Saturday, 2 September 2017



Questions: how does a film with this level of blood, gore, murder, death, shrieking, insanity, brutality and evisceration manage to be so staggering, stunningly, spectacularly dull? How can the directors of the original Inside have come up with ninety minutes of trashy, ultraviolent, headbanging mayhem that are so thoroughly devoid of any interest or excitement whatsoever? How can anyone make an eighth trip to the Texas Chain Saw Massacre well that, believe it or not, brings forth even less than the rubbish 2013 3D version? It's remarkable how ineffective cranking everything up to eleven can be.

Leatherface is another origins story: an Early Years prequel of how the monstrous chainsaw-wielding cannibal got that way (which ignores 2006's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning). In this version of events the young Jedediah Sawyer was removed from his family home as a child and promptly locked up in an asylum, but years later his ghastly mother (Lili Taylor, probably the best thing in the film) engineers a mass escape in which four inmates and a nurse taken hostage make their way across what's supposed to be Texas towards the family homestead, killing as they go. Meanwhile an embittered Sheriff (Stephen Dorff) is on their trail, since Jed was responsible for his daughter's brutal death in the opening reel...

The first trouble is that until five minutes from the end of the movie we don't know which of the group will eventually become Leatherface (the poster artwork is not entirely honest in that regard). Hell, in these post-Jodie Whittaker days you don't know if this reboot might even switch the character's gender just for the fun of it. Secondly, the whole point of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is that there isn't any backstory or exposition for Leatherface, The Gas Man or any of the unhinged family: they were just inexplicable, maniacal forces of evil, and shining a light on them only diminishes their status as nightmare figures. Like the later entries that sought to explain Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers, the film weakens its monsters by exploring them. The whole point of horror movies is the darkness and shadow, be it Leatherface or Castle Dracula, and the more you can see the less you fear.

It's loud, it's hysterical, and a lot of people die bloodily, but it's all pointless because at no point do we care. For all the death and violence there's no emotional connection, no human contact: it's just a succession of nasty set pieces in which horrible people are horrible to each other and everyone else they meet. Sure, some of the brutality is well staged, but to what effect? I'm perfectly happy with splattery horror movies in which a bunch of people get messily killed, but usually there's someone in there to care about, someone whose story arc is worth following and whose character can generate some small empathy. Not in this case: it's bleak, nasty and senseless, without any semblance of warmth or even the darkest humour, and for all the upfront gore and yeehawing hillbilly trash it has none of the demented, genuinely terrifying impact of Tobe Hooper's original.


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