The prequel to the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shouldn’t have been good, much like the remake itself. But it was. It was damn good, and I loved it. Yeah, the characters might not have been as deep as I like, but for what they were, they were deep enough. Considering that we nearly already knew they would all be murdered, it was still a blast to watch. And, technically, if we only go by title and what actually happens, this is really the only film in the series that heavily represents the chainsaw, except maybe Leatherface.
We begin in August of 1939, at a slaughterhouse in the hot Texas heat. A woman working an assembly line begins to give birth, and subsequently dies afterward. The boss is a real prick and wouldn’t let her off the line even to give birth for some indiscretion. That’s a real winner. Anyway, the woman dies, and the grotesque looking baby is put in the dumpster out back. A woman searching for food comes across him, and takes him home to raise as her own. That woman is a young Luda Mae Hewitt, and that boy is Thomas, otherwise known as Leatherface. Luda Mae’s son, Charlie (later known as Sheriff Hoyt) says he’s the ugliest thing he’s ever seen.
Jump ahead thirty years to July of 1969, and we see that the slaughterhouse is being closed down by the Texas Health Department. Thomas is still butchering meat, and is the only one left working. The manager’s underling has to go tell him to get a move on, but Thomas doesn’t like this, or that he calls him a dumb animal. I don’t like that either – animals aren’t dumb, but I digress. He’s pissed, and menacingly silent, but leaves. Then, we meet Eric (Matthew Bomer) and his girlfriend Chrissie (Jordana Brewster) at the pool at a motel, discussing their plans. She wants to get married and have kids, but it comes off as cute not nagging, and he’s off to re-enlist for the Vietnam War. Their little inside joke (How many? Boys or girls? What are their names?) helps us get to know them better, and is actually sad later on in the movie. We also meet Dean, Eric’s brother, and his girlfriend, Bailey, who are planning on sexing it up in the motel room. He’s tied up, and she’s ready to go but, he changes his mind. He’s too worried about having to tell his brother that he’s absconding, and not joining him in the war. He stares at his draft card, intent on burning it. Eric bangs on the window, and tells him what time to be ready in the morning.
Later that same night, Leatherface makes his way back to the slaughterhouse, and kills his boss with a sledgehammer. He grabs a chainsaw and mosies on down the road. The kids all leave the motel in the morning, and encounter a group of aggressive bikers who taunt them. Meanwhile, Sheriff Hoyt (the real one) shows up at the Hewitt home to inquire about Tommy’s behavior. Charlie (R. Lee Ermey) agree to go with him to find Thomas. The Sheriff calls him retarded, but Charlie says he’s just misunderstood. They come upon him, and Charlie pulls out a gun and blows the Sheriff away. He now assumes his identity, takes his hat and badge, and becomes Sheriff Hoyt.
That night, the Hewitts feast on a hearty meal – Sheriff Hoyt. Charlie, who now insists on being called Hoyt, tells his family that this man will help sustain them, and now they must do what they have to in order to survive since the slaughterhouse has been shut down, and there is no work. They resort to some kind of demented Donner Party-like mentality, except that their circumstances are not extenuating – they’re just fucking insane. Luda Mae and Uncle Monty seem to have apprehensions, but go along with the plan anyhow.
The next morning, the teens are passing through town, and stop at the little convenience store operated by the Hewitt family. There, they see some of the bikers who tormented them the day before. Bailey tells Chrissie that Dean isn’t going to Vietnam, and Chrissie supports their decision, though she knows Eric will be pissed. After getting back in the car, Dean begins burning his draft card, and telling his brother that he is not going. He asks him how he could want him to go there after experiencing all those terrible things firsthand. They get into an argument, and nearly a physical altercation, when they see the biker chick, Alex, following behind them with a shotgun. She motions for them to pull over, and Eric begins shooting at her with the gun he had hidden in the car. They aren’t paying attention to the road, because they don’t notice the beautiful, large brown cow that has wondered directly into their path. They plow right into her, causing her to basically explode, and their car flips and rolls.
The biker, Alex, is still after the kids to rob them, and tells them to get out of the car. Well, they really can’t at the moment, they’re kind of bloody and shook up. Chrissie has been thrown from the car and is across the street in a field. “Sheriff Hoyt” shows up, and Alex tells him she’s glad he’s here, to which he replies, “Oh, I just bet you are”, and promptly shoots her ass to Kingdom Come with his own gun. The teens are now shocked at this supposed Sheriff’s behavior, but they haven’t seen anything yet. The kids, injured, get out of the car. Hoyt pulls a shard of glass from Bailey’s chest, and she cries. The Sheriff continues conduct unbecoming of an officer, and makes Dean get the dead biker off the road and into his passenger seat. He also notices a burned draft card. Since the car wasn’t on fire, he knows that one of the boys is a draft dodger. Taking the wrap for his brother, Eric tells the Sheriff he’s Dean instead. Chrissie and Eric make eye contact, and he shakes his head, implying she should stay put.
