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The Independent Critic

 
STARRING
Jordana Brewster, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Taylor Handley
DIRECTOR
Jonathan Liebesman
SCREENPLAY
Sheldon Turner
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
84 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
New Line
 
 "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning"  
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There's something horribly wrong about going to see "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" on the second day of a hunger strike against violence towards children.

Pondering that humorous little tidbit may, in fact, be more entertaining than anything you're going to see in the latest in the "Texas Chainsaw" films.

This film, which takes us back to the beginning of the story, attempts to explain the origins of Leatherface and the family behind generations of massacres.

To his credit, director Jonathan Liebesman ("Darkness Falls") at least figured out one of the keys to the original film's legendary status..."the look" of the film. That film, widely considered by many to be one of the best horror films ever made, had a grainy, almost documentary feel to its cinematography that greatly enhanced the film's effectiveness, scariness and ability to induce anxiety without resorting to special effects and rampant blood spattering.

That grainy, almost faded look is present here in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning." To be completely honest, it's one of the biggest reasons I held out such high hopes for this film and had it as one of my most anticipated films of Fall 2006.

Unfortunately, the similarities between Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic and this film stop squarely at that faded look. The soul of the film is, sadly, much closer to the 2003 remake of the 1974 film...a remake that made money, but was clearly as pathetic an idea as that awful "Psycho" of Gus Van Sant's a few years back.

Actually, the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake is MORE pathetic.

In "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," we learn the sad truth about Leatherface's discovery as a baby in a trash can, while we quickly travel through his school years and a job in a slaughterhouse. When Leatherface, a nickname he carries throughout childhood, is dismissed from his job, well, surely you see where this is going?

From here, we have R. Lee Ermey back as the "sheriff." Of course, we learn the real story behind the horror... Ermey's "Uncle Hoyt" has merely assumed the identity of a sheriff he killed. Ermey's killing, Leatherface's killing of his boss and, well, a stereotypically inbred, cannibalistic family all leads us to this latest shriekfest in Texas.

For many of you who have seen Jessica Biel in the marvelous "The Illusionist" this year, it may be hard to remember that she was actually in the 2003 remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Who knew that such shrieking truly required talent? Whereas Biel was, at the very least, convincing in a one-note role, Jordana Brewster is simply irritating. Of course, she isn't given the chance to do much since Liebesman seems more intent on filming her from behind than ever challenging her to actually act.

This prequel takes place during the Vietnam era. The "victims" in question are two young men, one about to head off for the war while the other plans to dodge the draft and head to Canada. Of course, they are on a road trip through Texas with their young, nubile girlfriends when they are "rescued" by Sheriff Hoyt.

Oops.

Perhaps one of the joys for true fans of horror will lie in the fact that nobody survives here. This is, after all, the story of the original killings...and we've known for years the result of these killings. Watching Brewster get slaughtered is a bit like watching Paris Hilton get it in "House of Wax." She's irritating for so long that it's just not as painful to watch it happen.

Sadly, while Liebesman got the look of the original film correctly he failed miserably in capturing the original film's mood, timing or suspense. Instead, he resorts to that most common of horror techniques...nonstop blood spattering and grossness.

Unfortunately, much like the family scenes, this action is so over-the-top and cartoonish it's more funny than horrifying. There are several scenes in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" that are simply laugh out loud funny.

The cast is equally cartoonish, including Ermey. While Ermey is practically the master at this type of role, isn't there some point where it's time to move on? Quite honestly, this is more silly than it is convincing. Likewise, Andrew Bryniarski is back from the 2003 remake...but, truly, who cares?

In supporting roles, Taylor Handley, Matthew Bomer and Diora Baird all die quite nicely with sufficient shots of suffering and torture.

Liebesman, too, does include more chainsaw shots...which makes calling this "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" much more logical than it has been in recent film incarnations.

"Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" is your run-of-the-mill horror film that borrows the look of the 1974 Tobe Hooper film and sets it in a 2006 bloodbath that falls far short of Hooper's original film.

Not so surprisingly, the door is left wide open for further reprisals of the "Texas Chainsaw" franchise.

Of all the massacres that have occurred over the years as part of the "Texas Chainsaw" films, the most painful of all to watch is this...the massacre of one legendary film's reputation at the hands of the most ruthless killers of them all for today's cinema...Hollywood itself.
© Written by Richard Propes

The Independent Critic

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