Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning - Answers to Questions You Never Asked

I may be writing about these movies sporadically, but I watched every single one of these fucking things over the course of one week, which I would not recommend. Of course, this made me sick of the basics of these movies pretty quickly, but I could still appreciate when it was done well (which wasn’t often). But it wasn’t until watching this one that they started to annoy me for wasting my time.

It doesn’t matter how repetitive this series gets, if the filmmakers can find an entertaining and effective way to show some violent carnage, then I will be at least partially on board. What I have never wanted from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series is an abundance of answers. Blame George Lucas or the information age in general for our incessant need for backstory and explanation. We can no longer accept a mystery when it comes to fiction, and that’s a shame.

This stupid prequel assumes we want to the origins about everyone from the murderous family, and maybe some people do want to know, but I don’t. I’m not against prequels, in general (I’ve written copious amounts of praise for the Star Wars prequels, for fuck’s sake), but not every story needs an origin. This applies to horror more than most genres because the unknown is scary.

When I saw the inside of that house in the original film and met that fucked up family for the first time, I didn’t want to know more about them. In fact, just trying to think about their day to day life and what led them to their current state made my head hurt, as it should. This is why the original is so fucking good. It gets into your head by giving very little explanation beyond, “These fuckers are fucked up, right?” To explain the why behind any of it would remove the horror of it all.

But when studios run out of ideas but still want to make a profit, an easy solution is to simply ask, “How did these characters become like this?” Thankfully, this is just a prequel to the remake, so the film doesn’t have any lofty goals of explaining the origins of that iconic family. Instead we get answers to a lot of questions we either already inferred the answer to or never asked to being with. 

For instance, do we need to know that Leatherface worked as a butcher at the meat processing plant to understand that’s why he likes to cut people up like meat? (Not to mention the meat-packing factory has been mentioned from the beginning, so if you hadn’t made that connection by now, then you have some cognitive issues.) And remember the guy missing his legs in the remake, now we see how that happened! And you’ll be shocked to find out that R. Lee Ermey isn’t actually the sheriff; he’s just pretending to be! Thank you, prequel, that one was keeping me up at night because I kept thinking, “How can this man of the law be engaging in such blatantly unlawful behavior?” Imagine my relief when I discovered that he killed the real sheriff and was only pretending to be a member of law enforcement! I never would have assumed that’s how it happened.

Once again, I watched these too close together, which is probably why I’m so particularly angered by the pointlessness of this one. What is even more annoying is that the series kept going in this direction for two more movies! This bullshit was not a hit, but the desperate dildos who couldn’t let this franchise die kept going back to the backstory well. The next one, continuing the inexplicable titling fiasco of this franchise by going with Texas Chainsaw, isn’t a prequel, but it does delve into the family history in a very stupid way, but I’ll get into the weeds with that one soon enough. 

I only bring it up because this focus on backstory is a misstep for the franchise. I’m not going to say these movies shouldn’t exist, because they do exist and we just have to deal with it. But if you’re going to keep making them, then at least stop and think about what a fan of the original might want. Preferably, I like when a series takes a left turn (like Part 2 being much more overtly comedic), but I’ll accept a rehash of the first film if the focus is on recreating the atmosphere. But these newer movies are more about jump scares (which makes no fucking sense when a chainsaw is involved because it should either be constantly running, in which case there’s no sneaking up on someone, or you just hear Leatherface trying to start the fucking thing; it can’t just be full bore out of fucking nowhere) than atmosphere. They don’t care about creating psychologically damaging situations for the viewer; they just want to splatter you with gore while explaining Leatherface’s motivation. It’s insulting, and, worse, boring.