Monday, January 28, 2013

Movies That Suck/Franchises: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

I'm going to start off by saying that if I didn't have this blog, I would have never ever, ever, ever, ever have subjected myself to this. I would have gone through my entire life without ever having seen this movie or even temporarily having the DVD of this thing in my house. And it's not just because this film is universally known as one of the worst sequels imaginable. It's because, when I was reading up on this franchise, I discovered that most fans act as if this movie doesn't exist! Oh, yeah. Most die-hard Texas Chainsaw Massacre fans just acknowledged the original and the first two sequels (remember, this was before the remake when I was reading up on it) and then, they would just act like this movie was simply a bad dream. Even an official publication ignored this film. Remember that Horror Movie Survival Guide that I've mentioned throughout various reviews? (If you don't, then let me just say that it was a book that acted as if the monsters in horror and sci-fi films were real and told you how to survive encounters with them.) Well, in the section on Leatherface, it just mentioned the first three films and said nothing about this one! Looking at all of this, I was dumfounded. I had heard people say that some entries in various franchises were bad before but this was the first movie I had ever come across where fans were trying to erase its very existence from their memories. I thought, "God, this movie must be downright unholy!" And when people actually did talk about it, everything they mentioned seemed to confirm that suspicion I had. Leatherface as a cross-dresser? Stupid teenagers at the prom? An incomprehensible plot? Sounded like an absolute nightmare of a viewing experience. And when I got the original film on DVD for the first time, the bonus features included trailers for it and all of the sequels and the last trailer was a rough promo-reel for this movie. That was the first time I ever layed eyes on it... and good lord, did it look like a clusterfuck of insane proportions! That reel was two and a half minutes of craziness that I couldn't make heads or tails of. I decided right then and there, "No matter what, I will never watch that one. It looks like it sucks to high heaven and it might actually destroy my brain cells. This movie will never cross my path." That was eight years ago. Little did I know that I would create a blog to share my opinions on films, television, and video games and, to that end, would have to see every film in any given franchise to make my thoughts complete. And I also had no way of knowing just how many people would actually enjoy hearing me bitch and complain about awful films. So, I really hope you guys appreciate what I go through for you sometimes on this blog, giving you entertainment and receiving nothing in return to help ease my trauma. (I'm just kidding. I love doing this blog and I love all of you.)

Anyway, when I started this blog I knew that this would be a movie that I eventually would have to see. I didn't like it but, one day, I was going to have to bite the bullet and watch this. At first, I was hoping that I could see it online for free. I searched on YouTube as well as on various other websites but I finally gave up (I might have been able to see it on an obscure site that I didn't know of but I didn't want to risk giving my computer a virus just so I could see this). Then, I thought that maybe I could just rent it. But I immediately realized that it was very unlikely that any nearby rental store would have this on their shelves (God bless them if they do, though). So, it became clear that I was going to have to temporarily buy it in order to see it. Fortunately, I had seen plenty of cheap copies of it at this big used movie and book store in Chattanooga but I wasn't going to get it until I knew when I was going to review this franchise. When it was announced that Texas Chainsaw 3-D was going to be released in January of 2013, I knew that I would have needed to have seen it by then since I like to do tie-in reviews such as these. Well, as luck would have had it, I was at Scarefest in Lexington, Kentucky last September and a dealer table was having a buy two, get one free thing going on. As I was buying up some DVDs and Blu-Rays, I came across the DVD of this film. While I knew it would be a perfect way to see this film without having to spend any money on it, I still was like, "Son of a bitch! I wanted to get something other than this for free!" But, I bit the bullet and made it part of convention goody haul for Scarefest last year. The only good thing to come out of all this was that I got it for free. Actually, I can't even call that a fair deal because let's just say that, after I got through watching it, I may have seen it for free but I found the price!

