Plot: Verna Sawyer (Lili Taylor) is the matriarch of a poor, unstable family that deals in violence, dysfunction, and yes, even murder. She even celebrates the birthday of her young son Jed by giving him a chainsaw and a special present, a man tied up and ready to be eviscerated. But Jed can’t go through with the slaughter, much to his mother’s grim consternation. After years of attempts by local law enforcement and social workers, Verna loses custody of Jed and he is placed into a mental institution, where his name is changed and he is kept under strict supervision. But a wild, violent escape puts him back on the streets and in the middle of a pack of unstable, violent fellow mental cases, which sparks a reign of terror on the open road. But how will he handle this new freedom and will he ever find his way back home?
Entertainment Value: This movie has an interesting premise, but it is doomed by trying to attach itself to a beloved horror franchise, instead of putting the narrative into a fresh new project. The movie never feels like a part of the Texas Chain Saw world, despite the bleak visuals and heavy handed references, so it just feels like a cheap imitation from start to finish. This abandons the horror elements of the series, opting for a road/chase movie that involves a group of teen troublemakers. The movie has bursts of gore and even some creepy moments, but the pace is so glacial and the narrative is so thin, the ride is just a chore to endure. I hated that the writers put so much emphasis on a red herring element, as it seemed so cheap and had no real impact, especially given how thin the plot was. I did appreciate the hicksploitation elements and general dysfunction, but the boredom is overpowering here. A colorful cast is weighed down by a clunky script and filmmakers who seem to hate horror threads, as the movie veers between drama and thriller. There’s potential here, but it never feels like a real Leatherface story and is too dull to recommend even to genre fans.
A sex scene reveals some butt crack and some prosthetic covered breasts, but that’s all the sleaze in this one. This is an odd choice, as some of these characters seem driven by lust and are quite impulsive, but the movie opts to play it safe in this area. Even a brief attempt at necrophilia falls flat, thanks to a stilted, hesitant performance. The movie is generous with the bloodshed, with a surprising amount of practical effects which makes it even better. Most of the violent is quick cut and brief, with splashes of crimson and not much graphic, intense bloodshed. But it is mostly effective and looks much better than similar movies that rely on digital effects, so kudos to the filmmakers on that front. The dialogue is passable, but for a movie filled with dysfunctional folks, not much wild shit is tossed around. Jessica Madsen is the only one who runs with the wackiness of her role, but she just doesn’t have the kind of unhinged writing she needs to really embrace the darkness. Some decent performances, but the script here is bland and never lets the dysfunction run wild. On the craziness side, I liked the hayseed troubled teens and some of the other brief moments of oddness, but overall this one plays it quite safe and keeps the tone tame.
Overall Insanity: 2/10