October Fright Watch: Leatherface (2017)

October 6, 2017 Author: John Amenta

Leatherface (2017) is the eighth entry into The Texas Chain Saw Massacre franchise of films. In a move of total originality it is also the second to be titled Leatherface. Despite there being at least two different universes these films fit into (the ones that follow the original 1974 film’s timeline and the two that came out of the 2003 remake) I was truly hoping for something new. I must say, that at the least something newish was attempted.

Leatherface is rooted firmly in the world of the original film, serving as a prequel. Yes, I know the 2003 remake also had a prequel, but just forget that one, OK? Oh, you already did, cool. This film opens in the famed Sawyer farmhouse, as young Jed and his family of demented creeps is celebrating his birthday. As a special gift from his mother Verna (a frightening Lili Taylor) Jed is given a giant chainsaw, and instructed to let loose on a pig thief tied to a chair at the family table. As you can see, the awkward dinner scene in the original was not a one off experience for this clan of chicken f#cking hillbillies. After refusing to do so, the thief is dispatched by grandpa and we move forward. A few days later, Texas Ranger Hartman’s (Stephen Dorff, less douchey than in those electronic cigarette ads) daughter is murdered by the Sawyer clan, and he in a rage has Jed remanded to the court system to get him away from Verna’s influence.

No, no, no, don’t worry, Leatherface is not a John Grisham-esque courtroom thriller where the chicken f#cking Sawyers fight to get their boy back, no indeed. The story moves ahead several years to a local mental hospital for teens, you know the kind where the creepy old doctor likes to use shock therapy and torment the patients. During a riot caused by Verna demanding to see her boy, four of the inmates escape with a newly hired nurse as prisoner. Bud, the hulking behemoth who easily killed the abusive doctor on his way out, Jackson, who seems most normal and level headed and boyfriend/ girlfriend psycho combo Ike and Clarice, who before the film ends have a threeway with a slimy corpse, as you do whilst insane and on the run from the law. If you noticed that none of these characters are named Jed, there is some explanation that names change while these kids go through foster homes and through story we know one of them is our future Leatherface. The film then plays out as a combo criminals on the lam/police pursuit film. This is a different tact then the usual stupid teenagers willfully go into the Sawyer household looking for a phone then get murdered trope, but it just isn’t done that well.

In the end we are left with a movie that sets us up to see our beloved, kind of crossdressy maniac’s origin and we certainly seem to get that here. Much like many other origin stories though, most folks, including die hard Chain Saw fans just are not going to care. I give the writers and directors involved credit for doing something a bit different for the franchise but it just does not hit all the right notes. The original film from 1974 unnerves me in it’s snuff film realness. This one is not even scary, and the gore factor is fairly tame by most horror movie standards. Once you get to the actual moment of Leatherface’s beginnings, it seems to come from out of nowhere, and in the end, will probably prove to be pretty forgettable, kind of like this film was.

2.5 Slimy Corpse Threeways out of 5

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