The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is a prequel to 2003's quasi-remake (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) of a 1974 movie that was grotesquely inspired by real-life events. This time around, we are given the inside splash about the origins of Leatherface—a chain saw-wielding mass murderer—and what created his cannibalistic, insane "family."
We see Leatherface born in 1939 on the bloody, grimy floor of a slaughterhouse. And we see his surrogate mother discover his unwanted, misshapen body wrapped in butcher paper in a garbage bin.
From there we zip through his childhood and his first handful of animal tortures. Soon he is a hulking, silent, meatpacker who keeps his deformed face hidden behind a veil. By the late '60s, the place is condemned and the real slaughter begins as Leatherface smashes his boss' skull when he tries to fire him. To keep the brute out of jail, his uncle murders the local policeman and assumes his identity. Other family members fear that these actions could bring trouble. But at least with two dead bodies lying around, there's now plenty to eat.
It sounds like a bad joke, but The Texas Chainsaw movies aren't prone to idle jests.
Later, two young lusty couples are road tripping through the area and are unfortunate enough to have a car accident. Leatherface's policeman-impersonating uncle (Sheriff Hoyt) throws the kids in the back of his stolen cruiser and takes them home for dinner.
When Sheriff Hoyt brings a pot of stew made from human flesh to the dinner table, Leatherface's mother chides him that he must say grace before anyone eats. Later, with their young captives this time, Hoyt delivers a lengthy prayer of thanks for the bounty that they have: "We were hungry and he gave us meat. Thirsty and he gave us drink." He ends with an "Amen" and then goes on to yell at a young victim at the table, "You're gonna pay for your sins!"
In the opening scene a pregnant woman clutches a rosary around her neck as she feels a pain in her abdomen.
When we first meet the four travelers, they're spending the day at a run-down motel. Dean is tied to a bed for sex games with his girlfriend, Bailey, who strips down to bra and panties and licks her way erotically up his chest. She coos, "I'm gonna use my tongue in ways the Lord never intended." Meanwhile, Chrissie and Eric are out by the pool. Eric slides his hand up her bare leg and talks about last wishes before he ships off to Vietnam. She retorts, "You've been getting 'last wishes' all this last week."
After being captured, a battered Bailey is shown tied up in cleavage-revealing positions that exude a kind of sexual bondage undertone. She's tied to a bed at one point (in a mirror image of the scene with her boyfriend) and Hoyt puts his hand on her breast and leans in to kiss her saying, "I love you." (The camera then retreats, but we hear her screams.)
The sheriff grabs his crotch while in his boxer shorts. Chrissie wears a midriff-baring halter top. A vulgar jab is made about incest.
Leatherface's first murder encompasses him breaking his boss's arms and legs and smashing his face in with a large hammer. But that's only a mild warm-up for the rest of the film. From there, nearly every scene in this 90-minute gristle-fest is ripe with some kind of blood-drenched violence accompanied by extremely loud percussive sounds.
There are several shotgun blasts to the face; bludgeonings and bone breaks with hammers, sticks and pipes; near suffocation with plastic wrap; the repeated smashing of a face on hardwood; knife, scissor and cleaver stabbings; skewering and dragging with a meat hook; skin stripped from living victims; and, of course, hacking, slashing and impaling with a chain saw. Everything and everyone gets drenched in gallons of blood and gore.
Two particularly graphic and disturbing scenes are worth calling out. When a man gets shot in the leg. Hoyt instructs Leatherface to remove the offended limb with his saw. The act is displayed in stomach lurching detail. Then the sheriff notices that the second leg was nicked by the chain and instructs Leatherface to cut it off, too. "For balance."
Elsewhere, the facially deformed Leatherface keeps rubbing his foul, malignant hands all over the handsome visage of one of his victims. He then butchers the man with his chain saw and we watch as he slowly and painstakingly cuts and peels the corpse's face off (which he sews into a mask for himself).
Drug and Alcohol Content
A beer is pulled out of the refrigerator. Some bikers are seen drinking. Hoyt spits chewing tobacco juice. A woman smokes.
Other Negative Elements
Cannibalism is a large part of this film and seems to be spurred on by Sheriff Hoyt. He tells two boys of once being a prisoner of war and culling out members of their group to kill and eat. He also goads Leatherface into his first human butchery with the statement, "Meat is meat. Bone is bone. Get it done." The family is shown putting severed fingers and a man's tongue into the soup pot, and the soup is scooped out filled with human bone joints and flesh.
As if there weren't already enough ugly content, the filmmakers also throw in a shot of a girl hiding under a car while an old man urinates next to her face.
One night when I was 18, I arrived at the scene of an accident in my friend Al's tow truck and saw a big Oldsmobile crumpled up on the side of the road. Police were busy trying to save someone who was still alive in the car, and the ambulance hadn't arrived yet. The 16-year-old driver of the vehicle was miraculously unscratched and searching the ground for his car keys (of all things). Then I saw a girl on her knees. Her glazed eyes stared at nothing as her mouth slowly opened and closed. Her throat was cut from ear to ear. Blood and tissue poured down the front of her T-shirt. Al, a licensed paramedic, went to her. I couldn't help. So I tried to look away. And I learned that images like that can stick with you.
Gory movies aren't real life. And some will inevitably believe, "It won't bother me." But a movie like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, with its overloud skull crunching and its meat-rending, blood-sodden visuals can sear and stick in your brain and in your heart like bubbling summer tar on bare feet.