Witness the beginning of your end.
Year of Release: 2017
Running Time: 88 minutes (1:28)
Director: Alexandre Bustillo/Julien Maury
Stephen Dorff ... Hal Hartman
Sam Strike ... Jackson
Vanessa Grasse ... Lizzy
Sam Coleman ... Bud
Jessica Madsen ... Clarice
James Bloor ... Ike
Lili Taylor ... Verna
Dimo Alexiev ... Drayton
Dejan Angelov ... Nubbins
In Texas, years before the events of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, in the early days of the infamous Sawyer family, the youngest child is sentenced to a mental hospital after a suspicious incident leaves the sheriff's daughter dead. Ten years later, he kidnaps a young nurse and escapes with three other inmates. Pursued by authorities, including the deranged sheriff out to avenge his daughter's death, the Sawyer teen goes on a violent road trip from hell, molding him into the monster now known as Leatherface.
Leatherface, remindin' us that if the matriarch of a clan of cannibal rednecks can marry rich and retire young there's hope for all of us.
And speakin' of pipe dreams that keep us clockin' back in for one more shift, I don't mean to be presumptuous, but chances are that if you're here readin' these scribblins from the land that time forgot there's prolly been a time or two when you wished you could chuck all this iPhone, Door Dash, Sharknado business and return to a simpler time. I'd be right there with ya if not for the fact that I never left. Reason I bring it up, though, is that last night while Billy Hilliard, Cleave Furguson, Roxanne Bigelow, and me were gnawin' a little meat over at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks the simpler time returned to us.
I guess in most places her Goodwill Chic ensemble woulda garnered a little more buzz, but around here a threadbare Big Johnson t-shirt, mangled parachute pants, and a pair of L.A. Gear Lights is just Friday night outside Berenstain Beers. Nobody really took much notice until Mack stuck his head outta the servin' hatch to explain to Stan Butts that the S.O.S. comes with a precise, scientifically determined ratio of stuff to shingle, and that he refused to compromise his culinary integrity just 'cause Stan left his teeth out in the ashtray of his Fiero.
That musta been when he saw 'er - about 30 years old, brown hair, eyes like Sissy Spacek right before she started a polyester fire sale in the high school gymnasium. Was also the first time I ever saw somebody try to suck a jawbreaker out of a gumball machine's dispensary tray, but I'm not gonna go into that just now.
"Dina? 'Zat you, kid?" Mack squinted.
Mack looked like he'd just opened his Mastercard statement a month after sendin' it off to college with his daughter Creedence.
"Uncle Mack? You're still... everything's still..." Dina marveled in abject confusion.
"Holy Christ on a stick girl, what'n hell happened to you? Where's your dad?" Mack asked, sittin' Dina down at a booth behind us.
"Hey Mack, I don't wanna break up your reunion or anything, but the flames over the grill're about two feet higher'n usual," I motioned toward the kitchen.
"There goes the fly strip! Fwoof!" Roxanne cackled.
"Damn beer batter. Here, you just sit tight with these folks till I get back," Mack instructed, yankin' Cleave's side of fries away from 'im and settin' 'em down in front of Dina.
"Hey! I was still eatin' those ya grease rack!" Cleave sulked until Roxanne rolled a few pity tots onto his plate.
I don't wanna embellish the situation or anything, but this gal was about halfway between Janus Blythe in The Hills Have Eyes and Claudia Jennings in Gator Bait on your Wild Woman Scale, so we all just kinda sat there tryin' to avoid makin' eye contact in case she decided to grab 'er spoon and go on a scoopin' rampage. Fortunately, we had a master conversationalist in our midst who always knows how to bring people outta their shells.
"I wike yeow shirf," Billy complimented.
"Thanks," Dina smiled nervously.
"Had one myfelf back in... mufa been 'bow niney fix," he estimated.
"Yeah. That's probably when Dad got this one. It was his, before..." she trailed off.
"Wah my bacon?" Billy offered.
"Thanks," she accepted.
