Movie Review: LEATHERFACE (2017)

LEATHERFACE, the latest from directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, gives audiences a look into the origins of the infamous Sawyer family and how the iconic Leatherface came to be. The film, written by Seth M. Sherwood based on the characters by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper, stars Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Sam Strike, Finn Jones, Vanessa Grasse, Jessica Madsen, and James Bloor.

When an origin story comes out, people seem to either irrevocably love it or hate it, with very few in the middle. For example, when Alien: Covenant came out, people were pissed to learn where the origins of the aliens came from. My thoughts on that where, listen, it’s an origin prequel, of course you are going to find out that information, if that’s something that’s concerning then don’t go see the film. The same can be said for LEATHERFACE, a prequel to the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) which of course is going to give us an origin story about how Leatherface became Leatherface. Again, my views on this were if you don’t want to learn that information, then don’t go see the film, it’s that easy.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the film. To start, I must comment on the acting. Stephen Dorff is back, and I for one am very excited for this. Having seen a resurgence in his acting career with not only this film, but the horror/thriller Jackals, he seems to have come back with a fiery vengeance. In LEATHERFACE he plays Texas Ranger Hal Hartman, and he has one hell of a vendetta towards the Sawyer family. Never one to disappoint is Lili Taylor, who plays Verna Sawyer, the matriarch and showrunner for the Sawyer family. Sam Strike, who plays Jackson (aka Leatherface) plays his part well enough and I did enjoy his transition from a “good guy” who is troubled to the monster he becomes. However, the real breakout star was Jessica Madsen, who plays Clarice, a young woman who has her fair share of demons and a fucked up outlook on life. Keep an eye on Ms. Madsen, she is without a doubt a rising talent.

As for the story itself, I thought it was great. I was fascinated by the psychology behind Jackson’s transformation into Leatherface. As far as origin stories go, I thought the story was well rounded and it did it’s job of keeping me engaged throughout the entire run time. Look, LEATHERFACE is not going to win any Oscars and that’s perfectly fine, it’s not that type of film, but as a slasher flick, it did it’s job well and didn’t try to be anything that it wasn’t. I was entertained from the moment we first see Jackson as a kid, to Texas Ranger Hal Hartman’s disdain towards the Sawyer family, to the eventual climax of Leatherface’s appearance. To me, the story was seamless and all encompassing which I very much appreciated. As a side note, for those of you who absolutely hate this film, understand that I am not the biggest Texas Chainsaw Massacre fan. I appreciate the lineage that the film has, as well as how iconic Leatherface is, but as far as iconic horror slashers go, Leatherface isn’t my top choice. With that said, the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie could say a lot, whether that be negative or positive.

In regards to the gore, those of you who love a good gore fest are going to be very happy with the outcome. There were definite moments where I found myself cringing in disgust but not once did I close my eyes or look away. As the saying goes, the saw is family and in this film it’s used with such unforgiving brutality and carnage that it’s kind of shocking. There’s one death scene in particular that comes to mind and though a part of me felt like this character deserved it, it was still pretty difficult to watch.

Overall, LEATHERFACE is definitely one of the more carnage filled films I’ve seen this year. Though not perfect, the film does give us a well told story of the beginnings of Leatherface while also leaving the conclusion open for additional sequels. If you are someone that is adamantly against origin stories, than maybe you should skip this film; however, if you are looking for a ruthless splatterfest with merciless kills, quality acting, and above par storytelling, then you should definitely check out LEATHERFACE.


Shannon McGrew
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