The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

A flag-waving, war-loving Texas family full of religious zealots who praise God while overseeing the slaughter of innocents. A documentary about the Bushes? No, silly! It’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” a graphically unlikable prequel to 2003’s remake of the 1974 horror classic.

Having seen either the original or the remake, you probably wondered where Leatherface came from, what drove him to chase people through forests while wielding a chainsaw, why his face is all effed up like that. And guess what: The prequel doesn’t tell you much. Turns out he was born deformed and vaguely retarded, was raised by a normal-seeming family, and then started killing people when the slaughterhouse he worked in got closed down by the health department. End of backstory.

But whoops, we learn all that in the first 10 minutes. To pass the remaining 80, the film tells us about Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) instead, the loathsome and foul-mouthed sadist who aided and abetted ol’ Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) in the remake. Turns out he’s not really the sheriff; he just murdered the guy who was and took his uniform. Then he helped Leatherface kill people and occasionally eat them. Why? JUST BECAUSE.

Yes, turns out Sheriff Hoyt is pure evil, but the boring kind. He has no dimension, no motivation. The best villains in moviedom, even the cruelest ones, have SOME reason to do what they do. Hoyt? Not so much. He was a P.O.W. during the Korean War. That’s as much explanation as we get.

Hoyt and Leatherface (and their family of down-home crackers and torturers, about whom the less said, the better) shouldn’t be the film’s main characters, but here they are, front and center. Ostensibly, though, our heroes are four pretty young people (one of them is Jordana Brewster; you haven’t heard of the others), two brothers and their girlfriends, driving through Texas as the boys prepare to head off to Vietnam. A car accident puts them into Hoyt’s clutches — again, no explanation whatsoever as to what he has against them — and the rest is torture, mayhem, screaming, almost escaping, escaping, coming back, being tortured, some more screaming, a little revenge, and finally some death.

Since we know all the bad guys will still be alive at the end (it’s a prequel, remember?), there’s not much suspense over the outcome. I get tired of saying this about splattery horror films, but I get even more tired of it being true: The film has no wit, imagination, creativity or ingenuity. It’s wearisome and dull, offering plenty of gore but no brains to back it up.

D (1 hr., 24 min.; R, lots of harsh profanity, brief mild sexuality, abundant graphic violence, torture, gore and other unpleasantness.)