Oh... my... God. When this movie was over, I was setting there with this bewildered look on my face that must have been hilarious, thinking to myself, "I actually think I was right all those years ago. I think this did melt some of my brain cells because I feel stupider now!" I know it's a cliche to ask what someone was smoking was when they wrote or directed something but that question does apply here because someone was not right when this was conceived. This couldn't have been a mistake. Somebody had to have decided to show people just how stupid they thought all of these slasher movies are by making a movie that cranks everything that can be annoying in those movies to the nth degree and making it all so crazy and incomprehensible that you'd think that you'd lost your mind. This movie is, without a doubt, the worst of these movies that are the black sheeps of their respective franchises and if you think about it, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise only has this one example of that. The second and third films may inspire mixed feelings from most fans but neither of them are as universally despised as this movie is. And neither are other similarly hated films like Halloween 5, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween: Resurrection, Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, or all of those direct-to-video Hellraiser sequels. Some of those movies have their fans whereas most of them are generally hated but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is on a completely separate level in terms of how much hatred it creates.

It's 1996 and, while at the prom, Heather discovers her boyfriend, Barry, making out with another girl. In a rage, she jumps in Barry's car and takes off, with Barry in hot pursuit. Barry eventually manages to get inside the car and tells Heather that he wasn't really cheating on her. That's when they discover that two other teens, Jenny and her boyfriend Sean, were hiding in the backseat. While they're arguing, Heather drives down into the middle of the woods and crashes into another car, the passenger of which manages to get out but then faints. Jenny, Barry, and Heather walk down the road to try to find some help while Sean stays at the scene of the accident. The three teens come across an insurance agent who calls up someone named Vilmer to come by and clear the wreck. Not too long afterward, Vilmer arrives at the scene of the accident but proves to be a psychopath when he cracks the unconscious man's neck and then proceeds to run down and eventually kill Sean. Meanwhile, Heather and Barry get separated from Jenny in the woods and the two of them come across a house, where they're attacked by Leatherface and his brother, W.E. Soon, Jenny is the only left alive and it's not long before she's captured by the psychotic family, taken back to their house, and endlessly suffers at their hands.

What's even more unreal about how awful this movie is the person who's behind it: Kim Henkel, the co-writer of the original. After he helped write the screenplay of the original with Tobe Hooper, Henkel's career virtually went nowhere. He had helped write the screenplay for Eaten Alive, Hooper's follow up to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was one of many writers who contributed to the screenplay of The Unseen, a film directed by the late Danny Steinmann who would go on to direct the underrated Friday the 13th Part V: The New Beginning (Henkel wasn't credited for his work on the film), and other little known movies like Last Night at the Alamo (which he also edited and acted in)and Doc's Full Service. While he claimed at one point that he didn't intend on getting as heavily involved with this film as he obviously did, he saw this as an opportunity to make the "real" sequel to the original, since he said that he didn't like either of the previous sequels. Now that right there really, really annoys me. So, he doesn't like the first two sequels (which is his right) but then he decides to make what he intends to be the true sequel, which turns out to be an insane, stupid rehash of the original (it really is nothing more than a remake before there actually was one) with moronic characters, a Leatherface who is a complete joke, scenes and situations that come out of nowhere and serve no purpose other than to be crazy and weird, and it, ultimately, seems to be meant as a big middle finger to fans of the original. Even more infuriating is that not only does that rough demo-reel that I mentioned earlier have a voice-over that emphasizes the idea that this is the "real" sequel, but the opening crawl in this film (which isn't even a crawl, actually) mentions the events of the original and then talks about, "two minor but apparently related incidents" that were reported years later. Fuck you, Kim Henkel, seriously!

This remains the only film that Henkel has ever directed and it's easy to see why that is. As we'll get into, everything from the acting, the pacing, the editing, the ideas of the film just blows. I know that the film got heavily recut before it was actually released but still, you just watch this and it's evident that this was made at the hands of a man who had no clue what he was doing. This guy didn't know how to work with actors, create tension, film action scenes, make anything remotely exciting, and so on.  And remember, he wrote this damn thing as well and there's no evidence that any re-writes took place so he's solely responsible for all of the stuff that you see on the screen. I would love to hear Henkel explain himself on why he decided to write this film and these characters in this way. Did someone tell him to do that? Did he smoke some really good grass? What happened during this writing process? Unfortunately, it's unlikely that we'll nver know since this is the only Texas Chainsaw Massacre film that doesn't have a special edition DVD and nobody associated with it will talk about it, especially not Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey (Henkel has mentioned it briefly in documentaries on the franchise but he's never gone into specifics about it and I doubt we'll see him talking about it again in great depth any time soon).

