2006's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" was about as bad as the direct-to-video "Texas Chainsaw" sequels they cranked out in the 1990s. Well, slightly better, as it did feature R. Lee Ermey, once again playing a cannibalized version of the sarge he portrayed in Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket." By cannibalized, I mean that he is, in fact, a cannibal.
Follow the follow up to the 2003 remake, they brought in "Darkness Falls" director Jonathan Liebesman. One of the drawbacks of "TCM:TB" is that it, like "Darkness Falls," takes itself way, way too seriously. There's very little camp here. Somehow the '03 film had a great sense of Hitchockian fun. But there are merits to this prequel, which is set before the events of the '03 film as its main baddies were killed off.
Not unlike "Full Metal Jacket," "TCM:TB" is set in the 1960s. Four hippies are on a road trip when they make the huge mistake of driving through Ermey's town. After his retarded, adopted son kills his boss at the local slaughterhouse, Ermey kills the town sheriff and takes his identity – which explains how he became the detestable sheriff everyone loathed in the 2003 film (which this is a prequel of). His retard son is, of course, Leatherface. We get to know the boy's Jason-like history from the film's opening minutes, when he's given birth to on the floor of a packing plant by a slaughterhouse worker, and is eventually picked up and "adopted" out of a dumpster.
It's exactly the kind of mongoloid that sinful teenagers are intended to run into. So, years later, on a roadtrip, four hippes (one of whom is a draft dodger, the other a military man with plans to return to Vietnam) find themselves stranded following a collision with a cow, nearly kills them, they are "rescued" by Ermey, who takes them to his home with the apparent motivation of eating them.
There's definitely a stronger emphasis on cannibalism in this follow up which is sorely missing the presence of Jessica Biel, who did quite well as the weak-girl-who-must-become-a-badass character in the '03 film. Brewster, who kind of fills that role here, isn't as good. We are also treated to a couple views of gorgeous and buxotic Diora Baird as Brewster's friend, and one of the film's many victims.
At its best moments, this rehash feels political. It's hard not to watch "TCM:TB" and not think about some of the tensions between liberals and Republicans we witness today, with the Vietnam War standing in for the Iraq debacle. Ermey comes across as a human flesh-eating Fox News viewer: Ignorant, arrogant, but scary and gun loving. He's an uber-Republican.
There's the usual tie-'em-up-and-torture-'em scenes, an attempt at recreating the dinner scene from Tobe Hooper's original that falls flat, and plenty of running around and screaming. But the tension of the '03 film just isn't there. This is not edge—of-your-seat entertainment. Ultimately, "TCM:TB" is about half as good as the remake it's a prequel for. Ermey is always fun to watch and without him, this film would have qualified as direct-to-DVD dretch.
Any horror film that sets itself in the '60s or '70s deserves some points, and this makes "TCM:TB" kinda worth catching, but a real disappointment considering how good the 2003 film was. Expect further sequels to head straight to DVD. "
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