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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’ – Why It’s Worth Revisiting 16 Years Later

In this installment of The Silver Lining, we’ll be covering Jonathan Liebesman’s unfairly maligned prequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.

While the production company is now mostly known for movies like The Purge and A Quiet Place, it was originally a series of horror remakes that put Platinum Dunes on the map. Flicks like 2005’s The Amityville Horror and 2009’s Friday the 13th made big money at the box office, but it was the astounding success of the 2003 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake that made this endeavor possible in the first place.

And with the success of that initial remake convincing Hollywood that brutal horror was still a sound investment, it makes sense that TCM would be the first movie in Platinum Dunes’ repertoire to garner a sequel. So where might a filmmaker go after a no-holds-barred splatterfest that ends with most of the cannibal family being dead and the lead antagonist losing an arm?

Why, you produce a prequel!

With Marcus Nispel moving on to new projects, the production team landed on Darkness Falls director Jonathan Liebesman to helm an origin story for the Hewitt family. Liebesman’s only condition was that the film shouldn’t explain too much of the killers’ motivations, preferring to focus on the events that allowed the family to get away with murder and not why they murder.

With the help of screenwriter Sheldon Turner, the filmmakers came up with a tale about two Vietnam-bound brothers (Matt Bomer and Taylor Handley) going on a road trip with their girlfriends (Jordana Brewster and Diora Baird). This trip happens to coincide with a turning point in the Hewitt family’s status quo, as the disfigured Thomas Hewitt (Andrew Bryniarski) finds himself out of a job while his uncle Charlie (the legendary R. Lee Ermey) steals the local sheriff’s identity. And when these two groups inevitably collide, it’s only natural that chainsaw-fueled carnage ensues.

With the villainous cast of the 2003 film returning for more cannibalistic shenanigans and an original story meant to flesh out parts of the family history that we didn’t even see in Tobe Hooper’s original, it stands to reason that fans were excited for another massacre in TCM: The Beginning.


SO WHAT WENT WRONG?

Raking in over $51 million at the box office on a $16 million budget, TCM: The Beginning was certainly no box office bomb (though it made half as much as its predecessor). That being said, most critics weren’t on board with the film’s gratuitous violence and sadistic tone. While the previous entry wasn’t exactly a critical darling (scoring 37% on Rotten Tomatoes), The Beginning ended up with an even less impressive 15% – that’s less than The Next Generation!

Common complaints were directed at the film’s extreme levels of violence, with the finished movie containing several scenes of brutal disfigurement despite a series of MPAA-mandated cuts, as well as two-dimensional protagonists that only served as chainsaw fodder. The prequel’s pre-determined outcome also meant that we didn’t get any triumphant final girl moments like with Jessica Biel’s Erin in the first one.

Additionally, critics had some serious gripes with the film attempting to explain trivial elements of its predecessor instead of exploring new ideas, with the script coming up with unnecessary (and oftentimes silly) origins for details like Hoyt’s dentures and Monty’s amputated legs. Hardcore fans were also bothered by how long it takes for Leatherface to don a proper human mask, as he spends most of the film wearing a muzzle-like contraption instead of a skinned face.

As if that wasn’t enough, many outlets accused the prequel of being yet another example of disposable “torture porn”, negatively comparing the picture to Hooper’s relatively bloodless original. While The Beginning was somewhat successful in theaters, its bleak narrative and drawn-out kills meant that it just couldn’t compete with the popularity of its more traditional predecessor.


THE SILVER LINING

Back when I first watched TCM: The Beginning, I actually agreed with critics in thinking that it was a serious step down from the 2003 film, going so far as to rate it 4 stars out of 10 on IMDB. However, over the years, I’ve warmed up to the picture and have come to realize that the things critics originally hated about it are exactly why it stands out as a scarily entertaining prequel today.

This mean little neo-exploitation flick has the spirit of a grindhouse picture despite being a multi-million dollar production, with the filmmakers not being afraid to alienate audiences with how cruel their antagonists can be. In fact, you can even argue that the Hewitts are the real main characters this time around, with the ill-fated youngsters only serving as catalysts to fuel the cannibal family’s descent into madness.

In a way, this is a much more unique approach than the 2003 film’s grim retread of Hooper’s original, allowing for more disturbing moments and even more unhinged performances. Even if you’re not a fan of this new perspective, it’s clear that R. Lee Ermey and company had more to work with this time around, with the Hewitt family’s trials and tribulations becoming almost as sickeningly entertaining to watch as Rob Zombie’s Firefly clan.

And while he takes some time to start looking and acting like the unstoppable monster featured in the previous movie, Andrew Bryniarski’s take on Leatherface remains absolutely terrifying and is my own personal favorite incarnation of the character despite differing heavily from Hooper and Henkel’s original intentions.

Some of the plot points and character motivations are flimsy and the movie could have used a more thrilling finale, but I think this is a worthwhile successor to Nispel’s film simply because it chooses to do something original instead of rehashing what worked the first time around.

Personally, I still prefer the traditional slasher thrills of the 2003 entry, but The Beginning is the gruesome movie that people actually imagine in their heads when they hear about a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. It’s ugly and often unpleasant, but I believe that’s precisely why it’s still worth revisiting 16 years later.


Watching a bad movie doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad experience. Even the worst films can boast a good idea or two, and that’s why we’re trying to look on the bright side with The Silver Lining, where we shine a light on the best parts of traditionally maligned horror flicks.

The post ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’ – Why It’s Worth Revisiting 16 Years Later appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3742152/the-texas-chainsaw-massacre-the-beginning-why-its-worth-revisiting-16-years-later/

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