Like Leatherface, exactly where this movie falls in the timeline of the franchise is rather sketchy. If it wasn't for the opening text, you could almost think of this as taking place in its own continuity since, like I said, it's basically a remake of the original film. Like the previous film, it most definitely follows the original and, even though they're written off simply as minor incidents (God, that's still really insulting), it does mention the events of the other movies so you'd think that would settle the matter right then and there. But, there's a problem: the opening text for this movie says that not one member of the cannibalistic family was ever caught but the opening crawl for Leatherface says that one was indeed caught and was, in fact, executed in the gas chamber. Even more confusing, that family member was named W.E. Sawyer and yet, there's a family member named W.E. in this film! So, which is it, Kim Henkel? You can't have your cake and eat it too, man. You say that you didn't like the first two sequels and that this is meant to be the "real" sequel, which would make most assume that you're disregarding the films that you don't like but then, not only do you acknowledge them by waving them off as "minor incidents" in the opening text but you royally mess up something that was established in the opening crawl of the previous one. This is why the timeline of this series is so confusing. After the second film, they could never decide whether they should follow the previous sequels, just make a direct sequel to the original, or create their own continuity. I guess it doesn't matter though. The fact that this film follows the continuity of any of these other far superior movies is a travesty, especially when you take into account how Leatherface is characterized here and how one specific revelation that's exposed in this film affects those films as well (I need to pace myself; if I get started on that now, I'm never going to stop).

Of many things that cripple this movie, one of the biggest ones is the cast. Except for Renee Zellweger, all of these characters are either annoying as crap or are the definition of loathsome and none of them will... shut... up! Zellweger is the only actor in this film that comes out of it with any sort of dignity and, also, is the only one who seems like she's actually trying (including McConaughey, who I'll get to). As Jenny, she goes through the familar arc of starting out very mousy with glasses and everything else and, through the course of all the bad stuff that happens to her, eventually becomes stronger and fights back. True, she does do some dumb things, like when Barry and Heather run after a car into the woods and, when they're clearly out of earshot, she whispers something at them (why would she do that?) and gets into Vilmer's truck, even though the guy is clearly a psychopath with his tone of voice and the very stuff that he's saying but I do get some (emphasis on some) enjoyment out of her when she decides she's had enough and fights back against the family. I do like it when she smacks Vilmer across the face, yelling, "Don't you ever touch me!" and, when they're all fighting in the kitchen at that one point, she grabs that shotgun and tells everybody to shut up (I wanted to kiss her for that). Granted, she could have fought against the mafia guy when she realized that he was part of it, especially when he licks her, but I do smile when she's picked up by him after she escapes and when he's going on and on, apologizing to her and saying all of his bullshit about how this was a huge mistake and it was supposed to be a spiritual experience, she says what we're all thinking: "Fuck you." So, basically, Zellweger was the only character in this movie who I felt any sort of connection to since she wasn't annoying as hell and actually got about as sick as I did of the insane crap going on around her. Still, it wasn't enough to save the movie by a long shot and, like I said, even though she does become strong, she could have done a lot more than she did to make me root for her, like not doing that aforementioned stupid stuff and fighting back a little more. In fact, in the original cut of the movie, there was a subplot where Jenny's stepfather was abusive towards her mother and sexually abusive towards Jenny herself, which was emphasized in a scene at the beginning where her stepfather comes in while she's getting ready for the prom and touches her inappropriately. I think this was supposed to pay off when she fights back against Vilmer and says, "Don't you ever touch me!"; that she's fed up with everyone, not just the family but everyone, doing horrible things to her. I doubt it would have made the movie that much better but if it had been left in there, it may have given me a way to connect even more so with Jenny and care about her more. However, in the standard version (which is the most commonly available one), the only mention of it as at the very beginning when you hear Jenny's mother and stepfather fighting and it's never brought up again, making it pointless.

