Sunday, January 21, 2018

Phil's Horror Watch: LEATHERFACE (2017) from Lionsgate Films - January 11, 2018

When it was announced that a new TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE movie was in the works, I was very skeptical. The original 1974 film is a classic in not only the horror genre, but in the cinematic world as well. It spawned three sequels, a remake and prequel, and then finally a 3-D sequel in 2013 (which was the first film I saw that year). Then it was reported that it would be a prequel (another one?), taking its place as cannon to the late Tobe Hooper's original nightmare and TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D. Produced by Millennium Films and released by Lionsgate, LEATHERFACE attempts to shed new light on an iconic character.

Original Theatrical Poster (2017)
The film's official synopsis: In Texas, years before the events of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, in the early days of the infamous Sawyer family, the youngest child is sentenced to a mental hospital after a suspicious incident leaves the sheriff's daughter dead. Ten years later, he kidnaps a young nurse and escapes with three other inmates. Pursued by authorities, including the deranged sheriff out to avenge his daughter’s death, the Sawyer teen goes on a violent road trip from hell, molding him into the monster now known as Leatherface.

I felt conflicted for several reasons after my viewing of the movie. While it's an unnecessary prequel, I really enjoyed the move as a whole. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (INSIDE, LIVID, AMONG THE LIVING) have crafted a beautifully shot film; filling the screen with gorgeous landscapes in contrast with the ugliness of humanity along with violence and bloodshed. These two filmmakers made their name during the French Renaissance of Horror that took America by storm a decade ago, and they bring that same style to the legend of Leatherface and his deplorable clan. They do a tremendous job of creating a film that focuses on character development and story while injecting their trademarks of slow burn thrills and bloody gore.

The cast is also outstanding and deserves a round of applause. Stephen Dorff's Sheriff Hal Hartman craves revenge on the Sawyer family for killing his daughter. (Fun fact: Hartman is the father of Burt Hartman from TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D) Dorff is the man you sympathize with but you also hate, and he's good at doing that. The iconic Lili Taylor portrays Verna Sawyer, mother of Leatherface and the matriarch of the Sawyer Clan. Taylor is one of my favorite underrated actresses today. Then we have the five young actors and actresses who really carry the movie. Sam Coleman (Bud), Sam Strike (Jackson), James Bloor (Ike), Vanessa Grasse (Lizzy), and Jessica Madsen (Clarice) all deserve praise for their performances and really bring something to their respective roles. They all are that damn good in the movie!

Now, let me reiterate what I stated earlier. I really enjoyed the film, however, it really is an unnecessary prequel. Another thing I wanted to address is something that I talked about in my original TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D. So now I'm supposed to ignore all of the other films and just pretend they don't exist because this film is now being touted as cannon because it takes place before Hooper's original? Let me explain something to you all. By doing this, you are dismissing and ignoring all of the contributions that these talented filmmakers did for this franchise. In fact, by doing so, you are spitting on all their hard work, their blood, sweat, and tears that they have put into the legacy of Leatherface and his films. In my opinion, all these talented people that worked in front of and behind the camera deserve more respect than this. Maybe I'm getting all worked up for nothing. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I feel like we, the horror fans, and the TCM fans, are being insulted, along with all those who made all the previous films that I mentioned. But like I said, that's how I see it and that's how I feel about all of this.

LEATHERFACE is an entertaining horror film, but it isn't really a horror film that we needed. As great the movie is, I feel like it should have been its own entity instead of being part of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE franchise. Hopefully fans will enjoy the movie, but I'm still waiting to see the further adventures of the infamous Sawyer Clan. 3 out of 5 stars! It's worth a look!

LEATHERFACE is currently available on both Blu-Ray and DVD from Lionsgate Fims. The film is also available on Digital HD, iTunes and VOD.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the horror!

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