|Basically, fuck you
The movie is about the notorious Sawyer family before they were inbred cannibal hillbillies with a chainsaw-wielding madman, and merely inbred cannibal hillbillies. The boys murder the daughter of the local sheriff (Stephen Dorff) for what the hellsies, prompting him to send the youngest son to a home for disturbed children where his name is changed. Some years later, a group of young people, including a psychopathic necrophiliac couple (James Bloor & Jessica Madsen), the mostly gentle giant Bud (Sam Coleman), one of the nurses from the institution (Vanessa Grasse), and a perfectly normal not-at-all-a-killer handsome regular sized dude (Sam Strike) escape from the institution. The group goes on some sort of spree across Texas, pursued by the increasingly violent and sadistic sheriff.
Leatherface seems like it has a lot of stuff to say about an array of social issues plaguing America at present - it addresses how the foster care system fails children with its depiction of a thinly-veiled lunatic asylum masquerading as a home for troubled youth; class division, with the matriarch of the family (Lili Taylor) marrying into money and hiring a lawyer in an attempt to be able to see her child; gun control, in one scene where the scary girl takes a gun from a restaurant patron's side holster, then goes for the shotgun behind the bar, proclaiming "I love Texas"; Texan Pride, when same girl tells the sheriff "kiss my Texan ass"; and police brutality, with the sheriff indiscriminately killing and torturing unarmed and restrained teen-convicts. While these social elements are all interesting, most of them are negated by having the characters with whom we most sympathize be vile, degenerate monsters. One could argue that having both the protagonists and antagonists be horrific, unpleasant people presents a fair and unbiased look at both sides of the issues the movie seeks to tackle, but what it actually does is make the movie boring and unenjoyable.
The only likeable and/or complicated character in the movie is Bud, who seems to genuinely want to do the right thing but is manipulated by his companions to the point that he doesn't know what the right thing to do is, but other than that there is next to no delving into his character. This is in part because the movie so badly wants us to think that Bud is going to turn out to be Leatherface, because he's huge and quiet, but capable of extreme violence when threatened. This would have absolutely been a more interesting direction for the character. Instead, Leatherface decides that Leatherface was once a small, polite, mild-mannered boy, the person one would least suspect to become Leatherface, making him automatically the person I most suspected.
The gore is pretty gross, although there's entirely too little of it. One of the big mistakes that the movie makes is forgetting that people watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies for the violence, gore, and rampant misogyny, not the family drama.
If you're going to make a horror movie about family drama, at least try to make that drama somewhat interesting (see Rob Zombie's Halloween, a movie which did everything wrong and still managed to pique my interest). At the start of the movie, the Sawyer family is already torturing a dude for stealing their pigs, dropping an engine on a girl for no reason, and giving a chainsaw to the youngest son for fun. The origin story of Leatherface, according to this movie, boils down to "well he's a fucked up murderer because his family is all fucked up murderers and they nicely asked him to fucked up murder some people". Killing people who trespassed on their land I can get. That's a specific situation that could gradually spiral into something else. But they lure the sheriff's daughter (Lorina Kamburova) into a barn and murder her for no real reason other than they're bored, which is not even at all a jump away from killing other people out of boredom.
There's a lot of stuff in the movie that doesn't get any satisfactory explanation or backstory - for example, what happened to Lili Taylor's other kids? When the sheriff's daughter gets murdered, the sheriff declares that the oldest brother will be sent to the electric chair (some other characters say that he won't because there's no solid evidence against him, but the sheriff is crazy and crooked as fuck so... I don't see why that's an issue) and that all the other children will be rounded up and sent into foster care or institutions. Towards the end of the movie, all the kids are back on the farm, and it's super unclear how they managed to get there.
The nurse, who is kind of the main character I guess, is absolutely fucking useless throughout. She tries to escape roughly every fifteen minutes (in a ninety minute movie) and always fails, then stands around doing jack shit to help while somebody rescues her. One of her escape attempts leads to Bud getting killed by the police, which triggers Niceman McMilderson's transformation into Leatherface McMurderboner. She even tries to save the sheriff from the Sawyer's house even though she knows he's an asshole. All of this I would expect - though not necessarily like - in an older movie, but in this age of female-led powerhouse horror (for more thorough analysis of feminism and horror I refer you to Anatomy of a Scream) it seems lazy and dated.
Ultimately, the worst thing about Leatherface is that it takes itself way too seriously. There is not one ounce of joy to be found in the movie. There's a scene where the errant teens shoot up a restaurant full of people, which is reminiscent of something out of Near Dark or Natural Born Killers but with all the fun sucked out of it. Even the shittiest entries in the original continuity were weird and goofy, but this is a turgid slog.
- Lili Taylor appears in the film (+1)
- The Power of Moms (+1)
- The Power of Friendship (+1)
- Gore is okay (+1)
- Some cool things made of bones (+1)
- There's a girl with burnt titties which is sort of unusual (+1)
- Rips off/"homages" Friday the 13th for some reason? (-1)
- This backstory sucks (-1)
- The Halloween remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies (-1)
- The timeline of this series is all fucked up (-1)
- ECT in horror movies is cliched as hell (-1)
- Two characters get their fuck on while escaping from the mental institution which is the most obnoxiously out of place sex scene in a mainstream movie since Shoot 'em Up (-1)
- Way too serious (-1)
- The group has a bonfire inside a god damn camper and don't die of smoke inhalation (-1)
- Necrophilia can probably give you weird diseases (-1)
- The nurse is a dumbass (-2)
- The movie is so boring at one point the characters are covered from head to toe in blood and it's not even people blood (-1)
- Movie forgets that smell is a sense that humans have (-1)
- Predictable as shit (-1)
Final Score: -8
Directed by: Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo. Written by: Seth M. Sherwood. Starring: Vanessa Grasse, Sam Strike, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, James Bloor, Jessica Madsen, Sam Coleman.