The other teenagers that we're stuck with have to take the cake as far as being the stupidest, most unlikable, and annoying slasher movie victims possible. The one that's the easiest to tolerate is Jenny's boyfriend Sean (John Harrison), mainly because he barely does anything and he's the first one to die. Supposedly, the character is meant to be a pothead, which may explain why he speaks with absolutely no emotion whatsoever. And that also may explain the idiotic things that he does when he's attacked by Vilmer. After Vilmer breaks the neck of the unconscious driver of the other car and then he tells him he's going to kill him, Sean takes off down the road with Vilmer right behind him in his truck. Now, here's the thing: Sean continuously runs straight down the road, tiring himself out to where Vilmer catches up to him. Wouldn't it be a better idea if he runs off into the woods where Vilmer can't drive his truck? Even stupider than that, when Vilmer catches up to him, Sean says, "Please, mister, you're scaring me." I like that Vilmer's response to that is, "No shit," because that's exactly what anyone else would be thinking. You just saw this guy snap a someone's neck, look at you with the eyes of a true psychopath and tell you he's going to kill you, and then he chased you for a fairly long while down the road and you're going to tell him that he's scaring you. Of course, he's scaring you! He wants to kill you, you idiot! I don't care if the guy is a pothead or not, that was just moronic. And, as much overkill as his death was with Vilmer running over him again and again, I didn't have any sympathy for someone that braindead stupid.

Oh, but I'm just getting started with the annoying teens. The real winners are Barry (Tyler Cone) and Heather (Lisa Newmyer), the couple who's bickering got them all into this mess in the first place. These two are one of the main reasons why I think that this had to be meant as a parody because, boy, are they unlikable and stupid! Barry's just a hateful asshole who treats everyone around him like shit (he constantly refers to Jenny as ugly, even though, as we know, Renee Zellweger is a pretty good-looking woman, and, at one point, implies that she's a lesbian for no reason), cares more about what his dad is going to do to him for wrecking his car rather than what happens to the other drive, and, on top of everything else, is a two-timing tool of a person who comes up with the dumbest excuses imaginable. You know you're in for it at the very beginning of the movie when Barry and Heather argue in the car. "Barry, I saw you. You were kissing her." "Once, I kissed her once {no, he didn't and she saw it}. God, it's like I can't talk to my friends anymore. I can't believe how possessive you are." "Oh right, I guess that's why you were feeling her up?" "Look, guys need sex. It's bad for you if you get all worked up and not get it. You can get... 'prostrate' cancer. Is that what you want?" Do you see that crap I just wrote? I didn't make that up, I swear. This is the writing in this movie! Oh, but it gets better. Later, Sean tells Heather that he and Barry used to be friends (not to mention that he says they stopped being friends because Barry got too popular for his own good and tells Sean that it's not his fault turned out to be such a geek) and that, "He used to come over to my house all the time and he'd laugh about all the girls he'd felt up. His big line was to tell them that his father was a doctor and that they could get breast cancer if they didn't get felt up." When confronted with it, Barry says, "All right, I lied. Big deal. It's not my fault they're stupid enough to believe it." This is not even seven minutes into this movie and I already wanted to turn it off. Barry keeps going on and on throughout the movie, making himself more and more unlikable and stupid, right up to when he gets killed. When he and Heather arrive at the family's house, Barry runs into W.E., who holds him at gunpoint and tells him to get into the house. Barry's response? "If I go in there, that's kidnapping. My father is a lawyer so I know what I'm talking about, okay?" When W.E. still makes him go in, not only does Barry comment that he needs to use the bathroom anyway but he proceeds to lock W.E. out and call him a dumbass. Hey, it's his house, idiot. I'm sure if he doesn't have a key, he can at least get in through that other door you saw a few minutes ago! (Or shot him through the door with that shotgun). And, despite the fact that he heard Heather screaming bloody murder just a few minutes before, when he gets inside the house, he calls for her and asks if she's okay. He also wasn't kidding when he said that he need to use the bathroom because that's the first thing he does: he finds the bathroom and takes a leak. There are more important things going on, dude. I think you can afford to hold it. After he takes his leak, he sees a decomposed corpse in the bathtub (which was in his peripheral vision when he first walked in, I might add), runs outside, and gets bashed on the head by a mallet, just like Kirk in the original (although this guy doesn't deserve to lick Kirk's shoes). At 31 minutes in, you're like, "Thank God!"

