The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Jonathan Liebesman

The prequel is an opportunity to impart some background to the viewer and tell a story that sets up the original film. It seems like a goal that could benefit fans but the prequel is seldom executed with conviction. Okay, let’s face it, prequels never work (unless you count Godfather II). Despite the potential to shed some light on the ever-entertaining Hewitt family (that’s Leatherface and his gang of "incestual” misfits) and their rise to infamy, TCM: The Beginning is not the exception to the rule it could have been. Instead it falls into all slasher flick traps, leaving you wondering if this is just an exercise in testing the limits of how gratuitous onscreen torture and violence can get (see also Saw 3). The fact that the makers of The Amityville Horror and The Hitcher remakes produced this is no surprise, and neither is the fact that Michael Bay’s "blockbuster-y” name is attached. This is sense-numbing filmmaking that gets off on making people jump and cringe, because, well, there is little else to be gained. In the featurette, director Liebesman claims it was an opportunity to show how Leatherface "got the mask and learned to use the chainsaw” and to "push the limits as far as they’d go.” He achieves both objectives but despite Leatherface being a horror icon, he was never as prominent as Freddy or Jason and hardly deserves the limelight considering there’s a real fucked up family to fully exploit (i.e., a fantastically vicious R. Lee Ermey as the cannibalistic father figure). Instead, why not take a road less travelled and go deeper into exploring the psychological underpinning of such a dysfunctional family? Okay, it doesn’t sell tickets and they do touch on it a tad but only briefly so the plot can make way to set up another far-too-familiar scenario where hot young adults — in this case, some draft dodgers and their girlfriends — fall into the Hewitts’ bloodthirsty ambush. Only when the ending draws near, setting the stage for the original’s plot, and John Larroquette’s signature voiceover appears is there any sense of achievement. The commentary does little to appease the film’s mistakes, and hearing the producers actually utter the words "baby Leatherface” is enough to solidify just how ridiculous this mess truly is. Plus: featurettes, trailers, deleted scenes. (Alliance Atlantis)