He forces the three teens into his “squad car”, with the “dead biker chick riding shotgun”. He doesn’t take kindly to their sarcasm, but begins grilling Dean about his experiences in Vietnam. Remembering the things Eric told him before, he rattles off a few key lines to make the Sheriff believe he’d really been there. Meanwhile, Chrissie searches through the wreckage for anything useful, especially the gun. She finds it, but Uncle Monty has pulled up to tow the vehicle back to their house. She hides, and goes along for the ride. At the house, Bailey is tied up to the bottom of the kitchen table, and Eric and Dean are strung up in the barn. Eric is beaten and sprayed with water, while the Sheriff berates him for being a draft dodger. When he finally begins wrapping cellophane around his head, he starts suffocating, and Dean comes clean. Hoyt promptly removes the cellophane, but not before slicing Eric in his mouth. He takes Dean down and makes him do twenty push-ups, which is kind of hard to do when you’re being beaten with a billy club.
Luda Mae is inside washing Bailey’s face while singing “Mockingbird” to her, as Dean continues to be beaten. Hoyt recalls the times he had to eat his fellow man while in the service because they were starving, and that true Americans shouldn’t dodge the draft. As Dean reaches twenty push-ups, he is officially beaten unconscious. Hoyt quips, “My money says he’s not going anywhere”. Chrissie, back out on the road, comes across the biker guy from the store, and tells him what happened. He isn’t convinced until she mentions his friend, Alex, and that the Sheriff shot her. Now, he’s pissed, grabs his gun, and tells Chrissie to show him where. Inside the Hewitt home, Luda Mae is having tea with the gigantic woman, ignoring the bumps and cries from Bailey underneath the table, tied up. Eventually, Eric breaks free from his restraints, and grabs Dean. He hides him, and goes inside for Bailey. He holds a knife to the fat woman, and helps Bailey. She grabs the keys on the counter, and runs out to the tow truck. Eric helps a limping Dean run, until the Sheriff comes back out. Eric tells Dean to run, and he confronts Hoyt. Hoyt knocks him unconscious with the butt of his rifle, as Bailey, happily thinking she’s escaped, is punctured with a bale hook by Leatherface and thrown from the moving vehicle. Dean proceeds to run, and falls into a animal trap, breaking his ankle. Okay, now, they’re all fucked.
After dragging Eric inside, Hoyt has Thomas take him downstairs. He notices the mutilated body of Alex the biker, as well as a large bloody chainsaw. Leatherface begins nailing him to the table his is lying on, on his wrists, and around his neck. He rips off his shirt, and examines his face. Leatherface begins to shred the skin off of his arms with a knife, as Eric screams in pain. Chrissie and the biker make their way to the house, whereby he abandons her in search of his own girlfriend. She enters the house through a window, and hears Eric’s screams. The biker confronts Uncle Monty laying on the couch, and shoots him in the leg. Hoyt is then taken hostage and made to show him the girl. Complying, Hoyt takes him to Bailey. The biker tells Hoyt that’s not the girl he was referring to, and he tells him he doesn’t want to see the other one. He attacks Hoyt, still holding a gun on him, but Leatherface intervenes and knocks the biker to the ground. He’s now fucked as well, and finds himself being brutally sliced in half with the chainsaw. This part is particularly gruesome (and thus, awesome), and it’s even more barbaric when Hoyt compliments Thomas by saying, “You beautiful bastard, you!” The biker’s blood gushes all over the floor, as Bailey screams, covered in blood now herself. Before entering the house, Chrissie comes upon a bloody Dean, still clinging to life. She tells him there’s no help to go for, and she’ll come back for him later.
Finding the captors occupied upstairs, Chrissie makes her way downstairs to Eric. His arms are completely shredded, and he can no longer feel them. She tries to free him, but it’s impossible. She begins crying, and he asks her, “How many?”, referring to the number of children they plan to have. They hear Leatherface coming, and he tells her to hide. She crawls under the table beneath Eric, and listens in horror as he revs up the chainsaw, and shoves it into Eric’s stomach and chest. As he cranks the weapon, Chrissie and Eric both scream, and blood begins showering Chrissie below. After he dies, Leatherface slices off Eric’s beautiful face in remarkably realistic fashion. After pulling back his face, Leatherface sews it up, and makes a new mask. He puts it on just as Hoyt calls him upstairs. Hoyt tells him, “I like your new face”, in a creepy, calm voice.
