There'd be a witty blurb here, but it got sawed into pieces during the Texas Blurb Massacre, Judge Eric Profancik sadly reports.
Witness the birth of fear
I have to admit I don't exactly remember when I saw Tobe Hooper's "original" The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think it's been at least 15 years, but I do know I have seen it. Rolling around in my brain are just the vaguest of memories of that iron door and people disappearing into it. Somewhere is also the idea that I think the movie had a few good scares in it. I think. In receiving this prequel/sequel, I decided to freshen up on Leatherface. Figuring the remake would pale in comparison to the original, I opted for Hooper's version, until I read that this prequel/sequel is aligned with the remake more than the original. With that in mind, I less than enthusiastically rented the 2003 version and sat down for a back-to-back viewing of these two related Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. A little over three hours later, I was drenched in blood from the splatter of the brutality.
Facts of the Case
What are the origins of the Hewitt family? How did Thomas (Andrew Bryniarski, 44 Minutes) turn into Leatherface? How did Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey, Full Metal Jacket) become sheriff? What happened to Uncle Monty's legs? Most intriguing of all, what part did Luda Mae (Marietta Marich) play in the development of this twisted, cannibalistic family?
Four years prior to the discovery of the gruesome Hewitt home by police, the audience gets to witness the tragic turn of events as four young people—Chrissie (Jordana Brewster, The Fast and The Furious), Eric (Matthew Bomer, Flightplan), Bailey, and Dean (Taylor Handley, The O.C.)—find themselves the first victims of Thomas and his chainsaw.
The logical place to start is to briefly discuss the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As I mentioned, I have little memory of the original, but we all know that 90 percent of all remakes pale in comparison to the original. I cannot make a direct comparison, but I can say that it wasn't bad. It had sufficient gore, a few minor scares, competent acting, and a decent plot. For the slasher fan, I feel it was a quick and entertaining ride.
For this prequel/sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, pretty much the exact same thing can be said. It has sufficient gore, maybe a few less minor scares, competent acting, and a decent plot. For a slasher fan, this is a quick and entertaining ride. Why did I use almost the exact same words? Because The Beginning is almost the exact same movie as the remake. As this movie begins, it's in the slaughterhouse where the remake ends. While that can be seen as interesting reverse continuity, I instead and immediately thought "how lazy." Luckily it's not as carbon copy as I feared—and the intro soon enough makes things different enough—but there's a multitude of similarities and flat-out copies between the two films.
It's not just the plot and scenes that are the same, but every member of the Hewitt family comes back for this prequel/sequel. Luckily this is a good thing, as I enjoyed these actors. Luda Mae, Uncle Monty, Hoyt, Thomas, and the Tea Lady were fun to watch the first time, and I was happy to see everyone come back to step into those very odd roles, giving them a chance to actually breathe a little life and story into a simple slasher film.
When I saw Uncle Monty walking in the beginning of The Beginning, I knew many of the remake's minor plot points would be fleshed out. This wasn't just about Thomas and his murderous ways, but all of the little tossed-in-for-flavors would get a moment. Watching them back-to-back, I nailed it on the head what would be explained, from Monty's legs to Hoyt's teeth to, of course, Thomas and his leather face.
Now here's the odd part of the review: While watching The Beginning I actually thought it to be somewhat tame in the gore department. Only upon reflection did I realize that said gore wasn't as gentle as I imagined. The quirk is that in this 90-minute movie, the real action doesn't kick in until about the last 15 minutes. During the lead up, there are murders—rather naughty ones—but they are not that messy. It's not until Thomas's final moral fiber breaks and he picks up the infamous chainsaw that we get gross. He then fricassees all manner of people, which rubs off on his family, creating the quite off-center Hewitt clan. But in watching the movie, the "slow" buildup to the payoff lulls you so that when the chainsaw gets going and the blood starts flying, you're numb and it loses its intended impact. So when you then think about it later, then you realize it was nastier than you realized. Regardless, for an unrated chainsaw movie, I think there could ! have been more gore. Several people get a chainsaw right through them, but there's just blood. Where are all the flying entrails and other mess?
At this point I had to stop and do a moment of research, for my fingers wanted me to type, "Now let's talk about this straight-to-DVD release." I'm not sure why I thought this was straight-to-DVD but it isn't, and I verified its release on 10/06/06, pulling in a touch over $35.5 million. It's definitely not straight-to-DVD. So, now let's talk about this DVD release from New Line. I like New Line, and I think they do a nice job with most of their releases, this one certainly no exception to that conclusion. You, the devoted connoisseur of such fine horror fare, will be delighted with the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer as it sparkles with clarity and realism. Colors are rich and bold with no bleed (slight pun intended), blacks are deep and rich—important for Leatherface's basement domain—and details and contrast are spot on. I didn't detect the first glimmer of an error. The same holds true for the bevy of audio options, including an impressive DTS mix. I always opt to listen to DTS as it normally plays better than a Dolby Digital track, and that is true here, too. Everything from dialogue to music to sound effects comes through loud and clear. When that chainsaw starts its barrage, you'll think it's right next to you. Those of you not DTS-capable will find a good DD 5.1 mix, which just lacks the raw punch and power of the DTS track.
The special feature menu is pretty small, but I was surprised that what was included was better than I expected. First up is commentary by director Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls), and producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form. In this commentary you'll learn a lot of interesting details from three people strongly committed to their project. It's a solid track and an enjoyable listen. Next, and pretty much last, is the requisite making-of feature called "Down to the Bone." It's broken down into five parts, which at first seemed silly since the first segment was a mere three minutes long. That led me to think it was going to be a useless, fluffy piece without any teeth or detail. I was wrong. "Down to the Bone" turns into an hour-long feature that goes into great detail about the making of The Beginning. This is what you want to see in your making-of pieces. Also included are a bunch of trailers for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginni! ng, The Number 23, Snakes on a Plane, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, The Butterfly Effect 2, Last Man Standing, Undisputed II, The Reaping, and 300. The disc also comes with some DVD-ROM content, but since it's part of that awful Interactual player, I didn't run it.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I've already detailed the two main drawbacks to this movie: it's a bit repetitive of the remake and the gore could use a bit more chunks.
But other than that, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is a wholly serviceable horror film for fans of the reborn franchise and those who just love the see red, sticky syrup flying around the air. Where it succeeds is in taking the time to intersperse some story and history around the chainsaw, giving you something to pay attention to while the delightfully bosomed young ladies (who have entirety too firm and large breasts for 1969) run around and away from the crazy killers. Take one good movie, add in a solid disc, and top it off with a few quality bonus features and you have a product that gets a big rental recommendation. If you're the deepest of fans and want to buy it, there is nothing in the package that should deter you.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is hereby found guilty of unsanitary work conditions. Case adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
• Audio Commentary
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