• Leatherface

    Released by: Lionsgate
    Released on: December 19th, 2017.
    Director: Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo
    Cast: Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Sam Coleman, Sam Strike, Vanessa Grasse
    Year: 2017
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    The Movie:

    The history of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre franchise is a muddy one, with multiple sequels, prequels and remakes all vying for horror fans’ attention. Clearly Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s cannibalistic creation still touches a nerve with audiences, as despite the low to middling quality of most of what followed in the original film’s wake, they’re still cranking them out. Case in point, 2017’s Leatherface, a film that, for the first time, purports to show the truth behind the origin of one of cinema’s most iconic killing machines.

    When the film begins, we’re introduced to the Sawyer family as they torture a man who was messing around with their property. It isn’t a subtle intro, but it sets the tone for what happens next. From there, a pretty young woman and her date are driving along a back road in Texas. They swerve to avoid hitting something in the road. The girl gets out, sees a weird little kid wearing a cow’s head as a mask and follows him through the brush to an old barn. Here the girl is killed. Shortly after, Sheriff Hal Hartman (Stephen Dorff) shows up. The girl that was just murdered was his daughter and he knows that the Sawyer family, led by matriarch Verna (Lily Taylor) had something to do with it even if he can’t prove it. As payback, he has her youngest son Jed (Boris Kabakchiev) locked away in a mental hospital.

    Ten years later, we voyage inside that hospital with Lizzy (Vanessa Grasse), a nurse who has just started working under the care of Doctor Lang (Christopher Adamson). She tries her best to be friendly to the patients and get to know them. Most of them, like Clarice (Jessica Madsen) and Ike (James Bloor), blow her off or mouth off to her. But Jackson (Sam Strike) and his friend Bud (Sam Coleman), a big oaf who doesn’t talk much, are at least civil to her. When Verna shows up insisting that she be allowed to see her son, Lang responds that unless she gets the proper paperwork in order he can’t unseal the records that document what the kid’s name was changed to. As such, he has no way of knowing which one of his patients used to answer to Jed Sawyer. Of course, she knows it’s a lie and after leaving his office starts enough trouble that the understaffed hospital soon erupts into chaos.

    Ike and Claris, after stopping for a quickie in the hallway, escape as the hospital burns down behind them. On their way out, they grab Bud and take Jackson and Bud hostage, going on a Devil’s Rejects/Natural Born Killers inspired crime spree that takes up much too much of the film’s running time. But of course, the cops are after them, led by none other than Hartman. As tensions rise between the escaped patients, things take some twisted and violent turns and inevitably, yes, we kinda-sorta get to the origin of Leatherface before it’s all over.

    While hardly an unwatchable disaster, Leatherface is pretty mediocre stuff. The first two thirds really do feel like more of a Rob Zombie inspired white trash mashup. Every other word out of Ike and Claris’ mouth is fuck, they have no qualms about working out their kinks in public and they just sort of sleazily work their way through what little plot there is as crassly as possible. It’s honestly a bit much, not because of the strong content, but because we just don’t care about these people. There’s no character development and they’re completely dislikeable. Jackson, Bud and Lizzy fair a little better – the audience isn’t asked to hate them, but again, their very thin in terms of how they’re written. They’re not very well fleshed out or really all that interesting. You could argue that the reasoning behind this is that we’re supposed to be kept in the dark about who Jed Sawyer really is. On that level it does work – it’s clearly either Bud, Ike or Jackson – but it just isn’t all that interesting a guessing game to play.

    The last third of the film does at least partially redeem things, however. There’s a few good twists and some eerie imagery here. There’s a bit of fan service in the film – a recreation of the iconic butt shot from the original and of course, that camera noise that’s so instantly associated with the film – but not enough to really hurt the film anymore than it’s already hurt itself.

    Performances are fine. Jessica Madsen and James Bloor are as despicable as they should be, Vanessa Grasse is innocent and likeable and Sam Strike and Sam Coleman fall somewhere in the middle. Stephen Dorff is in full on scenery chewing mode here but he’s at least fun to watch, while Lili Taylor hardly embarrasses herself as the momma bear of the Sawyer family.

    The film does at least look good. It’s nicely shot and well lit, it’s shadowy and occasionally atmospheric. The mental hospital scenes have an appreciable sense of doom and gloom to them and the later scenes that take us inside the Sawyer’s farm house are appropriately dire. The effects are also very well done and seem to be entirely practical rather than CGI based – always a nice touch. The movie goes for a hard R-rating here, throwing a lot of gore at the audience. It’s a shame that there really isn’t much of a story here…


    Leatherface looks really good on Blu-ray, framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. As this was shot digitally there’s no print damage to not. Detail is generally very strong, even in the darker scenes such as those that take place in the barn at night. Color reproduction is excellent, though there are some spots where you wonder if the filmmakers didn’t tint things just slightly to give it a ‘hot’ look. Skin tones look good, nice and natural, while black levels are really strong. No complaints here. The image is free of compression artifacts and any obvious edge enhancement.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, the only audio option on the disc, is strong. There’s very good directional effects present throughout, more obvious and impressive during the action set pieces, while balance is fine. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and there are no issues with any hiss or with any distortion. There’s good subwoofer action here too, the low end providing a nice, solid rumble when the chainsaw is used and heightening the power behind the shotgun blasts.

    The extras allow you to play the feature with an alternate ending. That alternate ending, as well as an alternate opening scene, are also available to watch individually in the twenty-one minute of deleted and alternate scenes that are included on the disc.

    Also found on the disc is a thirteen-minute featurette entitled Behind The Bloody Mask: Making Leatherface. It isn’t particularly deep, it plays off as more of a promotional piece than anything else, but it does include some thoughts from the cast and crew about the film. They seem to be under the impression that they made a much more intelligent and effective film than they really did.

    Additionally, the disc includes menus and chapter selection. Before the main menus load, ten minutes of trailers for other Lionsgate properties play. Included with the disc is an insert card that contains a download code for a Digital HD version of the movie. All of this comes wrapped up in a slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    For its first two thirds, Leatherface is tiresome and dull. Thankfully in the last third of the movie things do pick up considerably, but even then, the film never gets past mediocre. It’s nicely shot, the performances are okay and it has solid practical gore effects, but the story is pretty uninspired. Lionsgate, to their credit, have done a nice job with the disc. If it isn’t stacked with extras it does look and sound really good. Your mileage may vary.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      I HATED this movie. It felt more like a Devil's Rejects/Natural Born Killers rip off than a true TCM film. Hell the TCM elements felt shoe horned in and the twist of the movie was beyond stupid. This could've been an effective origin story about the original Leatherface but it falls flat on its face and is actually kind of boring.

      It did look great and has some decent practical gore but I'm not adding this to my collection any time soon.
    1. Maureen Champ's Avatar
      Maureen Champ -
      Leatherface universe didn't deserve these films since Michael Bay's effort