Plot: What’s it about?
I’ve always said that Leatherface makes for one hell of a killer even if most of the films are subpar. There’s just something about a large disfigured man wielding a chainsaw that is more than terrifying. As I said, most of the various Chainsaw outings have been subpar. I am a fan of the original and the remake (yes, I said the remake). I feel all the other entries have failed to measure up. The timeline can be a bit confusing to the casual viewer as well. While we got the remake in 2003, in 2006 we had a prequel to that remake in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. After that we got a sequel to the original 1974 film with Texas Chainsaw 3D and now here we are yet again with a prequel to the original film with Leatherface. It’s basically meant to start fresh and show us the origins of the title character. I have strong feelings against horror prequels as the very nature of them proves frustrating to me. When we pretty much know the villain can’t die, it takes away a lot of the fun and suspense. I’ll dive more into it in the next paragraph, but this chapter tries to have fun with the idea of who exactly will become Leatherface. I’ll admit that I was thrown in a bit of a loop, but even with that central mystery, it can’t cloud the fact that the victims this time really don’t stand a chance. This was my biggest issue with the 2006 prequel to the remake. We know that the victims won’t make it and that Leatherface can’t die. This isn’t a spoiler since we saw them alive and well in the 2003 remake. Let’s take a look at the plot, shall we?
In 1955 we see young Jed (Boris Kabakchiev) being luring a young lady to follow him through the woods saying that he needs her help. The girl is Betty (Lorina Kamburova) and she does follow him, but is ultimately killed by the several members of the Sawyer family. The problem with them choosing Betty as their victim is that her father is a Texas Ranger, Hal Hartman (Stephen Dorff). Jed is then taken away to a mental asylum where his mother, Verna (Lili Taylor) tries effortlessly to see him. We then cut to ten years later where Jed (after a riot) escapes the asylum with some fellow patients, along with a young nurse, Elizabeth White (Vanessa Grasse). The film then becomes something of a road picture as we follow Jed and a few others on their escape which will lead them to Mexico where they’re to then go their separate ways. There’s a nasty shootout at a local diner and some quieter moments between these characters. Hartman is off screen for large portions of the film until the last half which finally gets down to business.
Truth be told, the idea behind this film is too flawed to have ever really worked. There’s only so much suspense to muster up from a horror prequel. It certainly is shot very well, and makes great use of the Texas landscape, but that only carries us so far. It’s also interesting (to some extent) to see how and why the title character has to wear a mask, but I had a hard time caring about any of it. I imagine most viewers will be squirming in their seats, not because of the tension. Instead because the film is so downright boring at times. Those simply wanting to see some gory chainsaw action will be largely disappointed as that’s kept off screen until the last few moments. Even then it’s too little, too late. The Hartman character is the closest thing we have here to a character we can almost relate to, but he’s far from a hero. We also know that certain things can’t happen since this takes place before the events of the original film. If anything, the film is just gross. As a couple has sex, one of them kisses and licks a dead corpse next to them. Not frightening, but just gross.
Moving forward, I think this series just needs an overhaul. They need to forget the timeline and continuity and simply start fresh. No more prequels or sequels to tie into each other, but a standalone film with no baggage to carry. I think by now the filmmakers know that they’ll never make a chapter that’s as disturbing as the original, but this character has the potential to make a great horror flick. I feel a simple reboot forgetting everything else would be the best step. The fear of the unknown is much scarier than having things spelled out to us. I don’t care to know the origins of these characters. Evil doesn’t always have to be explained to us. I suppose time will tell, but I found this entry more than disappointing and downright boring.
Video: How’s it look?
One thing must be said and that’s that this film looks quite nice in HD. The image is AVC encoded with a 2.39:1 ratio and looks continually strong throughout. One of the film’s strengths lie in the visuals, and that’s presented here nicely. The sunny backdrop never displays any softness or grain and is more than pleasing to the eyes. The same can’t be said for some of the content seen here, but it’s at least presented accurately. Bloods are deep red and flesh tones nice and smooth. This transfer does the film justice.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track shows good range as well. There’s not a ton of chainsaw action here, save for a few moments, but things are still solid across the board. Vocals have a crispness to them and the little details throughout the film show the strong depth. Rear channels remained active through most of the film as well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Play Feature with Alternate Ending – Self-explanatory. If you want to watch the film with the alternate ending, then you have that option. It’s also included separately in the deleted scenes section.
- Behind the Bloody Mask: Making Leatherface – This goes for little over 13 minutes and has some decent interviews. They speak of how they hoped viewers would wonder who would become the title character, among other things.
- Deleted Scenes – This includes an alternate opening and ending as well as some others. Don’t expect anything substantial, but the alternate ending is fun to see. I still prefer the theatrical to this, however.
The Bottom Line
I still hold out hope that there will be another solid chapter in the Texas Chainsaw series, but this isn’t it. Horror prequels are frustrating and a bad idea since it drains much of the suspense. The title character is horror gold as far as I’m concerned, but he just needs a film to match up. I hope they forgo the timeline and continuity and simply start from scratch for the next outing, but time will tell. Purists might want to see this just for curiosity sake, but all other should skip it.