The Deep South, 1969. Driving across state to join the Vietnam war, brothers Dean (Taylor Handley) and Eric (Matt Bomer) get their own dose of hell when a car crash leaves them stranded in hicksville. Happily, R Lee Ermeys clan of raving cannibal maniacs
It’s a bizarre obligation, but Michael Bay’s production outfit Platinum Dunes is on a deranged mission to reanimate every creaky horror series from direct-to-DVD retirement. First we get Amityville; soon we get Friday The 13th; Children Of The Bleedin’ Corn can’t be far away. And currently we have this, a prequel to Dunes’ own 2003 Chainsaw retool.
At its most enigmatic, horror’s bony fingers tap on a blatant, simple, incessant dread - the paralysing fear of the unknown. The meat-headed, over-familiar Beginning has neither the patience for such delicacies nor the creeps of its original source. It is, however, happy to rerun Chainsaw’s more memorable moments like a gore-nerd’s greatest hits – a dash through the bushes, a dinner table incident, slammed iron doors, low, looming sunflares… What it has which its granddaddy didn’t is an intense taste for explicit surgical gristle. Tobe Hooper claims to have used two pints of blood in Chainsaw. This one empties the blood bank.
Never straying from the heaving cleavage and meat cleavers of the genre, Liebesman’s movie plays out like an old school cat-and-mouse slasher, albeit with a relish for repetitive torture more in tune with today’s sado-horror trend (it even follows the designer dour look - all voguish acid-washed frames and handheld convulsions). This kind of stuff has more in common with Jackass than Dracula - it’s all about viewer endurance and lasting through the pain. Much is dealt out here, and appropriately, it’s former marine drill instructor R L Ermey giving the hurt.
Ermey stole the 2003 remake as the Family Chainsaw’s sleazy daddy cop, and he returns in boomboxing form here. It may be just a redneck riff on his Full Metal Jacket überbastard – at one point, he even subjects a victim to torture-by-press-ups – but it’s his explosive malice that drives the picture. Good job too, because the origin stuff is pure back-of-the-beermat guff. Do we need to know Leatherface was once a very ugly latex baby dumped in an abbatoir trashcan? Not really – and the movie forgets quicker than we do, impatiently rolling up its sleeves for the next lumber jacking. Which, for all its sordid clatter, makes it a film hard to hate. Efficient, ruthless and monotonously brutal, it ain’t pretty, but it does the job.
Scalp-ripping, limb-shredding power-tooled fun for all the family - a traditional, gruesome, very loud carve-em-up prequel with plenty of pain but few surprises.