Taking place before the events of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Leatherface tells the story of how Leatherface came to be. After being taken from custody of their mother and put into an asylum, the Sawyer brothers, along with two other patients escape, taking a rookie nurse with them. They then embark on a bloody road trip that leads Jed Sawyer to self-discovery of his deadly destiny.
After being shelved for quite a while, Leatherface is finally seeing a release. Unfortunately, this is one movie that should have been shelved forever, or even better, never been made. It’s all fine and good that they dedicated the movie to have roots to the original (I’ll give it credit for doing a much better job at it than Texas Chainsaw 3D), but that’s all it really has going for it. And these roots hardly bare anything necessary or what we needed to know. Comparing this origin Chainsaw film to the origin film of the remake series, the latter film works much better. Leatherface doesn’t feel anything like a Texas Chain Saw Massacre film until the last 10 minutes with it’s slight nods to the original, and even then they’re really short lived. Instead this movie plays out like a very poor version of The Devil’s Rejects. When it comes to the characters in Leatherface, we are given characters that we are expected to root for as they’re being hunted by a revenge-seeking sheriff whose daughter was killed by the Sawyer boys. If they really expect us to root for the Sawyer clan, they’re dead wrong. These are horrible fricken people, and we don’t even get really any sense of them as a family to really given the smallest care about them. The Devil’s Rejects miraculously captured this well, despite the characters being horrible, we still got these of their care for each other to even slightly care about them. We don’t want to feel sorry for the Sawyer clan, we’re supposed to fear them. The sheriff, played by Stephen Dorff, isn’t even likable. The death of his daughter is sad, but we don’t see him showing any real grief to give us that emotional pull, he just become crazed with revenge to where he almost becomes as much of a villain as the Sawyers.
The closest thing we have to a character to root for is the young nurse named Lizzie, played by Vanessa Grasse. Lizzie is a likable character and you do feel sorry for her, but as a final girl there isn’t exactly anything special about her. On top of that, with this being a prequel, you know what’s going to happen so you don’t even see much point in caring. For most of the film we are left to guess which of the male escapees becomes Leatherface, and it’s quite frankly obvious even though they try use the worst and most obvious red-herring ever. In general the script is extremely lazy and only seeks to gross people out with the deaths and gore scenes, and Jed Sawyer’s motivation for becoming Leatherface is so fricken stupid and groan-worthy. Most of these scenes are just plain bad and seem to going out of its way to be gross, and by the end you just become infuriated because this movie just serves no purpose and offers viewers nothing other than to see an innocent character reach their unfairly brutal demise.
Besides the script being lazy, the camerawork comes off as this as well. It felt like they were trying to capture the gritty feel of the original, but it comes off as sloppy. If I had to pick any positives for this movie it’s the occasional nods to the original, and most especially the reconstruction of the Sawyer farm. Along with this, the acting isn’t terrible, it’s actually pretty decent. Stephen Dorff does his Stephen Dorff thing, the actors playing the Sawyer boys do a good job of imitating their adult counterparts in the original as best as they can, Vanessa Grasse, as I mentioned, is really likable and manages to make you care about Lizzie. Nicole Andrews turns in a pretty solid performance as a mental patient Tammy who goes on the road trip. Andrews seems to be trying to channel a more gritty and less playful version of Baby Firefly, and she’s pretty good at it. Finally we have Lili Taylor as Mama Verna Sawyer. Taylor does a decent job here, but she really could have amped the crazy.
Leatherface is a pointless movie in so many ways and never should have been made. Even as a film in general it’s mediocre at best and feels like a B-movie. Poor script, poor direction, and it ultimately leaves you with nothing in the end. Sure it has decent acting, good nods to the original film, and a great set re-creation of the farm, but I cannot recommend this film at all.