SPOILER ALERT !!
Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.
Honestly, I didn’t even have the energy to write this one up. I am depressed by how much I disagree with Harry and anyone else who gave this a pass. This is what we’re settling for now in horror? I think it’s a huge mistake to demystify something as potent as Leatherface, and I think this is every bit as rotten and bankrupt as Nispel’s remake a few years ago.
But why take my word for it? Here’s Vern, who I trust to explain it for you:
Against all odds, this is actually alot better than anyone could’ve imagined. Admittedly, a prequel seems like a bad idea, and the director has only done one movie (that even he says is bad), and he told the Fangoria horror magazine he never even saw any TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE movies before he signed on. But somehow this movie is good ol’ horrory fun!
That’s how my review would start if I was a lying scumbag. But I tell it like it is, so I gotta tell you, if you hated the remake like I did you should skip this one. It’s the same old shit. The best compliment I can muster is “It has a couple funny lines.” Or how about, “I haven’t decided if it’s as bad as the remake or not.” That would make a good quote on the poster I think.
At least I TRIED not to hate this movie. In fact I spent days mentally conditioning myself for maximum open-mindedness. Maybe I should’ve re-watched that fucking remake to remind me just how much this new so-called TEXAS CHAINSAW business fails to recapture anything I love about the original classic. Instead I watched LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION.
The idea was: this is not a remake, it’s a prequel, so it doesn’t have to compare to the original. It only has to clear the sequel bar. And those last two sequels, I thought, set the bar pretty low.
It didn’t work out how I expected it to. Instead of remembering how crappy those sequels were, I found myself thinking they weren’t as bad as I remembered. I appreciated parts of them. So maybe I’d appreciate parts of this. I tried to be optimistic. I figured hey, Michael Bay is only the producer. Maybe he was too busy crushing the dreams of nerds into a fine powder and snorting it off a breast implant to have much of a hand in this. David J. Schow, who wrote the not-as-bad-as-I-remembered part 3, got a co-story credit on this one. So maybe he’ll get some good ideas in there. The script itself was written by Sheldon Turner, who wrote, uh… only the remake of THE LONGEST YARD. Well, shit.
I know I know, Harry loved it, Bloody Disgusting loved it, everybody said it was great, etc. And I’m a sourpuss spoil sport type individual, I was skeptical. Number one because I remember the positive reviews for the fucking remake, and number two because I just don’t see why anybody who loved TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE would want to make a prequel. I mean, when you meet that family in the original you can’t conceive of how they got this far gone. So why would you want to have it explained? Are we gonna explain how Michael Meyers disappeared at the end of HALLOWEEN? Or which one of them was the Thing at the end of THE THING? I hope not.
But since I dragged myself out here and sat in this theater ready to watch the prequel, for fuck’s sake, give me a fuckin prequel. If you think you’re gonna get a BATMAN BEGINS approach, forget it. You get a short explanation of Leatherface’s birth (in a slaughterhouse – I believe this is what the L.A. types call “a little too on the nose”), this happens before the credits. His childhood is brushed over in a photo montage. Then he’s grown up, the slaughterhouse closes down, most of the people have left the town, and I guess that means there’s no grocery stores, or butcher shops, or fuckin berries to pick, so they decide to become cannibals. It’s a lifestyle decision, I guess. But here’s what you’re waiting for. When Leatherface (now named Tommy) leaves his last day of work at the slaughterhouse, there happens to be a chainsaw there (in case they need to cut a log later, I guess) so he takes that with him.
There it is horror fans, that’s history right there. THERE WAS A CHAINSAW SITTING THERE, AND HE TOOK IT! Finally we understand the story behind this classic American iconography. He found it sitting there. Now we’ll never be able to watch those other movies the same way again. Every time we see the chainsaw we’ll think wow, there it is. The chainsaw he found sitting there that one time. It adds so much depth to the whole thing.
There’s really no reason why it needs to be a prequel. It’s not that much different from a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequel where they flash back to show what happened with Amanda Krueger and the thousand maniacs, then go back into being a sequel. Maybe that’s what they should’ve done because at least there would be a little suspense there. You would think maybe the soldier really could cut off R. Lee Ermey’s head like he threatens to. Or maybe the family could get caught. But you know these characters are still free and alive in the remake so nothing’s gonna happen, just the same old shit.
