FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Sergio Leone |||
Sergio Leone

Leone’s career is remarkable in its unrelenting attention to both American culture and the American genre film, exploring the mythic America he created with each successive film examining the established characters in greater depth.

Only his second feature (a remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo), Leone's landmark "spaghetti western" caused a revolution and features Clint Eastwood in his breakthrough role as "The Man With No Name". This classic brutal drama of feuding families wasn’t the first spaghetti Western, but it was far and away the most successful up to that time.

Plot is of minimal interest, but character is everything to Leone, who places immense meaning in the slightest flick of an eyelid, extensively using the extreme close-up on the eyes to reveal any feeling, as demonstrated by Clint, who squints his way through this slam-bang sequel to A Fistful of Dollars as a wandering gunslinger that must combine forces with his nemesis to track down a wanted killer.

The final chapter in the groundbreaking trilogy follows Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach as they form an uneasy alliance to find a stash of hidden gold. Leone focuses on his central theme as they find themselves facing greed, treachery, and murder, showing that the desire for wealth and power turns men into ruthless creatures who violate land and family and believe that a man’s death is less important than how he faces it.

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The: The Beginning

By BrianOrndorf

October 6th, 2006

If the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake wasn’t bad enough ruining what was once a classic, frightening horror ordeal, “The Beginning” swoops in and kills off the franchise for good.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The: The Beginning

While heading across Texas on their way to enlist for active duty in Vietnam, two brothers (Matthew Bomer and Taylor Handley), along with their girlfriends (Jordana Brewster and Diora Baird), come across trouble with some local bikers on the highway. The day gets even worse with the arrival of Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey), who drags the kids to the dreaded Hewitt compound, were they will be gutted for dinner by the youngest member of the clan, the disfigured Thomas (aka Leatherface).

In the dreadful, insulting 2003 remake of the classic, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” it was revealed that the saw-wielding maniac Leatherface was in actuality a bullied child, leading him into a life of destruction. By revealing this, the filmmakers put a human face on a demon, and effectively squashed a nightmare. “The Beginning” travels further back in time to see how Leatherface survived his formative years, and (no surprise) the results are even more ludicrous.

The formula for a “Chainsaw” film is so routine, it’s almost a comedy at this point. After six installments of the Leatherface saga, the idea of more kids getting lost in the hidden interstates of Texas, lining up for the slaughter is, frankly, fairly boring. I mean, come on…even “Police Academy” went to Miami Beach for their fifth film. We’re six deep into this series, and the characters are still running around a scummy house making bad survival decisions.

“The Beginning” promises from the title a new angle on the Hewitt clan. Writer Sheldon Turner might’ve had the best intentions with this prequel, but essentially, this is just a remake of the…er, remake (my head hurts). Outside of a prologue that shows Leatherface as an abandoned dumpster baby, and a sequence were he’s laid off from his slaughterhouse job (I wish I were kidding about that one), Turner is basically writing a greatest “Chainsaw” hits here. Yet again, a group of 2006-looking teens (it’s supposed to be the early 1970s) get in over their head, are picked off one by one, and struggle to survive the night. The only difference is, “The Beginning” supposes this is the first time the Hewitts have done these evil deeds, instead of the 33rd time.

The largest change to the flatlining formula is the radical amount of screentime given to Ermey’s Sheriff Hoyt. Merely a punchline in the first remake, “Beginning” beefs up Hoyt to a starring role, with Ermey in charge of comedic one-liners and southern sassmouth. Just like a lesser “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel, much of “Beginning” is played for laughs, or at least snickers. There isn’t much of a horror tone set here, so the production lets Ermey go for giggles while the rest of the picture is bathed in buckets of blood. Neither side registers in the least.

If you’ve seen director Jonathan Liebesman’s first film, “Darkness Falls,” you already know that the young director has zero aptitude for the genre. “Beginning” is an unsophisticated directing job since Liebesman is caught between trying to further the obnoxious, Nine Inch Nails-video visual design set by remake #1 director Marcus Nispel and working from a script that serves up the same reheated horror stew. Frightened and creatively cornered, Liebesman hits the gore button over and over again to get himself out of trouble. Now, I have no problem with a grisly film, but absent any substance or visual panache, “Beginning” becomes a repetitive, unimaginative snuff film for undemanding Fangoria subscribers, and not an actual motion picture.

Since this is a prequel, genuine suspense is punted right out the window. We know Hoyt lives to see another stand-up comedy day, and Leatherface will get more chances to fillet a co-ed. The primal agony of the hunt has been picked clean from the material by greedy producers who just want to bleed some more coin from this iconic franchise.

Now that we know where Leatherface is coming from, it will be impossible to ever fear him again.

My rating: D-