Dir: Jonathan Liebesman.USA. 2006. 89 minutes.

A lot of modern horrorhas become more synonymous with horrifying rather than terrifying - thechief difference being the latter is something that grips you on a base,visceral level certainly, but also provokes significant feelings ofpsychological unease. The gulf between these two approaches is roundly apparentin The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, a stalking franchise prequel of near-bottomlesssadism and equal pointlessness.

Grotesquerie and graphicbloodletting figured prominently into Marcus Nispel's 2003 remake of directorTobe Hooper's gritty, groundbreaking 1974 horror picture, but never overwhelmedthe predominant emotion - a choking hopelessness - that made themovie so wrenchingly effective, and feel like one big, long, coarse exhalation.The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, on the other hand, is full of only desultory jump scares and abattoirtorture. It doesn't generate genuine tension; it's gore pornography, plain andsimple.

Genre loyalists should stillturn out in droves opening weekend for what's perceived as a faithful article,but with the releases of The Grudge 2 and Saw III on thehorizon, it's doubtful that The Beginning will be able to approach the grosses of its 2003 predecessor, whichpulled in $80 million domestically and another $26 million internationally.That film, after all, had the swelling intrigue of a franchise reboot, as wellas both an advertising campaign and some modicum of word-of-mouth that pointedup the picture's based-on-true-events roots, which helped extend its audience.

The Beginning's margins should be smaller and more staunchly of apiece with the traditional core horror base, meaning theatrical returns more inline with Boogeyman, The HillsHave Eyes, Hostel or The Amityville Horror, which collectively averaged around $50 million inNorth America.

Directed by JonathanLiebesman (Darkness Falls) andset in 1969, the movie centers on two brothers, Eric and Dean (Matt Bomer andTaylor Handley), headed across the state of Texas to report for duty inVietnam. In tow are their respective girlfriends, Chrissie and Bailey (JordanaBrewster and Diora Baird). An auto accident during a would-be robbery leavesthe quartet badly injured, but when an apparent lawman, Sheriff Hoyt (R. LeeErmey), arrives on the scene things only get worse.

Sheriff Hoyt isn't a sheriffat all, but the patriarch of the twisted, cannibalistic Hewitt clan, whichincludes his disfigured, mentally challenged nephew Thomas, aka Leatherface(Andrew Bryniarski). Hoyt takes Eric, Dean and Bailey with him back to hishouse, where an unremittingly grim regimen of torment commences. Thrown fromthe vehicle, Chrissie eventually makes her way to the house with a local biker(Lee Tergesen), and tries to save her friends.

The screenplay from SheldonTurner (2005's The Longest Yardremake) tosses out a few trivial, unifying tidbits (Leatherface was depositedin a dumpster after his mother's death upon his birth, and we see him craft hisfirst titular mask), but these morsels feel less like grand and/or illuminatingcharacter revelations and more like arbitrary filler between torture andkillings. Exactly who, after all, has been clamouring for answers to thesequestions, particularly when the explanations are so cursory'

The film is furthermoredamned by its own lack of interior logic and cleanly defined spatialrelationships, most notably in the third act. At one point Dean turns thetables on Hoyt, but - seemingly only since the ending is predetermined bythe survival of characters we've seen in the 2003 movie - implausiblydoesn't finish him off. Dean then magically appears during an off-siteconfrontation between Chrissie and Leatherface, who's previously shown no sortof skulking wherewithal to dispense with one victim in the manner that he does.

Cinematographer Lukas Ettlin(the US remake of The Grudge)can't match the anguished antebellum junkyard palettes of Daniel Pearl, whoshot the 1974 original and its recent re-imagining. Composer Steve Jablonsky'sscore, meanwhile, further hammers home the obvious in offending, exaggeratedfashion.

Production company
Platinum Dunes, Next Entertainment

US distribution
New Line Cinema

International distribution
New Line International

Andrew Form
Brad Fuller
Tobe Hooper
Kim Henkel
Michael Bay
Mike Fleiss

Executive producers
Robert J. Kuhn
Toby Emmerich
Mark Ordesky
Guy Stodel
Jeffrey Allard

Sheldon Turner
from a story by Sheldon Turner and David J. Schow

Lukas Ettlin

Production design
Marco Rubeo

Jonathan Chibnall

Steve Jablonsky

Main cast
Jordana Brewster
Taylor Handley
Diora Baird
Matt Bomer
R. Lee Ermey
Andrew Bryniarski
Lee Tergesen
Terrence Evans