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`Chainsaw' is pretty much all gore, little glory

October 09, 2006|Sam Adams | Special to The Times

"Meat's meat and bone is bone," proclaims Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) as he prepares a particularly gory repast. The makers of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" take a similarly elemental approach to the revived franchise's latest installment. There's hardly a body part that isn't mangled, lopped off, ground up or sliced through. Although it's billed as a prequel to the 2003 remake, "Beginning" owes much to the brutal brilliance of Tobe Hooper's 1974 original. It isn't a slick, jokey horror movie in the post-"Scream" mold but a genuine attempt to strip the coating from the audience's nerves. It's nasty and brutish, if not particularly short.

Brothers Eric (Matt Bomer) and Dean (Taylor Handley) are steeling themselves for the Vietnam War when inhumanity rears its head closer to home. While crossing the Lone Star State with their girlfriends, Chrissie (Jordana Brewster) and Bailey (Diora Baird), their Jeep pulverizes a cow. The man in a sheriff's uniform who pulls them from the wreckage seems like an authoritarian nightmare straight out of "Easy Rider" or "Cool Hand Luke." Little do they know Hoyt has just made the real sheriff into stew for his cretinous brood.

"The Beginning's" subtitle promises something along the lines of "Leatherface: Behind the Slaughter," but apart from reviving the original "Massacre's" pervasive sense of Nixon-era malaise, it doesn't offer much in the way of satisfying origins. We don't need to know that Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) once toiled in a slaughterhouse; his fondness for meat hooks and finesse with a cleaver indicate as much. Even the moment he picks up his signature chain saw passes with little sense of occasion. It's merely near to hand after he beats his former boss to a pulp with a sledgehammer.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 15, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 8 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
'Chainsaw': The review of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" in the Oct. 9 Calendar section described the original 1974 "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" as having a "small-town sheriff." That film had no such character, but the remake released in 2003 did.

The original "Massacre's" strength was its inversion of heartland bromides: The small-town sheriff was a grinning monster, the dinner table piled with cannibal gore. But there's no sense of betrayal in "The Beginning," which views the values whose erosion Hooper lamented as no more than kitsch. Surely teens whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere should know that the people who help are homicidal maniacs. Haven't they seen a horror movie before?


"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning"

MPAA rating: R for strong horror violence/gore, language and some sexual content.

A New Line Cinema release. Director Jonathan Liebesman. Writer Sheldon Turner, based on a story by Turner, David J. Schow. Director of photography Lukas Ettlin. Editor Jonathan Chibnall. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

In general release.

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