By this point Mack'd gotten his grease fire about 40% contained and politely passed on an offer from the governor to drop a planeload of retardant on the restaurant, so Billy stuck with the small talk and continued to part out his dinner before finally managin' a breakthrough.
"How is this all still here?!" Dina demanded.
"Whaddya me--" Billy started to say when it suddenly hit 'im.
"Ow! You mine?!" he squawked as Peggy Pogue clipped his elbow with a plate of meatloaf on 'er way by.
"Sorry hon," Peggy apologized without stoppin'.
"Yeow Alvin's daughow, wigh'?" he asked.
"Holy shit," Cleave clinched, takin' a rush of Dr. Pepper acid up his nose.
"Hey, how 'bout a little exposition for the transplant?" Roxanne nudged.
"Alvin Schuck... the Y2K nu--, um, survivalist?" I muttered, plumbin' the memories of my largely hungover 20s.
"Mhm," Billy nodded.
"Didn't he disappear around Halloween of '99?" I mumbled to no one in particular.
"How did you all survive the collapse?!" she screamed, partially deafening the patrons at the two adjacent tables straining to overhear the conversation.
"Never happened. Buncha nerds headed it off in advance. You done with that ketchup?" Cleave inquired.
"You mean... all this time..." she drifted.
"You hav'n feen anovow perfon fince ven?" Billy pushed.
"Just Mr. Wilcox," she replied.
"Merle?!" Cleave hacked, this time expelling a small amount of soft drink through his nostrils.
"Right. He lived on the other side of the draw from us. Do you know him?" she asked.
"Merle Wilcox -- aka Dick Pickett, aka Skip Bale, aka, well, you get the idea. Yes, we know Merle," I nodded.
"He told us that life as he knew it was over and that there was no going back," she continued.
"The I.R.S. wants him for tax fraud, that's why he can't come back, dear," Roxanne sympathized.
"Wha elf dih Merle fell you?" Billy pressed.
"He said that Donald Trump was president... what's when Dad said he was 'full of it' and stopped talking to him," she explained.
"Still is if you ask Abel," I scoffed loud enough for Abel to hear me.
"You watch it, son, or I'll come over there and--" he started to threaten.
"Sit down and eat your hash browns you cranky old goat," Peggy told 'im, slappin' the back of Abel's head.
"Wah happen uh yo' Dah?" Billy asked, passin' her his Mountain Dew refill.
"I found him yesterday morning. He'd been gone almost a week. I guess... I guess what Mr. Wilcox told him finally got the better of him and he had to know if any of it was true - he was at the bottom of a hill a few miles from a big movie screen," she explained, the enormity of it all beginning to sink in.
"Wow. It's like a reverse Planet of the Apes," Roxanne summarized, seemingly elsewhere.
"I told him this would happen!" I barked, slammin' my fist down on my fork and accidentally launchin' a glob of country gravy into Myrna Wisniewski's perm.
"Huh?" Cleave groaned, finally gettin' his tears under control.
"Skunky! I told 'im never to show Manos and Curse of the Swamp Creature back to back. I TOLD him he was gonna kill somebody stickin' those two turkeys on the same playbill. You were all there, I dissented, I am NOT an accessory to this," I blathered.
I may have lost sight of the bigger picture there for a minute, but Roxanne eventually convinced me that it wasn't what was on the screen so much as the fact that there was anything on it at all that actually did the guy in.
I guess Alvin used to work at Mack's back in the '90s when it was still Jack's Stacks of Manly Snacks and Mack was just a... well, I guess he's still a line cook, but anyway, that's why Dina came back to the diner once she got 'er bearings.
She's stayin' with Mack for the time bein', but holy crap, man. I mean, we all dream about it, but can you imagine skippin' the last 23 years AND knowin' the media's gonna drive a dump truck fulla money up to your house in exchange for the rights to your story - effectively ensurin' you never have to learn about the 21st Century at all if you don't want to?
