Film Review: Leatherface

Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s Leatherface certainly offers the gore viewers may expect. However, the film fails to match the terror of its progenitor.

Young Jed Sawyer is taken away from his deranged family and placed in an institution. Years later, he comes back into contact with the Sawyer clan…

A prequel to Tobe Hooper’s genre seminal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface endeavours to tell the story of the title character’s origins. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury seek to capture the shock and gore of the 1974 film. Whilst the film does offer plenty of gore, there is little more to it.

Based on a screenplay by Seth M. Sherwood, Leatherface concentrates on two periods in the antagonist’s life. Firstly, the audience is offered a glimpse into the Sawyer family and Jed’s role in this. The majority of the film, however, concentrates on a teenage Leatherface. The film is an origins story undoubtedly, yet viewers may feel they do not have any more context regarding the character after the film ends. The film works more as a series of events to display violence, than it does as a portrait of a protagonist.

The Sawyer family, the perhaps the most interesting aspect of the earlier films, are given little depth or background. Meanwhile, the film seems to be going through the motions to show the protagonist is deranged. An exploration of the protagonist’s motivations and struggle would have given the film more meaning.

The film is effectively gory, with several sequences attempting to recreate the torture of the original film. Yet for all the gore, Leatherface is never terrifying. The shock may be present, but the terror is lacking. Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor offer the best performances in the film. The gore is well executed by Bustillo and Maury; it is just a shame that Leatherface lacks the fright which would have made the film memorable.

Leatherface is being released on DVD on 8th January 2018.

Immortals Trailer

Immortals is the new film from director Tarsem Singh. The film appears to be a highly stylised affair, with the striking use of colour and CGI-laden imagery. It could be just another 300, although Immortals boasts a cast which includes Henry Cavill, Frieda Pinto, Stephen Dorff and John Hurt. We will see when the film is released on 11th November 2011.

Film Review: Somewhere

Somewhere is an aesthetically pleasing film, but the slow pace will not be to everyone’s taste. Somewhere displays flashes of Sofia Coppola’s earlier film Lost in Translation, but fails to live up to the promise of her 2003 hit.

Johnny Marco is a movie star living a vacuous lifestyle at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. When his young daughter comes to visit him, Johnny re-evaluates his life…

The fundamental problem with Somewhere is not that it is a slowing-moving film, but that it is a slow-moving film that fails to pack an emotional punch. Although Johnny is an interesting protagonist, he does not inspire any real emotional reaction. Therefore, it is completely conceivable that viewers will leave screenings wondering what exactly the point of the film was.

There is complete lack of urgency in Somewhere; events are left to unfold at a sedentary pace. Coppola, who also wrote the screenplay, expends energy on the subtle rather than very apparent actions. There is little dialogue in the film, Somewhere concentrates on the unsaid.

Somewhere focuses on the vacuousness of the Hollywood lifestyle and the resulting dysphoria. Rather than the glamour of such an existence, Coppola is intent on fixating on the negative side. Even with women throwing themselves at Johnny, it is clear that this is a shallow life where pleasure is fleeting.

Sofia Coppola’s real talent lies in her ability to effectively cut through the glossiness of the world of celebrity to expose the hollowness of this realm. She does this with a sly humour reminiscent of the photo shoot scene in Lost in Translation. Thus, there are the deeply unsexy pole artists putting on a private show for Johnny, the inane questions at the press conference, and the uncomfortable mould-casting session. Like the rest of the film, subtlety is the key in the humour of these scenes.

Stephen Dorff is solid as Johnny; it is fathomable that the actor may have experienced what is depicted in the film himself. Elle Fanning gives an excellent performance as his daughter Cleo, stepping out of Dakota’s shadow in a very convincing way. Benicio Del Toro’s cameo appears utterly pointless.

Coppola’s shooting style owes more to art house and independent cinema than mainstream Hollywood. There are numerous lengthy shots, but thankfully these stay on the pensive side, rather than becoming overly cumbersome. Despite the film’s negative reaction towards Hollywood, locations are shot beautifully.

As subtle portrait of existential anxiety, Somewhere is not as profound as it thinks it is. The film shows flashes of brilliance but feels a little superficial overall. Ironic, given its theme.

Somewhere was screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.