The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The episode of The Black Sheep covering The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning was Written and Narrated by Andrew Hatfield, Edited by Brandon Nally, Produced by Lance Vlcek and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

When did the Texas Chainsaw movies get so muddled with so many timelines? It’s not a hard thing to do. People get lost in Texas and end up victims of Leatherface and his family. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a story line or a variation on things from time to time, hell, that’s what made Freddy, Michael, and Jason so popular. You could have even done something like the legacy sequel for Halloween, at least the first one. Oh wait, you did, and it didn’t turn out well with characters that made terrible decisions and weren’t likeable in the first place? Oh yeah, I remember that one. There have been so many timelines and inconsistencies with this series that it is exhausting and more than a little frustrating to weed through them all. The remake was successful and got a prequel and it’s that prequel that is the true black sheep of the series. Not the remake itself, not part 3, and not either of the other requels or origin stories. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (watch it HERE) does everything you’d want while mixing 70s mentality and early 2000s gore.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was the first of the big franchises to get the treatment. Before Michael, Freddy, or Jason could run, Leatherface needed to walk, and boy did he ever. The movie was made for 9 and a half million and released in the peak of horror season on October 17th, 2003. It was a massive success for Platinum Dunes, New Line Cinema, and producer Michael Bay. Yes, THAT Michael Bay. It brought in 107 million at the box office but was generally hated by critics with Roger Ebert even giving it a zero-star rating. Most critics felt it was a completely unnecessary remake that focused on just blood and gore instead of the fear exhibited in the original one. Um, yeah, that’s kind of what audiences wanted, and it delivers while looking grimy and bloody. Sequels in this franchise are a bit of a mixed bag to say the least with 2 almost being a black comedy, part 3 trying to go back to the sheer horror of the original, and part 4 involving the Illuminati. None of them seem to be in the same continuity at times either. There are some things here and there that connect them, but they could also be all standalone slasher entries too. It took almost 3 years, but the producers were finally convinced to let a team go back and tell a PREQUEL story rather than a continuation. Fans wanted to know how the family came to be the way they were.

For writing duties, the movie switched from Scott Kosar to Sheldon Turner and David Schow. Turner would get nominated for an Oscar 4 years later for penning George Clooney vehicle Up in the Air and also wrote the screenplay for Adam Sandler’s remake of The Longest Yard and contributed story to X-Men: First Class. Schow is more one of us, more of a horror guy. He started his career with an episode of Freddy’s Nightmares followed quickly by well, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Critters 3, Critters 4, and The Crow would end a fun 90s resume for feature films and he would have a lot of TV credits including the Outer Limits revival, The Hunger, Masters of Horror, and the new Creepshow TV series. The director would change too from Marcus Nispel to frequent Michael Bay collaborator Jonathan Liebesman. Liebesman has had his own interesting career with horror like today’s movie as well as Darkness Falls and Rings but also action fare like Battle Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans, and the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He is still working on stuff with a handful of episodes from 2022’s Halo adaptation.

The movie opens in 1939 where we get to see the birth of Leatherface, and I don’t mean, like figuratively, I mean literally his birth and that’s where the first of the showcase gore takes place. We get a little prosthetic baby covered in blood whose mom dies and because he doesn’t look normal, he is cast away to the dumpster outside the slaughterhouse. He is picked up by a woman who later turns out to be a member of the Hewitt family and then nurture takes over where nature left off. We get the opening credits spliced in with the boy growing up and not taking part in what we would call normal activities. We see a case file of sorts on Thomas that explains he has a few problems. Skip ahead to 1969 and the slaughterhouse is closing. They need to tell Thomas that he cant work here anymore and while he is imposing and has a covering on the lower part of his face, he doesn’t have the mask we all know him for. He is played by Andrew Bryniarski who portrayed the character in the 2003 remake. He is a big dude and plays the role well. He has had a fun career with things like Hudson Hawk, Batman Returns, and of course, Zangief from the Street Fighter movie. Hit me with some of that sweet Raul Julia as Bison.

