It’s June of 2020 and for some reason I had the urge to go back to October 2006 with writing this evening’s thought. The movie I am referring to is Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Now of course this is the prequel follow up to the surprisingly decent 2003 remake of the original masterpiece. Now honestly TMC: The Beginning is a pretty forgetable movie. Not terrible, not great, just “it is what it is”. But it got me thinking…what could it have been?
Now I have always been very open about my feelings with prequels. In the form of a movie they, in my thoughts, give me no excitement or thrill. The idea of creating a story dealing with something that will eventually lead to the events we are already familiar with does nothing for me. In the horror genre this style of story telling is usually used to let us know how a certain character from the previous film became the way the did. The unfortunate thing about doing this is taking away a very important thing in our heads…the imagination.
The problem is if you have grown up on a movie you love or even just like the thoughts of how a certain villain in a film came to be has crossed your mind over and over again. You have, over timeor another, told yourself the tale or what probably happened to make these characters so twisted and evil in your head. And along comes a movie that decides to set the record straight on how the shit really went down to get to that certain point and suddenly you notice not only is it nothing like you have imagined for all this time but it’s kind of stupid, one dimensional, and disappointing. Whether it’s Hannibal, Michael Myers, or even the Thing what these movies give us is generally kind of “meh” at best.
So why am I picking on TCM: The Beginning when there are far worse films out there? Because from the day I saw it till now it has always bugged me how they had a great chance to do something fun with this movie and played it safe and boring. And I’m literally going by how the movie was set up and did not go a direction my mind was already dreaming up as I was sitting in that theater that night watching it. Allow me to explain…
Now right off the bat I just obviously have to say that the original 1974 movie is one of the greatest horror films ever made and the idea they remade it was bizarre enough but if Psycho and Dawn of The Dead couldn be remade then all bets are off. So in 2003 the remake drops and it’s surprisingly a damn solid film. The cast was good, R. Lee Ermey as Sheriff Hoyt was a standout, and knowing what the core audience expected gore wise they delivered in that area too. The family was now Hewitt no longer Sawyer which I still have no idea why but whatever. The hitchhiker scene was a nice twist from the original and the lead up to the eventual carnage by Leatherface was pretty gripping. The final act does fall short with a lack of “dinner” scene and your basic final girl chase but overall a fun time at the movies. Hell,they even got John Larroquette back to do the opening voice over just as he had done back in 1974. Awesome! Not sure we needed the whole “found footage” bookends but again, it did not hurt the film. So I figured this was gonna get a sequel for sure. But then they announced a prequel. Interesting.
So with a set up taking place a few years before the events of the 2003 flick, guessing it’s late 60s, I honestly forget, we are introduced to our new leads. Two very attractive couples going on what they think is one last hurrah trip before the two brothers Dean and Eric are going to off to Vietnam. But secretly Dean and along with his lady Bailey are saying fuck that noise and possibly gonna take off to Mexico to avoid the draft. Well this causes tension between everyone before the shit goes down. Now the shit ofcourse is taking a wrong turn through a small Texas town where they will come across the Hewitts and terror will follow. But what to do with the Hewitts? Hmm…
Now I wanna know how the writers tackled this story. There were a few things they probably wanted to address in the film. How did the family get to the crazed cannibal point? How did Hoyt become the sheriff? When did Leatherface decide the human skin face was the way to be? How did Monty lose his legs? What’s the Tea Lady’s deal? Why a chainsaw? Well there is a great explanation for all of these and you will not be happy or really care for any of them.
The biggest disappointment right out of the gates is compressing the birth of Leatherface, the slaughterhouse closing, and Hoyt killing the real Sheriff and taking his uniform within 15 minutes of the movie. What? Really? The entire build up to this movie was to see how it all began. See what created this family of dysfuntion. A plotline that really could have been taken at a much slower pace by giving us the feel and tone of a small business struggling to make ends meet, the people around in town all packing up and leaving for greener pastures, the deep rooted Hewitt family love to keeps them in this area during this ressession when America was dealing with the war, civil rights, a shortage of gas, etc. The struggle and lack of respect given to this hard working clan. Maybe show Hoyt as the town drunk or joke to the people around as he is finally pushed to the edge. You know, character.
