Note: This is a spoiler filled review.
For years I’ve argued that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has had the best track record of any horror franchise when it comes to sequels. The original is of course the best, an all time classic. TCM 2 was weird and quirky, but had the excuse of coming out a decade later in the 80s, and it ramped the black comedy factor from the original up to 10 with the introduction of Chop Top, making it one of the most entertaining in the series. TCM 3/4 both had their moments but were definitely where things started dipping in quality a bit. Enter Michael Bay with his reboot trilogy that modernized things with ultra-violence. The first one was alright, but the second one, TCM: The Beginning, was actually awesome, and the most underrated of all. Finally, 2013’s TCM 3D was rough around the edges but introduced an interesting concept between the victim and Leatherface that was pretty groundbreaking for the genre.
Point is, like most long-running horror franchises, there had been a few duds, but almost all of them are more than watchable, either by revamping things for new audiences, or adding interesting new plot elements to keep things fresh. The latest installment, just called “Leatherface”, promised to keep that tradition going with another unique concept and the amazing directors of the French film “Inside” leading the charge.
The movie starts off on the right foot with a great opening scene. We get to see grandpa finish off someone with his famous mallet, and they get the detail of him being “a one-hitter” in his prime just right. This made me think the people behind this might be true hardcore fans and actually know the source material well.
After an incident in which the Sawyer family kills the local sheriff’s daughter (sheriff played by Steven Dorf who you may remember from Blade), he bends the law to get all the Sawyer children locked up in a mental hospital. Ten years later, the patients at this hospital escape and the unique approach to this origin story is that one of the escapees will become Leatherface, but you don’t know which one it will be.
Unfortunately, this is where the film falters. I liked the concept and I was on board with it, but I just couldn’t get behind what they did with it. Leatherface as a character is actually not that interesting. He’s just the muscle, the pet dog for the Sawyer family. What has always been interesting is his fucked up family and how well the individual characters are developed. Unfortunately, almost all of these characters are dull and boring.
We have a Bonnie and Clyde-esque couple, Ike (James Bloor) and Clarice (Jessica Madsen), and at first, I thought the guy might be Nubbin’s (the Hitchhiker from TCM 1), but no, he’s just a random pyscho. Same with Clarice, who was the most interesting character, with a body covered in burn scars, random necrophilic tendencies, and a take no shit Texas attitude. These two embodied the spirit of Chainsaw Massacre more than any others, but they’re not even members of the Sawyer family.
The strength of past films was the “Saw is Family” mentality. Rather than having the band of escapes all be strangers, it would have been far more interesting if they were alll members of the Sawyer family, and we got to see them go on the road, evading the law, Devil’s Rejects style. That’s what made the family twist in TCM 3D so interesting.
SInce the movie is pretty slow, the reason I found myself sitting through it was to see who ended up being Leatherface. Out of all the potential candidates, Bud (Sam Coleman) was the most fitting to what we know of the character, and even when he was shot in the head and it was revealed that (SPOILER) Jackson (Sam Strike) was actually Leatherface I wasn’t buying it. In fact, I was still hoping this was a mislead and Bud would somehow come back with a last minute kill like Tiny in Devils Rejects.
Having Leatherface be originally a “nice guy” who progressively turns psychopathic didn’t work for me. I was expecting almost anything else, even something thrown from way left field like having him revealed to be a female, which would have been just as bad, but at least something unique.
Things do become a little more traditional towards the end. We get a chase sequence with what I’m guessing is supposed to be Nubbins and…Chop Top maybe? These characters have practically no dialogue so if they are meant to be these iconic characters their inclusion is wasted. The final moment when “Leatherface” is expected to kill the nurse (Vanessa Grasse) I was still hoping he’d back down and be revealed not to be the character, but nope, he swings and slices her head off in a transformation that is not believable at all.
Just like the beginning, the movie does at least end on a good note, with a cool scene of Leatherface creating his first mask. Too bad it didn’t come off feeling earned.
So, I guess the track record of the series takes a hit with this one. It’s probably the worst entry so far, although it sits right up there close with TCM 3 (also called Leatherface) and TCM 4. It’s not the worst horror film or sequel I’ve ever seen by a long shot, but as a huge fan of these films, I wish it had been better.
THE REBEL DOMAIN SCORE: