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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

The prequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning seems all vaguely familiar, but there's just not enough buzz in the chainsaw this time around.


As we start at the beginning, we see how the hideous mass murderer Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) is born, right in a meat-packing warehouse. His grotesquely obese mother is forced to continue working by a sadistic boss even after her water breaks. The boss sees the monstrous child and throws it in a rendering vat where a twisted family finds it and rears it. A few decades later, the Texas town around them has slowly died away, and the baby turns into a giant who enjoys slaughtering, well, lots of things. Then Leatherface's uncle Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) becomes the sheriff, who likes the flavor of human flesh after acquiring a taste as a POW in Korea. Soon, Hoyt, Leatherface and the rest of the family began to like it, too, getting motorists to stop along their route. Along come two brothers, Dean (Taylor Handley) and Eric (Matthew Bomer), with their girlfriends Chrissie (Jordana Brewster) and Bailey (Diora Baird). The boys are suppose to be going off to serve in Vietnam, and this is their last hurrah. But Dean hasn't told his brother that he's actually going to run off to Mexico with Bailey because he doesn't want to experience the horrors of war. Little does he know what horror truly is.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has included in the past the likes of Oscar-winning Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey (Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and The Lord of the Rings' Viggo Mortensen (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III), so anything can happen to these young actors' careers. Of course, Leatherface is the most important character and Bryniarski returns to the role and plays it well, and not like the sniveling drag queen the character became in later sequels. Other familiar faces from the brilliant 2003 remake of this 1974 Tobe Hooper classic are brought back for this prequel, including Ermey and the grotesque cannibal family: Luda Mae (Marietta Marich), Uncle Monty (Terrence Evans) and the horribly obese Tea Lady (Kathy Lamkin). They are as evil as ever, and the prequel explains why Uncle Monty is a double amputee, why Sheriff Hoyt has no teeth, how Leatherface cuts skin off people and why the family has such a taste for human flesh. The victims are typical in their struggle to survive, but Bomer as a brave soldier is particularly poignant as he desperately fights while becoming a play toy for Leatherface. Brewster (The Fast and the Furious) and Bomer (The O.C.) don't need a horror movie to boost their careers, but they help create victims you really care about.


Director Jonathan Liebesman pays proper homage to what Hooper created, but perhaps too much. So much of it is familiar that TCM: The Beginning is quite predictable. The characters are a lot more (pardon the pun) fleshed out than in the other films and very likable, but the murders aren't particularly gruesome. And what about the actual chainsaw? The chase through the woods with the crazed hacking killer is the most memorable and chilling moment, but there isn't any such scene in this prequel. The focus is more on the evil, rather than the torture—i.e. when Luda Mae washes Bailey's face tenderly and sings, ''You want to look good when the company comes.'' Creepy, yes. Blood-curdling grisly? Not so much.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 stars.