As bad as Barry is, his girlfriend Heather annoys me even more. I'm amazed that Henkel didn't cast a blonde actor to play her because it would have very appropriate (I apologize to all of my blonde readers). Heather is so stupid and annoying that it could cause you to rethink your opinions of any of the dumb girls you may have gone to high school with. Remember that dumb line that Barry said about getting prostate cancer if you don't have enough sex? Well, Heather is stupid enough to buy it! She says, "It's true. It is my fault. I won't have sex with him." When Jenny tries to reassure her that it's not her fault, Heather says, "Yeah, but what if he gets cancer and all his hair falls out from all the drugs or something? It could happen." Okay, first thing I got to say, Kim Henkel, is never start a movie with such an idiotic exchange of dialogue between two characters. In all of my years of watching horror films, I have never wanted a character to die seven minutes into the film. Heather is comparable to Tina from Halloween 5, she's so annoying (it doesn't help that she talks in the stereotypical ditzy teenage girl voice). And the ear sodomy that she dishes out doesn't stop there. After that stirring conversation between her and Barry, she randomly says, "I just thought of something so cool. What if we got into a wreck and we crashed into a car in front of us and we all died? They could write a song about it." This is the one time I agree with Barry when he looks at her after she says that and tells her to shut up. After they hit that other car, the first thing Heather does is look into the mirror and say, "God, this is going to leave a scar!" When she gets out after the driver of the car has fainted, the way she asks if he died is comparable to Tommy Wisseau in terms of how bad the acting is (just see it for yourself to get what I mean). She goes on to say, "It's my fault. If he dies, I'll be a murderer." When they decide to go off to try to find help, she tells Barry to keep away from her and yet, when the two of them walk off with Jenny, she's hanging onto his arm. Yeah, women, when you're scared, just hang onto any man who's around, if he's an asshole who has cheated on you. As they continue walking, she keeps going on and on, talking about how she has had dreams about being stalked in the woods, how some murderer in Chicago is going to kill them and their bodies will show up on A Current Affair, that the killers want them to wander around in the dark, and that they should just stay there (in the middle of the road) and start a fire. (At this point, I was actually thinking, "Good God, I think I can feel myself getting stupider while listening to this.) She does the typical dumb woman thing of asking Barry to carry her at one point and asking Barry to get her some water when they arrive at that insurance office even though the water cooler is right there. Tell me again why I'm supposed to like this stupid slut?

But the exchange of dialogue that about caused me to lose it was when Heather and Barry were walking by themselves after unsuccessfully try to chase down a passing car and right before they came upon the family's house. "Barry, wait, stop. What if they're murderers and they want us to follow them so they can hide behind trees and stab us? There could be dead people buried all around us and we'd never know. They could tie us up in a cellar and no one would ever hear us." "That's dumb. There aren't any cellars in the houses around here." (Why did he even say that?) "Okay, that's it. Don't call me dumb, Barry. I may not be the smartest person in the world but I'm not stupid. I just act that way sometimes to get people to like me, that's all." (Hint: it doesn't work!) "Yeah, right." "All those stories about murderers and people following me-- I know it's not true. It's better than being bored. I'll tell you what's stupid is that line you gave me about you and that girl, Brenda. Not even a little kid would believe that." "Jenny, that bitch. She started this whole thing. It's all her fault!" "You'd like to think. I'll tell you what it is. I'm a bitch. I'm just like my mother. She can't stand my father. But she stays with him because she wants a certain kind of life. I don't care what anybody thinks. That's still the best way to get it." "What's wrong with that?" "Forget it." "Okay, fine, but you should've said something. It pisses me off that let you me go on like this. It's embarrassing." "I told you, I'm a bitch." SHUT THE FUCK UP! OH MY GOD, HOW DID TWO PEOPLE AS STUPID AS YOU GET TO TEENAGERS?! GIVE ME THE CHAINSAW, LEATHERFACE! I'LL KILL THEM MYSELF! NOT ONLY WILL I DO THAT BUT I'LL ALSO...

(A full minute of insane, angry screaming, a lot of obscenities, and much pulling of hair later...)
 
