Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Horror Violence/Gore, Language and Some Sexual Content
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Written by: Sheldon Turner
Starring: Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, Matt Bomer, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski
In 1974, Tobe Hooper unleashed a shocking vision of madness based on the disturbing crimes of Ed Gein (fused with a lot of creative licensure). That film went on to become a critically hailed classic of the horror genre. Of course with success, people saw dollars and sequels were made. In fact, the TEXAS CHAINSAW franchise ended up with four sequels (each worse than the last). Finally, a reboot was put on the table by Marcus Nispel (who also directed the FRIDAY THE 13TH reboot). This remake that both delighted and infuriated horror fans, depending on their taste. For some reason, a prequel to the reboot seemed like a good idea to studio execs. Many fans were skeptical. Turns out this prequel, THE BEGINNING, wound up being better than the reboot. It’s a gritty, disturbing, and intense ride.
The year is 1969. Due to horrible health conditions, the meat plant where Thomas Hewitt works is being shut down. Jobs are scarce and the residents are moving out of the small Texas community. The Hewitt family (made of Mama, Old Monty, Charlie, and Thomas) are determined to stay. After Thomas kills his former boss and Charlie kills the only cop in town, their reign of madness begins. Charlie becomes Sheriff Hoyt and Thomas becomes the skin-wearing psycho known as Leatherface.
Coinciding with this birthing of the redneck psycho family is a group of four youths taking a road trip across the state. Eric has been drafted into the military and his older brother, Dean, is returning to Vietnam in order to stick with his sibling. Their girlfriends are accompanying them along the way. After encountering a gang of violent bikers, the group get into a car accident and are picked up by Sheriff Hoyt. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what will happen next: mayhem, murder, dismemberment, torture, and lots of blood.
While the 2003 remake was impressive to look at, it really wasn’t the kind of film it should have been. THE BEGINNING is the movie that should have been made the first time around. It’s nasty, sweaty, and dark in all the right places. It’s really surprising that a movie this graphic even made it through the studio system. It may be an entry in an already gory horror franchise, but this is brutal stuff! Just because the film is violent as shit, doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of dark humor though. These are mostly supplied by R. Lee Ermey’s dialogue.
The biggest fault with THE BEGINNING is that we already know how the movie will end, seeing as the 2003 film takes place after this one. Even so, there is a real attempt made at suspense and it works to varying degrees. The kills are insanely graphic. This film isn’t free from some of the typical slasher clichés though, including a killer that can seemingly appear out of nowhere (including in front of a car that he was clearly behind or in a backseat completely unnoticed). As annoying as these moments are, the film is the second-best in the entire series (the first is the 1974 masterpiece).
In the end, we all know where the conclusion of THE BEGINNING will go. The fun and thrills are simply in getting there. The characters are surprisingly fleshed-out for a movie of this kind. It makes for a slasher that doesn’t feel like just another dead-teenager film. The body count is vast. The violence is brutal. The film is beautifully shot and has an atmosphere of doom lingering over the entire thing. It’s one of the best slashers of the new millennium. Check it out!