Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #767
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: October 6, 2006
Sub-Genre: Backwoods Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $51,800,000
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Producers: Michael Bay, Mike Fleiss, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Tobe Hooper, Kim Henkel
Screenplay: Sheldon Turner, David J. Schow (story)
Based on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by Tobe Hooper & Kim Henkel
Special Effects: Greg Nicotero
Cinematography: Lukas Ettlin
Score: Steve Jablonsky
Editing: Jonathan Chibnall
Studios: Next Entertainment, Platinum Dunes
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Stars: Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, Matt Bomer, Lee Tergesen, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Marietta Marich, Allison Marich, Terrence Evans, Kathy Lamkin, Tim De Zarn, Lew Temple
Narration: John Larroquette
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Wayne Bell & Tobe Hooper “Soundtrack Suite”
 Edwin Starr “War”
 The Wonder Stuff “The Size Of A Cow”
 Steve Jablonsky “Main Title”
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is one of significant peaks and valleys. Any hopes of matching Tobe Hooper’s original for sheer unadulterated terror were pie in the sky, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of hopefuls from giving it a crack. Even Hooper himself knew better than to attempt to trump himself and his 1986 sequel instead opted for a blackly comic approach. Jeff Burr’s Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III took us out into the great outdoors for the most part and the lack of sufficient lighting actually worked in its favor. Then in 1994, the wheels came totally off the cart and amazingly it was Kim Wenkel who wrote the 1974 film who was responsible for derailing it. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation represented the series’ lowest ebb and I can only assume that the decision to turn its titular titan into a cross-dressing freakazoid came as a result of an acid flashback. With Leatherface now downgraded to a worldwide laughing-stock, it appeared that Texas was safe once more. Needless to say, the buzzards were furious.
Step up master of the wham and bam, Michael Bay, who placed his money where his mouth was and offered Marcus Nispel the reins for a thirty year anniversary reboot. Though the critics were predictably harsh, it went on to gross over $100 million in box office revenue and suddenly the slaughterhouse was back in business. With a sequel deemed superfluous to requirements, the decision was made to dial things back and provide a dash more back story for both the Hewitt clan and their monstrous man-baby. Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls) was drafted in to direct and critics were quick to dismiss his prequel as ugly exploitative trash. It always amused me that their chief criticism was the nihilistic approach it adopted. Unless I’m mistaken, that should be cause for celebration no? Silly rabbits missed a trick as it turns out that Liebesman comes closer to nailing the original tone than any of the competition thus far and it should go without saying that John Luessenhop’s awfully nice but dreadfully forgettable Texas Chainsaw 3D is very much inclusive. The less said about that one the better; unless I have a gallon of cheap industrial strength beer in my bladder or it’s raining locusts.
Before we proceed any further, let me make it abundantly clear from the offset that this film is fucking brutal and I’m not just speaking of the gore either. Bad things happen then they happen some more just as there appears light at the end of the tunnel. Pain is inflicted on anyone with limbs to dismember; regardless of whether or not they’re sitting down watching the funny box. Moreover, it hits you like a jaywalking ox before you’ve so much as fastened your seat belt, drags you along the hot tarmac for 91 minutes, then slams on the anchors and reverses straight over your bleeding udders roadkill-style. Salivating yet? Then how about we head over to the old Hewitt house and see if Monty won’t pour us a nice refreshing glass of freshly squeezed lemonade. It’ll be good for the old coot to stretch his legs.
Fret not as the whole family is in and tonight plans to be a decidedly busy one. Try not to mention unemployment to Thomas by the way as it’s a particularly sore subject at present. And don’t forget to compliment Charlie, I mean Sheriff Hoyt, on his new promotion. Seconds out, round one.
In the red corner, weighing in at around the weight of an impossibly good-looking twentysomething, we have Dean A. Hill (Taylor Handley) and his similarly inch-perfect main squeeze, Chrissie (Jordana Brewster). Eric is positively primed for skirmish, so much so, that he’s actually on his way back to the barracks as we speak to re-enlist for a second stint in ‘Nam. Chrissie is as cool as ice dribbling down a top model’s washboard abs about her man heading off to crack some “gook” skulls as that’s what real men did back in the sixties apparently and she’s no stranger to clenching her knuckles either. They’re very much in love but that’s not going to stop them lacing up the gloves the very moment that bell chimes.
Over in the blue corner, weighing in at around one sloppy turd less for every hour that passes, is proof that lightning does strike twice when looks are dished out, blue-eyed baby brother Eric (Matt Bomer) and his reason to walk around with a constant erection, Bailey (Diora Baird). Peer pressure is a bitch and its slag minions as Eric has unwittingly agreed to sign up for the armed forces with big bro and would much rather lay in the raging hot midday sun, honking his girlfriend’s hooters than bite on any wounds. Time is running out (more than he realizes) and his knees are getting weaker with every tentative step towards the ring. How about some divine intervention to help him with his conundrum? That reminds me, anyone got seen that jaywalking ox lately? Daisy? Dai-sy? Could have sworn I just heard a frantic moo.
