There isn’t much chainsaw action in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel, Leatherface, to speak of, but there is a bloated, rotting cow corpse for a would-be Leatherface and his friends to hide in.
As the eighth film in the TCM franchise, Leatherface feels the need to shock you to hold your attention. Luckily, necrophilia tends to do the trick.
Directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo brought their “French sensibility” to the film, delving into visceral French slasher territory and pulling a who-done-it of sorts. Leatherface follows a group of delinquent kids who escape from a mental institution and rip their way through the countryside, stealing to survive and murdering without hesitation.
The twist? One of these kids is Leatherface. You just don’t know which one until the very end.
Between the roar of the chainsaw, the carnivorous pigs, the backwoods stereotypes, a vengeful sheriff, and a crazed mother, Leatherface is hard to look away from. The questions is whether or not you’re willing to brave it in the first place.
Inverse spoke with Maury ahead of the film’s premiere to discuss this latest bloody installment and to discuss the “twisted ideas” of Leatherface. “Because, believe me,” Maury says with a laugh, “we have worked some really twisted ideas into this movie.”
Leatherface is technically a prequel and acts as the killer’s origin story. How would you compare Leatherface’s vibe to the original film horror fans know and love?
We never intentioned to compare ourselves to the original. As far as the original goes, I have such devotion; it’s perfect from the first frame to the last one. And we’ve always thought of Leatherface as a standalone. Of course, the fans will be happy to find some connections to the original and some of the same elements. But we also imagined the movie to be enjoyable for an audience that hasn’t seen the original or any other films in the saga. Honestly, we just wanted to do a cool, fun movie; like a rollercoaster.
At the end, he’s far away from being the monster that we all know. He still has a long journey to become the real psychopath.
Because, spoiler alert, he still has some humanity left in him at the end of the film.
Of course! We love villains, bad guys, and monsters in movies. They are always the most interesting characters. It’s especially interesting to witness the humanity they have inside them. Here, it was really the story of a slow, long dive into madness and that’s what’s very cool for us as directors and a real challenge as well. Because it’s always tricky to have a bunch of bad guys and ask the audience to identify with them. And that’s why it was important to have humanity in those characters.
It seems you found that humanity through the killer’s family.
Family is the theme that has been throughout all the other seven episodes of the saga and what was interesting for us [in Leatherface] was the character of the mother. We wanted to have this really twisted and dark manipulating character, who was created by Lili Taylor. She brought to life this evil character that is driven only by one thing: to maintain this family and to protect her kind.
The original movie is really a male universe. The girls are the victims. And in all of our movies we try to have strong female characters. This is really something that we love to show and that’s really interesting for us to shoot. For [Leatherface] it was really interesting to imagine that this degenerated family has been, in a way, created and driven by a woman.
Because the cliches of women are that they’re very reassuring and loving, so it’s always disturbing to have a female character who’s very dark and trying to manipulate people.
There are some crazy, bloody scenes in this film. Was there one in particular that was challenging to film?
Honestly, all the shooting was a fucking challenge. Because it wasn’t a big budget. We didn’t have a lot of time to shoot it. We shot it in less than 30 days. And it was really complicated because we had a lot of special effects; a car crash, some animals, some kids, we had some really tricky sequences like the cow, even the sex sequence.
It’s always tricky when you do that kind of sequence because you never know how the audience is going to react you never know how long these things take. So, yeah, it was a daily challenge.
But I would say the most complicated scene would maybe be in the end when the character of Leatherface is killing someone — the first killing with the chainsaw — and it was really complicated because it’s on the couch. We had the actor hiding inside the couch [under] a fake body. And we had to deal with the fake chainsaw and we had his arm animated by special effects guys — like puppets on each side — and blood dripping in the eyes of the actor. So it took us a long time to shoot that one.
The two of you have never worked in such a sprawling cinematic universe like this before. What was that like?
It was a lot of pressure on our shoulders. Before being filmmakers, we are horror fans ourselves. So, we were reassured that the narrative structure was different and that we weren’t dealing with the character of Leatherface as we all know him. During the movie we were just dealing with teenagers and young people — and not with the guy with the mask and the chainsaw and the butchering and the classic character as we all know him.
Honestly, we had the intention to try to do something different. To try to surprise the audience, to surprise the fans, to not give them exactly what they were expecting. Because all the other [TCM] films, they’re all the same in a way; when we first met the producers we told them that we wanted to do, in terms of influences, to do a crossover between The Virgin Suicides and Badlands. Those are totally not horror movies, but we wanted to give [Leatherface] the tone and mood of make it close to a drama. We’ve already shown and said everything about these characters in this saga, so we wanted to have fun with this one.
Leatherface is now in limited release.