Maybe there's a downside I'm not seein', I dunno. I just hope Dina doesn't end up like one of those people who win the lottery and go broke after blowin' it all on bad real estate investments and Copenhagen. She seems like a nice girl.
When I got home from Mack's, Apollo and I did a thorough inspection of the premises to make sure Rod Serling wasn't hidin' somewhere screwin' with us before grabbin' a coupla Rocket Pops outta the freezer and settlin' in to celebrate Texas Chain Saw Massacre Day. 'Course these days it's more of an endurance challenge than a celebration, but even though we're comin' up on 50 years since Marilyn Burns narrowly avoided bein' ground into B-B-Q for the benefit of folks travelin' Highway 304 it's one of the few holidays we observe in this household.
I'll say this much for the recent franchise entries - every time they put out a new one I gain a little more affection for The Next Generation and Matthew McConaughey's lunatic ravins, but when you get right down to it I'd just as soon they back off and go pick on some other series for a while. And I 'specially hate it when they try to go back and explain the maniac's backstory, I mean, isn't Leatherface a lot scarier when he just appears outta nowhere and starts hangin' half-nekkid women on meathooks and chainsawin' handicapped people for no reason? I guess it's just one of those things I'll never understand - like why greasy spoon diners stick $3 worth of garden vegetables on your plate on the chance you *might* wanna use 'em and then pay the dishwasher to scrape $428 wortha crap into the trash can every day instead of just askin' people beforehand if they want it.
I'm stalling, I know. Alright, you know the drill - every movie, regardless of pedigree, offers the opportunity to walk away from it a little wiser than you were going in, and I'm gonna comp ya these three tidbits before we dive in - but I still expect everyone to come up with some of their own rules to live by as dictated by this - The Bulgarian Chainsaw Massacre.
First, never follow the instructions written on someone's flesh unless they were put there by a qualified tattoo artist. Second, if Texas is growin' cattle that leave behind carcasses big enough to hide three grown people the methane emissions are gonna kill way more people than Leatherface. And third, beauty is only skin deep.
The movie begins in the incestral homeland of the Sawyer family circa 1955 where the next generation of pork pullers are celebratin' a birthday. Actually, it's more like a Sawr Mitzvah in the sense that the family's gone and abducted an alleged pig thief so little Jed can ascend to manhood through the ritual rendering of a trespasser into B-B-Q, only the kid gets cold feet and Grandpa hasta bash the guy's skull in with a sledgehammer even though it's the cannibalistic equivalent of gettin' egg shells in an omelet. A few days later a couple is drivin' down the road less graveled where they durn near run over a kid wearin' a longhorn mask, 'cept when the gal (Betty) goes to check on the little minotard he pleads for help and goes tearin' off through the cheatgrass and leads 'er into a barn with a redneck tiger trap hidden in the floor where she ends up gettin' impaled on repurposed agricultural implements while the Future Dahmers of America (Drayton and Nubbins) swivel a chain hoist into position and drop a long block directly on 'er face. Drayton's real proud of Jed despite his insistence on dressin' up like an unprocessed cheeseburger durin' their little trainin' exercises, but Drayton makes a slight miscalculation when he reports the chick-fillet to the sheriff (Hartman) on account of the sheriff bein' the dead girl's papa, and he's so P.O.'d that he decides to confiscate every underaged Sawyer he can round up and hand 'em off to Child Protective Services before they reach sexual maturity and establish a breeding population of Jerry Springer reruns in the wild.