I don’t think you even got to see him use the saw the first time, you just see it bloody later, and somebody is cut up. You see him lugging it around, which I guess is cool. The movie doesn’t try to make you understand Tommy any better, but it did make me understand the main thing that is wrong with these movies. This “Thomas Hewitt” Leatherface is NOT the same character as the Leatherface/Bubba Sawyer/Junior we know from the original movies. Those Leatherfaces had personality. There’s the frightened, squealing retard of the original, the bashful, girl-crazy one from part 2, the walkman-toting teenage rebel of part 3. Hell, this “Tommy” may look better than the screaming slob from part 4, but that one had more substance. He was playful. That scene where he stands behind Renee Zelweger, touching her hair. It showed you something going on behind the mask. You gotta give us something.
This “Tommy” character only has a few token flashes of personality. 99% of the time he’s just one of those “evil” horror themed pro-wrestlers like The Undertaker or one of those guys. He even wears a mask like Mankind (but not the tie that Mankind copied from the real Leatherface). He’s basically the same as Kane in SEE NO EVIL with a different backstory and less creative kills. If this movie was honest they would have rockin theme music and pyrotechnics going off behind him whenever he walks into a scene. He could do one of those wrestler interviews:
“Jordana Brewster, when TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE THE BEGINNING opens on October 5th, you’re goin DOWN, bitch hog, and all the little leatherfaces around the world won’t believe what they SAW!” etc.
Because that’s all he is. He’s not Leatherface. He’s a big evil guy who kills. Might as well flex his muscles like David the Demon.
Since the movie has a few minutes of new backstory you might think it would try to make Tommy more sympathetic. But these filmatists don’t know how to do that so instead they go the “make the victims into assholes” route. There’s a scene where a slaughterhouse employee has to tell “that big retard” to leave while he’s absently chopping up meat. That’s a situation with serious potential, everybody can relate to that type of awkwardness of having to approach the guy and explain this to him. But then they make sure you can’t relate by making the dipshit blurt out “You need to leave, you BIG DUMB ANIMAL!” Later, in one of the moments that is supposed to make the audience yell “YOU GO GIRL!” Jordana Brewster calls him the same thing.
Most of the prequelizing is explaining the new characters from the remake. So you find out that R. Lee Ermey’s Sheriff Hoyt is not a sheriff, he actually killed the sheriff and stole his clothes. That’s a good idea, I like that, but they don’t sell it much. It happens and then we move on. They don’t even get much humor out of him being a crazy guy who thinks he’s a cop, they just act like he really is one.
But don’t worry, you get a detailed explanation of how Uncle Monty lost his legs. Remember, Uncle Monty? Yeah, I forgot too. The guy in the wheelchair that spilled his pee cup. Thank God I finally know how that guy I forgot about lost his legs. Also you find out that everyone left the town, including police, and that’s why they can get away with all these killings. But I think that’s another example of Just Not Getting It. Part of what was scary about these movies (and Ed Gein, the supposed inspiration) was that it was all going on right under your nose. Sure, it’s a rural area, but it’s not the middle of the fuckin desert. It’s just that house over there, who knew that was going on inside? Well, not anymore. Now it’s an evil ghost town in the middle of nowhere.
Other than that important new information, though, it’s mostly another rehash. You got another carload of young people (this time the two boys are headed to Vietnam – BECAUSE IT’S A PREQUEL. THE SIXTIES, MAN. PREQUEL.) This time they get chased by a “biker chick”, crash into a cow, get snatched by The Evil Fake Sheriff, then they’re tied up and tortured and cut and what not. The girls run around screaming, etc. Like in the remake, the girls wear futuristic low-rider jeans.
