Here we go. This is the prequel to the second reboot of the Texas Chainsaw timeline. While the previous prequel in the alternate timeline decided to only go back about 5 years from the events of the initial movie; Leatherface goes all the way back to Jed as a teen and spends the entire movie in that period of his life. Also, it wouldn’t be a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel if we didn’t get yet another name for our good pal, Leatherface. Giving that guy a new name is more ubiquitous in these films than slamming a sliding door or doing a gross dinner scene.
Speaking of gross dinner scenes, it’s Jed’s (I don’t know, maybe 7th?) birthday and his family got him a chainsaw and a convenient trespasser they want him to slice up. He doesn’t, though, because this movie is also deeply concerned with trying to make you like Leatherface just like the last movie. Doesn’t stop him from helping his brothers lure a young woman to a barn where they kill her. Turns out this is the daughter of Texas Ranger Hal Hartman, continuing or I guess explaining the Hartman/Sawyer feud from the previous film. Hartman takes all the Sawyer kids away and 10 years later, Jed has been growing up in an institute for unstable teens under a brand new name. Spoilers for the most obvious twist in the movie but his new name is Jackson and he’s just a normal looking, well adjusted, friendly teen. When the inmates break out, we get a twist on the group of teens getting butchered plot that normally happens as now it’s a group of teens that are doing the butchering.
The movie attempts to fake you out with a large, mostly mute guy named Bud that Jackson is best friends with but it is exceedingly telegraphed that Jackson is actually Jed. For those keeping score at home that makes the name count Leatherface/Bubba/Junior/Leather/Tommy/Jed/Jackson. The fake out isn’t really worth it because not only is it obvious but it also makes Jackson’s transition at the end to the Leatherface we know feel completely out of nowhere and unearned. Also it explains the make-up face and cross dressing thing as being because his first human face mask was made from a girl that he liked. So he is making up her face with make-up, I guess. Again, the ending transition of Jackson to Leatherface is such a drastic shift for the character that happens all at once at the end, most explanations for origin don’t feel like they make much sense.
I did like the subversion of the “teens on a roadtrip get murdered” thing from the other movies. The characters of Ike and Clarice, the inmates that force Jackson and friends into travelling with them, are a great addition and have that manic, psychotic energy you want from a murder couple. There also aren’t a lot of moments with characters being idiots just so they can get themselves killed. We also get an interesting situation for our final girl, a nurse at the institution named Lizzy. She takes every chance she can to get away but literally everyone in this film is out to get her. Ike, Clarice, Jackson (though mostly just so he doesn’t have to go back), Hartman shoots at her, and the Sawyer family obviously isn’t going to let anyone get away.
In all, the film wasn’t terrible but it also failed pretty hard on giving a satisfying origin for Leatherface. If the script was more about Jackson/Jed’s decent into becoming a monster and less about trying to fake the audience out, I think this could have been much better.
Score: 2 out of 5