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Leatherface Blu-Ray Review

December 19, 2017 | Posted by Joseph Lee
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Leatherface Blu-Ray Review  

*Stephen Dorff as Texas Ranger Hal Hartman
*Vanessa Grasse as Elizabeth “Lizzy” White
*Sam Strike as Jackson
*Lil Taylor as Verna Sawyer
*Finn Jones as Deputy Sorells
*Dimo Alexiev as Drayton Sawyer
*Sam Coleman as Bud

Story: A teenage Leatherface escapes from a mental hospital with three other inmates, kidnapping a young nurse and taking her on a road trip from hell, while being pursued by a lawman out for revenge.

At this point the timeline and continuity of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series is jumbled, what with the various attempts to reboot it over the years, including the Platinum Dunes remake series. The original two films have their own continuity, then the third and fourth films are rebooted sequels, then the Platinum Dunes films (which included a prequel) and now Millennium Films has their own line of Leatherface-themed movies. 2013’s Texas Chainsaw 3D did away with the continuity of every film but the first. Now Leatherface is set before either one of those two, making it a trilogy with Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original placed in the middle, chronologically.

Leatherface joins the franchise as the second attempt at an origin story for a simple killer and the second film in the series to bear the killer’s name. Just that alone should disqualify it from being anything original. While it is derivative at times, it’s the first good film in the series in fourteen years, after 2003’s remake. Before that, you’d have to go all the way back to Tobe Hooper’s 1986 sequel. It’s amazing that for an idea this easy, it’s so hard for filmmakers to get it right. At least with only half of the entries being worthwhile, it’s still a better franchise than Amityville or Children of the Corn.

This prequel comes to use from Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the filmmaking duo that brought us Inside a decade ago. They haven’t worked in the genre as much as I’d like, although their names have been attached to a variety of horror sequels and reboots over the years. At one point they were set to do a Hellraiser reboot. Instead, they provide some skill behind the lens for this story, along with some great shots and the ample bloodletting you’ve come to expect from a film series with Massacre in the title.

While most prequels try to play it obvious with who the killer will be, this one makes you guess until the climax. There are three choices (including one really obvious red herring) who each offer up clues through the movie that they’ll be the killer. If you don’t get it spoiled for you, it probably won’t be who you’re guessing. That offers a change of pace from the tried and true prequel formula, which normally makes it somewhat impossible to build any suspense. The last attempt at a prequel had this problem, as we knew there was no way any of that cast would survive Leatherface. By focusing the film on Leatherface and eliminating the knowledge of who he is at first, you can keep viewers guessing.

The film also benefits from its cast, with Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor providing excellent performances. Both of them appear to be channeling horror characters from earlier films. Dorff seems reminiscent of William Forsythe’s Sheriff Wydell from The Devil’s Rejects. That’s not only true in the way the character is written, but in his performance. Taylor, meanwhile, would have been right at home playing Mrs. Voorhees in a Friday the 13th prequel, as her Verna Sawyer is just as fiercely protective of her son as the crazed Betsy Palmer was. Neither performance is bringing anything new to the table, but they’re both good actors who know how to carry the film.

There are a few complaints, none of which really bring the film down. For one, for all her great acting, Taylor is criminally underused. The phrase “leave them wanting more” comes to mind, but this movie really seemed to make a big deal of Verna’s importance only to seemingly abandon her for an entire third of its running time. Next, once it’s revealed who will be Leatherface, the film does immediately begin to wear out its welcome, outside of a particularly gruesome finish. The choice of who becomes the killer is one that may leave you feeling underwhelmed, as in this case the obvious answer may have been the right one.

Leatherface is, again, the first good film in this series in well over a decade. That is an achievement in itself, but it’s also a decent little road trip horror film. The characters are surprisingly likable (even the ones deemed villains are captivating) and the story moves along at a quick enough pace to keep things interesting. While I would rather this film didn’t exist in the same continuity as the paint-by-numbers and stupid Texas Chainsaw 3D, at least it serves as a pretty solid origin for the characters in the original film.

Film: 7.0

Lionsgate presents this film with an English DTS Surround Sound track and it works well for the film. There’s no issues, as this is a 2017 film and you wouldn’t expect there to be any. Any faults with the track are mostly due to the unmemorable score itself, which offers nothing worth listening to outside of the usual squelching and screaming.

Audio: 8.0

Likewise, Leatherface looks as good as the film’s budget allows for. It has a grimy yet polished look that helps the overall presentation, nowhere near as clean as the 2003 film (a common complaint with later entries). It’s presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio with 1080p resolution.

Video: 8.0

Special Features

Behind the Mask: The Making of Leatherface: A shorter behind-the-scenes featurette with the usual talking heads for a production. It’s nothing special but it does provide a little interest if you enjoyed the film.

There are also multiple deleted scenes, which includes an alternate ending. You also have the option to watch the film with the alternate ending. I won’t spoil it here, as you can decide for yourself which conclusion you prefer.

Overall, there’s a not a lot to the extras here, although the presence of alternate openings and endings is a decent enough grab for fans. The special features are the weakest portion of the disc, but at least they included something.

Special Features: 5.0

The final score: review Good
The 411
Leatherface is a surprisingly solid prequel and one of the best films in the Texas Chainsaw series in over a decade. Lionsgate's blu-ray release is equally solid, with a good presentation, even if the special features leave something to be desired. This is an easy recommendation for those who still believe the saw is family.

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Leatherface, Joseph Lee