Imitation is the highest form of flattery but a franchise shouldn’t pilfer the coffers of its previous antecedents. The execrable Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III prefaces itself with a text crawl that is dispiriting for two cardinal reasons- the narrator isn’t as baroque or monotone-like-a-courtroom-stenographer as John Larroquette and it effectively jettisons the original’s most pixilated characters in favor of nondescript, inbred rednecks.
Before he was a Divine-esque cross-dresser, Leatherface was a newfangled acquisition by New Line Cinemas whose Grand Guignol cornerstone was already Freddy Krueger. Much like their procurement of the Friday the 13th series (the body-swapping premise of Jason Goes to Hell is an unforgivably esoteric, non-canonized twist), the studio irrevocably mongrelizes and bastardizes the mythology and source material for a lobotomized, flaccid drive-in picture.
Michelle’s (Kate Hodge) trajectory from non-polemic pacifist (“Violence is not the answer.) to blood-encrusted foe of the Sawyers is highly telegraphed and rudimentary. Whereas Matthew McConaughey was a fulgurant, leg-convulsive firebrand in The Next Generation, Viggo Mortensen is too handsomely swashbuckling and subdued to be a relative of the squalid Sawyer family.
Ryan (William Butler) is one of the most petulant, shrill, unlikable protagonist in the annals of horror. He is always screeching at people about his driving schedule or filibustering medical jargon. Meanwhile, the jabbering Last Chance gas station attendant Alfredo (Tom Everett) is supposedly plagiarized from The Hitchhiker but he doesn’t elicit any shivers and as a maven of gallows humor, he is mirthless too.
Even with the intact, fully uncensored rendition on Blu-ray, the film is an underwhelming, cloddish letdown after the staggeringly blood-curdling 1974 masterstroke and the underappreciated, decadently funny sequel. Director Jeff Burr is prostrate with the boggy-backwoods ambiance (below-the-waist shots of Leatherface skulking around the forest are blanched of ratcheting tension). However, the Excalibur-satirizing teaser trailer embedded below is pretty nimble.