Leatherface (2017)

LeatherfaceStarring Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Sam Strike, Sam Coleman, Vanessa Grasse, Nicole Andrews, Julian Kostov, Jessica Madsen, Lorina Kamburova

Directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury


Remember the gory French flick Inside? Everyone was talking about it when it came out… especially that scene with the scissors. *shudder* But that was 10 years back, and we haven’t heard a whole lot from the directing duo Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury since then. There’s been some stuff, but not on the grand guignol scale of their big-screen debut.

Now the terror team is back in a bold, bloody way with Leatherface, the newest feature in the Texas Chain Saw Massacre canon. The father of the franchise, Tobe Hooper, passed away just as this installment enjoyed its world premiere at FrightFest in London last weekend. As it turns out, Leatherface is a worthy epitaph to his half-century career as a master of horror.

That’s not to say I loved Leatherface, though. It’s far too disgusting for my taste (I’m okay with gore, but there’s some gooey necrophilia in this flick that I felt was just thrown in for the ick of it), and there are too many plot holes. Still, it’s a very well made film, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the acting is aces across the board.

Since we live in the age of the origin story and the erasure of all mystery, it’s only fitting that Leatherface spoon-feeds us absolutely everything on how Jed Sawyer became a ruthless, single-minded cannibal. We meet him in the 1950s as a squeamish little boy whose hillbilly ma Verna (Lili Taylor) forces the tot to eat the meat of their family’s enemies – or anyone who happens to be passing by the derelict farmhouse. After his precious daughter is slaughtered by Verna, Sheriff Hal Hinton (Stephen Dorff) goes on the warpath. The grizzled lawman does not have enough evidence to convict the malevolent matriarch, so he hauls Jed off to a state mental hospital in order to punish the Sawyers as best he can.

Ten years later, fresh-faced newbie nurse Lizzy White (Vanessa Grasse) begins work at the Gorman House facility and tries to connect with the patients using kindness and understanding. All this does is get her kidnapped when some of the more unhinged inmates riot and escape. The ringleaders are a psychotic couple called Ike (James Bloor) and Clarice (Jessica Madsen), who force two other patients – simpleton Bud (Sam Coleman) and good-guy Jackson (Sam Strike) – to hold Lizzy hostage and do their evil biddings as they try to stay as many steps ahead of Sheriff Hinton as they can while they make their way toward the Mexican Border. What follows is an admirable, yet somewhat dumbed-down macabre mashup of “American Horror Story: Asylum,” Badlands, and Natural Born Killers.

While the account is not terribly original, Bustillo and Maury bring a joie de mort giddiness to Leatherface. It’s great to see their French New Wave/splatterpunk sensibilities come alive once again, and I hope to see an original – not an origin – story from them next.

You’ll be able to find Leatherface exclusively on DIRECTV September 21, 2017, and in theaters and On Demand beginning October 20th.

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Staci Layne Wilson

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