Is Leatherface gay? We know from the original round of Texas Chainsaw Massacre films that he likes to wear his mama’s dress from time to time. In this new, utterly unnecessary prequel to the already unnecessary 2003 remake, we see him caress and fondle the sinewy flesh of the movie’s teen-dude hostages so much you’d think he was a Republican congressman.
It helps to dream up such pointless subtext during this installment of the revived franchise, because you’ll be bored silly otherwise. The Beginning is as rote as horror gets, a "family who slays together, stays together" flick mated with a clichéd wrong-turn road trip story. Furthermore, the 1969 setting allows for some ridiculous scenes that demonstrate the filmmakers don’t know anything about that era. The movie is like a Maxim photo spread honoring the free-love generation, using the latest Old Navy collection: tunics, cowboy shirts and biker jackets.
In a franchise-horror effort like this, you want your body count high and your laughs low, something director Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls) just doesn’t understand. The first hour is deathly dull, focusing more on the antics of Leatherface’s adoptive redneck dad, Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey), than anything else. Ermey played the legendary, sadistic drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, and here he’s asked to play a campy variation on that character; the lame attempts at humor undercut the shocks right from the start.
The film is so inept, it loses track of main characters for large stretches of time. Most will be disappointed to find that Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) doesn’t even factor into the movie much until the last half-hour, when the gore rate increases but not the thrills. If you’re going to tackle cannibal-family horror, it helps to at least have the gonzo theatrics of 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, or the subtle Bush-bashing subtext of this spring’s halfway decent Hills Have Eyes remake. By comparison, this Leatherface seems downright limp-wristed.
Corey Hall, Michael Hastings, Jeff Meyers and Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey write about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.