Friday, October 17, 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

Back in 2003, Michael Bay, along with his Platinum Dunes Production, was able to get the rights to a beloved classic horror movie and remake it decently for a new audience to see.  Besides some minor flaws I’d seen when I first viewed 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I agreed that it was a pretty worthy remake and liked some of the aspects and fresh takes of the story.  However—and I’ll say right here that this is a spoiler for the film—the filmmakers shot themselves in the foot when they chose to end the film by having the survivor get the best of Leatherface as she was able to cleave off his arm before getting away.  Although the villain was still alive, my first thought was that they weren’t going to be able to produce a sequel afterwards.  I mean, what were they going to do?  Have a one-armed Leatherface tote around a chainsaw with his left arm?  Were they going to give him a prosthetic?  I felt the writers wrote themselves into a corner in which they couldn’t get out.  So it was no surprise to me when, in 2006, Platinum Dunes announced that, instead of a sequel to the 2003 remake, they were taking the prequel route with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.

As the date was getting closer, and the buzz of the film was growing, some details were released and actually sounded pretty good at the time.  It was said that the film was going to explore Leatherface’s origins, documenting how he came to be and how the family became the horrid people they were.  It excited some people, but for others who had a hatred for all things Michael Bay, it caused dismay.  I, on the other hand, waited patiently to see what was to come and when October 6th of 2006 arrived, I went to the movie theater to see for myself.

The movie opens in 1939, at a rural meat packing plant, where a woman dies giving birth to a baby.
The plant manager, who gives a look of disgust when he sees the baby, takes it and discards it in a dumpster.  A local resident, Luda Mae Hewitt (Allison Marich), finds the baby boy and takes him home to raise as her own, naming the child Thomas.  The film then chronicles Thomas’s life growing up, working at the same meat packing plant where his biological mother worked, and when the plant closes down.  The story then shifts to two brothers, Eric (Matthew Bomer) and Dean (Taylor Handley), in 1969, who are off to be shipped out to Vietnam.  But Dean is not planning to go, unbeknownst to his brother, Eric.  Along with their girlfriends, Chrissie (Jordana Brewster) and Bailey (Diora Baird), they all get into an accident and end up at the Hewitt residence, where they soon will meet Leatherface (Andrew  Bryniarski).

Where should I start with this one?  Let’s start with the origin of Leatherface.  I actually liked how they introduced him into this world at the meat packing plant…it sort of gives his story a destiny to it, like he was always meant to be some sort of butcher.  I also found it interesting to add that the character had some sort of skin degenerating disease that ate away at his face, giving him a reason to wear masks.  You can also say that having the character be inflicted with this ailment makes his psychosis understandable.  The only complaint about Leatherface’s whole origin is that it rushes through in this film, just so the movie can move to the plot of the kids driving through Texas and having the unfortunate luck to end up at the notorious Hewitt household.

As for “Sheriff Hoyt” (R. Lee Ermey) from the first film and how he came to be sheriff, the filmmakers gave him an interesting backstory, showing that he’s really Charlie Hewitt and stole the sheriff persona from an actual lawman after killing him.  It makes sense, especially after you see what a nut-job he is in the 2003 remake, which he continues that craziness in this prequel.  A scene that stands out as pure insanity is when family member, Monty (Terrence Evans), is shot in the kneecap and Charlie, now Sheriff Hoyt, uses a chainsaw to amputate his leg as the man screams his head off.  Right after that, just to even out the legs, Hoyt saws off the other leg.  That, in turn, gives us the origin of the legless man from the 2003 film.

The whole story of the kids getting stuck there at the house, getting tortured or pursued by Leatherface is basically what we’ve seen already.  This simply could’ve been another sequel as the plot is just a modest retreading of the original.  Don’t get me wrong, all of it was well done and believable, but I think it should’ve been more of an explanation to Leatherface’s status as a lunatic serial killer than the same old story of kids hunted and killed.

Supplementary to this whole mix of a plot, there’s also a subplot of this biker gang that gets involved with the kids in the beginning, developing into an altercation as they’re established as the bad guys.  However, as the movie goes on, the lead biker, Holden (Lee Tergesen), appears and is seen in a heroic light.  I think the whole concept of having these bikers in the story could’ve been left out to leave room for more of Leatherface’s beginning to make the subtitle of the film true.  But all this wasn’t a detriment to the film; I actually liked it and felt it was all believable enough.

So, my final “bit” on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning?

Well, I guess I’ll say that I did not hate the movie, seeing that I actually have the DVD in my home media collection.  Some aspects of the film were really well done, while other parts of the film were pretty mediocre.  All in all, I really did like the way the film ended.  It sort of surprised me and I didn’t think it was going to turn out that way.  I’ll say this for the movie—at least it didn’t include the origin of that little inbred kid we saw in the 2003 film.  Anyway, this film is above average and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

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