October 12, 2006

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (R)
Teenagers run and scream and get sliced up for 84 insufferable, unoriginal, painfully boring minutes in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.

People frequently ask me: is your job fun or does going to the movies just feel like work?

Some weeks, I get to see The Departed or Little Miss Sunshine or Superman Returns and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Even weeks with cheeseballs like The Covenant or surprises like The Illusionist fill me with glee.

And then there are movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.

While I was watching this movie, time seemed to stop, move backward even, sort of how you could have sworn you just ran for 10 minutes but when you look at the treadmill you see that only 47 seconds have gone by. You move your towel, certain that you've only got five minutes to go, see that you actually have 23 minutes to go and then you try very hard not to start crying.

I tried hard to keep from looking at my watch as the opening scenes of this movie forced themselves into my brain we see Leatherface born of a slaughterhouse worker who dies immediately, after which he is tossed in the trash. A woman finds him and takes him to the creepy Texas plantation house where the subsequent (previous, whatever) films will be set. Years later, we see two couples hanging out at a hotel one girl (Jordana Brewster, let's call her Victim A) and her boyfriend (Matthew Bomer, let's call him Victim B) are talking about his plan to return to Vietnam and how when he returns they will have two children, drawing out the scene by flirting as they decide names. The other girl, Victim C (Diora Baird), and her boy, Victim D (Taylor Handley), are talking about how D is also supposed to go to war (with B, they're brothers) but he plans on burning his draft card and heading to Mexico. By the time we actually get to the point where he burns his card (helpfully, in the back seat of a car, just as a gun-toting biker chick starts to chase the quartet and a cow is about to step into the road), I figured surely I was a good 40 minutes in.

No such luck more than an hour of suffering was left for all of us.

After the accident, the "Sheriff" Hoyt (R. Lee Emery) comes along and brings most of the teens back to his house, his family having recently decided that the way to get by after the bulk of the town has closed up and moved away is to eat passers-by. But how to kill them? I'll bet the demented Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarksi) and his chainsaw have some thinkin'-outside-the-box ideas.

Victims B, C and D are tied up in various locations around the house and Victim A shows up to, er, look at them. Not help, really. Though she does helpfully blow a couple attempts at escaping.

I'll fully admit that sliced limbs and squirting blood aren't my first choice for movie amusement. But I've found bloody horror movies entertaining, cheesily funny and occasionally even a bit scary. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is none of these things it is dull (both in content and in appearance) and plodding. Scenes of our psycho-killer family gathered round the table are not a sick parody of Americana but an annoying repetition of scenes exactly like this in previous (but chronologically subsequent) Texas Chainsaw movies and slasher movies in general. In fact, everything about this prequel feels like a fuzzy, halfheartedly designed copy of a story copied a dozen time before. F

Amy Diaz