I realize that for some die-hard Texas Chainsaw Massacre fans, this movie is laughable at best, or perhaps the least favorite of the bunch. I think we can all agree that it’s not nearly as bad as the 2003 remake we all love to hate.
This wonderful film released three years after the initial remake is a called the beginning for a reason. It reveals the beginnings of Leatherface: his birth, when he is taken in by the Hewitts, his youth, and the events leading to him picking up his legendary weapon of choice.
Many may disagree and believe this film to be a steaming pile of garbage, but I am going to explain, in detail, why this is my favorite depiction of Leatherface. So let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?
This film opens in 1939, showing a woman giving birth (then dying) to the baby who is destined to wear a second skin. He is put in the dumpster outside the slaughterhouse where he is born, which is oh so fitting, and then found by Luda Mae Hewitt. He is raised by the Hewitts, named Tommy, and in 1969, some hippies travel through Texas, one of them heading to reenlist in the service, but get into a car accident. This unravels the start of the killing spree that ultimately seals their fate.
A lot of people dislike the fact that Tommy’s childhood is glazed over in the opening credits, but I enjoy that it is told in unintelligible snapshots, as if rooting through old photographs, meddling in a place where you shouldn’t be meddling. Stumbling upon something that was meant to remain a secret.
Let’s also bring up the elephant in the room. The Hewitts aren’t the Sawyers. For these remakes, the Hewitts became the fucked-up, cannibalistic, incestuous, hillbilly family. But, in their defense, they portray their insanity beautifully. We are introduced to their lack of empathy early on when the sheriff is killed by R. Lee Ermey’s character, who then takes up the identity of the sheriff, Hoyt, and proceeds to serve the dead sheriff’s body in a stew for his family at dinner that night. To them it’s normal, to them it’s survival.
Every scene with the Hewitts shows how disgusting they are, from how they talk to each other, to how they act – everything is just so uncomfortably off color. Don’t hate… they we’re born that way.
For this film, and the same goes for the 2003 remake, R. Lee Ermey is the saving grace. The way he is introduced in the beginning is fantastic. A darkened figure of a man, seeing the deformed baby that is brought home by his mother, and then the unmistakable drill sergeant voice, ” That’s the ugliest thing I ever saw.” This film started my love affair with Leatherface, and each time Hoyt sticks up for him by killing anyone who calls Tommy anything but his name, makes him my hero.
I’m going to group the hippies and the bikers together. The bikers are completely, 100% unnecessary, and a fucking waste of time. The only reason the biker chick is included in the film is to be the catalyst for the car wreck (and also, the cow) until she gets a hole blown through her stomach. Once again, Hoyt my hero! The hippies have terrible dialogue and even worse on-screen relationships with each other. The only one who has a few layers is Eric, Matt Bomer’s character.
Eric and Hoyt are very similar characters. They are both addicted to killing. Although Eric gives a very heartfelt, yet completely illogical reason why he is returning to Vietnam, to his brother, Dean, we all know he’s just going back to kill anything in sight because he can. Hoyt, on the other hand, also gives backstory of being a POW in Korea (where his taste for human skin ignited) and he has no problem torturing and killing anyone who poses a threat to his well-being; hippies and bikers included. And to think, the town used to be so sweet and homely until it was overrun by modern times.
Hoyt, however, is weak. Hiding behind the power of the very powerful police-issue shotgun. Without that, he just kind of cowers and hopes to be saved by his wonderful nephew. And speaking of…
The real star of the show is the frightening, yet misunderstood, Tommy Hewitt. He simply does what he’s told, receiving kind words from Hoyt, then having commands barked at him the next instant. He is staggering, with the ideal build, my favorite Leatherface get-up, and a 35-pound chainsaw half his size. He is my favorite depiction of Leatherface.
You heard right, let the roasting begin.
It takes a hell of a lot to satisfy me when it comes to a horror film, especially a remake. This one did it, and I’ll tell you how.
The use of visual elements, like that ugly yellow tinge of the picture when the Hewitts come on screen, is memorable. The music choices, when there was music, was actually well done. There is just the right amount of gore, just the right amount of torture and each kill is executed perfectly (eight in total).
Every prop, and every setting when the hippies get to Texas, shows how dead the “dead town” really is. An example: the cop car is so old, Hoyt hits the siren bubble on the top of his car to revive the batteries. The Hewitt farm is complete with torture devices and bear traps, and Tommy’s room in the basement and sliding metal door just pulls everything together.
What I adore is the fact that every kill is shown. I don’t need a cutaway before it happens to give an implied death. It’s a horror movie, just show it. Let’s talk about my favorite kill, after Tommy picks up the chainsaw, and can’t seem to put it back down. At the end of the film when Chrissie is driving away from the farm, and literally everyone else is dead, Leatherface pops up in the backseat and revs the chainsaw. He then pushes the saw through the back of the drivers eat, impaling Chrissie through the spine, then out through her chest. She ends up pushing the gas pedal to the floor and hitting some cops (BONUS KILL!), tearing their limbs off. So, technically, Leatherface kills three people at once on accident.
Anyway, my point is, this is his very first kill using his chainsaw on a female. After he pulls the saw out of her, he leans over and caresses her face, thanking her as he’s panting through her dead boyfriends face he’s wearing. It’s intimate in nature, but lasts only a moment. Then he simply leaves her body and walks back into the darkness. That was his first time. The moment he gave chase, R. Lee Ermey called it, “There’s a time when every boy becomes a man.” Not to mention each time he throws a girl over his shoulder, he grabs a handful of ass.
Anyway, this movie wins for me because of one simple thing:
There are no survivors.
PS: Netflix only offers the theatrical cut, which is great if you want to miss out on a little bit of extra freaky shit. The first time I saw it, I watched the unrated version, so watching it again on Netflix just confused me. There are a few goofs as well because of the fact that there are things cut out, so do yourselves a favor and avoid the theatrical cut if possible.
My personal advice: don’t trust residents of any back-woods rural small town. If those aren’t red flags…I don’t know what are.
Another note: There was no real Leatherface, don’t let the introduction to films fool you, but here is some light reading about the man who inspired Leatherface’s character.
I give this move an “Awww yeah” because that’s exactly what I said after the first time I watched it. Then I watched it again.