Next thing, it's 10 years later and a new nurse (Lizzie) is startin' 'er first day in the orphan psych ward of the Texas Institution for Kids What Ain't Right where everybody gets wired up to a TIG welder to help 'em work through their anger issues, only over the last decade Jeb's mama (Verna) went and married 'erself a rich tool who never reads the newspaper and leveraged his clout to obtain a court order sayin' either she gets to visit Jed or else her high-priced lawyer has the place condemned and turned into a Best Western. The administrator (Lang) tells 'er to go piss up a rope and reminds 'er that she'll never find the kid 'cause they're all given new identities, so she pulls the fire alarm and incites a little legitimate political discourse that results in the deaths of mosta the hospital staff and the escape of a coupla kooky cutters (Ike and Clarice) who grab Lizzie and two other inmates (Jackson and Bud), steal Lang's '55 Buick Super, and seek kicks on Route 666. The plan is to drive to Mexico and receive preferential treatment based on their skin tones, but first they hafta ditch the car and stop at a diner so Ike and Clarice can act like unescorted eight-year-olds on an airplane until Clarice jams a steak knife through the jowls of a good guy with a gun, steals his piece, and unloads until half the patrons're layin' face down in their chicken fried steaks. Then they take up a collection for the Save the Sadists fund and make for the door not realizin' one of the rednecks is packin' and Bud ends up gettin' a second crack installed in his ass and havin' to hoof it through the brush after they steal a car that's only got four cents' worth in the tank.
After a while they happen upon a trailer that looks like the bowel movement Alabama would have after dinner at Chipotle and decide to crash for the night, only Lizzie can't sleep 'cause of the noise generated by the threesome Ike and Clarice're havin' with the corpse of the trailer's former occupant and so she tries makin' a run for it till Ike tracks 'er down and threatens to carve an Eisenhower Expressway through 'er gutbucket. Fortunately, Jackson shows up and fills all the vacancies in Ike's orifi with his knuckles until Maimy catches up with a pump action and forces Jackson to quit makin' Pollock paintins out of 'er man's face. Their issues temporarily sorted out, Ike stays behind to water a pine tree while everyone heads back to the house that crack built, only before he knows what hit 'im he gets blindsided by an emboldened Bud who's had his fill of insensitive remarks and takes the opportunity to slam Ike's face in the dirt and stump stomp 'im like Smokey the Bear with an arsonist. The next mornin' - no Ike, no Bud. So the Goof Troop go out lookin' for 'em till Lizzie and Jackson find Bud snoozin' on Ike's corpse and decide that discretion is the better part of not gettin' your ass blown off by Deathrow Barbie. Meanwhile, Sheriff Harmon and his insane town posse pick up the kids' trail and Harmon tries some enhanced interrogation techniques on Clarice till she hocks a big ole looney loogie into his face and he has no choice but to stand his ground.
Then the Texas Grangers unload their sidearms into the trailer and decrease the resale value by several cents before sendin' their hounds out with instructions to locate the missin' miscreants and tree a few raccoons so they can fry up a batch of Rabie Back Ribs for lunch but the dogs lose the scent when their quarry hides inside the carcass of a bloated bovine. 'Course, roamin' around the countryside like a Walking Dead extra has a way of testin' a person's loyalty to their companions, and when Lizzie spots a state trooper on a nearby overpass she makes a choice that results in the cop rupturin' Bud's brain pan and leavin' chunks of corpus callosum all over the pavement. Jackson is P.O.'d, and before the county mountie can get him too he grabs the guy and slams the car door on his head eight or nine times until he looks like he tried untanglin' a boat propeller with his teeth. Lizzie tries ditchin' Jackson while he's makin' the law honk the saxophone solo from Tutti Frutti out his shattered nose but he manages to climb in before she can pull away and by this point they've got some serious trust issues they needa hammer out but they hafta table it 'cause next thing ya know Harmon comes screamin' up behind 'em firin' his service revolver into their car until he blows half of Jackson's face off and causes the car to do a triple Axel when Lizzie tries makin' 'er own freeway offramp.