...AND RUN OVER THEIR MAGGOT-FILLED CARCASSES WITH MY FOUR-WHEELER FOR BEING SO STUPID!
 
So, anyway, they get to the family's house, Heather says more dumb stuff (I don't want to quote her anymore), orders Barry to go check and see if the inhabitants are out back after they get no answer at the front door, and then sits down on the porch swings. Leatherface comes up behind, sniffs and plays with her hair, and she's so stupid that it takes her a good while to turn around and see him. Leatherface grabs her, drags her into the house, shoves her into the freezer, she tries to get over and over again, Leatherface keeps pushing her back in, and finally puts something on the lid of the freezer. After he kills Barry and drags his body into the kitchen, she manages to get out again and now, Leatherface finally puts her on the meathook. But, as the Cinema Snob once said, this is one of those asshole bad movies that makes you think you've seen an annoying character die but it tricks you. Later on, when Jenny is being taken back to the family's house by Darla, the insurance agent who's part of the family, we see that Heather somehow managed to get off the meathook, crawl out of the house, and crawl pretty far up the road. She's eventually brought back to the house by Leatherface and later on when Jenny finally takes control of the situation by grabbing a shotgun and holding everybody at gunpoint, she tells Heather, who's lying on the floor, to get up. First, Heather says, "Five more minutes," and then, when Jenny tries to make her get up again, she starts to get up but then mumbles, "I can't find my shoes," and lies back down! I was like, "Jenny, just leave that rock-stupid girl behind and save yourself!" But, nope, Jenny gets recaptured and Heater is finally killed after the dinner scene when Vilmer crushes her head with his mechanical leg after burning her back. I'm torn between just how mean-spirited this death was and by my elation that this annoying as hell character was finally dead and, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that she deserved such an excruciating death after all the stupid, annoying crap she had put me through. (Do you see what this movie is doing to me? I'm losing my mind. I really am.)

Some people have said that they managed to get some enjoyment out of Matthew McConaughey's performance as Vilmer, the psychotic head of the family in this film. To me, he's just another annoying and unpleasant part of a movie that is annoying and unpleasant overall. He's just a typical, nutty psychopath with nothing original in his performance whatsoever. While I won't deny that it is interesting to see McConaughey play this type of role, particularly given the types of movies that he's typically made ever since he became a big star, and while it does seem like he was enjoying himself, I don't feel like he tried to bring anything new to the table in terms of playing a psycho. He just talks crazily and nonsensically, berates and insults his victims before he kills them (poor Jenny suffers so much at his hands that it's rather hard to watch), mutilates himself at various points for no reason, and is never quiet for one moment of this movie, constantly yelling at the top of his lungs and so forth (much like everyone else in the movie). Now I know that, for a series as crazy as this, that performance is appropriate and I won't deny that McConaughey is good at looking absolutely maniacal in his eyes and face when he really goes off, but, like I said, he's just another crazy part in a movie that is already so crazy and nonsensical that it gets old very quickly for me. In fact, out of all the family heads that we've seen in this franchise, Vilmer has to take the cake for being the most psychotic not just towards his victims but towards his own family as well. I know that in the first two movies Drayton physically and verbally abused his brothers a lot and even in the previous film where they felt the most like a family to me, Tinker had an arguement with Leatherface that ended not so well for him, but here, Vilmer comes close to killing his family members, particularly his lover Darla. He beats on her so much and so violently, often for no reason (I know, he's crazy but still), that it's a wonder that she's not black and blue by the end of the movie and, at one point, he actually tries to crush her neck with his mechanical leg and it's only because of Jenny's intervention that she doesn't get killed. And speaking of which, who thought that giving Vilmer a mechanical leg would be a good idea? I know that past family members have had similar aspects to them such as Chop Top's head plate, Tinker's hooked hand, and Mama's electronic voice box, and even Leatherface himself had a metal knee brace in the previous film (which I stupidly forgot to mention in that review), but this is way overdone and silly. He does use it as a weapon like when he uses it to crush Heather's head but the idea that he uses a remote control to operate it is ridiculous and, when Jenny is escaping near the end of the movie, she gets another remote control and the two of them actually have a duel with Vilmer trying to get his leg going and Jenny repeatedly stopping it. Is that supposed to be funny because it isn't. It's just stupid. And Vilmer's death is as nonsensical as he is. He gets hit by a crop-duster plane at the end when he and Leatherface are after Jenny. I'll go deeper into that later on but still, what? So, I know some people enjoy Vilmer but, for me, he's just another intolerable part of a movie that I already cannot stand.

