Leatherface, 2017

© Millennium Films © Lionsgate Films

You ready for your present?

Lili Taylor as Verna
“Down on the Farm”

I could never really understand the reason behind the effort being put, to inject some soul, yet again, into a previously, very well established and iconic serial killer picture; nope, I don’t get it, I just don’t know why is there a need for a cultural cue by granting substance to an important part of both film and real deal history. Such characters have become evil incarnate as time makes films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974 immortal.

It makes them run through the veins of generations to come and go. Why then try (and be successful) at giving a heart to the fucking devil himself, to offer Ed Gein a fucking slice of pizza, late at night while he’s over to watch a late-night show with you? Leatherface, in this case, is shown wandering with a group of boys and girls of similar age, perhaps between nineteen and twenty-one; vast green landscape and all (Stand by Me?).

Plus the horror here stems from a terrible thought, that there is no one behind the mask. However, there is someone, who puts on an old lady’s mask (that he has intricately stitched together after killing poor granny) when we watch Leatherface suddenly come out of the butcher shop/room, in the original from 1974, and then on the dinner table when he dons a mask that looks like it once belonged to a young woman, complete to the glut of makeup and lipstick. This is all inspired by true events, based on the serial killer Ed Gein (1906-1984). The man actually cut off body parts and stitched them together to make ‘breasts’, female body parts, and masks.

Well, whatever may be the case, the film is nevertheless, incredibly, awesomely, jaw-droppingly violent. It even goes ahead and pays a full-throttle, head-on homage to Natural Born Killers, 1994. Leatherface is deliciously violent and it knows that. The filmmakers need not add to the super haunting, violent, and frightening lore of Massacre, by Tobe Hooper (Djinn, 2013), who has already done a stupefying job, forty-six years ago. Well, one of the reasons could be, a Lionsgate executive who was dissatisfied with the inconsistencies of the franchise’s continuity and this is an attempt to course-correct the TCM franchise.

Gozu? Anyone?

It could also be that this isn’t a sequel, it is a prequel (and that is just how writer Seth M. Sherwood pitched his story to the decision-makers at Lionsgate Films) and shows to us how the devil was born, it could also be that here the narrative is being driven more by the plot than gore. Leatherface it is not as much about a crazed lunatic chasing woman in forests (that part is here as well), but giving ‘the chase’ an identity. Do we need that? I ask since we’ve already seen that in Halloween, 1978, and Dr. Sam Loomis was a good doctor; and also perhaps Patient Seven, 2016.

Talking of being self-aware, the sight of Stephen Dorff as Sheriff
Hal Hartman
got me thinking of Deacon Frost all the way from 1998. The Sheriff huffs and puffs in the face of another horror-regular, Lili Taylor (I Shot Andy Warhol, 1996) as Verna, mommy to the title itself.
So yeah, now, after forty-three (very) odd years they decide to give the monstrosity a mom like the Alien franchise.

I also remember watching that guy from Texas Chainsaw (Thomas Brown Hewitt) making his first kill in a cow-chopper. This time it’s an impressive, audio-delayed, whack on the head; a curb stomp with the audio/visual relaying all the details in HD. But nothing even close to the gravelly texture of the 1974 original. Having said that, the acting, especially by the underrated Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor, and ‘impending doom’ cinematography (by Antoine Sanier) are brilliant; they are the film’s redeeming moments, qualities. Where nothing can truly live up to the original film, directors Bustillo and Maury have made one of the better films the franchise has to offer. We get to watch long-winded sequences of chaos and the highway and the cabin in the woods, however, without the exaggerated gore, which is still plenty. Maintaining a considerate reunion of the Sawyers, the film is sustained by its gore, visual style, and acting. 
Therefore the opinions are divided, just like everything else in these strange times.

One would easily shrug this version off like its predecessors, however, the visceral nature of the film, despite the unnecessary origin story and a fatboy-slim attitude, and the unforgiving visuals (one of the sequences is just too despicable to watch, plenty shocking for this pilgrim) makes Leatherface an event-driven film, which does not rely wholly on the violence, a film that is self-aware and one, which also somewhat saves the franchise from falling apart because of being beaten repeatedly over the years.

With its dreadful and visually simulating look and feel, Leatherface makes an impression: this is the version of these times, gritty and bloody. And the ending is as satisfying as a hearty kill.

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