Time to go back to the past and find out exactly what it is that drove the Hewitt family to become the sadistic murderers we’ve seen. This is a prequel to the 2003 reboot timeline of TCM but only takes place 4 years prior to the events of the previous film. So if you were hoping to get some good slaughterhouse political thriller going, I am sad to say that is not the direction they took the film. Instead, it decides to almost entirely forget about the franchise star, Leatherface, in order to spend a lot more time focused on R. Lee Ermy’s character.
We start with the strange origin of Leatherface/Tommy Hewitt. His mother died giving birth to him on the floor of a slaughterhouse and the boss dumped the kid in the trash. Luda Mae Hewitt then finds him and brings him home and we flash forward to 1969 and that same meat packing plant is getting shut down. Tommy doesn’t like that one bit, so he kills the owner and when the sheriff goes to arrest him, Charles Hewitt kills him and it turns out that’s R. Lee Ermy and he just stole the clothes and car from this actual sheriff so he could pretend to be one in the previous film. Anyway, they eat the dead sheriff and Charles/Hoyt gives a dinner speech about never going hungry again. There are also some sexy young people that will be killed by them and while it kind of tries to throw in some Vietnam draft dodging stuff, they are ultimately forgettable chainsaw fodder.
This prequel really spends a lot of time on Ermy’s character. He is the main driving force for all the plot things and ends up bullying the rest of the Hewitt family to go along with his insane plan to eat people for a living. It’s weird to watch them protest for about half a second and then go along with it even though they clearly aren’t entirely comfortable with it. Charles is at least given a backstory where he turned to cannibalism in a Korean P.O.W. camp and so his weird obsession with it is given some pretense but Luda Mae just being like “Welp, guess I better put this dude’s fingers in the soup” 2 days after the plant shut down feels odd and is the risk you run doing prequel stuff.
And because this is a prequel, there is a distinct lack of stakes or tension. You already know that none of the family are going to die and none of the characters are going to get away to tell about them. If you just want to see some gnarly kills, though, the film delivers in that respect. Saw and Hostel had just come out the previous years and it feels like the horror films of the time tried to step the gore game up to match. This is also the most chainsaw murder heavy film in the franchise that had, honestly, been pretty light on those up to this point. One of the things I don’t like is how Leatherface ends up gaining the Jason teleportation powers out of nowhere in this movie. My dude manages to teleport into the backseat of a car for the end of the film and it just made me groan and roll my eyes.
This is a pretty forgettable, standard horror film that explains a bunch of stuff nobody really cared about. While the kills are extremely well done and cool looking, there really isn’t much else to recommend about it. Hell, the movie managed to make me want less R. Lee Ermy and this is quite the accomplishment.
Score: 2 out of 5