A troubled child is taken from his psychotic family – the Sawyers – to live in a mental institution, where he grows into a likable teenager who only seeks to live a normal life. 10 years after being institutionalized, he breaks out due to a riot incited by his mother, and is taken hostage by a pair of crazy youths who kill without hesitation. Also taken hostage are his friend from the mental institute and the new nurse, whom he is romantically infatuated with. I will warn you now that there will be spoilers ahead that will reveal things meant to be a surprise to you, the viewer, so keep reading at your own risk. I thought about trying to write this review without spoilers, but some of the things I will complain about directly relate to those spoilers, so in the interest of my review making sense, I’m going to lay it all out on the table.
The film opens with the Sawyer family killing some poor, teenage girl in a shed. The older family member used the two youngest boys, who can’t be over 8-years-old, to carry out the murder. This leads to the Sheriff taking the children and committing them to an insane asylum for troubled youth. 10 years after being committed, the boys’ mother incites a riot at the institution and the two focal point patients – Jackson and Bud – escape with the new nurse, Lizzy. The three are taken hostage by two other patients, Clarice and Ike, who force the trio to join them on a killing spree across Texas. It’s clear Jackson is in love with Lizzy, and his best friend, Bud, appears to be the one who will grow up into Leatherface. This, however, does not turn out to be the case.
In a strange turn of events, the larger, inexplicably stronger mental patient that you assume grows up to be Leatherface is not actually the young Leatherface – it is the other, skinnier hostage, Jackson. Looking at the poster above, it’s obvious the person in that poster is not the larger mental patient, and that in itself is a spoiler, but I guess people won’t make the connection. I certainly didn’t until the larger patient died and Jackson got shot in the face, causing a huge gaping gash across his left cheek. This slight of hand on the filmmaker’s part might have been clever to include, but it disappointed me because the Jackson character is not your typical dumb, hillbilly type; he’s a clever, somewhat educated teen who defends the nurse throughout the movie and doesn’t show any signs of being a mass murderer. In fact, it’s not until the last 15 minutes of the movie do we see him become the iconic Leatherface character. I would have easily bought the larger mental patient becoming Leatherface, without question. Apparently, all it took to trigger his psychotic, cannibalistic self was getting shot across the face by the sheriff and his mother sewing his face up. Suddenly, he starts walking and behaving with the mannerisms of Leatherface. He even beheads the nurse – the woman he’s loved throughout the movie – with a chainsaw and then creates a mask out of her face.
This is most definitely a drama that follows a young Leatherface and the nurse he loves as they are forced to endure life with their captors. It doesn’t even try to be a horror movie until the last 15 minutes of the film. Granted, there are some disgusting scenes leading up to the final 15 minutes, but those scenes were almost certainly thrown in to the movie in order to create disgust and draw an audience reaction – that’s it. This movie is not scary. One of the “gross-out” scenes I mentioned depict the captors, Ike and Clarice, having sex on top of a decaying corpse in a trailer, even having the corpse join in at certain moments. It was incredibly disgusting to watch but it was also such a perverse, unnecessary scene that was only created for the sole purpose of making you feel disgusted. It served no contribution to the plot and only made me realize the filmmakers were reaching for me to “feel” something in an otherwise boring story.
We didn’t need an origin story for Leatherface. We knew his family was insane, and we knew they were cannibals. All this movie did was show me there was a huge period of time in young Leatherface’s life when he was a somewhat normal, decent human being that only became the mass murderer he is due to a series of terrible events in his childhood. We didn’t need any of that. This only creates a wedge in the story that no one asked for. On a separate note, why can’t I seem to escape Lili Taylor? I don’t think she can act, and her terrible attempt at a southern accent in the opening sequence was near unbearable. She quickly drops the accent but this only makes me wonder why a Texas hillbilly sounds like she’s from Chicago. Enough with her already.
This movie is…
Definitely not a horror movie.
Cheers and goodnight.