Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is available in both an unrated version, and the R-rated theatrical release.
When I, on behalf of Horror.com, visited the set of the film in Texas, I was pretty optimistic about how it would turn out — maybe even better than the 2003 remake (they share the same team of producers), which I enjoyed. When I saw the final product, moments after leaving the darkened theater, I was underwhelmed, but thought the movie was alright. Then, the story — perhaps something like Hoyt's meat stew — started to digest, and I felt a little ill. Seeing it again on DVD, I felt even less ready for seconds.
Why? Well, on the surface, it's a decent enough gore flick. Certainly not much to complain about, until you start comparing it with all the other TCM films and thinking about the missed opportunities. Yes, we do see the "beginning" of Leatherface (literally, when he's born in a gush of gooey muck on the dirty floor of a slaughterhouse), a montage of his traumatic childhood, and we are privy to his very first chainsaw murder. But it's all very perfunctory. In this case, I would much rather have seen and felt everything from The Hewitt family's point of view (TCM3 came closest to that, I think). (If you really want to know the plot of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, check out Horror.com's original theatrical release review.)
No matter how much the actors talk on the making-of featurette about how deep, textured, layered and human their characters are, to me they seemed like nothing more than a bunch of dumb bunnies who served no purpose other than to be eviscerated, bisected and made into a chewy stew. Their deaths are quite gory and brutal, so if you're looking for that and not much else, dig in. (Director Jonathan Liebesman seems like a nice enough fellow, but he should look the words 'suspense' and 'tension' up in the dictionary sometime.)
I will say that Andrew Bryniarski and R. Lee Ermey, while certainly playing one-note antagonists, are always fun to watch. I can't fault anyone's acting, but all the roles are so horribly underwritten, there isn't much to say except that I am still disappointed at the total waste of two of my favorite character actors, Lew Temple and Lee Tergeson — I would rather have seen nobodies in those roles, than seeing such talent basically thrown away.
The commentary track, featuring Liebesman and the two very hands-on producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, is brisk, informative, and goes quite a bit into the technical and practical aspects of the film. It's serviceable, but you still won’t gain much insight to the motivations and back stories of the Hewitts and their kid-kabobs. You will, however, learn that it looks as though everybody but Liebesman directed the movie — Form and Fuller had their fingers in every pie, Ermey adlibbed much of his dialogue, all the actors had lots of input, and so on. There are a few interesting trivia tidbits in the commentary: For instance, the young Luda Mae is played by the main Luda Mae's real-life daughter.
There is also a 45-minute making-of featurette entitled Down To The Bone and it's broken up into five bite-sized pieces: Origin Of Evil, Invitation To A Slaughter, Lone Star Rendezvous, Carnage Unleashed and The Chopping Block.
Finally, there is a selection of deleted and extended scenes, available with optional commentary from the aforementioned trio. There are a few alternate endings, but they're so very slightly different that nothing is truly altered (let's just say any of these finales would be beyond clichéd; there's a fine line between giving the audience what they want and expect, and being just plain lazy). Fortunately, it looks as though there won't be another TCM film from Platinum Dunes in the foreseeable future.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson