The Movie Waffler New Release Review (VOD/DVD) - LEATHERFACE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (VOD/DVD) - LEATHERFACE

leatherface review
The origin of the infamous Texan chain saw wielder.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Sam Strike, Vanessa Grasse, Finn Jones

While none of Halloween's sequels could ever match the brilliance of John Carpenter's film, roughly half of them are worthwhile and a cut above (pun intended) the average '80s slasher. Speaking of average '80s slashers, the Friday the 13th franchise has maintained a consistent level of mediocrity in keeping with the lacklustre cash-in that kicked off that series. A Nightmare on Elm Street however is arguably bested by its second sequel, 1987's Dream Warriors. In contrast, none of the sequels/prequels to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre have come remotely close to equalling the visceral thrills of the late Tobe Hooper's era-defining 1974 shocker.

That trend continues with Leatherface, which like Rob Zombie's ill-advised Halloween reboot, seeks to proffer an origin story for the franchise's iconic killer, revealing the face behind the human skin mask.


This unnecessary tale begins in 1955, as the infamous Sawyer family are celebrating the birthday of the youngest member of their brood, Jedidiah. Despite the urging of his mother, Verna (Lili Taylor), the young boy refuses to murder a captive man, but later he takes part in the luring and killing of a teenage girl, who just happens to be the daughter of local Sheriff Hartman (Stephen Dorff). Jedidiah is subsequently taken from his family and placed in the Gorman House Youth Reformery.

A decade later and young nurse Elizabeth (Vanessa Grasse) takes a new post at the same institution, befriending two male teenage inmates, Bud and Jackson, one of whom may be the grown up Jedidiah under a new name. When Verna arrives with a lawyer, demanding to see her boy for the first time since he was taken away from her, she initiates a violent breakout, which results in Elizabeth, Bud and Jackson being taken hostage by a violent couple.


The directors of this eighth instalment in the franchise are Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, a filmmaking duo best known for their 2007 thriller Inside (look out for a US remake arriving in 2018), a cornerstone of the New French Extremity movement of the '00s. Unlike Hooper, who managed to fool his audience into thinking they were watching a sangre-soaked movie without actually spilling a drop of blood on screen, Bustillo and Maury bring their Gallic gore aesthetic very much to play here. The working title for Hooper's film was 'Head Cheese', but 'Head Trauma' would be more fitting for this one, with the French duo delivering an endless parade of noggin-related violence, with heads blown apart by gunshots, severed by car doors, slammed through glass windows and collapsing like water-melons under boot-stompings.

Despite the over the top nature of the violence and the cartoonish character of the storyline, it's all played with a poker face, and there's no fun to be had watching a dull Natural Born Killers knock-off that doesn't deliver on its title until its closing minutes. Given their reputation, Bustillo and Maury give us a movie severely lacking in style, though we do get the customary striking New French Extremity image of a young woman covered head to toe in blood thanks to a scene that riffs on Seraphim Falls and The Revenant.


Anyone familiar with Rob Zombie's addition to Halloween lore will be unsurprised that Bustillo and Maury's attempt to add a backstory to a franchise that simply doesn't need one fails to pay off. Leatherface was scary because of his ambiguity, not in spite of it. Like Michael Myers' repurposed Shatner mask, the iconic flesh and thread mask originally worn by Gunnar Hansen allowed us to project our own fears onto its blankness. Here we simply get an insight into the fears of Bustillo and Maury, who seem to share an innate dread of head trauma.

Leatherface is on VOD December 18th and DVD January 8th.