Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The: The Beginning (2006)

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Released 4-Apr-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Deleted Scenes-(Play All/Play Individually) (13:12)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Down To The Bone (Play Individually/Play All) (45:04)
Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 92:13 (Case: 91)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jonathan Liebesman
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jordana Brewster
Taylor Handley
Diora Baird
Matthew Bomer
Lee Tergesen
R. Lee Ermey
Andrew Bryniarski
Terrence Evans
Kathy Lamkin
Marietta Marich
Cyia Batten
Lew Temple
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Steve Jablonsky


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 6.1 ES Discrete
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
English Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Four years before the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and many years before the world would know the extent of his horror, a deformed, mentally retarded man by the name of Thomas Hewitt would be reborn as a monster. The last thing two teenage couples expected when crossing Texas to enlist in the Vietnam War was to fall into the clutches of his insane, cannibalistic family, and to take part in the creation of the iconic horror figure Leatherface, whose barbaric acts would never be forgotten.

    I was a big fan of the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, in which the original's brutal documentary-realism was traded for a more tense Aliens-esque animalistic ferociousness, with a fascinating subtext about the dedication and immortality of the family contrasting and consuming the non-religious, unfocused, cheap-thrilled youth as prey. Unfortunately, Jonathan Liebesman's prequel is a mess, a fantastically shot horror film without a cohesive script. Arguments about whether infamous icons or characters like Leatherface should be given backstories are worthless when they're done this poorly; the scenario that leads to the "birth" of Thomas Hewitt, the family, and the 'Saw is positively ludicrous. The plot involving the new teenagers getting caught, murdered and served is much more interesting and unpleasant, but the script is too busy inserting ridiculous origin-moments and never makes the characters real enough to care about their plight.

    The film is extremely well shot with a nifty visual flare, featuring lovingly gritty cinematography that often switches to handycam to show off chases and frenzy, and it is all lovingly filtered with grit to add to the atmosphere. Although often graphic and effective, the grue and violence is not well paced and ends up being too much and too overbearing to continually horrify; it just gets piled on and on by the end of the film. There are some great performances here from the entire cast, even though the script doesn't give anyone a chance to act like anyone but stereotypes. All of the main teenagers gather some sympathy as the film proceeds, but they are never fleshed out as characters; likewise R. Lee Ermey's nightmarish Sheriff Hoyt doesn't have the same gleeful, predatory dark-humor as in the remake, with little to work with as he lectures the family with nonsensicle rants ("But by God, they will remember what we do!" – What?!) and bullies the kids around in the way that only over-the-top Hollywood villains ever do. Worse, Andrew Bryniarski doesn't work as Leatherface in this film, doing his best Kane impression but failing to create the right amount of menace, as seen in the remake, or the right amount of "Oh my god, why wont they leave me alone?!" that really made Gunnar Hansen the original character.

    Although very flawed in nearly every way, (continuity, for example, is in such shambles that characters carrying hammers are suddenly carrying chainsaws in the next room) occasional horror fans may find a lot to like in this film, which despite being incredibly cruel is more of a throwback to real horror than today's garbage, such as Saw and Hostel. Fans of the original Massacre are likely to be highly offended by the mess that this is. The pitiful, nonsensicle dinner sequence is a pale attempt at replicating anything from the original and just feels like one of the many shallow copies that plagued following the success of Tobe Hooper's original and the subsequent slasher genre. There are several exceptional scenes, however, including a tea party with a girl tied up beneath a table, a darkly comic rape scene, and an intriguingly unpleasant ending, but none of these redeem the overall incohesiveness nor the feeling that everything was done better in the remake. A missed opportunity, then, but a sickening one that may please a specific audience.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The version of the film presented on this disc is the original, uncensored cut, running 92 minutes long (the PAL version of the unrated NTSC 96 minute cut). The video is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    Despite occasional grain issues, this is actually a very good transfer that particularly shines in dark scenes. The black levels are incredible, with almost no low level noise – very important considering how much of the film takes place in the dark. Funnily enough, this seems to have had a negative effect on many of the scenes with strong light: they appear grainy and gritty beyond what I believe was originally intended.

   There are no strong colours in this film; everything is dulled to create a very unpleasant atmosphere, and the transfer shows this off wonderfully. There are no issues with interlacing, nor any artefacts across the entire film – this is a DVD that can be projected onto the biggest screen you have without losing anything. I'm very impressed.

   There are two sets of English subtitles. The first featuring the dialogue from the film, which in the scenes I previewed was accurate and readable. The second is a subtitle track of the commentary, which I've never come across before outside of Asian DVDs I've had imported. From what I previewed, this too is accurate and readable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is presented in three different tracks: English Dolby Digital 6.1 ES Discrete, English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, English Dolby Digital 2.0, as well as an Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 .