I think that W.E. (Joe Stevens) may be more annoying to me than Vilmer. He's the hitchhiker equivalent in this film in that he's the most outwardly crazy-looking of the bunch, although I hesistate to say that he actually is the craziest since I think Vilmer has him beat in that department. His big gimmick is that he constantly quotes famous people, be it while torturting people or when he himself is being threatened. Like Heather's stupid rambling and bubble-headed personality, that gimmick gets annoying very quickly. When it got to the part where Jenny is holding the family at gunpoint and W.E. quotes Shakespeare as he's getting down on his knees, I was like, "Oh, give it a rest!" Besides that, his constant bickering with Darla, Vilmer's lover, also gets tiresome. It's the typical thing where he's jealous of the fact that she came along, saying that before she did, he was the one who, "set things up." In other words, he used to be the one who lured unsuspecting travelers into the family's clutches but now, as shown at the beginning of the movie, Darla does it and he doesn't like it. To that end, he does everything he can to make her life miserable, like not telling Vilmer that she's bringing pizza home for dinner and so on. Again, I know that a staple of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies has been quarrels within the family but this is done in such an irritating fashion and just goes on and on for so long that it's unbearable. On top of everything else, W.E. loves to torture people with a cattle prod, including Leatherface, whom he constantly zaps with it. I'm probably sounding like a broken record but, again, he does it so often and so many times in one moment, like when he's shocking Jenny while she's in the back of Darla's car, that you get sick of it fairly quickly. I wasn't exactly sure what happened to W.E. by the end of the movie and it was only after looking online that I discovered that Vilmer bashed in the head with a hammer. I don't remember him doing that (that scene was so chaotic that I can't remember many specifics of it anyway) but if that is what most sources say happened, then I'm not going to argue. By the way, even though I said W.E. is like this film's version of the hitchhiker, it seems that Kim Henkel meant for him to be Drayton and for Vilmer to be the hitchhiker (he even tried to get Jim Siedow and Edwin Neal to reprise their roles but they turned him down). I can see the connection to Drayton since W.E. appears to something that looks like a gas station and since Vilmer first appears while on the road, I can sort of see how he was supposed to be the hitchhiker (never mind that the hitchhiker was run over by a truck at the end of the original) but, since Vilmer is the head of family, I immediately thought of Drayton in his case and I already explained why I thought W.E. was like the hitchhiker. But whatever. Nothing else in this movie makes sense.

I will give this movie a little bit of credit with the character of Darla (Tonie Perenski). She's the first character in any of these movies who was once an outsider and then became part of the family through her relationship with one of its members rather than being born into it. That's an interesting dynamic: seeing how somebody who became a part of the family through circumstance rather than fate views it. In a well-written movie, that could have been one of the best aspects of it. But, of course, this piece of shit being what it is completely wastes that. Her quarrels with W.E. are the closest this movie ever comes to realizing that promise and the only thing that manages to be is irritating. Anyway, since she's the most sane member of the family, Darla is the one that I could tolerate the most (she's still fairly annoying, though) and Perenski does seem well aware of what type of movie she's making here and does try to put a smidge of camp into her performance but it doesn't help. I'm not sure if she's Vilmer's wife or his girlfriend but, whatever the case, she suffers an awful lot of abuse at his hands and yet sticks around. She does seem to like some rough love every now and again as shown by that scene in the kitchen where she plays around with Vilmer's mechanical leg and that leads to some very rough kissing and making out on the table. But, even though I said she's the most sane one of the family, Darla still shows signs of being as unstable as everyone else. Unlike Drayton, who managed to hide his nuttiness while working at the gas station in the original film, Darla shows some signs of her craziness in her first scene where she flashes her breasts at some people who threw something at her office while driving past it (she's very proud of her breast implants and, honestly, she should be!) She also makes bizarre comments, like when she tells Jenny that she thinks Vilmer might be an alien and that there's an explosive device in her head that keeps her from leaving the family (I wouldn't doubt either of those statements, though). Like Drayton was in the first film, she seems to have mixed feelings about capturing Jenny and watching Vilmer and W.E. torture her in that, despite her initial threatening demeanor towards her, she tries to comfort Jenny and even gives her a fresh dress to put on. I guess that shouldn't be so out of the ordinary given what's happened in some of the previous films but here, it just fells as nonsensical as everything else. And, despite the abuse that Vilmer dishes out on her, she's more than willing to tell Jenny about the family's secrets, about the people they work for, and so on (oh, just you wait), which was really dumb on her part. Finally, unless I missed something again like the thing with W.E., I'm pretty sure that what happened to Darla after Jenny escaped was left ambiguous (not that I care, I'm just saying). To sum up, Darla was an opportunity to create a new dynamic with the family that was ultimately wasted in this awful movie.