When she wakes up she finds 'erself cuffed inside Harmon's squad car and radios 'er position to an inquiring deputy (Sorells) before Harmon comes back and drags 'er into the barn where his daughter got 'er fluids flushed by the engine ten years earlier and explains that Jackson's real name is Jedidiah Sawyer and that by the time he's finished Jed's gonna have a crack in his block the size of the San Andreas faultline. Meantime though, Deputy Sorells is on Verna's payroll, and he drives over to Chateau Banjo to tell 'er Harmon's got Jed in the barn and that he's fixin' to bale his hay, only now Sorells has pretty well outlived his usefulness and so Verna tells Drayton and Nubbins to feed 'im to the pigs despite numerous studies pointin' to potential health problems caused by cannibalism among livestock. Verna and the boys haul buns over to the barn but by the time they get there Harmon's got Jed trussed up in the hoist and dumps 'im into the pit like a bag of lime in an outhouse before they can stop 'im. Fortunately, Verna's gotten pretty good at stitchin' flesh over the years, and she's able to reattach mosta Jed's face and strap a muzzle on 'im to keep 'im from pickin' at it, but that's all I'm gonna tell ya 'cause we're runnin' outta movie and I don't wanna give away the ending. Not that you should have much trouble guessin' the ending of a prequel, but regardless, them's the rules.
And with that, we conclude the final Chainsaw flick of the third timeline, which for those of you with lives, includes Leatherface and Texas Chainsaw 3D as bookends to the original 1974 version. 'Course now there's a fourth timeline that includes the film from '74 and a direct sequel produced by Netflix in 2022, but if they expect me to review that they're gonna hafta gimmie somethin' I can put on the shelf at the Videodome 'cause I ain't payin' seven bucks to watch it with ads. I'm gonna try not to be negative about this, though, and before I say anything I just wanna reiterate that I'm one of around 14 people on the planet who liked Texas Chainsaw 3D, but Leatherface is the first entry in the series where you just flat-out don't buy it as a Chainsaw movie. I've got a powerful dislike for the 2003 remake and its modern shaky cinematography tryna pass itself off as bein' set in 1973, but all its problems aside I've never dismissed it as a bonafide entry in the series. Leatherface, on the other hand, is one of only two entries not filmed in Texas (I'm giving Texas Chainsaw a pass for bein' shot in neighboring Louisiana), but not only was it not filmed in Texas - it wasn't even filmed on this continent. Now, that in itself isn't necessarily a problem but for the fact that it was shot in Bulgaria where the Sci Fi Channel used to film all those CGI atrocities for 17 cents apiece, and while I don't claim to be a geomorphologist with a precise knowledge of countries with areas that can pass for Round Rock, Texas, I can confirm that the location they choose is not one of them. Better than the 2020 Texas Gladiators that Joe D'Amato filmed in Italy to be sure, but all the same, the incongruent landscapes, climate, and a supporting cast of names resembling the daily casualty report from the Ukrainian Front is not generally something you associate with chainsaw massacres. It's like that time Jess Franco went into a bar in Lisbon and asked a buncha guys watchin' a soccer game to play cannibals instead of haulin' his butt down to the jungles of Columbia and gettin' malaria and dysentery for the sake of his art like God intended - it just doesn't wash.
I really am tryin' not to be negative, but it's just one of those situations where, say, you specifically ask somebody to bring ya home a Red Baron frozen pizza and they hand ya a Tony's and look atcha like you're a jerk when you throw the box out the window. In any event, let's get this thing in the smoker and see how it curates.
The plot's in an awkward position where certain elements don't really jibe with the characters we know from the original flick, but at the same time, you can't look at them and say they literally cannot be so given that almost 20 years pass between the conclusion of Leatherface and the beginning of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. For instance, there'd have to be a near total deterioration of the mind of Leatherface to go from semi-functional human to borderline feral monster by Chainsaw. Additionally, Drayton's character is far more involved in the actual procurement process of said B-B-Q than The Cook in the '74 film where he's frequently denigrated for his reluctance to kill. And while the swerve regarding Leatherface's true identity works, it only does so because much of the established canon that's been ingrained in the audience's mind is disregarded in order to make it work... which is really not a net positive given that you had to cast someone who could realistically never grow to Leatherface's size, and pit him against an especially large character with a learning disability to pull it off. As for the events, the opening sequence leading up to and including the breakout feels rushed and allows only for the bare minimum of character development necessary to push forward - seemingly viewing the process as a chore rather than an opportunity to create a little emotional investment. Generally speaking, it feels like the decision makers either didn't watch the original films, or were hoping the audience hadn't, but the end result is another element that feels like inconsistency in a film that already comes across as being separate from the established canon.
