And what a beginning it is.
In the Cinema of the Helpless, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning reaches a new benchmark in unrelenting, stinking-bloody-abattoir-of-pain, horror. I winced at the slimy grimy blood-soaked chaos in Speak No Evil; and I squirmed in my seat during the guest suite scenes in Hostel. But I became physically ill while watching the particularly nightmarish scene in the basement, where Leatherface methodically, silently, carves a Thanksgiving turkey--except it was not a turkey he was carving up, and it wasn't a day to be thankful for.
Perhaps the grainy hand-held camera scenes and tight close-ups in the film made me a little queasy to begin with. Or perhaps it was the way the camera lingers while dark, syrupy blood pours from mangled bodies, soaking into the ground, into the carpeting, that made me not quite okay. I wondered how the hell they were going to get those stains out of the carpet. They are the Hewitt family; an insane bunch of cannibalistic rednecks that always play with their dinner.
It is 1969. Two friends are taking one long, slow trip to the war in Vietnam by way of Texas. Along for the ride are their girlfriends, a few desires, and impending doom. The Hewitt family has been going through a series of setbacks as their town, and way of life, disintegrates around them. The meat packing plant, the town's primary source of jobs is shut down, and townsfolk have nowhere else to go but away. The proud Hewitt family refuses to leave, and young--but really huge--Tommy, their disfigured and misfit adopted son refuses to stop pounding and slicing meat, whether bovine or, soon-to-be, the two-legged kind.
When told he has to leave the now closed meatpacking plant, he expresses his unhappiness by wielding a sledge hammer in a brutal scene of shattered bone, muscle and skull. Young Tommy has found a new hobby.
His step-dad has found a new hobby, too. Seems the last sheriff had to leave his position rather suddenly, so Hoyt takes a fancy to the badge--after he cleans the blood off it. R. Lee Ermey plays Hoyt Hewitt with such malicious evil glee, he steals the movie. Armed with a shotgun, badge, and dark sunglasses, he's one determined patriarch who needs to put food on the table. And after that nasty business in Korea that kept him alive when food was scarce, he and Tommy seem to be a match made in hell for getting that food.
In a textbook example of why you should never take your eyes off the road while driving at high speed and being chased by a gun-toting biker chick, both the Vietnam-bound friends and their girlfriends are brought to the attention of Sheriff Hoyt. He takes them home to meet Mama, Uncle Monty, and Tommy, which is not a good thing.