Warning! This site contains satire, cynical adult humor, celebrity gossip, and an occasional peanut by-product or two!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

I'm going to surprise you. Most people would presume that I would hate The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, but I actually found it brought back wonderful memories of my third cousin, Lonnie “Stumpy” Scopes. “Stumpy” was a terrific guy with a great sense of humor, which is a very good thing considering he earned his nickname by becoming the only person in Montana to ever lose both of his arms in separate chainsaw accidents. You see, Lonnie had been working as a tree-cutter for the family timber company for about five weeks when he was distracted one morning by an irate beaver and cut right through his arm while he was supposed to be clearing a path for the equipment operators to make a road into the forest.

The sad part was that after “Stumpy” recovered from his injury, he returned to that very same job outfitted with a prosthetic arm and hook that he said worked almost as well as his original. Now he always was a taco short of a
combination plate, if you know what I mean, but on the very first day back, on his lunch break, he decided to show the other guys on the crew how the accident happened and ~ whoops! ~ there went the other arm. I guess everybody learned a lesson that day. Friends don’t let friends demonstrate their accidental amputations using real operating chainsaws. Remember that the next time you find yourself in this exact situation. Anyway, thanks to “Stumpy”, his father “One-Eyed Richard” (he refused to be called by the usual nickname that goes with his first name after his own tragic incident with a wood chipper) decided that maybe, just maybe, it was time to consider sending the young’uns off to college instead of his raising his kids to clear the woods, and so the tradition of educating that branch of the family tree began.

That’s one of the best parts of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The
Beginning, now playing at the Essex Cinemas. Writers Sheldon Turner (The Longest Yard) and David J. Schow (Leatherface:
Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) have brought a cleverness to the origin story of Leatherface, the unsavory chainsaw wielding anti-hero of this tale. I doubt many people coming to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning are doing so expecting to see the birth of baby Leatherface and the circumstances that lead to his becoming a member of the notorious Hewitt clan, but here it all is, in a quick succession of cuts that fill in the youth and adolescence of the lad who becomes everybody’s favorite Skillsaw® operator.

A few other historical tidbits are addressed as well for long-time fans of the series. How, exactly, did the patriarch of the family get to be sheriff, and why does Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey; Man of the House) have a different surname than the rest of his whacked-out cannibalistic brood? What happened to the nearby town that left it deserted? And what drove this family to such bizarre desperation that they would consider cannibalism a natural occurrence?

Okay, so it sounds like some anthropological treatise on an indigenous people of a faraway land, but don’t worry. It is still full of bucket loads of blood and gore for the aficionados of such things, like all the other versions of this movie, and really, all five are basically the same “story” (which is to say there’s not much more going on than Leatherface turning innocent people into deli meats). Nobody coming to see blood spilled or torture happening will be disappointed, as it seems that South African director Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls) has been studying American tastes in horror and has infused a bit of last year’s Hostel in the look of the film as well as in the attitude of the character of Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski; Seven Mummies), who now seems to put a bit more enthusiasm into playing with his food before killing it. Fortunately for him, the food is feisty enough to play too, so Leatherface literally works up an appetite doing what he does best.

The unwitting participants in this gastronomic gorefest set in 1969 are a quartet of early 20-somethings on a last road trip together. Eric (Matthew Bomer; Flightplan) is re-enlisting in the service for a second tour in Vietnam and he is bringing along his younger brother Dean (Taylor Handley; The Standard) to get him to also enlist and go to Vietnam with him. Joining them for the ride are their two girlfriends, Chrissie (Jordana Brewster; Annapolis) and Bailey (Diora Baird; Accepted). What is amazing here is that in all four instances Liebesman has cast young people who can actually act in these parts, bringing more than just screams and swearing to their roles. This is a remarkable achievement as most splatter films don’t bother with such details, but it does wonders. It elevates the entire movie to another level of gruesomeness when the hunted become dimensional enough for the viewer to care about whether the characters become the “Dinty” in the “Dinty Moore’s Stew.”

Bomer, who was ‘thisclose’ to playing the Caped Crusader in Superman Returns before losing the part to Brandon Routh, does an excellent job as the leader of the group. His resemblance to a young Christopher Reeve, especially during his scenes in captivity, is a bit distracting, but he manages to convey a heroic and vulnerable sensibility all while knowing he is helpless
to stop the ravaging of the madman in his presence. Brewster, too, as Bomer’s ill-fated fiancée, shows moxie while simultaneously doing all the “girly” things you’ve come to expect from a leading lady in a blood-drenched slasher flick. She crashes through plate glass windows, gets snatched by her hair, escapes from being tied up, and, of course, runs wildly through the woods while being chased by the horrific Husqvarna® hoisting hillbilly at the centerpiece of this feature.

As grim as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is, kudos must go to the cast and writers for giving the Hewitt family a few moments of laugh-out-loud humor in the midst of all this bloodletting.

Luda Mae (Marietta Marich; Rushmore), Leatherface’s adoptive Mama, proves herself a good Christian woman and defender of family values when she delivers a vehement diatribe at Chrissie after the young woman has the audacity to utter an expletive while she is tied up and being forced to endure a meal of human remains with the Hewitts and one of her own dead companions. Imagine! The nerve of this young woman blaspheming at “The Lord’s Table” and just after they’ve said grace and slit the throat of the other hostage! She’s positively uncivilized! Fortunately, Luda Mae offers to pray for her, or kill her, or maybe both. It’s really all the same at Chez Hewitt.

There’s definitely a sense of tongue-in-cheek in some of these scenes, and not necessarily the tongue of one of those hapless bikers who also drop by on occasion only to become rump roast or some other cut of meat. We even hear Sheriff Hoyt paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara’s magnificent declaration in the turnip patch before the intermission in Gone with the Wind as he
celebrates the fact that with so many hippies, bikers, hikers, and lost travelers coming along their stretch of highway that, with God as his witness "We'll never go hungry again."

Overall, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, is, as my uncle “One-Eyed Richard” would say, “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.” If you like these sorts of things, and they are an acquired taste, like human kidneys or brains must be, then you’ll no doubt want to buzz on down to the
Essex Cinemas for a bloody ghoul time.

No comments: