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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

It's not that hard to feel sorry for the makers of 2006's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Coming off their very successful 2003 remake of 1974's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a sequel was in order, but the original's sequel is batshit loony — at best a cult hit for a very small audience — while the other sequels ultimately just remade the first film to uneventful returns. As such, it was decided the best way to go was with a prequel, which would explain how Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) got many of his iconic touches, and then rip off the original. Or at least it shows the situation in which Leatherface was born (a fat woman didn't know she was pregnant and then left him in a dumpster), how he got his chainsaw (he saw it laying there), or his decision to wear the skin of a human face to cover up his deformities (which, all things considered, is almost self-explanatory if you're a mentally retarded cannibal). But otherwise, Massacre: The Beginning is stymied by the fact that there are two sets of characters: the ones who are going to make it to the remake and the ones who won't. In the latter case, it's four kids (including Jordana Brewster) who are riding through Texas on the way to California so that the boys of the group (Matthew Bomer, Taylor Handley) can enlist for service in Vietnam. They run into the Leatherface family, and from there it's not long before they are totally screwed. There's something about the fatalism in films like The Blair Witch Project and Don't Look Now that is thoroughly engrossing, but here director Jonathan Liebsman is torn between the anti-hero nature of the family and investing in characters who are destined to be killed off. Splitting the difference, it's simply a dullish affair with some gore (enhanced by the "unrated" cut) that never proves as disturbing as one hopes simply because of that unavoidable sentiment of predetermination. Perhaps the movie would be more effective if viewers involved had never seen any of the now-six films in this cycle, but they would be better served by sticking to the original. All that can be said in this title's defense is that it doesn't reach the offensive lows of the remake. New Line presents The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning in a good anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio. The extended bits included in this unrated version are negligible. Extras include an audio commentary by director Jonathan Liebsman and producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, eight deleted and/or extended scenes with three alternate endings and optional commentary (13 min.), "Down to the Bone," a "making-of" broken up into five featurettes (45 min.), the theatrical trailer, and bonus trailers. Keep-case with paperboard slipcover.

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