Hoyt needs Leatherface to cut off Monty’s hurt leg (if there are no jobs in this backwoods town, I’m assuming there are also no hospitals or decent insurance). He proceeds despite protestations from Luda Mae, and of course, Uncle Monty. After severing the injured leg, he also accidentally slices the other one. Hoyt tells him that’s “goddamn sloppy”, and to even it up. So, he severs the other leg as well. When Luda Mae asks what he did that for, Hoyt replies, hilariously, “Balance”. This is how Monty’s legs are lost, as he appears in the 2003 remake. After this bloody home remedy, Chrissie makes her way upstairs to rescue Bailey, however, she is headed off by Hoyt. She awakens just before dinner time.
She is surrounded by a weak and catatonic Uncle Monty, motherly Luda Mae, psychotic Charlie/Hoyt, and her pals Bailey, and Dean. Chrissie is tied to a chair, and the quintessential dinner scene begins. Chrissie asks them if they fuck all their relatives, or just the ones they find attractive. Hoyt calls her a blasphemous bitch, and speaks of redemption. Hoyt reveals the extent of Bailey’s torture – her teeth have been either knocked out or pulled out, and this revelation nearly brings Chrissie to her knees. I mean, if she wasn’t tied to a chair. Luda Mae tells Leatherface to set her free, whereby he pulls her hair back, and slits her throat wide open with a pair of scissors. Chrissie begins screaming hysterically, and who can blame her? This scene is absolutely brutal, and while I feel terrible for the victim, I loved that this movie holds nothing back. I think a lot of the effects look quite real, especially compared to movies that don’t even put any effort into them. Anyway, Luda Mae is trying to get Monty to regain his strength by feeding him broth, cute little kid movements and all, as she feeds him.
Leatherface grabs Chrissie and begins to take her downstairs, when she grabs a screwdriver and stabs him in the back. He drops her, and she runs to the first window and leaps through it. This scene is, of course, an homage and throwback to the original with Sally’s character. She takes off running, as Dean awakens and sees his dead girlfriend. He attacks Hoyt, bashing his face into the porch, causing him to lose some teeth, which is why he has dentures in the 2003 movie. I love that all the little nuances were explained in this prequel. Chrissie winds up at the slaughterhouse (where else?) where, after discovering the manager’s dead body and a dead telephone, she submerges herself in a vat of blood and guts with a knife, awaiting her assailant. Just as he comes by where she is, Dean rushes in calling her name, distracting Leatherface. She emerges, stabs him as best she can, but he knocks her to the floor. Dean attempts to save her, but sadly, he is impaled on and killed by the rotating chainsaw.
She rushes outside and gets in the manager’s car and begins to drive away. As she drives farther, she sees a police officer up ahead who has pulled someone over. Ecstatic, she can’t wait to get there. Until Leatherface appears behind her. She sees him, and screams, as his chainsaw tears through her torso through the driver’s seat. As she dies, and loses control of the car, it slams into the two individuals on the road, killing them as well. As the car comes to a stop, we see Leatherface exiting the car, walking amid the debris and dead bodies, back to his home. The same narrator from several other Chainsaw films, John Larroquette, tells us the body count as of 1973 the Hewitt family is responsible for, and that these crimes are some of the most bizarre and brutal in the annals of American history – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
I’ve heard so many critiques of this film, both good and bad, though mostly bad, and I’m not sure why. I’m sure all the reasons are legit, up to and including the “I just didn’t like it” statement. Which is perfectly fine, but I just happened to love it. I remember seeing this movie when it first came out, by myself, because nobody else wanted to see it. That’s okay with me, I enjoyed it just the same. I found the blood and gore refreshing, and I loved the back story, because I felt it made the situation even more terrifying. It would also be terrifying with no explanation (as it is in the original film), but I felt the writing was really superb. The actors were all good-looking, which never hurts, and certain scenes, particularly Eric’s and Bailey’s deaths, were especially brutal and horrific. As I stated before, I really loved the effects, and to me, it seemed very realistic. At these junctures, my investment in the characters really came out, as I found myself feeling so much sympathy for Chrissie as she is forced to see, and hear, her beloved friends being slaughtered. Even the jerkoff biker’s death was barbaric, the way he was flailing about as the chainsaw entered his body and cut all the way through.
The noises are especially effective, sometimes even more so than the visual images. While we’re on the subject of noise, let’s talk about the fantastic soundtrack. Besides the menacing score, we get a delectable taste of 70s rock music, in two of my favorites, “All Right Now” by Free, and “Vehicle” by Ides of March. Honestly, I wish there was more rock music intertwined throughout, but of course, not many scenes called for it, as much of the film is spent watching people run around, scream, and die. The unrated version that was released on DVD is a bit more brutal than its rated, theatrical counterpart, though there were only a few tweaks here and there. That said, they were powerful tweaks. We get more up close and personal shots, particularly during Eric’s death, and more prominently, during the skinning process. It’s a fun, wild ride, and though it may not capture the gritty, campy essence of the original, it certainly ranks up there with the best horror movies of the past few years.