A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Leatherface is a so-called prequel to the extremely violent The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series that began in 1974 and spawned six sequels and prequels and a 2003 remake. The original featured a psycho killer and was in some sense based on an actual criminal. It was banned in some countries for its violence. This iteration shows the young killer learning his trade under the bloody guidance of a sadistic mother, malevolent older siblings, and murderous grandfather. The violence is graphic, with stabbings, shootings, gushing wounds, and screams. A wounded man is fed to pigs, who eat him alive. A man's jaw is shot off and he is sewn up. A man's head is smashed against a window until both the window and his head break. During a riot in a psychiatric ward, male and female patients briefly have sex against a wall as lights flicker. A woman is shown from the back having sex with what turns out to be a corpse. Her scarred breasts and torso are also shown. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "bitch" and "ass." Teens take a swig from a container of what seems to be moonshine.
What's the story?
When we meet Jed Sawyer (Boris Kabakchiev), the youth who will one day become the "legendary psycho killer" known as the title character, LEATHERFACE, he's being asked by his mother to celebrate his birthday by chainsawing the pesky neighbor tied up near the dinner table. Oh, and birthday cake is being served. Gentle Jed doesn't want to hurt the fellow, even as his older brothers, mother Verna (Lili Taylor), and grandfather urge him on. Grandpa gets impatient and bludgeons the dinner guest with a sledgehammer, sending blood everywhere. The sheriff (Stephen Dorff) is pretty tired of gory bodies showing up where Sawyers happen to be. But when the Sawyers deliberately drop a tractor engine on his daughter, he sends young Jed -- in the guise of protective custody -- to a psychiatric hospital, where electroshock therapy is often the featured torture-of-the-day. Ten years later, Verna has married into wealth and hired a lawyer to help her see Jed, whose name is changed to Jackson (Sam Strike). She refuses to take no for an answer and breaks into the clinic, releasing prisoners and causing a riot. Guards are knifed, and a guy's head is smashed into a window until he dies. Inmates Isaac (James Bloor) and Clarice (Jessica Madsen) steal a car and force Jackson and Lizzy (Vanessa Grasse), a nurse he saved, to come along, or else. The cops pursue but the inmates manage to shoot up a diner full of innocent people, stealing money and cars and rifles as they move along. The sheriff turns out to be pretty violently psychopathic himself, torturing the wounded Jackson and threatening to kill his only witness, the poor innocent Lizzy. A chainsaw is wielded to lop off a head and split a man in two. The crimes go unpunished in order to launch a 40-year movie franchise.
Is it any good?
This horror movie serves up unapologetic blood-and-guts, its goal to be as repellant as possible and, given those parameters, it's a raving success. Raving is the operative word as most of the protagonists in Leatherface are escaped inmates from a psychotic ward, and those who aren't should be. Lili Taylor does a great job playing Verna, the fiercely protective Texas farm mama who has taught all her boys how to carve up annoying neighbors with a chainsaw. And her boys are made of stern stuff. Jackson's been shot and badly wounded while escaping a vengeful sheriff, and although most people with that kind of injury and blood loss would be moaning in pain, flat on a bed, Jackson enjoys a brisk trot through the woods wielding a live chainsaw, in pursuit of a terrified woman. And boy, does he make his mama proud.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why viewers either love or hate blood-and-guts horror movies. How do such movies make you feel? Do you think Leatherface was scary?
What's the appeal of horror movies? What's your favorite, and why?
Do you prefer horror movies with lots of tension but little blood, or gory, bloody tales? Why?
- In theaters: September 14, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: December 19, 2017
- Cast: Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Sam Strike, Vanessa Grasse
- Directors: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexuality/nudity
For kids who love horror
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.