Written by Seth M. Sherwood and directed by French horror masters Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, famous for their horror debut L’INTERIOR, LEATHERFACE, the main killer in the late Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, is a prequel to that film tracing the origin of the character LEATHERFACE. Hooper executively produced the movie.
The film begins with a disturbing scene in the Sawyer household. A birthday party is being held by the family matriarch Verna Sawyer (Lili Taylor) for the youngest member of the family Jedidiah. As his present and to induct him into the sadistic family rituals, Jed is presented with a chainsaw and forced to torture a man accused of stealing one of their pigs. Jed refuses, visibly disturbed and the thief is killed by Grandpa.
A few months later a young couple Betty Hartman and Ted Hardesty are driving through the family territory when they come across a seemingly wounded Jed. Betty follows him to a dilapidated barn where she’s promptly killed by the family. Hours later her father Sheriff Hartman (Stephen Dorff) arrives to find her dead. As Verna arrives to protect her sons, Hartman quickly takes Jed into his custody as revenge, sending him to a mental asylum for disturbed youths. The doctor of the asylum keeps the youths there indefinitely. His reasoning is that if they are let out – they either come back or go to prison.
As expected in LEATHERFACE, audiences would expect to see disturbingly horrific scenes like the taking of the hammer to a victim’s head or a Sawyer family member cutting himself then laughing and taking a photograph of it. Sadly there are no moments in Leatherface that can better these. But the sheriff pressing his finger into a wound and pigs eating a wounded but live deputy come close.
It has been a long time – close to 50 years (how time flies when one is having fun with a chainsaw) that the Sawyer family used the saw and hammer as murder weapons. Not many will recall what happened in the TEXAN CHAINSAW MASSACRE film, so LEATHERFACE could very well be a standalone film. Hardly anyone, for example can remember grandpa in the original movie, taking a hammer to a girl’s head but too weak to kill her. Grandpa is younger and alive in this prequel. But LEATHERFACE also plays as a revenge film. Sheriff Hartman goes crazy in exacting a revenge for his dead daughter. The nurse at the mental institution serves as the new heroine at the mercy of the Sawyer family. Though LEATHEFACE has a stronger narrative, anyone going to see film in this horror genre is not really interested in plot. They would be more interested in horror and graphic violence pushed to some new psychological level.
Though the film establishes the reason Jed wears the leather mask and called leatherface, it does not reveal any clues on the reason the Sawyer family or the matriarch in particular came into being. Why would they eat humans (not shown in this film) when they is plenty of pigs on their farm? This prequel is ok for TEXAS CHAINSAW fans, but does the rest of the world need to see this?