Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

Reviewed By: Billy


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is brainless in a way few movies are brave enough to be. It opens with a prologue set in 1939 in which an obese woman in a meat-packing plant pees blood and ends up popping out a deformed baby.

I’ll give that a minute to sink in.

This movie marketed itself as attempting to give us the disturbing details of Leatherface’s life in order to explain why he came out the way he did. You know, kind like Rob Zombie’s Halloween and the Black Christmas remake did for its killers…and we all know how well those turned out. For some reason, filmmakers are convinced that backstory is the way to make a horror film creepy. Why? Who are these filmmakers? Were they born in Italy? Why do they think showing Michael Myers as young, chubby trailer-trash or Billy a yellow-skinned mama’s boy will make either man scarier?

Oh, well…who cares? They’re making some damn fine comedy.

After our 1939 prologue in which, let me repeat, a woman sort of pees out Leatherface and then dies, we flash-forward to 1969. I love these 1969 scenes because, well, there’s very little effort made to make them actually appear that they’re not taking place in 2006. Oh, sure, the kids talk about Vietnam a lot and Jordana Brewster wears a do-rag, but that’s about it. We do get the rocking song “All Right Now” by Free blasting on the soundtrack, which is a nice, sloppy touch since it wouldn't be a hit until 1970.

Anyway, the only reason these kids are supposed to be from the 1960s is so that the filmmakers can call this The Beginning. However, what happens to these kids is exactly the same thing that happens to the idiot young people in every other Texas Chainsaw movie. In fact, other than that prologue with the pee-baby, this is exactly like every other movie in the series, right down to the dinner table scene.

And suddenly, for the first time ever, I’m asking: where are the “disturbing” details of Leatherface’s life? Where’s the outcast little boy who gets his first taste of meat and decides to start cutting up people? I mean, I’m not a fan of backstory…but when you’re gonna market a whole movie around it, I at least want something to make fun of!

What we do get are four whiney teens being terrorized for about 90 minutes, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole time…waiting for them to finally bite it. Jordana Brewster plays the Marylin Burns-ish role from the original (i.e. she runs around in the woods and gets tied up at the dinner table and jumps through a window), and the other kids play the other kids from the original (i.e. they all get meathook-ed and chainsaw-ed by Leatherface). Along the way the kids have a run-in with some supposedly tough bikers (led by Lee Tergesen of “Oz”) who in one great scene actually terrorize the kids while they’re all speeding down the roadway. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were in a jeep and some a-hole on a bike next to me pulled out a gun, I’m pretty sure I could take him: just swerve!

Anyway, you already know exactly what’s going to happen here; Leatherface and his family of moronic rednecks will cut up and eat the teenagers until there’s only one left. That, of course, is Jordana, and she’ll finally escape. Except…being that this is The Beginning, you also know that Jordana will have to die…because if she got away and reported the family, then there’d be no parts 1, 2, 3, and so on. So what we end up with is a completely tensionless movie which instead tries to keep our attention with lots of blood and lingering shots of gore. These are supposed to make us recoil in our seats and say to ourselves, “I can’t believe they showed that on camera!”…just like every other horror movie that's come out since someone gave Eli Roth a digital camera. What these movies just don’t understand is that no matter how much money is spent on makeup effects, and no matter how many shadows you throw all over everything, that “throat” getting slit is still going to look like a big pouch of latex filled with chocolate-covered gummi worms.

So…just to reiterate, the back of the DVD box says, “…witness how Thomas Hewitt became the infamous and deranged serial killer Leatherface.”

Umm…that’s not quite what happens. If I could, I’d change it to sound more like, “…witness how Leatherface cuts apart annoying young people just like he will in every other movie.” Yeah, that’s better. And enough to get it…

THREE FINGERS (TWO for the movie, ONE for John Larroquette’s hammy little voice cameo at the end)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you for that review and for pointing out how ludicrous and lame the back-story gimmick has become.

