Whether going by the name Bubba Sawyer or Thomas Howlett, its certainly an understatement to suggest that the powertool waving figurehead of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a man of many faces.
Well, we’re due to get one more very soon as Leatherface’s brand new movie, and his ninth since Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original, makes its bow on Neflix – so to commemorate this occasion, we’re going to take a look at some of the more brutal kills our gibbering leading man has pulled off over the years in the name of family and damn good barbeque.
So tie up those apron strings, rev the saw and don the skin of a fresh faced teen as we attempt to get Leatherface’s greatest kills stuck between our teeth…
5) Driving With The Top Down (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – 1986)
Tobe Hooper’s truly deranged comedy sequel to his own classic can be described as somewhat of an acquired taste – presumably because virtually everyone in it is just as excruciatingly annoying as the character of Franklin from the first movie and it take ages for the members of the cannibal Saywer clan to finally do them in. Still, when the payoff’s this good, there’s an oddly satisfying afterglow to the yuppies that Leatherface mows down in his frenzied fury with twin assholes Buzz & Rick being a prime example. After tearing down a highway while celebrating their graduation by shooting off guns and playing games of chicken with other motorists (Texan, remember?), the pair of preppy pricks meet their match with the Sawyer family. Pulling alongside then in a pick up truck, Leatherface emerges from the back wielding a chainsaw and wearing the stuffed body of The Hitchhiker as a full body puppet, he proceeds to carve up the other car before slicing off the top of Buzz’s head. As to what happens to Rick, we can only imagine but his death scream, broadcast over a radio show’s phone line gives us a good idea.
4) Say Brother, Can You Spare A Face? (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – The Beginning 2006)
Near the end of the torture-filled prequel-to-the-remake, soldier boy Eric finally meets his end despite serving a tour in the choking hell holes of Vietnam. Scooped up by a hulking Leatherface and carried into his basement/playroom, Eric is bolted to a table and casually mauled; but when the imposing cannibal hits upon an audacious idea for a brand new fashion fad he ups his cruelty levels exponentially. After running Eric through with a guttering chainsaw while his girlfriend Chrissie hides underneath the table, Leatherface decides to get himself some of those good looks and carves the skin right off his victim’s face to stitch up and wear over his own to create his iconic look. You can hardly blame him, Eric is played by the stupidly photogenic Matt Bomer, after all…
3) Splitsville (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 2003)
Yep. It’s yet another strangely welcome death here for a vastly irritating character and this time it’s the turn of dribbling whiner Morgan (Jonathan Tucker) from the 2003 remake. After their trip to go see Lynard Skynard after picking up a pinata full of weed goes sideways after a traumatised hitchhiker commits suicide in their van, Morgan takes this as his cue to complain endlessly about everyone and everything he can until events eventually sees him on the run with Erin with a huge, chainsaw swinging maniac on their tail. Hiding in an abandoned house, Andrew Bryniarski’s cannibal redux manages to corner Jessica Biel’s heroine until Morgan desides to intervene, but as heroics are obviously not his forte, he soon finds himself hung up on light fixture with Leatherface reving his saw dangerously close to his privates. Of course, we all know what’s going to happen next as Letherface has never been one to ignore such low hanging fruit (in this case, a couple of plums) and so he precedes to adjust the crotch in his victims Jean’s in the worst way.
The franchise has had bisections before and since, put this one stands out purely because of its balls – or lack thereof.
2) Franklin My Dear, I Don’t Give A – DAMN! (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974)
I’ve mentioned before that the Texas Chainsaw franchise is infamous for absurdly annoying characters meeting merciful ends (merciful to us, that is), but surely the Mount Everest of these is the wheelchair bound character of Franklin. While many fine people in his situation attack their disability with nobility and courage, Frankilin is emphatically not one of them and he constantly whines, complains, panics and generally acts like a selfish prick to his poor, put upon sister Sally.
Approaching the final third of the film, both Sally and Franklin are blissfully unaware that all their friends are dead and have decided to go look for them as night has fallen.
Franklin doesn’t want to be left alone with the van, nor does he want to give the only torch to Sally so she can search on her own, so she’s forced to push him along the uneven ground in the pitch black while he squeals his discomfort like the human equivalent of nails down a black board. When Leatherface finally explodes out of the under brush and carves him up like an obnoxious, Thanksgiving turkey it’s frankly a relief and it’s paid off magnificently with a cracking in-joke in the sequel when his skeleton, still in the wheelchair and still holding that fucking torch is found by his Texas Ranger uncle.
1) Hammer Time (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974)
Our winner is unsurprisingly the first time we get to see Leatherface in action; but what is surprising is that despite the lurid title the movie is gifted with, a chainsaw is nowhere to be found when we get to the unforgettable death of Kirk. The set up is fucking sublime; Kirk, on a casual wander through a strangers property decides to enter the very foreboding house due to the weird squealing noises he hears coming from a back room. As he goes to enter he stumbles slightly and as he rights himself the imposing form of Gunnar Hansen’s Leatherface steps in to fill the door frame to bash him in the head with a hammer and instantly dropping him like a proverbial sack of shit. Kirk spasms for a bit and them BLAM, his murderer belts him one again, only to drag him out of sight and slam a sliding door shut with awful finality. The murder comes out of nowhere and is shocking in its matter-of-fact bluntness. No preamble, barely any build up, just POW: skin masked lunatic; WHAM hammer to the head – Kirk doesn’t even have time to process what he’s seing. Breathtakingly efficient.
Honorable Mention: The Human Doughnut (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 2003)
While technically exempt due to Leatherface not having a direct hand in the death (the spectacular demise of L.G from TCM2 also doesn’t count as Letherface is only partially responsible for the fatality), I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the stunning suicide of the female hitchhiker (Lauren German) that kicks everything off with a literal bang. After picking up an obviously traumatised girl on the road, our leads are horrified when she pulls out a gun (seemingly from her vagina for extra creepiness), puts it in her mouth and blows a sizable amount of gray matter out the back window. We focus on their screaming faces as the camera pulls back through the hole in her cranium, out the broken window and keeps going as the van rapidly empties of its paniking occupants.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre streams on Netflix February 18th