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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

Review Written by: Will Penley
Film: C-
What the MPAA Rating should be: R (for grisly violence and some language)

Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Written by: Sheldon Turner
Produced by: Michael Bay, Mike Fleiss, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper
Starring: R. Lee Ermey, Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, Matthew Bomer, Lee Tergesen
Studio: New Line Cinema

Since it first opened in 1974, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has become a massive cult phenomenon, acquiring a legion of dedicated fans and inspiring several imitators. As a whole, the franchise has become one of the most beloved and studied of all time (despite a couple of shoddy sequels). This was more than the standard exploitation film. It was history. Even after all these years, film critic and horror enthusiast Joe Bob Briggs still hails it as the very best horror film of all time. In 2003, Marcus Nispel brought us his re-envisioning of the original story and, despite what purists will tell you, it's a bloody good time (no pun intended). So why can't I say the same for its prequel?

Leatherface is probably my favorite horror villain of all time. Granted, he isn't quite as interesting as Michael Myers, nor as morbidly hilarious as Freddy Krueger. Even so, he remains terrifying. Leatherface is huge, he runs like a football player and his weapon of choice is a massive chainsaw. He is the epitome of evil. The Beginning, however, brings us a much tamer Leatherface (psychosis still intact). This is not the Leatherface I'm interested in seeing. I want to see the guy who's willing to hang a helpless young girl on a huge meat hook without a thought. Now we're supposed to feel sympathy for him. Something just ain't right.

There are two primary audiences for this film. One is the youth market, mainly those aged 17-25 looking for a fun evening at the movies. The other, obviously, is the horror fans. I've got a strong feeling that the latter group will not be pleased. Not at all. The Beginning is plodding, stupid and uninteresting. This past year, we've seen another horror film concerning cannibals, Alexandre Aja's take on The Hills Have Eyes. Average as that was, it's still better than this. I admit, I was a tad excited for this when I first heard about it. Then the trailer came. A very iffy trailer, I must say. A slow rendition of "Amazing Grace" followed by some gruesome images and catchy one-liners? Pfft.

Very few positives are to be found here. R. Lee Ermey is great in anything he's in and he's the only cast member able to turn in a good performance. Young talent Jordana Brewster gives a laughable performance as the film's heroine. I have to say, she wasn't right for the role at all. None of her reactions or expressions are naturalistic, not even in the slightest sense. The screenplay drags along with cliché after cliché, not to mention some of the worst dialogue ever written. Obviously, you don't go to Chainsaw looking for a lot of substance, but just a bit wouldn't hurt, would it? The origin of Leatherface, like many other aspects of the script, is laughable. They should have just left his backstory alone altogether.

One of my favorite aspects of the remake was its creepy visual style, thanks to expert framing and great use of shadows and light (kudos to Daniel Pearl, also responsible for shooting the 1974 massacre). This time around, Lukas Ettlin is behind the camera and he does an extremely poor job. He really has no clue what he's doing. The camera is all over the place and the framing is consistently awkward. It seems as if he was having some sort of seizure on set during filming. Surprise, surprise...he was also cinematographer for The Grudge, one of the worst films ever made.

After the film finally ended (very laughably, I might add), I felt nothing except utter disappointment. To be honest, I can't recommend this to anyone, not even the most dedicated horror buff. Go rent the original instead and have yourself a real treat this Halloween.

The infamous Leatherface holding his chainsaw in the prequel to the 2003 remake.
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