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Movie Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by Sheldon Turner
New Line Cinema

Witness the birth of fear! So says the tagline for yet another trip to Texas and the best-known redneck horror franchise. The problem is, this movie is the exact same as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, its remake, and its imitators.

The group of four cattle in this go-around are Eric (Matthew Bomer), his incredibly foxy girlfriend Chrissie (Jordana Brewster), his brother Dean (Taylor Handley), and his incredibly foxy girlfriend Bailey (Diora Baird). It’s 1969, Eric is a young Vietnam vet and is hoping his brother will come back with him as he re-enlists–but Dean doesn’t want any part of that damned war in Vietnam and is planning to jump the Mexican border at a convenient time with Bailey. But, alas, the company drives through that familiar patch of psycho Texas highway, where the head of a killer clan, known as Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) is just waiting for future victims to feed his family, including Not Yet Leatherface.

At the very least, it’s not running out of gas or breaking down this time that gets the group into trouble, but they eventually go through what every group of kids goes through in Texas Chainsaw movies–unbearable torture and horrible death. So, we see in the early part of the movie when Leatherface is born–but during the opening credits as we watch files document his growth and we see knives cutting indistinct parts of flesh, we’ve been robbed of his childhood and adolescence. He’s thirty, apparently, before he makes his first human kill–a total cheat considering the movie could have explored violent early years and it could have been one scary freaking movie–there’s an allusion to “being picked on on the playground.” Wouldn’t that have been great to see the young, disfigured kid take some sort of psycho vengeance on his classmates? I think this whole “beginning” thing is mislabeled–even though we have our usual Star Wars-ian prequel moments where it’s–Oh! so that’s how he got his face! Or, there’s where he got his chainsaw! Or, oh! That’s how Sheriff Hoyt became Sheriff Hoyt!

Likely to get some critical acclaim because of the allusions to Vietnam and our present context–but it’s not like the movie wants to explore its Vietnam and Big Bad Government conceits–it may just supposed to be subtext, but when the movie is about sick carnage I really wonder if subtext is intended. All of that said, isn’t Leatherface scarier that we don’t know how he grew up? That part or much of the horror comes from the idea that such a person could exist but we have no idea how he came to be this way? I just thought this thing was completely under-realized. Horror fans who just like horror for being horror are going to love it, for the movie is well-filmed and offers oodles of blood.

So…shouldn’t I just grade a movie like this on whether it’s scary or not? Absolutely. But I hardly ever find loonybin bloodbath horror scary at all–it has to go more psychological (Silence of the Lambs) or it has to be more subtle (Halloween). So, if the same old bloodbath appeals to you, by all means go and see it because it’s worth it. Me, I would take a pass if I had to pay money.

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