If there is one lesson that studios are only too eager to teach an awaiting public, it is that you can’t keep a character like Leatherface down. With just his iconic flailing and ever-evolving design, the masked killer has adapted for over four decades, each time re-inventing the backstory to match. In 2017, the audiences will once again learn how the iconic slayer got his knack for chainsawing people, and those who tried desperately to stop him, in Leatherface.
In the mid-50s, Jed Sawyer has a hard time fitting in with his family, a gleeful collection of cannibalistic killers. After the sheriff’s daughter is killed, but with little in the way of concrete evidence that the family was responsible, Sheriff Hartman takes vengeance by sectioning all the Sawyer children into custody. After 10 years of institutionalisation, Jed forms a relationship with Nurse Lizzy. When a breakout ensues, Jed and his fellow inmates make a run for it, taking Lizzy with them. Escaping back to his house will take young Jed on a twisted odyssey, as the company he is with starts to rub off on him. Hartman, meanwhile, may learn the heart of the lesson that you shouldn’t mess with the Sawyers, as they try to make up for the lost time.
I feel almost sorry for those trying to keep the continuity straight in their heads, with each studio seemingly intent on making their version of events. Although I think that this speaks to the strengths of Leatherface, He reflects the different eras, with aplomb, and I’d say a lot better than a lot of his killer contemporaries. Leatherface does so in this entirely retro setting much akin to Platinum Dune’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, With another telling of the tale of how Leatherface became the same Leatherface we met almost 50 years ago.
A lot of the prequel’s strength lies in its characters, but as the film is called Leatherface, it makes sense to focus on Jed. It feels peculiar seeing a talking non-homicidal version of Jed after all these years, along with the tragic events that made him who he was; the shy and unsure kid, enduring the psychologically arduous trek, will put a lot of pressure on the boy. It comes more naturally to his fellow escapees through Ike, who feels like he’s trying his best to emulate Matthew McConaughey and Clarice who brings Chop-Top’s flair to the film. Having Stephen Dorff, who is no stranger to depicting the long arm of the law, is a nice touch; imbuing his character with a certain depth that makes his character one of the more memorable additions to the franchise in recent memory.
Leatherface offers yet another origin into the sins of the Sawyer clan, for those who didn’t even know that they wanted an origin story. While from the offset it doesn’t seem like it’s the most original (Yet another origin story, yet another film called Leatherface) it does manage to inject ingenuity in its character creations and the odds they overcome to get home. If you can stomach yet another helping of the Sawyer brand of cooking, Leatherface might be just the family outing to bring a new step in the franchise.
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