When I rewatched part 3 the other day it occurred to me what a wasted opportunity it is that Ken Foree doesn’t go get the survivalist buddies he mentions, come back and show the family some of the weapons that are available that are more powerful than saws. This one misses a similar opportunity. They show a large biker gang at the beginning, later they have only 1 (one) member show up at the house and quickly die without much of a fight. They could’ve had a Texas Altamont, instead they have just another nothing character to get chopped up. Of course, nobody can put up much of a fight, because it’s a prequel. They didn’t even have the common sense to include some never before seen family member that could get killed.
They don’t do much with the Vietnam thing, either. There’s a mildly ironic use of the phrase “stay the course” that implies it might have some sort of Iraq commentary in there, but who knows what it is. I guess you can’t expect them to say something smart about the world if they can’t even be smart about scaring people. Even the six or seven BOOOOOONGGGG!!! sudden loud music cues that are supposed to be the “scary” parts aren’t very effective.
If you just want gore, there’s a couple parts, but you’ve seen worse. This time they remembered that they’re supposed to be cannibals, so there’s some disgusting soup in one part. Rated R for scenes of disgusting soup.
These filmatists at least had the sense to understand the importance of the dinner scene. They don’t know how to execute it though. Somehow it’s not as scary when the characters aren’t as crazed but the camera is rotating around like a big Hollywood movie and the orchestra is telling you how momentous the occasion is. They also redo the part where Sally jumps through the window and runs across the field… but then she goes into the spooky slaughterhouse, just like stupid Whistler’s daughter in the remake.
Once again R. Lee Ermey is the best part of the movie, but he’s still just straight evil and not as interesting as the apologetic evil of Jim Siedow in the original parts 1-2. He has a couple of good lines (probaly not scripted) that show at least somebody remembered that the CHAINSAW movies have humor in them. There’s also a scene I liked where some ladies have a tea party with a girl tied underneath the table. And in the last shot Leatherface is kind of hunched over, maybe he might be sad, there might be some personality there. Or maybe he just walks like that. Anyway it’s possible that he has personality there, that is one possible interpretation. So I liked that shot.
Seriously, part 4 is a crappier movie, it has a way stupider ending, it’s not as nicely lit. But it captures more of the substance and tone that is so great about CHAIN SAW. These new movies are just shallow restagings. Don’t give me Lenny Kravitz’s cousin and tell me he’s Jim Hendrix.
And I don’t understand, if you insist on making a prequel, why you don’t take the opportunity to do something really different, put these characters in situations we haven’t seen them in before. If this is the first time they ever turn to murder shouldn’t there be some kind of tension there? Some kind of gradual slide from weirdo to psychopath? Maybe some parts where they almost get caught? Wouldn’t that be more interesting? And besides, you already got a generation of fuckin retards believing this is based on a true story. I heard actual college students discussing it in line. (“And it’s a true story, that’s why it’s scary.”) If they HAD to do a prequel they should’ve gone for more of a true crime feel. Weird details that seem true to life, the kind of little incidents and mistakes that would get worse and worse and build up until everything goes south and a massacre occurs. Instead it’s one little thing and then BOOM, we leap into the same old shit again.
They don’t even make it challenging for Tommy. In the real CHAIN SAW movies he always fucks up and his brothers yell at him, in this one he’s just Jason, the unstoppable killing machine. If this is the first time make something different happen. Just SOMETHING. In the end Jordana Brewster gets a car and takes off down the highway, and without giving anything away, there just MAY be a possibility that Leatherface will SUDDENLY SIT UP IN THE BACK SEAT! HOLY SHIT I HAVE NEVER, EVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT, if that is what happens, but who knows. Anyway, he saws her and up ahead there’s some cops that pulled somebody over on the side of the road, but the car crashes into them and they all die instantly and he walks away, the end.
And that’s fine, it’s an okay ending, but why not mix it up a little? Wouldn’t everybody be more satisfied if the cops didn’t die right away, he had to crawl out and they got some shots at him and he had to actually use some fuckin elbow grease? You’re telling me if he had to run around and saw up some cops to save his ass it wouldn’t be more satisfying for both me and the stupid kids that the movie is made for? Because I think we all would enjoy it together and be friends, and I would apologize for calling them stupid.
