How Did The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Leatherface Get His Mask?
And will it help with my undereye bags?
Yet another installment of everyone’s favorite murderous Texan (don’t worry it’s not Ted Cruz, he’s no one’s favorite) and his exploits is now on Netflix! That’s right, I’m talking about Leatherface and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) movie. There have now been eight different films (and three different reboots) along with several different comic series detailing the exploits of ol’ Leathy and his family, so let’s break down how he got his iconic look.
Who is Leatherface?
Leatherface is a universally beloved horror icon, but just in case you have been sheltering yourself away from all things, spooky, ooky, or bloody, (not everyone is into horror, I get it!), here’s a little run down. Leatherface is our favorite mask-wearing, chainsaw-wielding, mass murderer from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. Despite his size, he tends to be very shy and afraid (he generally does not attack unless he feels his home is being threatened), but he does help his family of cannibals as they prey on unsuspecting travelers who stumble across their ranch in the backwoods of Texas.
While he’s gone through several makeovers with each new reboot of the series (including his name!), his trademark mask made of human skin remains. Inspired by real-life serial killer Ed Gein (who also wore masks made of human skins), Leatherface’s masks also change throughout the series along with his motivations for wearing them.
How did he get his mask?
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
In Tobe Hooper’s horror classic, and the first of the series, we don’t know much about Leatherface or his family (even their names until the first sequel!) only their bloodthirsty and sadistic predilections. Leatherface, aka “Bubba” Sawyer, wears three different masks throughout the film depending on his mood and the events about to unfold. They are respectively known as the “Killing Mask,” the “Old Lady Mask,” and the “Pretty Woman Mask.” Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface in the original film, described Leatherface’s motivations behind the various masks:
“The reason he wore a mask, according to Tobe and Kim, was that the mask really determined his personality. Who he wanted to be that day determined what mask he put on. So when Drayton comes home with Sally, Leatherface is wearing the ‘Old Lady Mask’ and he’s wearing an apron and carrying a wooden spoon, he wants to be domestic, helpful in the kitchen. At dinner he wears a different face, the ‘Pretty Woman’, which has makeup.”– Gunnar Hansen
The “Pretty Woman” outfit also consists of a female wig and black suit, indicating that Leatherface is dressing up for dinner (an old southern tradition), while the “Killing Mask” his most basic is the one he uses for his everyday work around the house of catching and butchering trespassers and captives.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
The early 2000s reboot and its prequel make some changes to Leatherface’s family and origins. In these films, Bubba Sawyer is now Thomas Brown Hewitt, a man who hides his face because of severe facial deformities that have eaten away most of his nose. He is a damaged, mentally challenged man under the control of his uncle, and has spent a lifetime of being cruelly mistreated and abused by his peers. He originally began hiding his face with cloth, leather, and animal skins, it wasn’t until he began killing that he used human skin for his masks. In these films, while he does change masks from time to time, they do not have a clear-cut function as in the original.
This prequel followed up a second reboot of the franchise, The Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) and attempted to give a definitive origin story for this new version of the character. In 3D, Leatherface’s real name is now Jedidiah “Jed” Sawyer, and he has been institutionalized at the “Gorman House Youth Reformery” (a mental institution) since he was a small child. He was taken into custody after his family murdered the daughter of the sheriff.
As a teenager, he befriends one of the nurses but things go awry when his family shows up and demands to see him. There’s a violent riot and Jed escapes along with the nurse (Elizabeth) and several other inmates. Stuck with an increasingly violent group and being chased by the unhinged sheriff, Jed begins to lose his grip on his sanity. At one point the Sheriff fires several shots and the bullets tear through his cheeks, leaving him disfigured. Eventually, his family comes to their rescue, however the result is that Elizabeth and the sheriff are now at the mercy of the Sawyers as they encourage their prodigal son to murder them.
In the end, (after having his face restitched and leather muzzle placed over it), Jed succumbs to the madness of his family and murders both the sheriff and Elizabeth. He then flays the faces of Elizabeth and the sheriff and stitches them together into his first human skin mask.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: About a Boy (The Comic)
There have also been several different comic book iterations of the Texas Chainsaw franchise. In a stand-alone story published by Wildstorm in 2007, About a Boy is a follow-up to the 2006 prequel focusing on parts of Leatherface’s childhood not shown in the film. In this “one-shot” we see Thomas Hewitt being severely picked on and bullied by kids at his school because of his deformities. He spends most of his time alone, drawing in his notebook and hunting and skinning animals. When the leader of the bullies attacks him at the swimming hole by throwing rocks at him, Thomas snaps and violently attacks Chris, and skins his face while he is still alive. Thus giving him his very first mask.
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