Currently available on most VOD platforms is one of the newest horror movies of 2017, Leatherface. Leatherface is yet another title in the list of horror movies of 2017—joining films like Rings, Alien: Covenant, and Cult of Chucky—that come from a franchise from years gone by. Leatherface is the eighth installment in the series, and like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, this also serves as a prequel to the original film.
When the original Chainsaw film debuted in 1974, it completely changed the genre of horror. And like other game-changing horror movies, like Psycho and Halloween, the original was just too much for the sequels to live up to. So, what’s a horror franchise to do? Well, the answer to some is, create an origin story. But origin stories are hit and miss when it comes to the horror genre.
Leatherface begins with a setting that has become famous from the brand’s previous movies, the family dinner table. Young Jedidiah “Jed” Sawyer, better known as Leatherface, is celebrating his birthday. Joining the deranged family at the dinner table is their latest victim, and Jed receives a chainsaw as his gift. The family tries to make him use it on their bound houseguest, but young Jed is hesitant.
The first part of the film is just violence and gore centered around a young child being abused and brainwashed. It’s unsettling for sure, but not the type of disquieting emotion that can be found in critically acclaimed horror movies like The Witch and The Exorcist; there is no suspense or build-up in the first act of the film, just in-your-face disturbing imagery. Where the original film was distressing, it was also scary—this movie lacks the latter.
For reasons you can easily assume, by the second act of the film, young Leatherface is placed in a mental institution. But since his name has been changed, the audience is not sure which troubled youth in the institution is the future chainsaw-wielding maniac. This provides a mystery to the movie that’s not at all necessary. And most likely, viewers will figure out who Leatherface is long before the anticlimactic reveal.
With a critics’ score of 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and an audience score of 28 percent, Leatherface is rated as one of the worst horror movies of 2017. This is probably because of two things: senseless gore without any scares or fun (two ingredients in many popular horror movies), and genre fans don’t always want a backstory on their horror baddie. Often, the more mysterious the villain is, the creepier they are. If you want people to enjoy sausage, don’t show them how the sausage is made.
There are some new elements here that you won’t find in previous Chainsaw movies, and it is revealed how Leatherface became disfigured. For those that were curious of that, your curiosity will be settled. But for those horror fans that felt the mystery behind Leatherface was part of the appeal to his story, this could take away from that.
For those that have seen all the movies in this horror franchise, then this may be worth the watch since you’ve already come this far. But otherwise, you are better served just revisiting the original or even the 2003 reboot. With low scores from both critics and audiences alike, a lack of suspense, and a cornucopia of pointless gore and imagery, Leatherface is one of the most disappointing horror movies of 2017.
[Featured Image by Lionsgate Premiere]