Man law: On a date when given the choice between a smart Oscar-worthy epic and an ugly chainsaw-wielding maniac, always go with the chainsaw. Your girl will leave the movie wanting to be as close to you as possible, all the while not talking about how hot Matt Damon or Leonardo DiCaprio was. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” may be your start to a good night, but if you want a good movie, keep on walking.

Steven Neff
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The film opens with a flashback about the gruesome birth and misshapen development of Thomas “Leatherface” Hewitt (Andrew Bryniarski, “Rollerball”), then fast forwards to 1969. The Vietnam War is in full effect. Eric (Matthew Bomer, “Flightplan”) is about to be shipped off for his second term, but this time expects to be joined by his recently drafted brother Dean (Taylor Handley, “The O.C.”). The two set off across Texas on a last-time-together road trip with their respective girlfriends Chrissie (Jordana Brewster, “The Fast and the Furious”) and Bailey (Diora Baird, “Accepted”).

As they head down the vacant Texas highway, Dean reveals that he won’t be joining his brother in Vietnam; he and Bailey are running away to Mexico instead. Eric is stunned enough not to see the cow crossing the road in front of them. After the most impressive exploding cow scene ever caught on film, the teens are corralled by the self-appointed Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Emory, “Willard”) and taken back to the house that time forgot. What ensues is a lot of screaming, running, crying and sawing, which is more unsettling than frightening.

By the end you’ll be looking for Jordana Brewster’s ass listed in the credits as it has the starring role in the film. With the help of some hyper-ultra-low rise jeans, it crouches down to avoid detection, slinks through dimly-lit hallways and quite literally has almost as much screen time as her face. You wonder if the director even looked at headshots when casting the role.

The film’s other bright spot is its somewhat commendable attempt at a backstory intended to humanize the pretty young victims we would normally care less about. A common motif in “Texas Chainsaw” is courage, whether it’s reenlisting in a war to help your brother, or running back into a house to save your friends from cannibalistic sideshow freaks. It’s nice to see a stab at a unifying theme in an otherwise mindless film. Who would’ve thought you could actually use “motif” and “Texas Chainsaw” in the same sentence?

But the overwhelming flaw of the film is knowing that the movie is a prequel. If you’ve seen the first one it’s quite clear that Tommy Hewitt and his hillbilly clan survive for many years to come. This leaves no room for thinking “maybe these are the kids who finally kill Leatherface,” an option that a sequel would have at least left open. What you have instead is a less-than-groundbreaking, slightly unnerving slasher film with an obvious ending.

2 out of 5 stars

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