This is the kind of origin story we need. I don’t want to see him go through this random journey only to have the movie pull the rug out from under me, thank you 2017 origin story version. We then get introduced to the inevitable teen-ish victims of the movie with military bound brothers Eric and Dean and their girlfriends Chrissie and Bailey. It’s a very similar vibe to the 2003 version or even the original TCM but it works. The two main stars are Matt Bomer as Eric and Jordana Brewster as Chrissie. Brewster, who ended up meeting her husband on this film, is certainly known most for the Fast and Furious franchise but also showed up in her first role with 90s favorite The Faculty. Bomer is primarily a TV guy with huge parts in both Doom Patrol, a personal favorite, and White Collar. For other horror work, he also did both American Horror Story and its spin-off American Horror Stories, that’s plural.

The movie has the same downer nihilism that embodied the movies of the late 60s and 70’s. Nearly everyone dies. In fact, spoiler, everyone except the villainous family doesn’t make it out of here. Thomas goes back to the slaughterhouse and kills the foreman which sets the local sheriff on the case. He goes and picks up the uncle named Charlie to help bring him in but Charlie is crazy and is also played by the late, great, R. Lee Ermey. Ermey was a standout in the 2003 film and damn near steals every scene he’s in for this movie. He kills the sheriff who was the equivalent of just one day from retirement and takes his identity. The kids hit a cow, another wonderful special effect, and are picked up by the new sheriff Hoyt. He gets pissed that they are draft dodgers, or at least one of them is based on the burned card and takes them in. Not to his office mind you but just back to his house. The last hour of the movie is pretty much nonstop torture for our heroes. Bomer is tied up for a lot of it while Hoyt gives his younger brother the chance to prove himself with pushups to earn his freedom.

We had already seen that the family is now a group of cannibals, and you just know that’s what they have in mind for the 4 kids. I mentioned Brewster and Bomer first because they were the bigger names but both Taylor Handley who plays Dean and Diora Baird who plays Bailey do a wonderful job. Handley did a bunch of TV before this movie and would continue that trend with large roles on both Vegas and Mayor of Kingstown. Baird kicked her career off in earnest in Wedding Crashers before showing up in things like Accepted, the Night of the Demons remake, Best Horror Movie You Never Saw Stan Helsing, and the 30 Days of Night sequel which you may or may not have known existed.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning The Black Sheep

These kids really have no chance as they can barely handle Hoyt and that’s before Tommy enters the picture and really becomes Leatherface as we know it. As I said, it’s Ermey’s movie and while he will forever be the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, his turns in these two Chainsaw movies, Seven, and The Frighteners will have horror fans in his debt for generations. The teens, or teen adjacent, characters start getting picked off on by one. Eric is strapped to a table and flayed before having a chainsaw go through his chest and his face made into the first Leatherface mask while poor Bailey is basically trapped in the kitchen until she gets her throat slit as a mercy kill. The worst part of that is her tongue was removed before that which must have been horrible. Even when a biker played by Lee Tergesen comes to the rescue he is cut down, literally, before he can do anything. Any time anyone in this movie has a chance, it is just as quickly taken away.

Chrissie escapes and Dean finally wakes up before knocking the teeth out of Hoyt, literally. It’s one of the many things we get to see that tie back to the sequel to this prequel. Of a particularly horrifying note is when Monty is shot in one of his legs, so Hoyt has Leatherface cut off BOTH of them. Chrissie escapes back to the slaughterhouse and while Dean temporarily saves her, he is cut down leaving only her. She escapes to a car and just when you think she is getting away for good, Leatherface appears in the back seat and sticks the chainsaw through the seat and into her. She swerves into the police officer she was trying to get to, killing them and the person they had pulled over. Leatherface gets out and walks back home. It works that this group is never mentioned again, in the 2003 movie or otherwise, because at the end of the day they are just another group killed by the Hewitt family. Their stories ended there, and they didn’t impact the family more than as food or nameless victims in a long line.

The movie isn’t the easiest physical release to come by unfortunately, but it does stream from time to time. There is an unrated cut that is the preferred version but it’s not the end all be all if you can’t find it. I remember seeing this in theaters first and then watching the unrated while working at Blockbuster and truly, I couldn’t tell the difference. Out of the 4 plus timelines that this series follows, its because of THIS movie that I watch them in a specific order. While nothing will beat the original in terms of style and influence, this is the rare movie in the middle of a franchise run that stands out for all the right reasons. You could watch this one followed by either the 2003 or original and then go from there. While there are sure to be other origin stories or tales told in the TCM universe, this is the beginning that everyone should start their journey on.

A couple of the previous episodes of The Black Sheep can be seen below. To see more, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/tcm-beginning-black-sheep/