Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

This picture probably should have ended after Thomas Hewitt (you know him as Leatherface) was born on the slaughterhouse floor. His mother, working at the time, died immediately following, although I'm not sure we can pin that one on the little guy. The legend doesn't begin until new obese momma finds the little bastard in a disgusting dumpster adjacent to the plant. See, before he came along, they ate garbage like regular poor people. Those were innocent times. The end credits should have rolled as she was carrying him home. Would have made a terrific short.

What's the point? This picture contains no fun, no suspense, and no hope. It's incredibly mean spirited, although the ending did make me chuckle. This is not a prequel to the original 1974 classic, but instead to the abysmal 2003 remake. I realize the remake has it's fans and most of those fans have no affinity for the Tobe Hooper version. That's fine. It just simply doesn't work for me. The Beginning, in particular, seems more inspired by Hostel than anything else. Anyway, this isn't really a series that calls for a prequel. Why? For starters, we know that everyone (in this case; Chrissie, Dean, Eric, and Bailey) are going to die. If even one of these kids escapes, the Sawyer clan wouldn't be around for the Nispel remake.

We do manage to learn a few things about the family, however. We learn that Tommy was employed at the slaughterhouse when it went bankrupt. He wasn't too happy, so he sledgehammered his foreman. We learn that Tommy actually attended grade school at one time and was even picked on. I'd hate to be the bus driver assigned to his route (it must be about a fifty mile drive to his school). We learn how Mr. Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) becomes Sheriff Hoyt, but we don't learn how he gets to keep the job after obtaining it through not so legal means (Don't police departments in Texas keep tabs on one another???). We learn that Sheriff Hoyt fought in Korea and how he acquired a taste for the other other white meat. We learn how Uncle Monty got put in that wheelchair, but we don't learn if his legs were put into a stew or not. We learned some other stuff too, like, for instance, Sheriff Hoyt despises anyone that's anti-establishment such as hippies, or bikers, or draft dodgers. Cannibals get a free pass apparently. We learn that if Dean had bashed in Sheriff Hoyt's brains, instead of leaving him alive, we probably wouldn't have had to suffer through the remake. That would have left Leatherface and a legless Uncle Monty. Since Hoyt is the only one capable of bringing home dinner, I'm not sure how they would have survived. We also learned that without characters like the hitchhiker, OL (original leatherface), granpa, chop-top,and the crazy old gas station attendant that these pictures kinda suck. Lastly, we learn cannibals in Texas like their women really, really big. Morbidly so.

I didn't really want to know any of this based on my feelings for the remake. I guess all I'm left with were the kills which, while realistic and brutal, weren't all that original. Here's a quick breakdown of the plot: Two brothers, Dean and Eric, are driving across Texas with their girlfriends, so they can be shipped out to Vietnam. Eric has already done one tour and has decided to go again so he can keep an eye on his brother. He's not aware that Dean has burned his draft card and has no intention of going. Along the way, they come into contact with a biker gang, fend off an attempted robbery by a member of the gang, create cow road kill, are "helped" by the newly appointed sherrif, are brought to the Sawyer home, get tortured, and then killed. They're all dead by the time John Laroquette's phoned in narration chimes in as Tommy "Leatherface" Sawyer Incredible Hulks his way back home, after chainsawing Jordana Brewster (Chrissie) through the back seat of her car and causing an accident that wipes out yet another cop and a few bystanders. Seriously, how the fuck were these guys not caught? At the very least send a couple cops to the house to question them, poke around. It's the only fucking house in town!

Ok, back to the kills. Shotgun blast to biker chick. Biker chick's boyfriend chainsawed in half. Why the fuck didn't he just start shooting without the questions? Since when do the Hell's Angels refrain from cold blooded murder? One character is bolted to a table and chainsawed through the stomach after having his arm filleted (while alive). Another character is chainsawed through the stomach, lifted in the air and thrown against a wall. One character....well, you get the picture.

I have a big problem with Leatherface, as portrayed in these remakes. In the original, he's got a distinct personality. Mentally, he's a child. He doesn't torture anybody, at least not physically. I can't imagine original Leatherface tying someone down and filleting them alive. If you remember his first appearence, he appears out of nowhere and kills the guy almost instantly with a hammer to the head. Ok, so he put the girl on the meathook right after that, but I'm sure he put her out of her misery. Leatherface, as portrayed in the original sequel even gets a girlfriend. Sort of. This guy is just an inbred cousin of Jason Voorhees. Like Jason, he's able to appear and disappear based on the needs of the plot. Seriously, how the fuck did he beat Jordanna to the car at the end? How do you not notice a three hundred pound behemoth hiding in the back seat? And, fuck me, if it's not near impossible to start a chainsaw in the backseat and get a good enough angle on the thing to put it straight through Brewster's back as she's driving? Chances are, it would have false started at least once, giving Brewster enough time to stop the car, open the door, check the oil, run, etc, etc. Ridiculous.

The shame of it all is that the acting, especially on the part of the kids, is pretty good. Much better than this thing deserves. I really believed Eric was being skinned alive and that his girlfriend was trapped under the table while it was happening. The writing frequently falls into tiresome horror cliches where characters (I'm looking at you, Jordana) do really stupid things. Thankfully, they included a dinner scene in this one. Too bad it went absolutely nowhere and ended with Momma instructing Leatherface to end a poor girls tongue-less suffering by cutting her throat. At the dinner table! Ever hear of a little thing called hepatitus B? At least take her down to Tommy's play room, for chrissakes. Also, I think R. Lee Ermey would be a terrific character actor if he didn't always play the same character and if that character weren't himself. I did like his line when little Tommy was brought home as a baby: "That's the ugliest thing I ever saw." I could say the same thing about this picture.


steve said...

didn't you love the scene where Sheriff Hoyt is pounding on the poor kid who's trying to do push-ups, all while his brother watches? I've had gym teachers exactly like that.

brian said...

Yeah, wasn't there an identical scene in 'Full Metal Jacket'?

My gym teacher, in similar fashion, even had an assistant who would wear the face of the kid that couldn't make it all the way up the rope. Harsh times.

steve said...

also, as you point out, I think the movie gets the PHYSICS of chainsaws wrong - take for instance the scene you mention, where the guy clamped to the table (played by Matthew Bomer, star of the late, lamented 'Traveler' and at one point in strong contention to play the lead in 'Superman Returns'): could you really just jam a running chainsaw down into his gut that way? Wouldn't the damn thing stall, or stop?

Sam said...

That's true. And also, aren't you required to wear protective eye-goggles while operating chainsaws?

It's the little things that make this movie hard to relate to.

brian said...

and, of course, you're not supposed to stab with a chainsaw. you're supposed to, you know, saw with it.