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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Slasher > Prequel > Remake > The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (Theatrical Film Review)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (Theatrical Film Review)


Stars: R. Lee Ermey, Jordana Brewster

Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Critic's rating: 5 out of 10


Review by Chuck O'Leary


I liked Marcus Nispel's 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre better than the 1974 original mainly because of R. Lee Ermey's enthusiastic performance as Leatherface's uncle, the sadistic Sheriff Hoyt.  Ermey is again the highlight of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, an extremely gruesome prequel to the remake that apparently underwent substantial cuts to obtain an R rating -- it's still a lot bloodier than necessary in its current form.


For inquiring minds who care enough to sit through this gorefest, the prequel informs us that Leatherface was born in 1939 and abandoned as a newborn in a dumpster.  That's when he was rescued and adopted by the Hewitt family, and given the name Thomas. The facially-deformed Tommy Hewitt grew up an outcast and eventually went to work in a cattle-slaughtering plant, a job he enjoyed way too much.


The plant closes in 1969, and with no more meat to chop, the hulking Tommy turns to humans, first murdering the owner of the defunct slaughter house.  When the town sheriff of what's now a ghost town informs Uncle Charlie (Ermey) that his retarded nephew has committed murder, Uncle Charlie takes it upon himself to protect his "misunderstood" nephew and kills the sheriff.  That's when Charlie takes the badge, the police uniform and the squad car and assumes the identity of Sheriff Hoyt.


Turns out Ermey's imposter sheriff is a Korean War veteran who turned to cannibalism while being held in a POW camp.  Now with the town gone, old Uncle Charlie/Sheriff Holt is determined to keep his family fed -- by any means necessary.


When two young brothers (one already a Vietnam veteran about to go back and the other his reluctant brother who's been drafted, but doesn't want to go) and their two girlfriends are involved in an automobile accident on a dusty road near the Hewitt's isolated place, the newly self-appointed sheriff seizes the opportunity to abuse his newfound power and take the four young adults hostage.


The savage torture which transpires thereafter is a virtual carbon copy of the events seen in the '74 original and '03 remake, save the scenes that show how Tommy Hewitt obtained his "leather" face and how a chainsaw became his favorite instrument of death.  The origins of the Hewitt's depravity is the interesting part of this film, but there should have been more of that.  After a promising first half, Beginning degenerates into standard slasher fare with a heavy helpings of blood and body parts.


Playing like a homicidal variation of his sadistic drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, Ermey again easily steals the show as the redneck "sheriff" from hell who hates hippies, bikers or anything that hints of disrespecting God and country.  Just as he was in the '03 remake, Ermey's character, more so than Leatherface, is again the real villain in a prequel that he alone makes watchable.


The director of Beginning, Jonathan Liebesman, is currently attached to direct a forthcoming Friday the 13th prequel. Hopefully, that one will devote more time to the early years of Jason Voorhees before succumbing to routine stalk-and-slash conventions.


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