Believe it or not, the moment here when the cow giblets hit the asphalt is actually a tad more humane than the above smackdown but only marginally. Barely fifteen minutes in and already our lambs are lining up to be slaughtered but it’s working out where Liebesman can possibly take it from here that fascinates most. With only four characters at his disposal and a band of rowdy hell’s angels for additional gimme points, we’d be forgiven for expecting the worst. However, while Nispel’s remake was fundamentally an American slasher with teeth, this is far more in keeping with original tradition and veers wherever the bloody hell it likes, often the audience is least expecting. Now that is capturing the true spirit of Hooper’s classic. Lukas Ettlin’s photography may be sharp enough to make your finger bleed should you run it down the screen but there’s also a distinct grindhouse flavor to proceedings that lends an atmosphere thick with grimy consternation. Speaking of grime, look what I just found in the dumpster.
As well as filling in the gaps with regard to how Monty lost his getaway sticks, we’re also supplied a glimpse into the origins of Leatherface and he gets far more screen time this time around, without surrendering a solitary lick of menace. It’s a face that only a family of deranged nutbags could love and even his own mother thinks better of breast-feeding the very moment her bundle of joy drops. However, the Hewitts are nothing if not lacking a toddler to complete their fruitcake collective and it’s hard to argue that Thomas doesn’t fit in like a callus-ridden fist in the baby maker. It’s his surrogate pops who we have to watch out for, and once again, R. Lee Ermey is on mouth-watering form as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, I mean Charlie, I mean Sheriff Hoyt… sir! Please don’t make me drop and give you twenty for my Freudian slip.
The head of this heinous household and makeshift law enforcer is simply magnificent and offers 1001 reasons to detest his very bones. You see, we care about the fate of our teens a lot more than he and his formidable presence even manages to overshadow the beast itself on a couple of occasions. For as much as we sympathize with the Hewitts for having their livelihood snatched from them by industry, it’s tough to remain mournful when they treat their house guests with such utter contempt and that’s without even mentioning what’s going down in that musky basement. Trust me, those amongst us of a more delicate disposition may well be surrendering their TV dinners long before push can come to shove.
Say what you will about the 2003 remake but it was an entertaining romp pretty much from start to finish. The same cannot be said for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and I wish it to be known, that is in no way a blight against its character. Viewing doesn’t come much more compulsive than this and 91 minutes will soar past in much the same fashion. The difference here is that you’ll likely want to run a bath the moment the credits arrive to bail you out. In that respect, it’s very much like being strapped into a rollercoaster, only a decidedly rickety one that hasn’t seen a lick of WD40 on its tracks since the late sixties. It may not be perfect, but Liebesman comes closer than any of us could have ever dreamed and single-handedly breathes stale air back into a fast-suffocating franchise in the process.
The word on the street suggests directing duties for the upcoming eighth installment, Leatherface, will fall to fabulous Frenchmen Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury, who have already revealed their thirst for sickness with their glorious home invasion masterpiece, Inside. Excuse me while I kiss the sky as seldom does a match feel so heaven crafted. Little tip for you messieurs, you may wish to give Liebesman’s film another watch the day before shooting commences just to get you in the mood. He may have been required to take the rough with the smooth over his forty plus years in the chop shop, but this provides the jerry can of fuel that Thomas Hewitt’s raging chainsaw was positively crying out for. It seems fitting that I leave you with the wise words of a certain Gunnery Sergeant Hartman as I can see that can of whoop he’s grasping and those bushy brows of his just gave me a rather ominous salute – “Tonight, you pukes will sleep with your rifles”. Sir, yes sir!
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Jesus H., this is one grizzly motherfucker of a motion picture and I’m not altogether sure where to begin where splatter is concerned. Teeth are smashed out, throats cleaved wide open, on-the-spot surgery performed (without prior scrubbing I hasten to add), polythene pulled taut over faces, easy riders blown into the next state from close range, cows rested, roadside cops retired at breakneck speed, sleeves rolled back to the marrow, flesh masks crafted, guts excised by a thousand furious alloy teeth, and dab hand Gregory Nicotero makes damn sure we feel every last blow right in the solar plexus. It’s been some time sine I’ve seen him with his cup so overspilling and the FX here really are of the uppermost notch. ☣ VISUAL SPOILERS AHEAD ☣.
For the Pelt-Nuzzlers: There may be precious little time for horizontal folk dancing or sexy time shenanigans, but Brewster + Baird = Bone time on the double and to the power of two no less. The latter even finds time to flash two good reasons for stressed Eric to be cheerful and any loitering pelt-nuzzlers (Keeper inclusive) should bow their heads and give thanks to the lord for this buxom brace of beauties.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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