Directors: Alexandre Bustillo & Julien MauryWriter: Seth M. Sherwood
Stars: Finn Jones, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Sam Strike
Leatherface comes to the horror community as the prequel that no one asked for and everyone hates before viewing it. As always, I come to you as an unrepentant supporter of prequels, remakes and sequels, but I also come to you as someone who names The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as one of their very favorite films. I adore, adore, adore the TCM universe. I unironically love TCM 4 (come at me, bro) and I have defended TCM 3D. Like any franchise, it’s a mixed bag of genre changing badassery and boring, unnecessary, predictable garbage and it was with very mixed feelings that I approached Leatherface.
Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel are both Executive Producers, so it’s a good start to have the original creators involved, no matter how marginally. With a screenplay by Seth M. Sherwood, Leatherface tries in earnest to present a reason for why Jed Sawyer turned into Leatherface and the biggest issue with this is the mere fact that some baddies just don’t need a backstory. It’s undoubtedly an intriguing premise, but it’s also unnecessary and tries to explain away his homicidal, cannibalistic, skin wearing tendencies. Who wants that?
We meet a very young Jed on his birthday where the family is seated around the table with a cake and some poor guy tied to a chair. Verna Sawyer (Lilli Taylor) brings out a chainsaw and wants Jed to use it to kill dude strapped to the chair. First of all, there are adults who can’t properly lift a chainsaw and, secondly, can Lilli Taylor not find work worthy of her talents?
If you solve the Lilli Taylor quandary, perhaps you can let Stephen Dorff in on the answer. After his amazing turn in Somewhere, it looked like he would finally get the recognition he deserved, but that fizzled and, seemingly, so did his drive. Dorff plays Texas Ranger Hal Hartman and he is chewing up the scenery like it’s the only food left on earth. Essentially, there has always been bad blood between the Sawyer clan and Hartman, but a gruesome death ratchets this up to an 11. Hartman uses his clout to create a school for wayward children that’s really just a prison for kids with behavior issues and he puts Jed Sawyer in there. It’s at this facility that a young nurse is taken hostage by a few of the inmates when a prison riot allows them to escape.
This part of the story consumes so much of the film that you almost forget that you’re watching a TCM film. On it’s own, this is a mediocre story with annoying characters and a strange moment of necrophilia. There are some really nice visual homages to the original TCM film and they also pull a pretty impressive bait and switch on the viewer. We do get to see the moment that Jed Sawyer becomes Leatherface and it’s a bit of a let down. More irritating than that, though, is Leatherface is kind of let off of the hook, if you will, when it comes to responsibility. Leatherface is the result of nurture and not nature. So, are we supposed to feel bad for him? Are we supposed to care more about him as a person? There was never any question that Leatherface was different than the rest of his family, but he’s still a guy who wears other people’s faces and wreaks havoc with a chainsaw. I do not want him having excuses or reasons for this. While not the worst film in the TCM universe, Leatherface tries to explain away his behavior and make you sympathize with him and I just ain’t got no time for that and neither should you.
Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont