Director(s) – Alexandre Bustillo (Among the Living, ABCs of Death 2) and Julien Maury (Livid, Inside)
Starring – Stephen Dorff (The Gate, Blade), Lili Taylor (The Conjuring, Gotham), and Sam Strike (Stitches, Mindhunter)
Release Date – 2017
Rating – 4/5
When it comes to classic horror I tend to be an odd duck. When it comes to the Hellraiser series most fans love the first film and then say they lose quality and the series progresses. I’m the opposite. The first one bores me while the second and third are my favorite in the series. When I tell horror fans this I often have to defend myself. People have a hard time understanding that people like things differently. Different strokes for different folks.
With that being said, I often ignore conversations around Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When it comes to the series I draw in a lot of hate. I don’t really care for the first film. I can watch it but I can honestly say it ranks low in the series for me. The sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, is a fucking masterpiece. I can never tire of the film. I follow that up with Leatherface: TCM III, TCM: The Next Generation, followed by the remake, prequel, and sequel. When people ask me how I can like those more than the original I honestly don’t know where to begin. The first film just bores me. When I heard that the original film was getting a prequel I have to say I was interested and concerned at the same time. Would it be bland like the first film or offer up some depth that the first film could not?
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows the Sawyer clan who kills anyone that ventures too close to their home. They kill a young woman which just happens to be the sheriff’s daughter. He investigates the murder and uses the crime to have the young Jed Sawyer taken away from his mother and placed in a mental hospital where his name is changed. After several years an opportunity arises and he is able to escape with three other patients. When the sheriff that put him away finds out they escaped he goes on a state wide manhunt to bring them down even if it means killing them. As they work their way through Texas the sheriff gets even closer to them.
They kill Jed’s friend and shots Jed in the jaw before their car is wrecked. The sheriff then takes him to the same barn his daughter was killed to lure his family in but loses the high ground when they sneak up on him. The sheriff’s malice inadvertently creates a monster than cannot be controlled and he will be his first victim under the new moniker.**Spoiler Alert**
People love the first TCM film and I can see why. The film is bleak, haunting, and the visuals are damn near perfect. Sure, it was brutal given the time period but the story is a little on the slow side for me. I know my views on the series is going to cause a stir and I fully expect that but I refuse to lie about it. As for Leatherface…I loved it but not as a TCM film. If you look at Leatherface as just another movie you will really enjoy it but once you toss it into the TCM canon you will be disappointed.
The acting in this one is inconsistent among the cast. I really enjoyed the intensity that Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor brought to the film. Dorff is off the rails and unhinged which is something I can’t recall seeing from him before. The closest thing I can compare him to is his Deacon Frost character from Blade but even then the two are so far apart it wouldn’t be a proper comparison.
Sadly, it’s hard to really get into the rest of the cast. The rest are very underwritten and underperformed especially the patients that escaped from the mental hospital. You would assume these characters would have spectacular back stories and enough personality to drive the film but they don’t. In fact, I was confused as to who was who until the film had progressed to a certain point. I did like what they did with Leatherface and how he was a troubled young man that had morals but that changed when those he tried to protect continuously put him in harms way as they ran from the police. This was a cool angle but adding a side of humanity to Leatherface almost takes away from the monstrosity that we know and love.
The story for this one worked as a movie but did not fit that well in the TCM universe. If the characters had different names and not associated with TCM it would have been a contender for one of my favorite films of the year. I’m being painfully honest here. However, because it tries to add itself to the TCM canon and deliver a backstory on characters we already know and love it fails to do so.
The backstories almost makes the character of Leatherface feel weak. In the original series he is this big hulking figure with no sign of humanity in his eyes. He relentlessly kills anyone that crosses his property line. He’s also mentally challenged and slow which was already established in the series and is addressed in several of the sequels. In Leatherface he is fairly intelligent and over time becomes pissed at the world. I know this is a prequel to the first film but you have to consider the second film as well because it is a worthy sequel to the first.
Finally, this one has some gore which is expected. There is a few scenes that uses horrible CGI but for the most part we are greeted with some spectacular practical effects and fun kills.
Overall, Leatherface was not a worthy prequel to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre but it was still a great film to watch. Personally, I feel as if the film was already written as something else (which would have been fantastic) but the title was changes so the company could keep the rights to the series. As a film I would give it 4 out of 5 but as a TCM prequel I give it 2.5 out of 5.