The acting is decent, with stand-out performances coming from James Bloor and Jessica Madsen as the Mickey and Mallory-esque lunatic couple, and Stephen Dorff in the William Forsythe role from The Devil's Rejects. You could argue that those characters were always going to be the most interesting given their dispositions, but when Bloor and Madsen are killed off the movie noticeably loses steam and never fully recovers. There really aren't any weak performances, but despite the Sawyer boys' decidedly unTexan appearances, those roles are mistakenly treated as throwaways without much to do when they should have been expanded due to the audience's familiarity with them. You'd think it goes without saying, but since it apparently doesn't - it can be safely assumed that those of us pitiful enough to watch an eighth Chainsaw film have a strong attachment to the original, and as such, we'd like to see as much of the original characters as possible even if their depictions aren't what we would have expected. So basically, they kill off the two most interesting characters much too soon and fail to utilize the ones with historical significance to the audience, but all the same, the film is well-acted. Well written - not so much.
Here's who matters and why: Stephen Dorff (Blade, Alone in the Dark 2005, Cold Creek Manor, feardotcom, Space Truckers, The Gate), Lili Taylor (Eli, The Nun 2008, The Conjuring, The Haunting 1999, The Addiction), Sam Strike (The Dark Tower 2020), Vanessa Grasse (Astral, Open 24 Hours, Roboshark), Finn Jones (The Visitor 2022, Sleeping Beauty 2014, Wrong Turn 5, The Last Showing), Jessica Madsen (Dark Light), Christopher Adamson (Judge Dredd, Mutant Chronicles, Freakshow, Evil Aliens, The Last Horror Movie, Sacred Flesh, Lighthouse, Razor Blade Smile, The Fifth Element), Dimo Alexiev (I Spit on Your Grave 2, Asylum 2044, Code Red, Nightmare City 2035), Nathan Cooper (Day of the Dead: Bloodline, The Offering, Ghosts of War, Doom: Annihilation, The Car: Road to Revenge), Dejan Angelov (Stoneheart Asylum, Shark in Venices, Mega Snake, Reign of the Gargoyles, Alien Siege, Raptor Island), Lorina Kamburova (Day of the Dead: Bloodline, Doom: Annihilation, Death Race 4, Nightworld: Door of Hell), Simona Williams (Attack of the Gryphon, Ragign Sharks, Spiders), Velizar Binev (Stonehearst Asylum, The Offering 2022, Prey for the Devil, The Malevolent, Asylum 2014, Code Red, Black Forest, Cold Fusion, Lake PLacid 3, Frost Giant, Dark Relic, Star Runners, Cyclops, Nightmare City 2035, Harpies, Wicked Little Things, Hammerhead, Man with the Screaming Brain, Alien Apocalypse, Alien Siege, Mansquito, Raging Sharks, Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys, Phantom Force, Boa vs. Python, Epoch Evolution, Shark Zone, Deep Shock, Antibody, Python II, Mindstorm, Octopus 2, Shark Hunter, Spiders II).
Plus: Vladimir Vladimirov (Sharks in Venice), Vladimir Mihaylou (The Car: Road to Revenge, Day of the Dead: Bloodline, Roboshark, Robocroc, Invasion Roswell, Deadly Descent: The Abominable Snowman, True Bloodthirst, Time Machine: Rise of the Morlocks, Triassic Attack, Dark Relic, Ghost Town 2009, Wrong Turn 3, It's Alive 2009, Boogeyman 3, Monster Ark, Copperhead, Ghost Voyage, Bats: Human Harvest, Lake Placid 2, Reign of the Gargoyles, Grendel, Wicked Little Things, Manticore, Locusts: The 8th Plague), Ian Fisher (The Accused, The Unhealer, Reaper, Fright Night 2 2013, Sadistic Eroticism, Don't Look Up, Star Trek 2009), Velizar Peev (The Car: Road to Revenge, Death Race 4, Wrong Turn 5, Prowl, Cyclops, Hammerhead, Mansquito, Shark Attack 3), Asen Mutafchiev (Stonehearst Asylum, Code Red, Mega Snake).
