’ve got it, literally!
You leave the cinema feeling exhausted and a little numb from the eighty odd minutes you have just witnessed. In this day and age of anaemic horror thrills, Liebesman delivers big time more than making up for his dire efforts such as Darkness Falls.