Every long-running horror franchise has some gristle on it, but even compared to the other, mostly disappointing Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels and prequels, Leatherface is pretty hard to swallow.
The eighth film in a series with almost no continuity to speak of resets the timeline again, introducing the youngest members of the cannibal Sawyer family as they are trained to kill by their overbearing mother, played by Lili Taylor (The Conjuring). When they make the mistake of killing a local Texas Ranger’s daughter, he sends the whole brood off to a psychiatric institute for dangerous children where, many years later, all of the inmates escape in a violent riot.
Now, Jackson (Sam Strike) and his hulking, disturbed brother Bud (Sam Coleman) are joined by the Mickey and Mallory Knox knockoffs Ike (James Bloor) and Clarice (Jessica Madsen), who kidnap a kindly young nurse named Lizzy (Vanessa Grasse). They take to the road on a killing spree, with the deranged Texas Ranger (Stephen Dorff) in hot pursuit, ready to shoot first and not ask any questions, and then shoot some more.
Leatherface is extremely violent, so at least the gorehounds will have something to latch onto, but it adds nothing new or interesting to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. The problem is not just that this film is a prequel, so we know exactly where it’s going, but that the road to the inevitable takes us through almost unbearably familiar territory.
It honestly looks as though the filmmakers who made Leatherface didn’t watch the original films, but watched all of the films (and sequels to the films) that ripped off The Texas Chain Saw Massacre instead.
The Devil’s Rejects, Mother’s Day and even Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings are splattered all over Leatherface. And if you wipe away all that offal, you’ll notice that the only thing left is… pretty danged awful.
The pacing drags. The plot barely exists. The characters make no impression. Even the seemingly innocent nurse, who we should be worried about, is so completely devoid of personality that it’s hard to imagine the movie has nice things in store for her, which robs Leatherface of its desperately needed suspense.
In the place of that suspense we get some supremely ill-conceived “surprises”, which manage to be both unbelievably stupid and, sadly, predictable as hell.