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Judge Bill Gibron • Location: Tampa, FL
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Hatchet Job
October 11th, 2006 10:07AM

The new Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie is so desperate to create some indelible horror imagery that it forgets everything else that's required of a standard big screen movie macabre. It avoids providing characters or situations we can care about – or at the very least, can imagine ourselves involved in. It promises a backstory for one of the most famous fiends in all of movie history – the power tool wielding Leatherface – and ends up reducing him to a credit sequence montage profile of a typical serial killer. It gives R. Lee Ermey so many worthless one liners that he ends up becoming a dingy and decrepit redneck Freddy Krueger, and the rest of the newly named Hewitt family (what was wrong with the original Sawyer moniker, huh?) are all rube archetypes looking for a place to plant their pointless existence. Of the recent rash of terror remakes, violence porn and PG-13 putridness, this massively lame prequel is one of the worst examples of mainstream monster moviemaking since a bunch of babes went spelunking with angry albinos.

It's a shame, really. The 2003 Michael Bay produced revamp had a lot of aficionado angst piled up against it, and yet talented director Marcus Nispel managed to pull it off with a gruesome Grand Guignol majesty that made sense in our 'anything's possible' post-millennial world. Between the opening suicide (and its clever accompanying through-the-head pullback shot) to the moment where one character learns what it's like to literally be a lamb to the slaughter, Recreate Saw wasn't interested in being anything other than a balls to the wall work of unbridled brutality. It didn't care if you enjoyed the narrative – the blood and body parts were gonna fly anyway. This piddling prequel tries to keep up with the 2003 gore score, but can't get to first base when it comes to delivering anything remotely entertaining. Sure, some may say that this is not the purpose of such a cinematic effort. Death and dismemberment are not supposed to be amusing. While that's true, movies are made to be diversions for an audience. If they really believe that viewers want violence without context, there would be spectator seats in every abattoir in town.

The big problem here is focus. We are supposed to see how Thomas Hewitt became the skin-peeling pervert who used the faces of others to cover his own crippled features. But this is really the birth of Sheriff Hoyt more than it is anything else. Ermey is given the majority of the scenes, lines, exposition and most importantly, dimensional development. This non-cop goes from bumpkin to sadistic badass at the drop of a narrative necessity, and never stops snacking on the scenery from thereon in. The rest of the Hewitt house is populated with the previously seen trailer trash family, including an Uncle who gets some homespun surgery, a mother who switches over to the dark side quicker than a certain Skywalker, and that incredibly obese gal whose sole scene is a bad fat joke. As Whoeverface sulks around the basement filleting our Vietnam-bound hero, pointless conversations and illogical situations are playing out above. Poor Lee Tergesen is reduced to a couple of lines as he takes the scenic route – read: long, unnecessary walking scenes – to reach his predetermined fate. Indeed, this is a major flaw in the film. Since we know WHO will survive to show up a few years later, there is no suspense here.

In fact, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning has obviously been crafted for cretins who've never seen a horror movie before. We are supposed to feel dread when a just-fired Tommy shows up in the slaughterhouse boss's office with a sledgehammer in hand. Instead, we realize what's going to happen minutes before the characters do. When the army boy's babe is hiding under a truck, waiting for a free moment to flee, the ground level camera angle is just asking for a pair of sinister boots to saunter by. Even the ending, asks us to believe that a big behemoth of a man, stinking of blood and human remains and probably a good decade away from his last bath, could sneak into a small space – unheard and un-smelled – and work his Black and Decker death dance on someone. Yeah…RIGHT! With a final shot that tries to instill an aesthetic visual elegy on all we've seen occur (and only achieving about 5% of the 1974 original's amazing 'Dance of Death') The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is a bad movie made even worse by its way too ambitious goals. Try as it might, it just can't achieve the timeless quality of its cinematic source, nor can it compete with its own recent revival. Even an unimaginably evil entity like Leatherface deserves a better backstory than this one.

1.5 out of 10


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