Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Little Rant In Defense Of Texas Chainsaw 3D, And The 'Humanization' Of Leatherface

So Texas Chainsaw 3D is probably going to end up being the most polarizing horror film of 2013; ya either totally love it or ya totally hate it, and unfortunately most seem to belong in the latter category.  While there are certain flaws inherent in the film, which I can't help but agree with the haters on, there is one aspect of the movie that I feel has been quite unfairly criticized, that being what most are referring to as the 'humanization' and or 'pussification' of Leatherface, which takes place in the latter portions of the film.

Again, spoilers will continue throughout this post, so ya probably shouldn't read this until you've seen the movie.  Ye have been warned!
So towards the end of Texas Chainsaw 3D, the film takes a ballsy turn, by almost making you feel bad for Leatherface, and pitting final girl Heather and he on the same side, joined together by the desire to get revenge on the man who orchestrated the massacre of the Sawyer family back in the '70s.  We knew throughout the whole movie that Heather(face) was a Sawyer, but it wasn't until the final act of the film that both she and Leatherface realized this fact, at which point Leatherface stops trying to kill his cousin, and she starts helping him.  The saw is family, after all.

The film ends with Heather realizing she now owns Leatherface, who was part of her grandmother's will, and the two of them share somewhat of a tender moment, before Heather locks Leatherface back up in his basement cave.  Contrary to any of the Chainsaw films past, we're left feeling as if Leatherface was the hero of the film, so to speak, merely a man seeking revenge for the murder of his family.

Naturally, given it's such a ballsy place to go with the story, it was this ending to the film which has proven to be the most polarizing thing about the movie, with many hardcore Chainsaw fans simply unable to look past the fact that Leatherface was depicted not as a murderous monster, but rather as a human being.  Am I surprised that the majority of fans seem to feel that way?  Not at all.  But for me personally, it was that latter portion of the film that really made me fall in love with it, and like I said in my review, I feel like the direction they went with the character was 100% true to the way he was depicted in the original, which is what I loved so much about it.

Hate to break it to ya folks, but it was Tobe Hooper who humanized Leatherface.  And he was always kind of a pussy.
Now I'm not going to ever claim that Leatherface is a good person, nor do I think that was the way the makers of Chainsaw 3D intended us to feel about him.  I mean come on.  Dude cuts people up with a chainsaw and wears their faces ... there's no denying that he's a sick fuck who should never under any circumstances be allowed out of the house.  He's not the hero and he's not the good guy.  He's a dangerous animal, plain and simple
But here's the thing about Leatherface.  The way I have always seen the character, at least according to the fiction of the original film, is that he's basically a big dumb animal, who quite frankly has no idea what he's doing.  If he were raised by a good family, he would've probably ended up being the harmless kid who rides the short bus, that everyone either makes fun of or feels bad for.  But since he was raised by the Saywer clan, that big dumb animal was turned into a weapon, his brute strength taken advantage of for the benefit and protection of the family.  Quite simply, the way I see Leatherface is that he is essentially the Sawyer clan's chainsaw, a vicious power tool that does their bidding, and who is no more responsible for his actions than a gun is responsible for shooting up a school.  That's what I find so scary about Leatherface; he's a powerful and dangerous machine, programmed by the most evil of people.  Behind that mask lies a scared and mentally challenged little boy, who will do anything to protect his own.
 There's a great scene in the original Chainsaw, right after Jerry gets hammered in the head, where Leatherface begins to freak out about what he's doing, and is quite clearly scared that more people are going to enter his home.  In all likelihood, he's been kept locked away in that house for his whole life, and when he sees people he doesn't recognize, he has no idea what to do, and so he freaks out.  And does what he's been trained to do.  He brutally slaughters the teens like animals, as he's been instructed to do, the same way a lion would slaughter an invader stepping foot inside his family's den.  He has no idea what he's really doing, he's merely protecting his family, which is really the only thing he knows how to do.  Is he gonna go outside of the house and start killing people?  No, the Leatherface in the original Chainsaw wouldn't.  But if you step inside his house, thereby threatening his family, then it's onto the meat hook you go.  And that's Leatherface in a nutshell.

Now another thing that people have been hating on the movie for, which ties into all this, is the carnival scene, which many fans seem to feel was a waste of a potentially awesome scene.  Leatherface chases Heather into a jam packed town carnival, and proceeds to kill absolutely nobody at the carnival, which bummed a whole lot of people out, who were expecting that scene to be one of the most fun of the entire movie.  While that would've been an awesome scene, it also would've totally gone against everything that Leatherface represents, according to the way he was depicted in the original and this, the first true direct sequel.  If he had started hacking up innocent people at the carnival, the whole idea of Leatherface protecting his family would've gone out the window and he would've just become another generic slasher villain.  Leatherface doesn't kill random people.  He only kills when he feels his family is being threatened, so for him to just go around slashing up random people would've been perhaps cool to see, but totally counterproductive in the grand scheme of things.  Now THAT, would've been stupid.

