Recently, we crafted a list of 13 Underrated Horror Movies Streaming for Free on Peacock. And one of the first films I slapped onto that list was Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel Leatherface.
I didn’t give it much thought at the time. It just seemed right. And then in the days following I couldn’t get the movie out of my head. Like many of you, I only watched the flick once when it originally hit. And I didn’t think much of it. So now, years later, why was I suddenly unable to think about anything other than the movie? Well, I gave it a rewatch recently and I think I know why it stuck in my mind. Turns out, it’s actually much more brutal and badass than we’ve been giving it credit for.
First off, let’s admit that the film sports an amazing cast. Including Stephen Dorff (Blade), Vanessa Grasse (Open 24 Hours), Sam Strike (The Dark Tower, Chernobyl, Nightflyers, Mindhunter), and Lili Taylor (The Conjuring, The Haunting). Angela Bettis was originally signed on before dropping out due to scheduling conflicts. She was replaced by Lili Taylor. Not a bad substitute. Again, it’s an undeniable killer cast.
The eighth installment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise tells the tale of a violent teen and three others who kidnap a young nurse while escaping from a Texas mental institution. Pursued by a vengeful sheriff, the disturbed young man embarks on a murderous rampage that shapes him into the legendary killer Leatherface.
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It’s rated super R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and some sexuality/nudity. And boy does it do everything it can to earn that rating. We get extremely graphic chainsaw decapitations, neck stabbings, bloody shotgun blasts, hungry-ass inbred pigs, mangled hands, and much, much more.
Then there is the flick’s original teaser trailer. You remember, right? The one set to Patti La Salle’s haunting track “It’s Over”. My God. Fucking phenomenal. Go ahead and do yourself a favor, check it out below if you missed it or haven’t seen it in a while.
But back to what makes it pretty great. Leatherface marks the first Texas Chain Saw Massacre film not shot in the US. Instead, they shot it in Bulgaria for budgetary reasons. And while it seems strange to not shoot a TCM movie in, you know, Texas, the locations are still starkly gorgeous. And I bet 99% of viewers would think it WAS Texas.
One other aspect I enjoy is how the movie takes place in the canon established by Tobe Hooper’s original classic and Texas Chainsaw 3D. Not that Texas Chainsaw was a good movie by any means, I just dig the little connections. Like Dorff playing the father of a character from that flick. Also, neither the film nor the credits mention it, Ted’s last name is Hardesty, making him Sally and Franklin’s father.
So why don’t more people dig the flick? Well maybe it was the delays. After all, filming wrapped in June 2015. But then Lionsgate shelved the flick in 2016.
Writer Seth Sherwood said at the time: “In a strange way, I started to romanticize the idea it became some legendary lost film. It would be coveted – something spoken about, something people would try to contrive some way of seeing, something that would show up on a tired unused media at a convention in 50 years.”
But that didn’t happen. Instead, the film premiered at FrightFest in August 2017. DirecTV then unleashed it exclusively in September 2017 and a wider release in October snagged $1.4M. Worldwide. Thankfully, Lionsgate and Millennium lost the rights to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise after these delays.
Maury and Bustillo (Inside) directed the flick from a screenplay written by Seth M. Sherwood (Light as a Feather, Hell Fest, London Has Fallen). Original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre director Tobe Hooper was an executive producer on Leatherface. It was Hooper’s final film as a producer before his death on August 26th, 2017.
The film sports a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Critics Consensus reads: Leatherface may wear the skin of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel, but it proves gutless as an origin story and finds little invention in the horror tropes it’s cannibalizing.
What do you think? Is Maury and Bustillo’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel with Stephen Dorff, Vanessa Grasse, Sam Strike, and Lili Taylor underrated? Or garbage?