    The preference is the astonishing DTS-ES 6.1 track, which grabs you from the first scene and never lets go. This is a loud, atmospheric audio track which puts you right in the middle of the action and rarely stays silent, taking full advantage of the surrounds to set every scene and then roars to life when the horrors begin. The mix is superb, with every little effect, speech and scream perfectly audible, combining the soundtrack and sounds coming from within and outside the 'Saw house wonderfully. It's an unfortunate state of affairs that such a mediocre film would be such a good package with which to test out your entire home theatre, but fans can rejoice.

   The 5.1 and 2.0 tracks are both fine also, though they show some decline in quality and surround in order to fit so much on one disc. But the mixes keep everything atmospheric and audible, with ambient sound being top-notch. It's worth noting that although many of the scenes had issues with sound when shot, the ADR is absolutely unnoticable.

    Steve Jablonksy's score works well across the entire film, smartly dropping to silence to build up tension and then coming to life using both new cues and some redone sounds from the 2003 remake.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Animated Menus with Sound

    These are excellent menus that look reminiscent of the stock footage found in the 2003 remake, dripping with blood and using sound cues from the film. Very nice.

Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Liebesman and Producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller

    Three of the people behind the creation of this well-made botch-job come together to discuss the stages of production and how each of the scenes were created. Although not a bad commentary track, it doesn't stand out for any particular audience – discussions of filmmaking technique or what went into writing the film don't go deep enough to please film students or fans, and the conversation is only occasionally funny or entertaining. The guys' immaturity occasionally shines, like in one moment when they're gasping to point out Jordana's assets in the cold, but overall, they're very appreciative of the entire cast and crew, and it certainly isn't boring to listen to their track. To be fair, they also point out a lot of the continuity errors, and also discuss at length how often the script was changed and altered, explaining a lot of the issues related to the film. Plus, they think that Ole Monty's amputation scene is as stupid as I do. (Also, I'm not surprised by the revelation that the scene in which the two overweight ladies sip tea and talk mundane rubbish while the pretty raped girl is tied up underneath the table was Michael Bay's idea – it actually seems like a good reflection of his career on the whole.)

Deleted and Extended Scenes, with Optional Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Liebesman and Producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller (12:35)

    The deleted scenes here are mostly just different cuts of scenes found in the film, though the yakker session with the director and producers on the alternate endings is interesting to see just how much they struggled with finding the right way to end the film. On repeated viewings, I've found I enjoy the ending much more, despite the teleporting-into-the-backseat trick I loathe so much (see also: Wolf Creek) but this extra highlights the difference small changes can make to the outcome and feeling of scenes, as well as showing once again how so many hands went into this film and contributed to the unfocused, chop-and-change script.

"Down to the Bone" Behind-the-Scenes Documentary (43:13)

    This standard but overlong behind-the-scenes featurette features the normal rapid-firing of talking heads edited into an incoherent mess, lots of compliments for the mediocre film, as well as some actual behind-the-scenes footage that highlights some of the niftier features of the filmmaking, such as how very pretty the initial footage is compared to the final gritty product. Although all the pats-on-the-back and general praise and discussion of the plot gets tiresome, there are some good reasons to watch the doco if you're a fan of the film. One is seeing the actors behind some of these horrifying characters, including the interviews with wonderful R. Lee Ermey and Marietta Marich, and the work that went into making the house the house. The stunt work is also interesting, as is wrapping an actor's head in cling wrap, and all of the effects are phenomenal. It does make you wonder, though, why they go to insane lengths to create a deeply disturbing, realistic chainsaw-to-the-midsection, face-cut-and-peeled-off gag, which they later choose to edit in such a way that it can barely be seen. Interviews with Michael Bay make my general aggression towards his existence subside; I'm extremely happy with his smaller production company set off to the side to make low-budget Hollywood films, giving up-and-coming young directors a opportunity to make something they normally wouldn't have had the chance to try – I just wish it was making better movies than this. Presented in excellent 1.85:1.

Theatrical Trailer (2:25)

    This is a fantastic theatrical trailer that makes the film look much better than it is. It's in the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio, although the transfer quality isn't nearly as high as the actual feature.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    With the exception of some additional promo material for other movies, the R1 DVD of this film is identical to the R4. I'd choose the R4 for the better PAL transfer, although I should also note that the R2 UK version of this DVD features both the unrated and theatrical release of the film, but the unrated – which we've got – is superior, thus making the theatrical option unneeded.

Summary

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is a disappointment – an incredibly well made-film with a terrible script.

   The video is amazing, with superb dark scenes and only small issues with grain.

   The audio is even better, with a DTS-ES 6.1 track that'll blow you away.

   The extras are very good, with something for both the casual horror fan and those who adore the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ryan Aston (Bioshock)
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDLG LH-D6230, using Component output
DisplayBenq PE7700. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationLG
Speakers B&W LCR 600 S3 (Front & Centre); B&W DM 600 (Rears); B&W ASW500 (Sub)

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