But nah, Leatherface is told to piss off from his job so he kills his prick boss with the chainsaw after being egged on and insulted for minutes. Seriously, you think a normal person would have been making fun of this giant, not all there, butcher in real life? Come on! And then as the Sheriff is gonna arrest Leatherface on the road Uncle Charlie kills him and takes the role of the new Sheriff Hoyt in town. Sure, why not? This was as disappointing as finding out how Han Solo got his name. Okay in fairness that was much worse. But still…lame. I always had these thoughts of Hoyt working his way up the police force with his insane old school ways to finally become Sheriff. In a small Texas town in the 60s I would have believed it.
So after this Sheriff Hoyt gives a big speech to the family at the dinner table about how this is their home and no one is gonna take it away and we survive as a family blah, blah, blah. Nothing wrong with that at all to be honest. I truly love R. Lee Ermey in this role and the more scenery he is able to chew the better BUT it is right away implied that they cooked the old Sheriff for dinner that night. I get it. Times are tough but that esculated rather quick don’t you think? The rest of the family seemed to have no issues with it either. Again, sure why not? But here is where the movie really starts to fall off.
We get back to our four attractive young people and they end up in a car accident leaving them on the side of the road until Hoyt comes along and gets up to his old or I guess new tricks since this is a prequel and we can all see where this will take us.
Back at the family farm Hoyt is doing his best Full Metal Jacket routine with the fellas after finding out that Dean was gonna be a draft dodger and the sequence is pretty entertaining. Ofcourse the real brutality hits the boys in the form of the beast known as Leatherface in this film and quickly turns into Hostel and Saw soon enough. You can tell this film came out after those two mentioned movies so they really had to up the gore level in this prequel and the torture stuff is pretty graphic but again nothing new.
But give credit where credit is due. Unlike the previous film the fans’ demands were heard and we got our “dinner” scene. It’s basically like having the exorcist scene in the Exorcist movies. It has to be done.
And then as always we are down to our final girl Chrissie this time played by Jordana Brewster who does a solid job! From trying to help her dying d butchered boyfriend Eric, fighting off Leatherface and the family, and ofcourse keeping her shit together during the dinner scene overall thumbs up on the acting.
But here lies the problem with having it being a remake. You know going into this movie that no one is getting out alive by the time the credits are rolling. You know the Hewitt family will not be getting theirs in this film. So right out of the gates the suspense factor has been removed from the plot. It does not mean it can’t be entertaining to watch still but overall we have seen this plot before not three years earlier and somehow that looked and seemed fresher. So when Chrissie is killed with a chainsaw through the seat of her car no one was surprised. Actually I take that back. I surprised the writers decided to kill her in that manner considering they literally said they had to remove the entire back seating just to fit the Leatherface actor in the car. I don’t care how much crazy shit has happened to you there is no way you are not seeing that hulk of a man in your back seat. Why not just have him jump scare out on the side of the road and put the chainsaw throuogh the front window? Atleast that would have been plausable. Oh well…
And one more thing before I get to the point of this entire write up. The reason why family member Monty lost his legs was pretty silly. Seeing Hoyt hold him down while Leatherface is trying to help Monty with some sort of chainsaw surgery on his injured leg and then only making it worse and having to cut both off was simply…what’s the word I’m looking for…stupid. Poor Monty deserved a better backstory than that and this brings me to the entire point of this evening ramble. First I need to refill my drink and have a smoke and then let me tell you what this movie should have done with the cards they had in play…
Now let’s go back in history of this franchise. More spefically the first two films. I’m no mind reader and not exactly sure what the late great Tobe Hooper’s thoughts were exactly going from the 1974 film to the crazed 1986 sequel but something tells me he realized he could not or did not wanna just do the same thing over again and took the original idea and twisted into something completely different for the second film. Now this is not about whether you liked, loved, or hated the sequel but the fact is why do the same thing over again? You already showed the world how to make a masterpiece in an era of 70s grindhouse cinema so if you can make something new and different and keep the audience surprised why not go for it? Filmmaking is an art that can give the filmmaker freedom to bring something new and exciting to the table because he has earned that right after the first film. Chainsaw 2, for better or worse, is absolutely nuts and over the top and can not be called boring or predictable. Not what you expected? Wanted more of the same? Well tough luck. Tobe Hooper didn’t and 35 years later most of us are glad he felt that way.