So what am I getting at here?  Is Leatherface excused and unaccountable for the sick shit he does, simply because he doesn't know what he's really doing?  Is he a good guy because he's protecting his family?  No, of course not.  If mental illness excused people from their sick and twisted actions, then nobody would be held accountable for the majority of shit that goes on in the real world.  My simple point is that the fictional character of Leatherface was originally depicted by Tobe Hooper/Gunnar Hansen the very same way he was depicted in Texas Chainsaw 3D, so I'm a bit confused as to why so many people seem to pissed off about the 'humanization' of the character, when that's the way he's always been.  Though it picks up decades after the events of the original, it was that faithfulness to the character that I really loved about the movie, and which made it truly feel like a direct continuation to the original, and to that character's story.
The nail was hit squarely on the head in one of the last lines of the film, where Heather's grandmother read aloud the note she left for Heather, before she died.  I don't remember the exact way it was worded, but she essentially told Heather that if she takes care of Leatherface, Leatherface will do whatever he's gotta do to protect her.  That just about sums up the character to a tee.  Call him a pussy, call him whatever ya want.  But that's always been Leatherface's M.O.
Now, if we're going to hate on the film for the way Heather suddenly sided with this hulking brute who spent the whole night trying to kill her, that's a whole nother issue for a whole nother day.  Ya gotta kinda suspend some disbelief on that one (fine by me, this being a horror movie and all).  But when it comes to Leatherface, I thought a brilliant job was done keeping the character faithful to his original incarnation, and I greatly admire the ballsiness of expanding on that idea of Leatherface not exactly being a purely evil monster, which was really only hinted at in the original.  The Chainsaw movies have always deep down been about family, so I for one loved to see that idea taken to a whole nother level with this one.
Not saying you have to like the movie, and again, I totally get why not everyone would.  It's really not for everyone.  My simple point with this rant here tonight is that it's kinda unfair to hate on the movie for the one aspect of it that is most faithful to the Chainsaw movie we have all known and loved for so many years.  If anything, that's the one thing all of us Chainsaw fans should be embracing about it.

But that's just my two cents.  Sound off with your opinions on the matter below!


DrunkethWizerd said...

Leatherface has and will always be a childish bitch of a killer who falls in love way too easily... so this film is nothing new when it comes to his character. He's easily seduced, but this time, the love is real.

I'm not a fan of his new masks, but, he's got great taste in woman! Be-fucking-lieve me!

Slaughter Film said...

I agree. The one thing that each of the TCM movies has in common is the family itself. Sure they're crazy fucked up killers, but they are a family of fucked up killers. And each film kinda/sorta deals with that family a little differently. Some, like the original and 3D take it seriously, while others, Next Generation, take the family element in other directions. But family is the single thing that has kept the TCM franchise centered. So, it only stands to reason the this film would also be about the family. I think 3D [the serious, family parts anyhow] is a welcome addition to the original and compliments it, and the Leatherface character well. - Cory

Russ Troutt said...

There isn't a whole lot for me to say here because you've literally taken the words right out of my mouth. I've commented on some other sites dogging this movie with the same argument you have posted here. It boggles the mind that every horror genre fan out there doesn't love this movie and feel the same way you and I and a handful of others do. Only flaw of the movie was the cell phone scene because of the timeline issue, but that's such a minor thing on the grander scale of things in what is a fictional world. This movie was so well written and I love everything about it. I look forward to seeing where they go with it from here.

Specter said...

Huh. Wasn't too interested in seeing this beforehand, but I went ahead and read this despite the spoilers and I'm gonna check it out now. Huge fan of the original and its portrayal of Leather, glad to see this is consistent.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how the cell phone was an issue considering it took place in the fall of 2012 But that's besides the point, Leatherface has ALWAYS been an emotional character, In the first movie Leatherface is looked upon as a monster but if you watch his reactions to the teens entering his home he his frightened and uneasy like a child, we see this even more when Drayton comes home to confront him. So the problem being that Leatherface is to soft or too much of a pansy is absolutely false. Then siding with Heather is strictly a matter of protecting the family. Verna wanted them to meat anyway (Under different Circumstances) but the fact that he hunts down his own kin only to realize the mistake he's made and then fight for her shows that little bit of humanity and love between the monster and his family. Not too mention Heather may not agree with the sawyers but two wrongs don't make a right and much like her and Leatherface I wanted to see those townie Bastards Die. lol Great Movie, Awesome article - Derek Allen ~ Texas Chainsaw Disciple

evildead69 said...

the cell phone is an issue...
Heather was an infant in 1974.
She would be 38 years old now.
so the time line is fucked up
great article

evildead69 said...

The time line is fucked up.The original movie happened in 1974
(but in Texas chainsaw 3D they never reference the year just the month and day?)Edin Rose Sawyer (Heather)was an infant in 1974.With the cell phone tech and the characters Listening to Trey Songz - Ladies And Da Drinks we are lead to believe that it's 2012...so that would make Heather 38...not cool.
But still a fun movie and great article.

Robert Hopkins said...

I always found it odd how Leatherface laughs maniacally as he impales Pam on the meathook in the original movie.

It seemed out of character.

Dard Shayari said...

Pure garbage. They set the movie in 2012, 39 years after the original. The only character that aged was the Sheriff. The main character was a baby in 1973 but is miraculously only about 22 or 23 in 2012 (which they clearly display on a grave stone, 2012). Which, by the way, brought the film from ridiculous to absurd. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is a perfect film, it needs no more exposition, but this movie BEGAN in implausible territory and only sank deeper into the abyss. Stay away if you have a brain. It's lazy film making