By: Chanell “Chainsaw” Thomas
The aesthetic of horror drives the experience. The after image that haunts your dreams for days after viewing a horror movie is crucial to the power of the genre. We generally believe that a monster is scary if his or her aesthetic is scary; I also believed this seemingly obvious statement. However, John Juessenhop and his most recent adaptation of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2013) completely undermine my fear of one of the most iconic serial killers in cinematic history.
Leatherface, a man-child who fashionably wears the skin of others as a mask and wields a chainsaw, terrified me. He terrified all who saw him. Gunnar Hansen played an actively violent, sinister villain in the original film. A large portion of his ability to scare international audiences was his aesthetic. In addition to being intimidating in stature, his human mask and our understanding of where it came from were equally terrifying. Furthermore, the sound of the chainsaw was, and still is, a universally terrifying sound. One would imagine that a villain with these horrific attributes could be scary regardless of personality, context, or location. Unfortunately this is extremely untrue, and Dan Yeager, the most recent Leatherface, is a prime example of this.
I was unaware of the individuality Gunnar Hansen put into the original Leatherface. He had habits, reactions, and specific behaviors. He was calm, but extraordinarily violent in his calculated movements. He had a very childish, giddy laugh as he captured his victims and reveled in their screams. His reactions to almost any sudden stimuli were sharp and abrupt. He defined chaos; he made me cringe, whether he was doing something cringe-worthy, or not. The same cannot be said for the most recent adaptation of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
I did not know it was possible for a man wearing a human face and swinging a chainsaw to be uninteresting. Dan Yeager’s performance is dismal and character itself is more like Pleatherface, than Leatherface. He has the physical capacity of a man in his 60s with a history of back problems. He skins his victims as if he has better things to do. Finally, he is a horribly ineffectual murderer. The franchise rests on Leatherface’s shoulders and his ability to terrify the audience; however, the most recent adaptation falls flat. While I appreciate the visual of Leatherface, he is dull. And if the horrific part of a horror isn’t horrific, is it a horror at all? If Dan Yeager’s leatherface believes the answer is yes, I will gladly debate this with him in person because he does not scare me.