So when it comes to what they had in their set up for TCM: The Beginning and where I was thinking it literally could have went I was actually reminded of another pair of films…Alien and Aliens. I know, it’s a stretch comparing a remake and it’s prequel follow up to literally two masterpiece films of sci-fi horror and sci-fi action but hear me out. Going by those last words I just typed let’s consider the 2003 movie the “horror” film of the pair where 2006’s prequel “could” have been the balls out entertaining as shit “action” prequel. Now going into this movie I was not thinking that at all but as I watched the movie play out I realized all the pieces were there. Why did not see it like me damn it?!
Now some things I won’t change from the early moments of the film but let’s say shit goes down the way it already does at the slaughthouse with Leatherface killing his boss but maybe let’s show the fact the Hewitt clan is much bigger in this neck of the woods and a good chunk of them all work at the factory and rely on it for their income. Basically after Leatherface kills his boss we see other employees who are Hewitts equally upset about losing their jobs leave with him. One of them could have said something like “You did what you had to do. Bubba.” or “Fuck him, he had it coming.” It really does not matter. The rest of the clan could have helped get rid of the body and show there are more Hewitts there then we think. The beauty of a sequel is you can bring new characters in and make the audience already ask “Hmm, that guy wasn’t in the 2003 flick. I wonder what happened to him?” Interest damn it! The horror movie crowd kind of like when make them feel that way.
Now we’ll keep Uncle Charlie becoming Sheriff Hoyt the same way but what if before that happens we see him taking with even more members of community/ family that have land around their farmhouse and the banter is how the world is backwards and the goverment and society is messing up their way of life blah, blah, blah. Maybe the conversation with him and a few others while they work deals with a food shortage and how the family needs to stick together and this is their land. Drop the hints of keeping this place theirs no matter. Then have another friend or family member show up and tell them that Leatherface is gonna be arrested by the sheriff for a murder and he goes off maybe with the others and the events play out the same. Basically between the slaughthouse scene and this scene we are saying there are a lot of Hewitt family and friends around and in numbers they will take a stand to protect what’s theirs. The ammount of new and interesting Hewitt characters that could have been invented for this would have been a fun thing to see. Like when the Addams family threw that big party for Fester and we saw how big the clan really was.
Now here is where things would take a serious turn plot wise to set this son of a bitch film up towards action more than the same old repeat horror movie. So early in the film as the four leads are seen getting into an encounter with a group of bikers at a bar. For the sake of this movie let’s say that bar is noticably named “Hewitt’s Bar”. Yup, I’m going there. The bar is owned by another family member which will come in handy later.
In this sequence we are introduced once again to biker Holden played by the amazing Lee “OZ” Tergesen. Along with meeting him we are also seeing other biker characters during this scene with the two young couples wanting to get the hell out of there ASAP. Literally picture these guys as a badass gang with all types of fun character actors to get to know. They are on a trip up to no good but taking this afternoon to unwind in this small part of Texas where the law will not bother them.
Now like played out in the actual film Holden’s biker lady Alex chases the young group in their vehicle and helps cause the accident with the animal that sends all crashing. And just like the movie has it Hoyt kills Alex and takes the others back to the farmhouse. But later in the film when Chrissie bumps into Holden, who was looking for Alex, he goes to find her but instead of getting into it there by himself after finding her body he knows it’s time to go back to the bar get the rest of the gang to deal with shit as a group…armed. Well, say he abandones Chrissie because to hell with her and she suffers through the dinner scene regardless and all the other horrors.
Holden gets back to the bar and informs his guys what the hell he just saw and tells them they are gonna burn it all to the ground. These fucking rednecks fucked with the wrong gang today. So off they they roll with pistols, shotguns, machetes. Their usually equipment to kick some ass. After they leave the bartender, who obviously heard everything, decides to make a call to his cousin Uncle Charlie. Could have a fun banter between him and Holden asking if he wants the cops to be called. Ofcourse Holden would pull out his gun and point it at the bartender and say something like “This is the only law we know and today it’s going to court” or some stupid shit like that. Anyways, the gang leaves the bar and Bartender Hewitt makes the call to Charlie which would cut to him on the other end of the farmhouse during the dinner scene on the phone. It’s at this point Holden tells Monty to go rally the rest of the family in the area. Looks like we’re standing our ground and protecting our land sooner than we thought. “Thomas! You ready for a fight boy?!” Leatherface comes up the stairs after getting his new mask on with chainsaw in hand and looks at Hoyt with nod of approval.
