'Leatherface' (2017) Review
Quick Film Info
Directors: Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo.
Writers: Seth M. Sherwood.
Release: October 2017.
Genre: Horror. Firmly and completely within the extremely violent, sometimes hard-to-watch genre of horror. Not for the faint of heart.
What's It About?
Hal Hartman, a local law enforcer, takes revenge on the Sawyer family and sees to it that someone is held responsible for their atrocities.
Ten years later, there is an outbreak at a mental facility. Four inmates escape with a young nurse as their hostage.
As the group tries to evade a pursuit led by Hal, it becomes obvious that sometimes people are born evil while sometimes it's events that occur that causes them to become who they are.
But which escapee is destined to become Leatherface?
My Thoughts on 'Leatherface'
Many people think these types of movies are all the same. They have no story, no point, and just feature a never-ending bloodbath of someone running around with an oversized weapon carving people up. A lot of times that is exactly the case. I went into this movie expecting just that, even though I personally really like the franchise. What I got instead was a frantic, action-packed, fast-paced bloodbath with a crazy story to boot.
The story begins with the Sawyer family engaging in their murderous tradition. The local sheriff embarks on a revenge mission against Verna, the matriarch. He swiftly takes away all the children who are minors and places them in an asylum for disturbed youths. And like preceding films in the franchise, there is a time jump of 10 years so we don't know what they look like.
The cliché evil director of the facility likes to change patient names to protect them from their psycho families, further deepening the mystery of what happened to Verna's kids.
The mystery is guessing which patient is the future Leatherface. There are many characters to choose from, each one with a personality trait that suits the killer.
Patients start dropping, thus narrowing down the options. I found myself eagerly trying to spot clues. A lot of reviews I read after the fact claimed to think it was obvious. I thought so too when some clues were thrown my way...but I was wrong. I am not usually wrong about picking where a movie will land. But I was wrong here and I was also delighted at having been so.
This movie has two twists. Oh how I love a twist. It doesn't have to be a good twist, but I applaud any filmmaker that manages to insert even one into a movie and make it work, especially in a movie like this.
Not since Saw (2003) have I had some twists applied specifically to a horror movie and had it knock me for a six. And not since the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre have I seen the brilliant technique of showing an intensely gory scene masked by a lighting effect so that much of the actual gore is really just in your own mind. I'm referring to a particularly graphic kill scene where an orderly is stabbed in the mouth. I saw little of the act itself due to the static lighting cast over the face while the music blares in the background. After a lengthy set of scenes where the graphic violence is high, it was like being given a drink of water to cut through the grime.
I am not for one second making comparisons to the iconic TCM. It is a cult favourite. I am only highlighting that the producers who worked on this one have kept the bar high, perhaps even paying homage to Tobe Hooper's concept of that style.
These directors also borrowed many concepts from well-known greats. The family owning killer pigs brings to mind Silence of the Lambs. Who can forget the brutal scene in American History X where the skinhead's teeth are smashed against a curb? Both of these classic kills can be seen in this film along with others I see mentioned around movie forums.
Sure, I could have done without the gratuitous sex scene involving a corpse. If any part of the movie made me think twice about how good it was, it was that. I felt it was unnecessary and it totally took away from the fluidity the film had going. The manic pressure was high and the four escapees were situated in one small area. The time spent on that scene could be have been used way better than that. They could have used it to develop the characters further and create even more instability about who was going to turn into Leatherface. It was also around this point I worked it out, probably due to the lull created by this unfortunate scene. I am also certain that this movie is taking a hammering in the ratings from the larger sites because of it.
At the end of the day, I loved the new concept. I am a fan of origin movies and this one makes the argument in the nature vs nurture debate that circumstances and surroundings can sometimes create a monster.
The new directors in this modern installment wanted us to see Leatherface's transition into the mindless killer in a different light. They wanted us to see the events surrounding the change, rather than just portraying him as being born that way. The character fans are used to just follows the instructions of his family. It's just as easy to see how events could cause this to happen. It explains how serving the family in later films is done out of a sense of duty that came from feeling like the world had done him wrong.
I give Leatherface four human skin face masks out of five.
- The previous director of the franchise, Tobe Hooper, died this year (2017).
- The directors of this instalment are no strangers to working together. They previously collaborated on the film Inside (2007).
- The writer for this script, Seth M. Sherwood, has an upcoming film called Day of the Dead due for release in December 2017. It is a remake of the 1985 classic, which is one of my favourite zombie flicks. Sherwood was working as a producer under the direction of George Romero himself (who coincidentally passed away this year).
Two Origin Movies With Little in Common
One thing is clear, this franchise does not stick to one version of events. Some of the movies do have common elements like characters and storylines. Some of them mesh but others don't.
There is plenty of room between the first origin movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and this one to slot in another origin movie as there is a 30-year gap between the birth of 'Thomas' and his transition to Leatherface. The two origin films already deviate on what has been told about the character being born intellectually disabled.
It's even plausible to imagine that after the events of Leatherface, a young and mostly unencumbered Jedidiah may have somehow swapped families prior to the birthday scene we see in the beginning of the film. The boy seems entirely out of his comfort zone despite being somewhat intrigued with the gift of a chainsaw.
Even the character of Verna could be explained away as simply having changed her name as she so easily does in the last half of the movie. It appears as though she has remarried, though we are not told to whom.
This is just my imagination thinking though. I would be absolutely thrilled to hear how or why this could never be or if you may just agree.
Did this new direction work for you?
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