Like 2013’s Texas Chainsaw 3D, this film sets itself within the universe of the original film. This time around, we are learning the origins of Leatherface. We meet young Jed with the creepy Sawyer clan on his birthday. As a right of passage, the family wants the young boy (eight to ten years old?) to kill a man they believe has stolen some of their pigs. It turns out Jed does not have the guts for this, at least, not yet. I mean, we know he eventually will.
Not long after, his brothers (cousins) kill a young woman, who just happens to be the daughter of the local Sheriff. They cannot prove it was murder, but the Sheriff is able to have Jed institutionalized to protect him from his family. His mother tries to visit repeatedly, but is blocked at every turn. When Jed and a couple other patients kidnap a young nurse and go on the run, things get very bloody.
The film actually sets it up so that you have no idea who Jed is. He is older, and none of the escapees are named Jed because apparently they changed his name in an attempt to disassociate him from his family. Meanwhile, there is a romance brewing between the terrified nurse and one of the patients, while others just want to kill her and go on their murder spree to Mexico.
They are tracked by the Sheriff who put Jed away, and he is seeking vengeance for his daughter. This is a prequel, so you know things won’t end well for him.
When it comes down to it, this film reveals nothing we could not put together ourselves from simply watching the first film. I mean, he grew up in an isolated and depraved family. It is not a stretch to figure out how he became a chainsaw wielding murderer.
The film also suffers the same issues as the 2013 film. It makes Leatherface incredibly sympathetic. Yeah, you get why the Sheriff is obsessed with vengeance against the Sawyer clan, but he is so cruel and and willing to bend the law, he gets other people killed. Jed was forcefully institutionalized by a cruel doctor who indulged brutal treatments and allowed guards to be rough with the prisoners. He also bends the law. Leatherface is a brutal killer and should not have the audience rooting for his success, and yet this film casts him as a victim of people who seem even more terrible than he.
What we are left with is a film that works against the purpose of giving a terrifying background to a horror icon. We do not need insight into the psychotic killer, no more than we already had and this film adds nothing of value to the canon.