And the big shots: Lili Taylor (Sherry in Rudy, Lisa Fisher on Six Feet Under, Captain Maldonado on Almost Human, Lynda Rumancek on Hemlock Grove, Anne Blaine on American Crime), Sam Strike (Johnny Carter on EastEnders), Finn Jones (Danny Rand on Iron Fist, Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones), Jessica Madsen (Cressida Cowper on Bridgerton), Christopher Adamson (Bertin in Les Miserables 1998, Maurice in The Count of Montre Cristo 2002), Vladimir Mihaylou (Dragomir Donkov on Brothers).
The special effects are pretty good, with the filmmakers limiting the use of CG with quick cuts and scenes that frequently take place in near darkness. You've got the engine block falling onto the point-of-view camera early on and the chainsaw bar running in close proximity to Stephen Dorff's head near the climax, and while they do look pretty bad it's important to note that the filmmakers were obviously ashamed of themselves for using that technology and minimized its use whenever possible. From what I could tell everything else was done practically, including a chainsaw through a leg, a sledgehammer shot to the head, a maggot-laden dead cow, some pretty serious blood eruptions, a burned body cast, a trailer house corpse, gnarly face mutilations, end-to-end torso sawing, and a decapitation. The dead cow is a little silly in the sense that it couldn't possibly hold all three castmembers inside it; the blood eruption from Bud's head is over-the-top and incredibly thin, and the body in the trailer moves flimsily due to a lack of much weight, but the decapitation and the burned body suit worn by Jessica Madsen are phenomenal. Well done.
The shooting locations, apart from sharing little resemblance to those of the original film, aren't bad. I understand that the horse is dead and that no amount of additional abuse is going to have any lasting effect, but all the greenery, fir trees, wooded groves, and hills in the background (including behind the iconic Sawyer House) would be better suited to a Wrong Turn sequel. That said, the abandoned trailer is really good, the mental hospital is almost as disgusting as you'd like it to be, the diner interiors and exteriors are nice, and the Sawyer House is a pretty good recreation of the original with my one complaint being its filthy exterior when compared to the house from 1974. The problem isn't that the locations aren't photogenic -- they absolutely are -- they just look nothing like what fans of the original film would expect when the express intent is to recreate places from an existing flick for use in a prequel. No offense, Bulgaria.
The soundtrack is similar to those of recent entries, which is, in a word, undistinguished. I guess when you think about it, a modern sequel (or prequel) to a movie like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is in a difficult position given that current film standards demand a score even if the original flick didn't really have one to speak of. So while it may well be impossible to do anything musically to bring back that clinical atmosphere of the '74 version, an unassuming score that stays in the background most of the time is a suitable compromise to avoid completely alienating either the distributor or fans of the series. The only part of the soundtrack that really warrants mentioning is the use of Patti LaSalle's "It's Over" for the opening and closing credits, and although it wasn't released until 1960 (the movie is set in 1955), it's lyrically and stylistically appropriate for the moments during which it plays, and not a bad tune to boot. In summary - it's there, it meets the moments in the film, and odds are you'll never notice it.
Overall, on a technical level I don't think there's any disputing Leatherface's status as the worst in the franchise, but I do find it more palatable than the 2003 remake in the sense that Leatherface set its sights a lot lower. It's not very good, but at the same time, it doesn't make me viscerally angry to look at it and therefore fares better in terms of entertainment value. That said, if you enjoyed the remake, expect Leatherface to land squarely at the bottom of your own personal franchise rankings by a sizeable margin. Sadly, it's a film that only a serious fan of the series will want to see, but which bears little to no resemblance to anything that came before it.