Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Recent Watches: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
the biggest horror films of the year. Since Platinum Dunes obviously made the first one to be as commercial as possible, it’s unsurprising that they would produce a sequel. There were two problems through. First off, Dimension Films threatened to buy the rights to the name from Michael Bay, delaying production while more money was allocate to retain ownership. A bigger issue was a narrative one. The remake concluded by cutting Leatherface’s arm off, making future chainsawing difficult. While there were solutions around this – the comic books gave him a hook hand – the producers decided to make a prequel instead. With its uninspired subtitle in hand, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” sawed its way into theaters in 2006.
In 1969, the slaughterhouse and meat packing plant that has supported a rural Texas town shuts down. This directly affects the Hewitt family, especially Thomas, the hulking youngest child with a deformed face. Knowing he’s being fired, he murders his boss, steals a chainsaw, and heads home. Afterwards, his adoptive brother Hoyt murders the town sheriff and assumes his role. Meanwhile, a quartet of teens are headed towards California, the boys about to be deployed to Vietnam. Along the way, they encounter the Hewitt brood, both of them falling victim to an earlier chapter of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Yet specifically being a prequel to the shitty remake saddles the film with all sorts of stupid mythology. Yes, this Leatherface has a facial deformity. Before donning his skin mask, he wears some weird Hannibal Lector get-up. Yes, he’s bullied as a kid, making his murders specific acts of vengeance. The prequel even takes the pains to set up minor events seen in the remake. We see Hoyt get his sheriff suit and loose his front teeth. We see Monty looses his legs, in one of the script’s dumbest decision. The family’s cannibalism is explained as a habit Hoyt developed as a POW in Korea. The prequel clinically sets out to resolve every element introduced in the last one.
The violence in the remake was grimy and sadistic, focused on the suffering of Leatherface’s victims. The prequel goes all in on this. The psychological torture Hoyt showed off last time becomes physical torture, as he repeatedly beats a victim with a club. Extended sequences are devoted to the chained up women, crying and panicking. Leatherface beats in kneecaps, yanks bones from flesh, and cuts a face off, all shown in sickening detail. Once the chainsaw comes out, the film delights in limbs being sawed away, bodies being cut in two or run through. There’s even a sickening suggestion of rape. Listen, I like gore in horror movies. But this is just mean, cruelty for its own sake, without flare or art.
Despite rarely bothering to make the story feel like its set in the late sixties, the script constantly references the Vietnam War. Eric is a veteran and ready to be deployed again. Dean, his younger brother, has been drafted but plans to flee to Mexico. When Eric discovers this, he’s aghast. (There’s also a subplot about some Hell’s Angels, which feels less like something the actual sixties and more like a sixties exploitation movie.) Hoyt uses this fact as an excuse to torture both boys. He drops lines about “staying the course” and freedom not being free. Wait a minute… “The Beginning” came out in 2006, right in the middle of George W. Bush’s presidency. Is the film trying to make a point about the Iraq War? Is it comparing the sadistic Hoyt and the slaughterer Leatherface to the second Bush administration? If so, this isn’t defined into a clear point. It’s just another unsatisfying aspect of the movie, lingering in the air.
There’s another reason following up the remake with a prequel was a mistake. The audience already knows the ending. Despite teasing Chrissie’s escapes, she too is murdered by Leatherface. Everyone is dead, except for the sadistic cannibals. It’s such a needlessly downbeat, nihilistic ending that not even John Larroquette reappearing as the narrator can perk me up. The prequel only grossed half of the remake’s total. Since Platinum Dunes is only interested in profits, they did not feel the need to continue the story. The script hints at further victims by giving us Leatherface’s total body count. Yet the prequel being so determined to set up the remake leaves little meat on the bone. “The Beginning” is an ugly, senseless movie, with no heart or originality. It can’t even satisfy as a brain dead slasher flick. As bad as the remake was, the prequel is somehow much worst. [2/10]