In the world of horror movies, there are certain sounds that carry a somewhat iconic symbolism; the theme song from John Carpenter’s Halloween, the background noise of the shower seen in Psycho, and good ole’ Tommy “Leatherface” Hewitt revving up the family chainsaw to hack into somebody.
In 1974, Leatherface made his big screen debut in Tobe Hooper’s classic film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Leatherface was a deranged young man who would torture the victims that his family captured and use their skin to make masks for himself. Despite rumors that to this day float around on the internet, Leatherface was not ever a real person, nor was the story of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre based on true events. The character of Leatherface however, like so many other horror villains, was inspired by the real-life convicted body snatcher/murderer Ed Gein.
The evolution of the Leatherface character is as much enjoyable to watch as the movies themselves. In the original version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, from 1974, Tommy was portrayed as some clumsy doofus with a giant physique who was at his family’s beck and call. In the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Tommy who was still a portrayed as a doofus, began to develop his first crush on a local radio DJ, who found herself in the clutches of Tommy’s sadistic family. Newer versions of the tale have sharpened up some of Tommy’s laughable edges, and made him into a more well-rounded villain.
To me, much of the intrigue of the Leatherface character comes only when you dig deep into the psyche of such a person. Tommy Hewitt was a man who, as a child, grew up dis-attached from what could be called reality, only to be raised in the secluded world of his deranged and cannibalistic family. With no concept of what is socially acceptable, or what is morally correct, Tommy grew into a man with not a single clue that participating in the sadistic actions that his family condoned was inherently wrong. For years psychologists have argued about what the most important aspect in the upbringing of a child is, the nature of the child or the nurture of the parenting. Tobe Hooper used the character of Leatherface to show an extreme case of what could happen in a parenting situation gone extremely wrong, given the idea that nurture takes precedence over nature.
A major part of what made the character of Leatherface so scary was that his upbringing disallowed him from having any concept of what it was to feel compassion or mercy. Growing up with the family he had, and secluded in rural Texas, Tommy was never exposed to feeling compassion. This personality trait made it nearly impossible for victims to bargain or plea with him when they were caught. It wasn’t until the half-way through the second movie where we actually see Tommy show a slight bit of compassion toward another human being.
Although Leatherface may not be as iconic of a figure to everyday movie goers as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, or Michael Myers, to horror movie fans, he is one of the most influential characters to have ever come along. For more on old Leatherface, check out the links below…
– Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D! (UPDATED)
– Female Lead for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D – Alexandra Daddario
– #27 – Countdown to Halloween: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
– The Best of the Genre (By Decade): Top 30 “70s Horror Movies”
– Texas Chainsaw 3D: New Trailer Lands with a Thud
Keep an eye out as another character on the Countdown will be revealed every night for the rest of the month. You’ll also be able to find them HERE.