Director – Jonathan Liebesman
Cast – Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, Matt Bomer, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Lee Tergesen, Terrence Evans, Kathy Lamkin, Marietta Marich, L.A. Calkins
Release Year – 2006
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I remember seeing the predecessor(in release date, not story) to this film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, back in theaters when it debuted, but I never really put much effort or emphasis on giving this one a watch. I did enjoy the remake, but for some reason a prequel seemed like a dumb and cliché idea to me. Well my curiosity got the best of me and thanks to a friend who had this one lying around his living room I gave it a watch and found it to really be much better, and MUCH gorier than I expected it to be.
In this film we follow Chrissie(Jordana Brewster; The Faculty), her boyfriend Eric(Matt Bomer), his brother Dean(Taylor Handley), and Dean’s girlfriend Bailey(Diora Bird) as they enjoy one last road trip before Eric and Dean are sent to fight in the Vietnam War. During the trip they suffer a horrible crash due to an encounter with a biker, and instead of receiving aid from the proper authorities…they receive “aid” from Sheriff Hoyt(R. Lee Ermey). Sheriff Hoyt takes Eric, Dean, and Bailey to his home where they meet his relatives, and “Leatherface”(Andrew Bryniarski) himself. It is now up to Chrissie, who was thrown far from the car crash, to rescue her friends in an area where help is nowhere to be found, and cannibalism is on the menu.
Fans of the first TCM remake are sure to enjoy this one as it follows the same gritty look and tone, and also offers clearly the most gore of all the TCM films combined. I was very surprised to see that this intense film was directed by Jonathan Liebesman, who just so happens to be the same man who directed the very poor film Darkness Falls. How on Earth this guy acquired this gig after giving us Darkness Falls is beyond me, but for this film’s sake the producers made the right decision with Jonathan Liebesman.
Liebesman’s direction is what really makes this flick worthwhile because he gives us so many things to marvel at on-screen. His cinematography, camera angles, and lighting are top notch, and his gutsy moves involving the trauma we see on screen are what really impressed me. I really could not believe just how tense and gory this film was. Liebesman did not shy away at all from showing us what “went down” onscreen, and I found much appreciation in this given the type of film that this is. While is not as exploitation as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is, it still follows the same formula and that warrants this film to be as gutsy as it needs to be, and it was.
Story-wise this was not quite what I expected it to be, but it got the job done nonetheless. From the way this flick was marketed it seemed it was going to really focus on Leatherface and how he came to be, and while we were in fact shown the origin of Leatherface this flick really was not about Leatherface. In fact, this film is more about the traveling protagonists, and Sheriff Hoyt more than it is about Leatherface. Personally, I was disappointed because I really wanted to see much more Leatherface action than we were given. By that I do not simply mean Leatherface killing and doing what he is known to do, but seeing him outside of the mask and seeing him develop into the insatiable killer that he is. Nonetheless, it was fun to see Sheriff Hoyt toy with the traveling “outsiders” thanks to R. Lee Ermy’s epic performance, which is pretty much expected when he appears on screen. I swear, it seems every different role that R. Lee Ermy takes on is a role that he was born to play, and that is a testament to just how solid his performance is. His character was well written, and in all honesty I feel that he was the real star of the film, and not those credited before him thanks to how the film’s writer, Sheldon Turner, portrayed him to be. The rest of the film is the usual formula for these types of flicks, and involves our protagonists trying to escape the home while dealing with the evils that are going on inside of it, which included some pretty excellent and tough to watch scenes thanks to both great writing and superb direction.
Overall, this is a positive addition to the TCM family of films that thanks to superb direction and positive writing turns out to be one of the more horrific films of the past decade. Leibesman’s gutsy direction will leave you with scenes that you will never forget, and watching Leatherface do his “thing” proves that his character has what it takes to stand the test of time.