Cinematic Releases: Leatherface (2017) Reviewed

Leatherface returns in another prequel film that attempts to tell of the skinmasked killer's years as a teenager. 

In an attempt to set itself apart from the last few entries in the series about the Sawyer family's taste for human flesh, this horror film gets some things right and many things wrong. Where it succeeds in giving viewers a batch of brutal deaths it fails to make a true connection to the original other than a few scenes of the dreaded homestead and the realization that this mythology really didn't need any more back story. Classic on screen killers should exist in the shadows. Their upbringing doesn't really require a new cinematic chapter that gives us all the gory details about how they became what they are. Sometimes these parts are better shrouded in untold darkness where our mind can do the work. All the blanks don't need to be filled in. 

Instead of trying to capture the highly saturated hues and distorted film style of the 1974 classic, this looks way too digital, doesn't have any grit, and only drives it further home that this franchise needs to either die or get a high dose of old school direction. In the hands of a different director that's supported by a better writer, Leatherface may have swayed the other way. For a movie about humans being dispatched by cannibals, everything is just too neat and tidy. The build to the big reveal of Leatherface lacks tension, never seeming like they spent too much time developing the script. Again, some of the death scenes are remarkable in their brutality and the practical effects work is top tier, yet the script lacks that certain spark. 

Daddy bought me this for Christmas!
Blood spatter not included!

Once again, the chronology of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre takes a beating as new family members are introduced and nothing really evolves other than another string of creative kills and disgusting scenes of dismemberment. Separating itself from the Texas Chainsaw 3D debacle of a few years ago, Leatherface is given a sob story background where he's the focus of another sheriff that has it out for the entire Sawyer family. Repeating many of the same character traits as R. Lee Ermey's character in the Marcus Nispel remake, too much familiarity makes the plot a bit shaky. 

Where the film does succeed is in its two adult stars, Stephen Dorff and Lily Taylor. Considering the material, it's surprising to find them both in a TCM movie. Dorff plays the vengeance seeking sheriff with ease and Taylor continues to prove her dramatic worth as an emotionally tarnished mother of flesh eating boys. Directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury of Inside fame, I wouldn't say this is necessarily a bad movie. It just didn't need to be part of the Chainsaw legacy. As part of the official canon, Leatherface supports what's to come but does nothing to further the overall series or brand.  

If you're a huge fan of Texas Chainsaw, you'll definitely find something to like here. But it's not going to change the status of the series as a whole. This is just another passing thought in a franchise that could use a rest for a while. Horror fans crave original content, not just retreads of our favorite killers. This will cure the Leatherface drought for a while. However, it's not quite as cool as it initially looked.