Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
By: Julian on November 27, 2010  | 
New Line Cinema (UK) | Region 2, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 82 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Jeff Burr
Starring: Kate Hodge, William Butler, Ken Foree, Tom Hudson, Viggo Mortensen, RA Mihailoff
Screenplay: David Schow
Country: USA
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I had fond memories of Leatherface. When I saw it for the first time on VHS about six or seven years ago (having had to skip the then-banned Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), it came off as a decent sequel to a peerless favourite, a belated return to the grimy roots of the 1974 original.

My first revisit of Leatherface, this time viewing an uncut DVD print, was underwhelming. Perhaps my opinion was revised because I have seen countless more backwoods horror films since that first viewing, or because I had revisited other instalments of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series about a dozen times since. This time though, Leatherface just came across as a bit tired. It's not a bad film as such, but it's certainly not a repeat viewer.

There's road kill all over Texas.

Michelle (Kate Hodge) and Ryan (William Butler) are college buddies travelling through the back roads of Texas in a vintage Mercedes-Benz that they are delivering to Michelle's father in LA. They meet Tex (Viggo Mortensen) at the Last Chance petrol station, a roadhouse that is manned by an odd bloke who likes to slice up nudie magazines and peep in on the unwitting female customers who use the commode. Michelle and Ryan are let in on a slice of the weirdness that pervades this part of the States when the petrol station proprietor shotguns Tex and blasts a couple shells into the Merc as the duo madly speed away. Their day is about to get a whole lot worse when Leatherface (RA Mihailoff) comes into their lives wielding his infamous titular implement, its shiny engraved blade looking as menacing as ever.

The first question that must be asked is: how does Leatherface stack up compared with the other five sequels? It probably goes without saying that this is better than that abomination, The Next Generation – and probably better than the serviceable The Beginning. But it fails to top the first sequel and the remake, so it fits somewhere in the middle. Leatherface isn't mired in inadequacy, it's mired in mediocrity: neither good nor bad, just a very standard sequel to one of the most exceptional horror films ever made.

The mediocrity I speak of pervades every aspect of the film. Ken Foree's survivalist is staggeringly bad at what he does, the leads are slightly grating in their interaction and their illogic as they shamble aimlessly, and the film's namesake somehow fails to be the gargantuan presence that he was in Tobe Hooper's earlier films. Forty minutes is a little bit too long to wait for the action to start, too.

Happily, Viggo Mortensen seems to be having a lot of fun with his hillbilly sleazebag. So too, for that matter, does Foree, even if his character is an utterly hopeless survivalist who probably couldn't last on a Boy Scouts' camping trip (and he runs like a girl). The whole movie lacks vibrancy, a quality that director Jeff Burr is responsible for eliciting. The whole thing is as lifeless as Leatherface's hapless victim in this movie's prologue, which is a pity because Burr is not a bad horror director (cf From a Whisper to a Scream).

Speaking of Leatherface's hapless victims, this instalment in the provocatively titled franchise was hit hard by the censors in the States. As screenwriter David Schow amusingly put it, "when a film is cut too much, it bleeds, and Leatherface was a bleeder". The MPAA awarded it an X-rating originally, with extensive cuts required to meet the requirements for an R. This DVD has both the X- and R-rated versions available. Probably a direct outcome of the censorship was a poor commercial showing – Chainsaw 2 was released to theatres unrated, allowing Hooper to leave the much-anticipated gore wholly intact. In the words of New Line exec Mark Ordesky, "films are made to be seen", and an X certification would not have been feasible – Leatherface's impact, tempered by the MPAA, registered little more than a whimper. Both versions are included on this disc.

Leatherface is practically required viewing for Texas Chainsaw Massacre fans, but all this is is run-of-the-mill, standard backwoods slasher fare.
The picture, presented in 1.85:1 with 16:9 enhancement, is equally lacklustre. It's better than VHS quality but only just; the colours are extremely dull and there's some grain.
The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound design is quite poor; I had to crank the volume during scenes of dialogue and madly turn it down when Leatherface revved his chainsaw. Leatherface features a fairly generic score by Jim Manzie and Pat Regan.
Extra Features
The disc gives the option to watch the cut or uncut version of Leatherface (naturally, this review has covered the uncut version). The uncut print contains an audio commentary with Burr, Schow, Mihailoff, Butler, SFX supervisor Greg Nicotero and Ordesky.

A making-of doco, The Saw is Family: Making Leatherface, runs for 28-minutes and features interviews with Burr, Schow, producer Robert Engelman, et al. This is a pretty good making-of, chronicling the process of Leatherface but also providing some nice context with the real-life inspiration Ed Gein and Hooper's earlier two films.

An original ending and deleted scenes are also included.

A trailer isn't included but, thankfully, most of it is shown in the making-of (or it can be accessed via YouTube). Take the time to watch the unfathomably ridiculous way in which New Line sought to promote Leatherface – pure brilliance in a very late-eighties, horror sequel way.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I don't like giving two-and-a-half stars to a film because it seems as if I'm shirking from my responsibility as a reviewer to recommend or not recommend a film, but if there ever was a two-and-a-half point movie, Leatherface is it. I didn't feel the sense of affrontary watching this as I did the execrable Next Generation, but I didn't get the thrills or offbeat zing of the remake or Part 2, either. After Hooper's blackly comedic diversion in 1986, Burr seeks to return to the spirit of the original and, by doing so, he directs something that is hardly in the same league, and it ultimately disappoints. Because of a particular predilection to the backwoods horror flick, I'll err on the generous side for the below rating; puritans might like to dock a point.

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