Trick Or Treat! LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III [Two Cents]

 

Two Cents
Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

While The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is ranked among the all-time classics of the horror genre, it never became the license-to-print-money movie machine of other classics like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or even lesser fare like Child’s Play.

Shit, the Friday the 13th series started six years after Massacre, and by the time Tobe Hooper got around to making a sequel, they’d already rotated through three different killers and killed Jason off! In fact, the same year that Leatherface and his clan finally got their second act marked the release of the sixth(!!) Friday film, which made a big deal out of bringing Jason back from a long dry-spell (of two years and one movie).

So when New Line Cinema (The House That Freddy Built) got their hands on the rights to this merry band of cadaverous kooks, they immediately went about trying to puff Leatherface up as their new horror mainstay. After a tumultuous pre-production period (which saw, among others, a very young Peter Jackson courted for the director’s chair), and post-production period (which saw both the MPAA and the studio hack the film to near-incomprehensible bits), Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III lurched into theaters where it promptly bombed and vanished off the face of the earth.

Seriously, many people are apparently very invested in keeping the world from seeing this movie. It is a pill to track down. But that didn’t deter us! For we brave Two Centers have our own tradition to uphold! Two years ago, we featured Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in our first annual Trick Or treat lineup. Last year, we followed it up with the insane horror-comedy of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Well, we’ve kept the tradition alive and have finished October off with the third film in the series!

Justly abandoned mutant baby, or erroneously underloved lost beauty? We decided to dig in and see what happens!

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

– Brendan

Next Week’s Pick:

We’re almost done with this abomination of a campaign season, and without getting too political, our next series will check out some movies about politics. To cleanse the palate a bit of all these weeks of horror (meaning this goddamned election, but I guess our Trick Or Treat series counts too), we’re kicking things off with the comedy Black Sheep, directed by Penelope Spheeris and starring the duo of Chris Farley and David Spade.

11/03 – Black Sheep (1996) – Streaming on Netflix
11/10 – The Purge: Election YearDigital Rental at Amazon
11/17 – The CandidateStreaming on Amazon Prime Video
11/24 – BulworthStreaming on Netflix

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!

Next Year’s Pick:
By this point, the Texas Chainsaw franchise is starting to exhibit diminishing returns, hitting an inglorious nadir with its next and fourth entry, The Next Generation. What say you, readers? Should we continue our fledgling tradition of barrelling through them every Halloween, or stop while we’re ahead?

– Austin

Our Guest

Trey Lawson:The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is, to this day, one of the most intense and uncomfortable experiences in American horror cinema. Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is, by contrast, a bit of a mess. The film loosely follows the previous two films, picking up several years later and introducing a whole new branch of the Sawyer clan around the titular masked killer. What follows, however, is unfortunately a fairly standard late 80s/early 90s slasher film, lacking both the visceral horror of the original film and the darkly comic excesses of Part 2.

On paper this film has a lot going for it. New Line Cinema (of Nightmare on Elm Street fame) picked up the rights – perhaps as a replacement that series, whose “final” entry was already in the works. The cast also has a solid genre pedigree: Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead), Joe Unger (Nightmare on Elm Street), William Butler (Friday the 13th Part VII, Night of the Living Dead 1990), and stunt work by Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th VII-X). Plus there is an intense pre-fame appearance by Viggo Mortensen as “Tex” Sawyer.

Ultimately Leatherface just isn’t terribly interesting. Scenes occur not so much to propel the narrative but rather to check off plot points and scares from the “Things that Happen in a Texas Chainsaw Movie” list (or, in the case of at least one character’s fate, because of excessive test screening). The film was notoriously chopped up for theatrical release to appease the MPAA, but even the unrated version comes across as bland – never building up enough tension or emotional attachment to the protagonist to give the violence sufficient dramatic weight. Couple that with the film’s sillier touches, like Leatherface upgrading mid-film to a gigantic (to the point of being unwieldy) gold-plated chainsaw, and you get a messy film unsure of what tone it is supposed to have. All told these flaws don’t make Leatherface a terrible movie, but they make for a boring one – and in the horror genre that’s even worse. The saw may be family – but the movie is not good.