I’m sorry for any inconvenience caused by me writing one of these “I think they should’ve done it this way, and this should’ve happened” type of reviews. But there are a million ways this could’ve been interesting and they managed to steer clear of all one million. If you’re gonna take this great cinematic masterpiece that I love and have the balls to give it a beginning that was never there, at least humor me with a small amount of imagination or cleverness. These guys won’t do it, they got nothin. It’s just the same old shit, but with a baby at the beginning. If you want to see a bad movie with a baby in it, that one where Bruce is the voice of the baby has been playing on cable lately. Save your money.
I would like to sum up by saying fuck Michael Bay, fuck WWE Leatherface, fuck fake scares, fuck fake true stories, and fuck Hollywood for letting assholes like this chew up our heritage, spit it out and say it’s been upgraded. Unfortunately, the movie was pretty boring and I just can’t work up that kind of hatred, I’m not gonna be able to say any of those fucks. So instead I’ll end by saying something nice. But I got nothing nice left to say about the movie so I’ll say it about the local radio station dude who introduced the screening. He asked trivia questions and they were all about the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, with only one mention of the remake because it also has narration by John Larroquette. That’s the way it should be. The remake is a footnote, the prequel is a rehash of the footnote.
And Harry, your severed head isn’t in this one so you have no excuse this time. What happened bud. I want answers.
p.s. Oh shit Harry, this is a prequel, you could’ve been a character in this one, we would find out how you lost your head. Maybe you are the guy who picks on Tommy at school that makes him so Evil. No buts about it, your character should’ve been in there. You shouldn’t stand for this.
APPENDIX: Note to director Jonathan Liebesman
Dear director Jonathan Liebesman,
Come on dude. Don’t do this FRIDAY THE 13TH “PREQUEL/REMAKE” bullshit. Don’t let anybody do it. Just pull the plug.
I’m sure you’re a nice guy. I’ve seen worse movies than your prequel. But don’t listen to Michael Bay on this shit. If he has advice for you about buying sports cars, listen to that. If he says anything about a movie, surprise garbage can battering ram to the face and run like hell. The guy is a maniac.
I know you come from South Africa and I have nothing against South Africa. You got rid of apartheid so we’re cool now. But I’m an American so just take my word for it that these movies are important to some of us here. FRIDAY THE 13TH is not sacred like TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, but it’s dumb-stupid-fun. Platinum Dunes makes dumb-pretentious-not-fun. Say goodbye to JASON X, say hello to 90 minutes of nicely lit torture scenes. If these assholes start the series over, that’s the end of FRIDAY THE 13TH forever. No more fun to be had.
Be honest with yourself. You watched the CHAIN SAW remake after you got hired, even you were like “How the fuck did they remake it without the dinner scene?” You can’t trust these people. Don’t do it bud. Take a stand. Be a conscientious objector. Don’t do this to us, Liebesman. Just walk away.
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/30317
May 3rd, 2014 at 1:37 pm
Historians will look back on this period of my life and wonder why, but I’ve decided to watch these other 21st century TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE massacres. Obviously Vern’s done all the heavy lifting and unpacking and deconstruction and other workmanlike metaphors for the art of writing about shitty movies that shouldn’t exist, but hopefully it’ll be okay for me to put something here as a warning to future Mouth not to revisit this shameful double-chapter in the reboot-prequelization of classic cinema.
(A recent rewatch of TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D , however, was lots of fun.)
TCM2K3: JESSICA BIEL RUNNING has its moments, just enough competent/standard slasher stuff to make it at least more entertaining than, I dunno, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER or whatever. We’re talking bottom rung major studio medium budget horror fare, but the TCSM titleistical pedigree and the confident, clearly defined palette & glossy-but-grimy visual style makes these Platinum Dunes joints interesting on some level. They’re serviceable if you saw them opening weekend on a date with someone with bad cinematical taste or today if you’re a masochistic cinephile in search of a good headache & a greater understanding of the many flavors of bad horror.
TCM2K6: RISE OF TOMMY is just miserable, though. It’s not scary. It doesn’t make you think. It doesn’t make you emote. There’s no “A-ha!” moment or “Oh shit!” moment, much less a “Fuck yeah!” moment. There’s no meaningful cause-&-effect to any of the short action set pieces or the stabbings or the torture scenarios. That cow in the middle of the street is just bad, lazy filmatism. The whole thing is a series of “Well this guy is evil and probably crazy so he’s gonna do the evil thing here and these other people are going to feel pain and scream or whatever and we’ll do this over & over again for 90 minutes The End,” which is especially baffling & disappointing considering this is supposed to be the piece of the TC[S]M lore that provides these characters their original motivations and explores how & why they became what they are in 1974 and beyond. If you’re going down this prequel route, what’s wrong with asking for some psychological depth, some emotional foundation-building (and the half-assed “Here’s a throwaway line about ‘He was picked on as a child and also there was a drought so now we slice & eat people’” doesn’t fucking count)?
The Leatherface-family backstory material is not only unasked for and shoddily conceived & pieced together, it’s perfunctory and lazy in every way. The way it’s presented in the dialogue, this material is blunt & shallow and defiantly unengaging every time it should be probing or enrichingly mysterious. And it’s supposedly the raison d’etre for this film, this prequel, this origin story.
I guess the 2 kinda interesting parts of the script, the brief moments that sound like maybe they required more than 3 functioning creative brain cells to imagine, is fake-Sheriff Hoyt’s motivation to hurt Dean for disrespecting the US Armed Forces by burning his draft card and Hoyt’s line about having to fend off “bikers and hippies.” Okay, now they’ve established a kind of isolationist right-winger mentality, and hey an actual biker guy comes to their house for revenge, fulfilling the patriarch’s prophetic fears, so that’s potentially interesting… and then they see this guy invading their house and they kill him just the same way they would kill any person they ever see who’s not in the family. It’s a novelty death of sorts, but the biker doesn’t receive special treatment, doesn’t interact in any memorable way that adds to the twisted take on the pathetically shallow Vietnam-&-1960s-related politics suggested by a tiny bit of the script.
And do we really believe it mattered one bit that the guy’s partially burned draft card sets off Hoyt’s rage? Don’t you think Hoyt was planning to brutalize and kill all those youths anyway? There’s no cause-&-effect. It wouldn’t matter if the kids were wearing Marine Corps uniforms, en route to a training event, the guy still would have found a pretense to lure them to his estate and then have his son cut them up. He pretends to operate on a kind of code, as evidenced by that stupid push-up challenge scene, but it’s obvious he’s a simple killing-&-maiming machine. And that makes him an uninteresting character. An uninteresting character that talks way too goddamn much. Other killing-n-maiming machines of cinema history (Terminator, “the shape” Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, etc.) are fucking mute for a reason. And his little quips (none of which I can remember, from either TCM2K3 or 2K6) are such flat, lifeless, witless shadows of the quasi-improvised brilliance he brought to FULL METAL JACKET and ON DEADLY GROUND, it defies all sense. It’s like the stupidity of Michael Bay and crew somehow rubbed off on R. Lee Ermey, so that even in a fully R-rated setting his ability to colorfully belittle everyone in his purview dissipated once he heard “Action” on set. Hiring R. Lee Ermey for your movie and not getting him to say any ridiculously salty quips is like introducing a kickboxer character and then not having him kickbox anyone by the end.
Also the death scenes are mostly boring and/or clunky, despite the apparently high budget making believable car crashes & impressively sicko gore-splosions possible.
Also why not lie to the sheriff and say your draft card is partially burned b/c actually your mom back home started to burn it and then you stopped her from finishing the job? Makes you seem like a super-patriot, like you *prevented* the burning of a draft card. This was the first thing I thought of in this scene, but the heroes aren’t as quick on their feet as ole moi.
Oh and I think the reason “Tommy” is “hunched over” at the very end, Vern, is cuz he had just got sliced in the back by that one guy, the blonde draft-dodger guy. And also he might have a little whiplash or even a concussion after that last automobile collision.
Big thanks to Ralph Nader for making everyone use seatbelts around the time of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING’s timeline (and then fuck Ralph Nader for screwing us out of a President Gore).