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Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

| January 11, 1990

I hope that it doesn’t speak ill of my skills as a functioning movie critic to admit that while screening Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part III I found myself daydreaming.  Given the bottom-feeding nature of the film at a conception level, I don’t think that many would damn me for letting my mind swim a little.  However, it should be observed that if my mind drifted during this movie, it is only because the filmmakers haven’t done their jobs.  After all, there should never be a reason for the mind to drift during a movie called Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part III.  With a meat and potatoes title like that, full attention must be paid.

Naturally, I didn’t do this on purpose, it’s just that somewhere around the end of the first hour, I just became focused on other things.  Where my mind drifted off to, I can’t immediately recall but I remember pulling myself back out of my waking dream state just at the moment when some poor sap got his face bashed in with a hammer.  I wasn’t repulsed, and that was not only a letdown but also the movie’s faltering through-line. The legacy of this second sequel suggests that it should go beyond being a violent film and into a full-blown vomitorium.  But no.  It’s just kind of routine.  Most of the pieces are in place.  There are maniacs.  There are murders. There’s a dude named Leatherface. It takes place in Texas. And yes, there’s a chainsaw.  But the massacre never really gets started.

Maybe this has to do with the folks at the MPAA who did a lot of ironic cutting of their own to whittle this thing from an X down to an R for its graphic violence.  Those cuts are not subtle and the editing job in the final product looks like a hack job.  Just as some violence is about to occur, there is a mean cut-away in order to spare you from seeing anything that the title deliciously promises.  What are they afraid of? 

I could carefully observe that such cutting and editing may damage the product. I saw the movie Tuesday night at a preview screening with an audience hungry for some of the old ultra-violence.  When the movie pulled up to a shot that was clearly scrubbed clean by the MPAA’s editing, there was an audible, disappointed groan from the 200+ fans in the audience.  I think this may hurt the box office.

What I can safely observe about Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is obviously a comparison with the original.  Tobe Hooper’s now-legendary film was dripping with atmosphere, and much of the dread came from the production design and long stretches of quiet anticipation.  His great slight-of-hand was that much of the direct bloodshed was politely off-screen.  It was an essentially bloodless film that is today remembered as one of the goriest films ever made.  Leatherface is not quite that ambitious.  It wants to be a vomitorium but it’s helmed by a director, Jeff Bur, who seems to be working under committee, and by studio manipulation.  The independent spirit that made the original so special just isn’t present here.

You will observe that I have avoided directly talking about the plot.  That’s because, really, there isn’t one.  This is a slick remake of the original but without much ambition.  It’s the old routine of the traveling motorists who stop by The Worst Gas Station in The World and are intimidated by proprietor and, with that, their journey becomes a long slide into Hell as they meet up with the family of cannibals including a chainsaw wielding maniac who gives the film its title.  Having observed this rail-thin premise through the filter of the cuts made by the MPAA, I am obliged to report that I don’t think that that film would be improved by being any more or less violent.  I have a feeling that even with an extended director’s cut this movie’s creativity stops at its title.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1990) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized