The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series surely has to be one of the strangest horror franchises of them all. Not just because of its mad characters and the bizarre nature of the movies themselves, but mainly because the films rarely conform to any kind of sensible continuity.
In the 1974 original, the cannibalistic family were merely unnamed characters credited as “The Hitchhiker”, “Leatherface”, “Grandfather”, and “Old Man”. In the underrated sequel, they were given the surname of Sawyer, and consisted of Drayton/The Cook (Jim “Old Man” Siedow from the original), Leatherface (now also known as Bubba), completely bonkers Vietnam vet, Chop-Top, his dead twin brother, Nubbins (The Hitchhiker from the original), and the now 130 year old Grandpa.
The third film in the series, also called Leatherface, changed everything to do with the family apart from the titular chainsaw wielding monster (although he was now referred to as “Junior”), and the fourth, the utterly bizarre, “The Next Generation” changed everyone else apart from Leatherface again, but at least it gave us a memorable character in Matthew McConaughey's “Vilmer”. It also gave the world Renee Zellweger, but don't hold that against it too much.
The 2003 remake changed the name of the family from Sawyer to Hewitt, gave Leatherface a totally unnecessary backstory about a facial deformity, and yet again, introduced an entirely new set of characters. The sixth film in the series was a prequel to the remake, and although admittedly a fairly weak entry, at least offered some form of continuity.
The series was reinvented again in 2013 with the almost offensively stupid Texas Chainsaw 3D, which tried to act as a direct sequel to the original, but once again, pointlessly messed about with Leatherface's family unit (seriously, with more family members than Guns N'Roses have had line up changes, it's no wonder Leatherface is such a confused and angry individual). And now, for some extra unnecessary confusion, using a name already employed earlier in the series, we now have the lazily titled Leatherface, which once again ignores every one of the previous entries by trying to act as a direct prequel to the original.
Back in the 1950s, Leatherface is still just a confused young boy called Jed Sawyer who lives with his brothers Drayton and Nubbins, his Grandpa, and mother, Verna. After distracting a teenage couple driving along a country road by wearing an unrealistic cow head as a hat, young Jed leads the girl to meet a predictably gruesome end, while her boyfriend (who, for apparently no other reason than to randomly link more things to the original), appears to be the father of Sally Hardesty, the survivor of the 1974 massacre. The girl turns out to be the daughter of town Sheriff, Hal Hartman (Stephen Dorff), who, not taking the death of his daughter too well, sends young Jed to a mental asylum.
Ten years later and the plot decides it's time for Jed to escape from the asylum. But here's the twist. With so many years having passed, and with all of the inmates being given new identities, you don't actually know who Jed is any more. Well, not until about two and a half seconds of him being on the screen anyway. So, after the film majestically fails at disguising his identity for even a few short minutes, Jed and three other inmates kidnap a young nurse and head for the hills, killing anyone who gets in their way. Back on the trail after ten years of drinking heavily and growing chin stubble, Hartman (the surname possibly being an oblique reference to Chainsaw remake actor R Lee Ermey's earlier role in Full Metal Jacket) punches, shoots, and threatens everyone in his efforts to stop the escaped loonies, while his deputy (Finn Jones from Marvel's Netflix damp squib, Iron Fist) tries unsuccessfully to bargain with the family of cannibal mentals.
As the film progresses, Hartman gets madder, the killers get killier, the set-pieces get sillier, and the barely held together story falls apart with each successive, poorly directed sequence. The worst of which surely has to be the scene where three people (one of them a gigantic lumbering behemoth) all manage to very quickly and safely hide inside a cow to evade capture. Fake blood and disappointment drips off every character until we finally reach the point where Jed's face is disfigured by a stray bullet and finally becomes Leatherface.
At a stretch, the transformation from confused teen to skin-wearing psychopath does actually make some tiny sort of sense if you think about it long enough, but Sam “wasn't he in Eastenders once?” Strike is so utterly miscast that even with large meaty dollops of imagination and artistic license, he barely resembles the hulking monster from any of the previous films, psychologically or physically.
By spoon-feeding the audience every last poor quality drop of unrequired information, Leatherface has successfully managed to ruin any remote sense of mystery the series may have had left to offer.