Seven times Leatherface had cranked up a chainsaw on-screen, but the eight time may be the best one. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, which this character is based from, has been around since 1974, but not until now do we get the origins story of the Leatherface character. Fans of the franchise will be in for a surprise with this incarnation. The story centers around a group of troubled teenagers who escape a mental hospital and kidnap a nurse along the way.
The nurse is played by Vanessa Grasse. Her character is the shining light in a bleak dark tunnel of evil that surrounds her. She even gets a couple of the baddies to like her and appear somewhat morally good. Ike (James Bloor), Clarice (Jessica Madsen), Bud (Sam Coleman) and Jackson (Sam Strike) are the troubled teens in question. For the majority of the movie it’s not clear which one of them is set to become Leatherface, and that’s part of the mystery aspect. If you take away the Leatherface title, you really could make a case that this could be a stand alone movie.
Stephen Dorff plays a manic sheriff that’s tracking these teens with the hopes of avenging his daughters death, caused by the Sawyers a.k.a the Leatherface family. He’s as much of a villain as any of the teens. Dorff does nice work playing the unlikable, menacing and ruthless sheriff. Ironically, the supposed ‘bad guys’ are the ones being pursued and threatened by the sheriff.
Aside from the first few scenes, there is a significant drop-off in gore and violence until later on in the movie. The less violent portion feels a lot more like a drama than a slasher horror. That’s the element that separates it from most cliche horror films, as well as the previous versions of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.
While the plot was intriguing and suspenseful, it did move at a slow pace. At times it becomes a bit dull. Even though the characters were on the move, there wasn’t much of a feeling of urgency or threat that’s chasing them. The sheriff arrives randomly later after the teens start turning on another.
Once the gore comes around, it’s at its finest. Heads are being chopped off, bodies mangled, faces ripped-off. You get the picture. It’s fairly creepy and dark. I always wondered why Leatherface wasn’t grouped with the other slasher villains such as Jason, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers? You go to any haunted house and the main attraction is the guy with the chainsaw chasing you out. He has the trademark chainsaw (which appears in this film memorably), yet excluded from the cool kids table. Maybe this film is what will get people to reconsider?
Overall, Leatherface feels fresh and different from your standard horror slashers. It’s an origin story that’s compelling and its own entity. If you can get through the slow parts in the middle, you’ll have an intense ending awaiting. This prequel is set years prior to the Texas Chainsaw films. The filmmakers took a unique approach and gave us a young version of character that’s been rehashed for decades and became bland. This gives an opportunity to continue developing the character and molding it in subsequent films to come. A new face (no pun intended) of this franchise has been introduced and it will give you better scares than most horror films will this Halloween season.