Another financial quarter, another reboot/remake/reimagining of a classic horror announced. This time, it’s yet another attempt to wring any remaining pennies out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre brand. Having exhausted almost every other option for a series that now includes as many instalments as Fast and the Furious and spans three (possibly four?) different continuities, they’ve now decided to do that most heinous of last-ditch franchise resuscitations; the “X, the Teenage Years” gambit. Now arguably, you could say this is ground that’s already been somewhat trodden in the 2006 prequel movie, but that’s set in the remake timeline and doesn’t feature a Leatherface as young as the new one is going to be. No, by all accounts this one is going to play Leatherface very young and probably go through a similar kind of origin story as Michael Myers got in Rob Zombie’s (not entirely uninteresting) Halloween remake. The most curious aspect of the whole enterprise though, is that they’ve cast attractive young-person Sam Strike as the eponymous chainsaw enthusiast.
Now, as someone who still considers the original film as one of the ‘sacred cows’ of the horror genre, I should probably be pissed off or exhausted at the idea of this, and to an extent I am, but this is a series that’s been remade, rebooted, re-imagined, taken-apart, taken-off, laughed-at, laughed-with, torn-apart and stitched back together in a homemade Batsuit, so many times (often at the hands of the original creator) that it’s hard to remain particularly invested in its well-being or legacy. (That Batsuit gag wasn’t a non-sequitur either, the last movie, Texas Chainsaw 3D, genuinely tried to turn Leatherface into a Batman-esque anti-hero. And it was hilarious.) The way I see it, these types of known properties are never going to be allowed to die in peace and someone is always going to try something like this. So, as long as they aren’t boring (being ‘good’ would just be a pleasant cherry on top), I don’t mind too much that they keep getting made (and yeah, TC 3D was baaaaaad but it sure wasn’t boring). The original film is still great, it’s still important and it’ll still be there long after these cash-grabs have come and gone. So whatever, do what you want. I am intrigued and a bit bemused by the casting though…
(Baaaad but not boring)
On the one hand I kind of like it because it means Leatherface isn’t an immediately Other-ed presence. He’s not some mouth-breathing, slack-jawed, hulking, lumbering brute that you feel you can immediately distance yourself from as an audience member. In the same way that the recent The Voices showed that the truly unsettling monsters have to be ones that look normal and that the film forces you to empathise with and feel sorry for, even when you feel dirty for doing so. Casting someone ‘pretty’ in what’s always been one of the most overtly monstrous (visually) characters in the pantheon of on-screen horror could definitely be taken to interesting places. I mean, I know they won’t take it anywhere interesting; this is the third reboot of a long-past-its-prime horror series in less than fifteen years, but still. Given, also, that Leatherface is traditionally one of the more sympathetic villains, there is a lot of room for good in this.
On the other hand there is something pre-emptively cringe-inducing about the idea of Leatherface in high school; being a loner, getting bullied, probably being doted on by one well-meaning girl who wants to help him because she can see he’s got a slightly too child-like mind. And for a while that seems to be working, he’s integrating into society better but then he misreads a romantic signal and in a fit of rejection-rage, kills her. That or she’s the prettiest girl in school and the jocks don’t like her treating him like a human so they do something bad to her and he avenges her. I mean those are generally your go-to plots for these kinds of movies so let’s hope that doesn’t happen. On the other-other hand, the above assumption is the exact one I made when I first heard the premise for Bates Motel and that turned out to be a shockingly compelling portrayal of young Norma(n) Bates (boring, sub-Twin Peaks b-plots aside). So yeah, if they can Bates Motel this film up, we’re good.
There’s still just something about that idea of someone attractive being brought to the point of willingly wearing a patchwork skin-mask that just makes me kind of laugh. I know they sort of addressed this notion in the remake, that he had some skin disease that had rotted away his nose and the mask was his solution but you just know that they’re going to have to make his face particularly disfigured in this version to justify the mask. It reminds me of Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker; Parker’s supposed to be this awkward loser who no one likes but with Garfield he looks like a male model walking around his school who isn’t even really bullied, he’s just a loner by choice because he’s just too edgy. I feel this Leatherface will have the same incongruity about him if we see him portrayed as some kind of loser in school.
Like I said above, as long as they aren’t boring I’m ok with these kinds of films continuing and this move is the kind of ‘Go Big or Go Home’ nonsense that could save a franchise or kill it stone dead. So why not take it even further. Why not go properly nonsensical with it…
Pitch: Leatherface is a male model at the height of his young powers (…in rural Texas… in the 70s… Just go with it ok). He’s got it all, money, girls, popularity. But some out-of-towners come to town for a multi-school beauty pageant or whatever. They’re better looking, his fragile ego can’t take. But he has the support of the home crowd (I guess this is being judged by public vote? Sure, yeah). So the night before the big… beauty-off (?) they disfigure him somehow. That thing with the two Stanley knives and the matchstick? Fire? They full-on Harvey Dent him? Whatever, it drives him insane. So he kills them all and makes a mask that combines all of their faces to create ultimate beauty. But he can’t stop there, any time he sees someone more attractive than he was, he must add their features to mask and this obsession drives him even crazier so exiles himself to the old family farm. That is… unless some attractive hitchhikers stumble by…
You’re welcome Hollywood. I’ll accept a cheque and a ‘Story By’ credit.