On the other end of things you could literally cut back and forth between the raging leather on wheels driving down the road getting closer and the distant Hewitt family members at the now closed Slaughthouse led by Monty grabbing all the equipment used to do their job their now being turned into weapons of death from the obvious meat hooks and bitcher knives to the nail guns and stunners used on cattles. “It’s a day of reckoning but remember like work here the Saw Is Family”. Oh Monty…well said. Sorry, I’m a sucker for throwback lines like that.
Now it would be at this point in the movie where it goes full balls out action. With the biker gang being 12-15 large and the Hewitts about the same pure carnage on the farmhouse property with gun fire, sledgehammers, chainsaws, meat hooks. Windows smashing, bikes exploding. Basically everyone will suffer and all hell breaks loose.
Now I’m not sure how the whole insane action would play out but I know it would be in this battle that Monty loses his legs. Maybe Holden straight up blasts one off with a shotgun at the kneecap or Leatherface’s chainsaw swinging goes wrong as he is going nuts taking out as many bikers as possible. Either way I figure Holden and Leatherface would have that one on one fight among the carnage of the never seen before Hewitt’s getting killed along with the biker gang in random fun and crazed ways. In the middle of this is Chrissie ofcourse trying to survive through the battlefield of a redneck and hillbilly royal rumble. Definatley have her killung a few family members herself. I think I would even have Holden getting the better of Leatherface and ready to kill until Hoyt steps in to take him out. Maybe shooting him from behind through the chest as a fallen Leatherface, who was at the mercy of Holden just looks to see his lifeless fall beside him. Hoyt would look down Thomas and makes him remember that he is still the head of this family. During this moment Hoyt notices Chrissie getting away and tells Leatherface he knows what he has to do. Protect the land. Protect the family. Hoyt more or less knows they have the situation at the farmhouse handled. Off goes Leatherface in the distance to hunt down Chrissie and the rest is history.
Now Chrissie would still have to die in the end or you could go the “she’s completely insane and no one believes her” route but we’ll stick with the original ending of the movie EXCEPT she gets in a vehicle and starts to drive off and either have Leatherface pull the jump scare chainsaw swing from the side of the road through the wind shield or have him straight up jump on the moving car’s hood and ram the saw through the window. Either way have that moment end with the classic crazy chainsaw weilding dance in the street but show him get tired, stop, look around at the carnage, and quietly walk away just like the movie. Something kind of cool just seeing him calmly walking after all that killing.
Other great moments they could be thrown in are the obvious removal of all the bodies, Hewitts and bikers. Back to the slaughterhouse they go where the family knows what to do with them. They will not be going hungry anytime soon. Also the bikes themselves are added to the building collection of the vast junkyard on the property. And you could literally have Hoyt with Leatherface, Grandma, and now legless Monty looking over the carnage that took place that night with Hoyt giving a line similiar that he did earlier in the movie along the lines of “Let no man forget what we did here tonight”. I remember when he spoke it in the trailer and the movie I was hoping it would have had more purpose but nope…it did not. Now you survive a siege from a group of armed bikers and lose half of your clan defending your insane values then yes….that statement means something.
So again I’m no storyteller or filmmaker but I always thought after watching this film if they had gone in that direction and used the same old same old plot of young people getting killed by the family as sike out to a bigger film that would be a straight up “Wild Bunch” action film for the last 40 minutes I would have been cheering and laughing and stunned in that theater 14 years ago with bloodshed and explosions going off on the screen. Would it have been good? Who knows? Would I have been bored? No way in hell. Turning the lands of the Hewitts into an all out massacre would have left it’s mark on the franchise one way or another. And when the film that did come out, again not bad really, it only led us to a so so repsonse and then what might be the worst installment of the franchise ever in 2013…Texas Chainsaw 3D. yup, I’m saying that movie is shittier than The Next Generation. And that my friends is saying a lot.
Anyways guys, thanks for reading this late night movie nerd ramble. I’m not sure what brought it on, possibly booze, but whenever this movie does come up in conversation at the videostore with customers I always mention the fact they wasted those bikers in the movie. It could have been so much more. Oh well, love you all and through the good, bad, horrible, and bizarre installments of this franchise always remember…”The Saw Is Family”. Cheers!