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Verna Sawyer, later Verna Carson is a villain in the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, being a minor but crucial character Texas Chainsaw 3D and the secondary antagonist of the prequel film Leatherface. Her role is consistently as the matriarch of the Sawyer family, and while her character isn't explored in Texas Chainsaw 3D, she is shown in a particularly sinister light in the prequel.
In Texas Chainsaw 3D she is portrayed by Marylin Burns and in Leatherface she is played by Lili Taylor.
Role in the series
In both of her appearances, Verna is the matriarch of the Sawyer clan, seemingly exceeding Drayton Sawyer and her relationship with Leatherface is speculated to be his aunt or mother (or both) implying she is in an incestuous relationship with Drayton (in this timeline Drayton is the father of the clan). Despite this, Verna would leave the Sawyer family and marry into the more rich Carson family, taking the Carson name.
Texas Chainsaw 3D
In this film, Verna was Leatherface's caretaker, living out in her mansion away from her family. Following the lynching of the Sawyer family, Leatherface ended up fleeing to Verna, who kept him in hiding for decades. The only other survivor was Verna's granddaughter Edith Rose Sawyer, who was picked up and raised by the Miller family under the name Heather. Verna has had her granddaughter tracked down over the years, and eventually died by the time Heather was an adult. Verna has sent her will to Heather to inheirit the mansion, and at the end of the film is revealed to have had a letter for Heather, revealing Edith's true name and that she intended all along for Edith to become her heir.
In this prequel set fifteen years prior to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Verna's character is further explored.
In the film's opening, during Jed's birthday with Verna having made a cake from human flesh and shows the Sawyer's have taken an apparent their hostage and intend for Jed to kill him. Gifting Jed a chainsaw, the Sawyer's chant to the boy to kill the thief before he freaks out and refuses. Verna tells Jed he let the family down but they will always be there for him, before having the thief killed. Later on, when Jed gets involved with the Sawyer's murdering Sheriff Hal Hartman's daughter, because of a lack of evidence, the Sawyer's could not be arrested, but Hal uses this as a pretext to put Hal in protective custody, to Verna's objections.
Year's later, Verna has since married into the Carson family and has been trying to get Jed released from a detention centre before he turns 18 and is put into the system for good. Verna's appeal is rejected, and in a fit of rage, Verna tries to find Jed herself, battering nurses who get in her way, and ends up starting a mass breakout and riot that ends up killing several people. Verna is kicked out of the centre, and four of the youth's end up escaping, Ike, Clarice, Bud and Jackson, and Nurse Lizzie, whom Ike and Clarice take hostage with the latter two. Hal Hartman is put on the case, with Verna having one of his deputies in her pocket for information on the case. Once she has what she needs, Verna has the deputy fed to pigs on the Sawyer farm.
Late into the film it's revealed that Jackson is actually Jed, and he and Lizzie are reduced down to the two survivors. They are captured by Hartman, who intends to get revenge on Jed and the Sawyer's before the cannibal clan corner and overpower Hartman. During all this, Jackson has a mental breakdown and suffers a disfiguring shot to the face. Verna takes Jed, Hartman and Lizzie back to the Sawyer home, where Verna fits Jackson with a mask and begins to gaslight Jed, intending for him to kill Lizzie and Hartman. After Hartman is killed, Lizzie begins to flee as Verna sends out the family, before Jed corners Lizzie. Verna begins to browbeat Jed into killing Lizzie and Lizzie tries to reach out to him, but Verna ends up winning out and Jed kills Lizzie.
At the end of the film, Jed uses Hartman and Lizzie's faces to make his first mask as Leatherface, as the Sawyer's destroy the evidence.
In Texas Chainsaw 3D not much is known or told about Verna with her coming off as a benign and affable elderly woman who's only know flaw is being a member of the Sawyer clan and protecting a serial killer. Leatherface depicts her as a far more ruthless individual and arguably one of the worst of the Sawyer's.
Verna first and foremost believes that she and her family are innocent victims of a cruel world that won't leave them alone, in spite of the fact that they are a group of cannibals and murderers who often torture their victims. Verna is a strong believer in family loyalty, to the extent she has a borderline fanatic to this philosophy. In addition to believing that everyone outside her family is wicked, Verna has no remorse for their crimes, callously ignoring all the death and mayhem she causes in order to rope her son into the family fold, and has a rather low impulse control as shown when she goes on a spiteful rampage at a detention centre to try to get Jed back.
Curiously, despite Verna's belief in family loyalty, her lack of empathy extends even to actual members of her family, mostly treating her other family members as henchmen, but this is best seen in her relationship with Jed; while she claims and initially seems to care about Jed, she never considers Jed's own feelings (particularly how Jed was afraid of his families actvities) and ultimately her love ends up being warped and twisted into this selfish need to force Jed to be like the rest of his family, taking what she wants him to be as opposed to what he actually needs. During the films climax, Verna tries to gaslight and browbeat Jed into being a killer, seemingly afraid when Lizzie begins to reach out to him, and outright proud when she brings about Jed's mental downfall.