When it comes to prequels, the horror genre may need a dose of originality and less gore.
It was the case for The Exorcist, and now for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The appeal for this lurid, often languorous affair will not go beyond the fanbase of Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic, remade, most recently under the auspices of Michael Bay and starring Jessica Biel, now less of a blonde bimbo after her turn in The Illusionist.
The origin of Leatherface and how he can be cannibalistic and a torture monger is dealt with, but hardly in an efficiently chilling way, even with a very manageable running time.
An abattoir is a key set piece that will influence the course of action that includes the requisite extreme Southern hillbilly hospitality. That's where a deformity begins to rear itself, as despair is born out of fear and abuse.
A perverse, sadistic element in the form of a surrogate father, played by R. Lee Ermey, in full drill sergeant mode. He'll get into the "meat and bones" of things for Leatherface as young adults become a part of his beastial world.
The screenplay by Sheldon Turner uses the Vietnam War as a means to help set up the conflict as the brutality of war and counterculture collide. Jordana Brewster is one of the nubile gals caught up in the maniacal terror, but the cute actress looking fine in short jeans doesn't have Biel's scream queen presence.
A consistently frightless, if grueling, grotesque picture is often lit in yellows and greens, and the lackluster direction relies less on flashy kineticism as in the predecessor, somewhat jolting with instances of documentary-like realism. It looks as if mordant darkness has fallen on a franchise that fails to run with low-budget inspiration from something so sick and twisted, yet by-the-numbers.