In 2016, Leatherface will be back. Another Texas Chainsaw Massacre film and I'm excited, though I can't believe it. This will be the 7th followup to my favorite horror film of all time, 1974's Chainsaw. That horror film is the horror film. Its inspired everything that came after and went further than anything before. It introduced the slasher formula: dumb kids in the woods, the "final girl" and the first masked killler with a weapon, Leatherface. This deranged hulk in a human mask carves up teenagers and serves them as supper to his family. All while wearing lipstick and a nice suit-and-tie.
But none of the sequels/remakes can compare. Leatherface gets less scary with each film. He's been a steroid freak without a nose, a tubby clown with a schoolboy crush, a screaming transvestite and a lame metalhead with bad legs. Leatherface is the longest running slasher villain but he's not exactly running strong. Too many crap films with no continuity whatsoever. After 40 years, fans don't know who he is anymore because the series has failed to answer "where the Hell did this guy come from?". To young fans, he's just a retro throwback. 7 films have left him needing a... facelift?
But "lucky no. 8" feels special. This is going to follow a whole new rebranding altogether. 2013 saw a new film, Texas Chainsaw 3D, produced by Millennium Films which dropped the "Massacre" part of the title to be more commercial. He was drastically de-aged because realistically the dude would be 70something years old still running around after young women. Also, the continuity was HEAVILY rebooted and the overall formula of the films was changed to fit Millennium's Saw series. The result was a surprise #1 hit but a film that wasn't well received by critics or fans. I thought it was laughable shit. But the same producers are back with a new creative team and a new direction for our favorite murderous Texan. And I have higher hopes for this film than I had for TC3D and I will happily explain why.
The Plot Twist
Ok, the typical TCM film goes like this: Texas Psychos, Hippie Kids, Murder, Murder, Chase, Final Girl, Cliffhanger Ending. So all of the films live (and mostly die) by that formula, only tweaking it a bit. And none of them come close to capturing the originality or terror of the original 1974 milestone film. TC3D took some huge liberties and created a brand new plot. It was idiotic and unintentionally hilarious, but it was different.
Next year's Leatherface has a script written by Seth Sherwood about 3 escaped teenage psychopaths on the run from a bloodthirsty lawman (kidnapped attractive nurse in toe). Ok. Thats different. Its borrowing elements that worked before in the series: the vengeful lawman in TCM2 and the three male villains in Part 1. It even borrows from an unproduced script by Sherwood titled, Interstate 5. But this story will be a definite origin story to the original Leatherface character (we've only seen a prequel for the reboot's incarnation) and we don't know which of these young men is Leatherface. That sold me. Now we have a mystery and some games to be played with the audience's expectations. But will it still be entertaining once the mystery is revealed?
This is Seth Sherwood's first screenplay to make it to a screen, but he seems perfect for this franchise right now. Sherwood explains, “Because I was a fan of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films I wasn’t afraid to tell them (the producers) I hadn’t loved the last one. They said because it’s a prequel you have free range to do whatever you want, so as a fan of the franchise that was really exciting. I can add to the mythos and put the origin behind it." He's young, genre-savvy, a Leatherface fan and he's good enough at writing that he became a screenwriting teacher in Los Angeles.
Originally, Angela Bettis was going to play the mother of Leatherface. Bettis is known among indie horror fans for playing deranged women in May and a TV version of Carrie. But Bettis dropped out and was replaced by Lili Taylor. Now this seems like a favorable omen from the Horror Gods. Leatherface goes from a C-list to a B-list with one actress change. Taylor has appeared in 1999's big budget remake of The Haunting and the hit The Conjuring. Her credentials in spooky flicks far surpass Bettis. Plus, she's a very multifaceted actress outside of horror (I Shot Andy Warhol, Six Feet Under). Taylor has been to the top of the mountain in Hollywood once or twice and that will lend loads of credit and class to this rather small sequel to a 40 year old slasher film.
Stephen Dorff has a lot of horror fans. "The male model turned TV actor?" Yeah, that short scruffy dude with the nicotine voice. Because he got his start as a child actor in an 80s horror cult classic called, The Gate. He went away from the genre but made a truly memorable and sick return in Blade as the wannabe Dracula hipster vampire "Deacon Frost". The man is a criminally underrated actor and a brutal turn in Leatherface as a demented hunter of serial killers could cement him as a horror icon. He's a decent and logical fill-in for Dennis Hopper.
What sold me on this upcoming flick, what had my money before the plot or cast was even revealed, was the choice of director. We get two directors. Two French directors. Two French horror directors who gave us these images:
Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo are both young, artistic, hip directors who are notorious for making "extreme horror" films for the next generation. There is no way that they can make a typical Hollywood horror film. And having the producers pick such unique, uncompromising and intelligent pair of artists to make the next chapter in a classic but severely lacking American film series proves that this movie will have some balls. Maury & Bustillo always give their films style, atmosphere, suspense, femininity and lots of blood. All of these things have popped up here and there in the Chainsaw films, but only in spurts and never in one package. Not even the original masterpiece had buckets of gore.
So going into this picture...
My expectations are very high. A brand new, promising screenwriter. Two solid horror veterans in the cast. The American debut of two of the finest horror directors alive. This should be a big movie for horror fans. Add to it that this is a story about the genesis of the original slasher killer of cinema. What's not to love? My only reserves are in producers Christa Campbell, Lati Grobman and Carl Mazzocone. They did a good job reviving the series with a bad sequel. Can they keep the momentum going with an actually good prequel? Films live (and mostly die) by their producers. Lets see if this production team learned from their first venture and give an even better collection of artists the right backing to tell the Leatherface story the right way. I've waited most of my life for another good Leatherface film and this is as close as its gotten!
Here's a nice bonus. This is for Maury & Bustillo's last feature :