Like a Shakespearian tragedy

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”New Line CinemaDirected by Jonathan LiebesmanWritten by Sheldon TurnerStarring: Jordana Brewster, Matthew Bomer, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, R. Lee Ermey and Andrew BryniarskiRated R/84 minutesOpened Oct. 6, 2006Zero out of four stars

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” is a crime against humanity. Every print should be gathered up and thrown into a giant bonfire from which a howling skull of smoke would erupt.

This film is gruesome waste, made without wit, without imagination, but with plenty of contempt for the undiscerning teenagers who will buy enough tickets opening weekend to give the studio a good return. This is cynical moviemaking at its worst. It made me angry. So very, very, VERY angry.

Before you write me off as a snooty, prejudiced film critic who turns his nose up at anything that could be alternately titled “Teenage Slaughterhouse Bonanza,” let me tell you that I liked the last “Texas Chainsaw” movie. It was a remake of the 1974 original and starred a fetchingly terrified Jessica Biel. Directed by Marcus Nispel and written by Scott Kosar, it elaborated on the “Chainsaw” myth with gore-tastic style and-more shockingly-actually told a story.

The same can’t be said about this dark, dismal, wandering wallow in depravity, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, who made the murky, dopey, killer Tooth Fairy movie “Darkness Falls.” He and his screenwriter, Sheldon Turner, go the prequel route with this new “Chainsaw,” attempting to explain how that hulking meat sack named Leatherface came to be the cannibalistic, chainsaw-wielding maniac who is the bane of every unlucky, backwoods-driving, horny teenager’s existence.

Among the valuable insights and revelations, would you have guessed that Leatherface worked in a slaughterhouse prior to the massacres?

Whoa.

Or that the demented sheriff from part one (R. Lee Ermey) isn’t really a sheriff-he actually killed (killed!) the real sheriff and took his place?

Surprising.

And would you have believed that Leatherface’s mask was actually skin torn off a man’s face unless you actually got to see him rip it off said man’s skull in excruciatingly graphic detail?

Perhaps not.

Do we need to know or see these things? No. No, no, no. N-O. No. Whatever happened to mystery? This film was made by and for people with tiny, pathetic imaginations. All the stabbing, dismembering, bludgeoning, disemboweling and bleeding is front and center. It is only incidental that characters with names and vague personalities share the screen.

The entire original conceit is simply an excuse to tell the same story again. I’m not kidding. The exact same story. Four teenagers-two guys, two girls and not a brain among them-are on a cross-country road trip. Each character is given piddling little character traits in the first 20 minutes or so. Car is wrecked. Leatherface and Co. descend. Endless screaming and torture ensues.

No effort was made to revitalize the formula. Instead of Jessica Biel’s breasts in a tight, white T-shirt, we get Jordana Brewster’s butt in blue jeans. I’m not asking for the filmmakers to reinvent the wheel here; I’m asking for them to treat their audience with respect.

Horror sequels are usually the same thing over and over and over again, but even “Friday the 13th Part Eight” relocated the mayhem to Manhattan. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” does nothing special to earn its violence. It ends when all the possible victims are dead. What a repugnant, bleak, pointless exercise.

“Look at the beautiful model in the background. It’s a Gehry design.” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre