Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The (Unrated DVD)
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Distributed by New Line Home Entertainment
"... the most physically draining movie I have ever seen ..."
"... graphic violence and uncompromising cruelty ..."
"... the best horror film of the year ..."
The above quotes were pulled from reviews for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning on various websites, including our very own. How I wish I agreed with any of them. To those I would like to add my own:
"... formulaic slasher fare without even a hint of originality ..."
Being the huge Chainsaw fan that I am, when the early buzz for this film ended up being overwhelmingly positive, I was uber-jazzed. Another good flick with Leatherface causing some seriously vicious carnage? I was so there.
Upon arriving at the theatre, I was beyond excited. Upon exiting, I was shocked. Not by how good the movie was, but by how average the experience turned out to be. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning just feels like one big missed opportunity. However, before I get into all of that, let's start with the story ...
The year is 1969. Eric and his brother Dean (Bomer and Handley) are driving cross-country with their girlfriends (Brewster and Baird) in tow before they both leave for Vietnam. Or so Eric thinks. Much to his chagrin, little brother has other plans. Dean wants to give the government the finger and head straight to Mexico. Of course this bombshell of information comes while the group is driving. Nothing like some road rage to get the blood pumping. The situation becomes heated and quickly ends in a horrible car wreck thanks to the assistance of a marauding biker who has strayed from her -- previously introduced -- gang in hopes of making a score (I'll get to those pesky bikers in just a little bit) and a well placed cow. Luckily for everyone (except for the cow), the good Sheriff Hoyt (Ermey) is there to ummm... save the day. Who wouldn't want to see him and his tobacco stained, profanity spewing mouth right after a near death experience?!? Through a series of foreseeable twists and turns, everyone ends up at the Hewitt house where Leatherface (an ever-menacing Bryniarski) is working hard honing his power tool wielding skills.
Truth be told, The Beginning does a lot of things right. It's what it doesn't do that comes back to bite it on the ass. Its main sin is that the film never makes any attempt to deviate from the formula established by Marcus Nispel's remake. We get a couple of girls and a couple of guys. The guys end up dead, and one strong chick makes it to the end. Sound familiar? Come on! Couldn't things get shaken up just a bit? How about the war vet being the last to get slaughtered? He's had combat training! Or even letting the weak chick make it to the end credits! Please, anything but the same old, same old.
There is one wild card -- the introduction of the aforementioned biker gang. Who reading this wouldn't like to see the Hewitt home get raided by a gang of angry bikers looking for revenge? Oh, the possibilities! Imagine if you will Leatherface going saw-crazy, thereby creating an orgy of violence while defending his home and family. What do we get instead? Nothing anywhere near that cool.
Then there are our protagonists -- the victims. Without question it is these uninspired drones that are holding this film back. They could not possibly be more cookie-cutter. All four kids were so mundane that it was impossible to feel for any of them. Everything they do, everything they say, everything that happens to them seems to have come right out of the old Chainsaw textbook. They are there solely to be meat, and each actor played his or her part as such. Truly sad.
And how about that ending? **Skip this paragraph if you don't want it spoiled for you.** The film ends with a backseat kill. Are you friggin' kidding me? Could we possibly get any more cliche? Holy shit! I'm sorry, but the killer in the backseat angle is ludicrous at best. Leatherface is way over six feet tall and is carrying a near three-foot long chainsaw that needs to be revved in order to work. Are we to believe that this chick was so dumb and blind that she didn't notice this hulk when she got into the car? Way to insult the intelligence of the audience.
All of these shortcomings would normally add up to a truly average film, but despite them this saw does have some teeth. The good stuff comes in the form of the family themselves. Everyone from Leatherface to the Tea Lady (and her Fatticade™ scene) make The Beginning shine a lot more than it should. While they all get their due, without question this is Ermey's movie. His portrayal of Hoyt is horror movie fried gold. And let's not forget about Bryniarski. I'm not even sure if the word "intense" cuts it. His vision of Leatherface is quite possibly the scariest and most brutal ever. When he's onscreen, all the air is sucked out of the room. Something fucking bad is going to happen every time that he is around, and all you can do is watch in horror. There's no doubt about it; this family knows how to bring the darkness. I just wish that they had more to do.
I could easily sit here and prattle on and on about the rights and wrongs of The Beginning, but that's not what we're here for. Let's talk about the DVD itself. First and foremost, we'll tackle the word Unrated. While this flick was pretty brutal in its R-rated form, it's utterly ferocious uncut. The newly added scenes mostly consist of a bit more biker exposition and of course gore. Eric's torture scene is now a lot more graphic as is every other instance of violence in the film. From what I gather, about five minutes of footage has been restored. Not too shabby.
From there we get a bunch of deleted and extended scenes along with not one, not two, but four alternate endings. Don't get too excited though. The majority of these scenes were a lot better off left on the cutting room floor, and the alternate endings range anywhere from silly to senseless. One must wonder ... Did they ever really have an ending planned? Considering how the last kill plays out, I'd have to say no. *shakes head*
The forty-five minute featurette entitled Down to the Bone is your standard behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie and includes various cast and crew interviews. Much like the rest of the film, it's the family that shines here as well.
Things are capped off with a commentary from director Liebesman and producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have our why-this-movie-wasn't-as-good-as-it-could have-been culprit. Form and Fuller discuss their vision for the movie pretty much the entire time with Liebesman chiming in every now and again with a bit of insight. They almost seem as if they're co-directors and not producers. Guys, I appreciate your attention to detail and am truly grateful for your shepherding to make sure the TCM franchise remains dark, gritty, and violent. But I also can't help but wonder what things would have been like if Liebesman had been left to his own devices. Too many cooks can spoil the pot, ya know.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is an anomaly of sorts. It goes in the right direction despite taking a step backwards. Liebesman and company basically made the same movie as the remake, just with more violence and less talent. Daniel Pearl and Scott Kosar -- you are missed. Either way, no matter how you ... umm ... slice it, this flick is still better than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. Then again, what isn't?
Audio commentary with director Jonathan Liebesman and producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller
Deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary
Down to the Bone behind-the-scenes featurette
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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