    Is this the one where the very chubby lady is walking around with the parasol and the armadillo purse, or was that "Texas Chainsaw VIII, Leatherface in Space?" I can't keep these dreadful films straight, but I so loved the chubby lady and her purse.

  3. - The Black X-Mas and Halloween remakes turned out really good!

    - The gore for this looks alright, I think I'd like it...


  4. I actually enjoyed this movie quite a bit. I agree with you on your assessment, Billy, in regards to the film not really delivering on its backstory as well as knowing how the film will end for the protagonists. However, I thought the film had a grim mean spirited atmosphere about it lacking from a lot of recent horror films that were attempting to capture the 70's style of visceral horror.

    I simply HATED Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN because of the backstory. Not knowing was what made MM scary. The BLACK CHRISTMAS remake I also enjoyed mainly for its OTT gruesomeness and its air of bad taste. It in no way compares to the original, though.

  5. I do like this film a lot, if only because it seems to be the one wherein Leatherface gets treated with the most respect, and is not pushed around like a whiny retard-bitch as he is in the other ones. He's actually a pretty imposing monster in this one, not just a big galoot with gender confusion issues. And the Hewitt family dynamic, for whatever reason, fascinates me in this one and the remake.

    That said, I can't stand prequel or "origin" stories and wish revisionist backtracking like this would stop. I was indifferent to it in "Black Xmas", but I do TRULY hate seeing Michael Myers as just a scuzzy little white-trash serial killer hatchling brat in the Zombie "Halloween" remake. It ruins the mystique. *sigh*

  6. The original Black Christmas is an unexpected tap on the shoulder in the middle of the night, Black X-Mas is an unexpected kick in the face in the middle of the night.

    'Nuff said. Seriously, I'll defend this movie till I die!

  7. Pax,
    Oh, yes...the chubby parasol lady is in this one. She was a strong contender for a screen shot in this review...I love that moment, too.

    You know I agree with you that the new "Black Xmas" and "Halloween" are great movies -- totally enjoyable. My point is that while the filmmakers put in the backstory hoping to make the characters more creepy, they only become more ridiculous. But, as you know, my brother and I love nothing more than ridiculous slashers, which is why we love remakes so much.

    I agree that this movie and the "Black Xmas" remake were fun because they were so over the top. That's why I also enjoyed watching both. But I also felt the same about the new "Halloween" -- I realize that it totally ravages everything that made MM scary...but it sure is funny to watch him as a put-upon kid in the trailer park!

    Yeah, you're right...Leatherface is at least treated as a monster here, rather than a bumbling idiot like he is in other films of the series. I think my brother needs to review "The Next Generation" soon...as that one is truly an abomination.


  8. The new Nightmare On Elm Street is supposed to have more about the back story of Freddy. This makes me sad. Don't people know that when you try and humanize characters of this ilk, it dumbs them down and makes them less frightening?

  9. You know, I've never seen any of the Texas Chainsaw movies...

  10. Friggin Zac, dont make me come up there and tape your eye lids open! Watch TCM all ready =D

    Completely agree here Billy, especially about the piss poor attempt at a period piece. My biggest problem with the film is how contrived it all feels, since they forced every single bit of damage the Family showed in the remake into this film (ie the missing teeth, the sawed off legs, etc). So we are supposed to believe that this all happened with just one set of teens, and not over the course of 5-6yrs between this film and the remake?

    On an aside, I want to feature the gruesome twosome on an upcoming entry for Meet the Bloggers, if you guys are interested shoot me and email and I will work up an interview to promote the site!

  11. I really liked this one in theaters,giving a shit less about backstory..what bothered me most was the victims' contemporary appearances,and the Gap commercial filming of their road trip,("We're about to drop our boyfriends off so they can get their heads blown off in Viet Nam. Everybody smile pretty!")

    The bikers were a nice touch for bodycount purposes,Tea Lady's return was hilarious( with extended dialog on the unrated DVD,BTW) and aside from Ms. Brewster's non-acting, (and atrocious cousin- fucker lines)TCM: The Beginning was an enjoyable romp.