Leatherface (2017) | DVD release

January 8th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dirs: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury | Writer: Seth M Sherwood | Cast: Lili Taylor, Stephen Dorff, Vanessa Grasse, Sam Strike, James Bloor, Jessica Madsen, Sam Coleman, Finn Jones | US | Horror | 90′

French directing duo Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who rose to fame with their standout debut Inside, have done their best to give an arthouse twist to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 cult original TCM replacing his pared-down grainy indie look with a grungy green-sheened shocker, blunting facial features and darkening scenes of gory violence and misogyny. It’s a tolerably decent adaptation which echoes Malick’s Badlands.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has so far re-emerged from its blood-soaked stable with seven reimagining of variable quality of which Leatherface is a prequel to the original. Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) was the worst which ironically made a healthy profit unlike Tobe’s original, made on a shoestring budget adding considerably to its appeal; it became a champion of the ‘less is more’ school of horror filmmaking. Although Tobe died as this one premiered, he could go to his grave peacefully in the knowledge that his film will be remembered – the others won’t.

The plot is more sparing than the mostly obscured carnage, but sound effect vividly convey the deep horror of proceedings. A cast of mostly Bulgarian newcomers is led by US stalwarts Stephen Dorff (as seedy sheriff Hinton) and Lili Taylor who plays Verna, a deranged chainsaw-obsessed mother who attempts to pass on her addiction to her son Jed (Boris Kabakchiev) in the family’s wooden farmhouse in deepest Texas, 1955. Jed gradually gets on board with the family’s ghoulish games. But when Dorff’s daughter becomes a victim of the demonic Verna, he punishes her by placing Jed in a draconian remand home Gorman House, where ten years later, under an assumed name for public protection and also as a ploy to keep us on tenterhooks, the long-term inmate has developed into a fully blown psychopath, wreaking acts of unspeakable violent towards the nursing staff.

The horror of Leatherface largely derives from what is insinuated rather than seen. And this extends beyond the classic chainsaw screeching. Although, make no mistake, some of the brutality is hard to watch – if indeed you can glimpse it in the murky darkness – and most of the violence is sadly inflicted on female characters although, parodoxically, Verna is the arch villainess of the piece. But not all the horror is fuelled by gore: There is one particularly unsavoury individual with enormous moobs – did they really have them in those pre-pill days of the 1950s when crops and the water supply was still pure and oestrogen-free?.

ON RELEASE | EST 18 December 2017 | DVD 8 January 2018

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