Verdict: Trick (@T_Lawson)

The Team

Justin:Let me start with this statement, I absolutely love horror films. While not enjoying excessive gore for the sake of gore, I appreciate virtually every other trend in the genre to some degree. And, as someone who also loves exploitation film, the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is something I appreciate on many levels.

With this out of the way, my favorite part of Leatherface is the fact I never have to watch it again. It simply isn’t good. I could appreciate the creepy little girl in the film; but, outside of her, there was very little that scared me or enthralled me in any way.

Having now seen the first three movies in this series, this is the first where I can’t find anything to grasp onto at all. I don’t love the second, but at least it had Bill Moseley. Watching this film has also solidified my decision not to bother with the rest of the films in the series for awhile.

Verdict: Trick… a dumb, fucking waste of my time. Trick. (@thepaintedman)

Austin:You could have a pretty lively argument about which Texas Chainsaw movie is the “weird” sequel – nearly all of them seem to either take some sharp left turns or try to reboot or retcon the series somehow, adding up to one of the most convoluted major franchises in any genre. In such company, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, the first film not directed by Tobe Hooper, is perhaps the most straightforward of sequels. It neither goes nuts with its own new material, nor goes out of its way to negate prior films (though it doesn’t do much to support them either). It’s got some pretty cool stuff – a snazzy chainsaw upgrade for Leatherface, a survivalist character played by Ken Foree, a rancid swamp full of corpses, the introduction of a child member of the cannibal clan, and a neat early role for Viggo Mortensen.

Unfortunately it all feels pretty tame despite an unrated cut and ludicrous claims of being the most controversial horror film ever. After its initial tension and setup, the film starts to fall into a predictable slasher pattern.

Despite its flaws, I still enjoyed it quite a bit, and the uncharacteristic ending doesn’t rub me the wrong way as I’m sure it does many. What can I say? I liked it (and it’s miles better than the one that would come next).

Verdict: Treat (@VforVashaw)

Brendan: My reaction to this one is almost directly inverse to TCM 2. I loved that crazy fucking movie, and only really felt my enthusiasm bog down whenever Hooper tried to recapture his old magic (like the redux of the dinner scene). With this one, pretty much every ‘new’ thing the filmmakers try hits with a thud, whereas the few times when they actually get within spitting distance of the original are the high points. So you get fun stuff like Leatherface getting angry at his failure to properly play a typing game, Viggo Mortensen’s psychopathic cannibal getting upset that his uncle/brother won’t call him by his preferred name (and the uncle/brother is sincerely apologetic!), and a cute little girl cannibal giving Leatherface a loving kiss through his human-skin mask.

There’s fun stuff like that scattered throughout, and it’s hard to argue with Ken Foree as a badass survivalist rapidly losing patience with screeching redneck murderers. But the movie is just kind of… it’s just kind of… boring? It’s weird to say that about a movie where multiple people get chopped into goo with chainsaws, but Leatherface is just sort of plodding.

Also plodding: the character of Leatherface. If this was meant to elevate him into the canon of reliably recurring horror villains with a steady franchise, then this film is even more of a bust than first considered. Gone is the gibbering, weirdly pathetic freak of the first film, and gone is the lovelorn, almost teenager-ish Leatherface of 2. There are flashes of the old ‘Saw personality, but this Leatherface mostly just stalks through the woods and throws people around like any garden-variety Jason clone (in fact, Leatherface is sporadically inhabited by Kane Hodder, who would go on to be Jason’s most famous performer).

Some birds you just can’t cage, and Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a raptor made of skeletons that’ll bust through any box you put it in.

Now let’s all just be good boys and girls this year and hope that Austin doesn’t sentence us to Next Generation.

Verdict: Trick (@TheTrueBrendanF)

The Verdict

Trick: 3   |   Treat: 1
Verdict: Trick

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

 

Get it at Amazon:
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III – [DVD]

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the author

Brendan Foley lives in Massachusetts, where he has made a habit out of not knowing what he's doing. He'd like to make a career out of it. You can follow his ramblings on Twitter: @TheTrueBrendanF, and his ramblinger ramblings on Tumblr. Three years from now, it will be revealed that he was dead the entire time.