Review: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”

In a time when the horror genre was being drowned in remakes of Japanese supernatural thrillers and PG-13 spook stories, the 2003 remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” proved a much needed shot in the arm. Overly gory, it nevertheless was a well filmed and convincingly gritty big budget remake of the seminal 70’s classic. Now, thanks to its major box-office success comes the inevitable follow-up which takes a different route – utilising the prequel concept.

It’s a conceit to be sure, a way to market what is essentially the same tired and all too retrodden story of a bunch of good-looking teenage kids being terrorised by a family of hillbilliy cannibals. The only real difference? The monster of the piece, Leatherface, gets a minor backstory involving being found in a dumpster and raised working at an abattoir.

Still there’s potential here if done effectively, potential that sadly Director Jonathan Liebesman often lets go to waste. A vast improvement on his first work “Darkness Falls,” nevertheless the man simply lacks the cinematic eye of the remake’s helmer Marcus Nispel which results in a film that looks ultimately a lot cheaper and less dynamic than the Jessica Biel starrer. His over reliance on loud booming music everytime someone puts a foot or hand in front a camera renders the film’s very few real jumps entirely useless.

Yet at times though he actually gets it. From a cow exploding in a car crash, to a effective piece of misdirection involving Ermey’s character checking himself out in a mirror, there are moments here of genuine gory surprise and delight. Kudos also to some minor attempts to explain the craziness of the situation and the events in the remake – from the removal of Grandpa’s legs, how Ermey became sheriff, and best of all the later’s explanation about why he has no problems with cannibalism.

Even the victims have minor attempts at development thanks to the time period allowing the issue of Vietnam and the draft to come into play. Sadly none of them really imbue much into their roles, “The OC” star Taylor Handley coming off the best, whilst Jordana Brewster and one time Superman candidate Matthew Boomer just look pretty, then grimy, then bloody. Brewster just lacks the athletic strength and strong will that Biel was able to embed in her portrayal.

There’s odd moments of cleverness here, but it’s all lost amidst the unnecessarily gory sewing scenes or the cheap scare moments which aren’t much different from the old chestnut of the genre – the ‘cat scare’. At 84 minutes, the story feels stretched with the last half seeing the family disappear for extended periods in order to allow our heroes to have some hope before being taunted again. Icky, not scary, and often dull – there’s ultimately no real meat in this massacre.