I know an alternate title for this movie is The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre but there should have been another one: How To Destroy A Horror Icon. Back in my review of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, I talked about how a lot of people don't like the characterization of Leatherface in that film and I argued that, while he may not have been as frightening there as he was in the original, at least he was still enjoyable and had some great moments, like when he sliced Buzz's head open and had that chainsaw duel with Lefty. Also I mentioned that some people have said that Leatherface was a pussy in that film but I countered, "Watch this movie {The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2}, then watch The Next Generation, and then decide which Leatherface is a pussy."  (Ironically, Bill Johnson was offered the chance to play Leatherface again in this movie but turned it down.) What Kim Henkel did to such an iconic character of contemporary horror in this movie is a travesty. He turned Leatherface into a wimpering, crying baby of a bitch who won't stop screaming and whining throughout the entire film. I know Leatherface originally was a man-child who was terrified of his family members and did whatever they said but at least he wasn't afraid of the people he was attacking. When Heather finally turns around and sees him during his first appearance, Leatherface actually screams and cowers when she screams at him and the whole time he's dragging her into the house and stuffing her into the freezer, he won't stop screaming. His dialogue throughout the movie is just, "Aaaah! Aaaah! Aaaah!" I know he screamed and yelled a lot in the first two films but I'm not kidding when I say that he literally never stops screaming in this movie. It's bad enough to hear the family continuously yelling and arguing with each other during various parts of the movie but when you've got Leatherface crying and whining on top of it, it's no wonder that Jenny tells everyone to shut up (again, I loved her for that). The moment that brings it home is during the dinner scene when Jenny is leaving and Leatherface gets up and yells at her. Jenny tells him to, "Sit the fuck down and shut up!" and he does it! He even whimpers while doing so. You might as well take what balls Leatherface had before and just cut them off because he doesn't need them anymore (and I mean that in more ways than one, as we'll soon see). Good God, was that humiliating.

Leatherface looks stupid in this movie too. Henkel tries to go with the motif of him wearing three different masks like he did in the original and while it good enough of him to attempt to bring that fascinating concept of the different masks back, like everything else, he messes it up royally (not that it matters because, no matter what he wears, Leatherface is still a big crybaby). The kill mask in this movie is beyond ridiculous-looking. If that's supposed to be human skin, then whoever made this mask doesn't know what human skin looks like. It looks like he's wearing a big clump of brown playdough with hair on top of it and on either side of the mask, there are actually curled parts hanging off from the top of it (a possible precursor for what's to come later on). Leatherface is even dressed weird in this part, with a camouflage jacket over his typical shirt and butcher apron (which, given what comes later in the film, I thought was a dress). Why? It's just odd. When Darla brings Jenny back to the house, Leatherface is now wearing the face of an old lady, like he was in the original. But, as with the first mask, the thing looks laughable, like it's made out of gray clay rather than human skin, with a ridiculous afro-like hairdo, and while in this mask, he's also wearing pearls and a frilly apron. Since he wore something similar in the first movie, I normally wouldn't be complaining but the reason I'm making such a big deal out of it is what comes next. As with the dinner scene in the original, Leatherface dresses up like a woman but instead of merely putting on the face (which has an awful wig, I might add), he goes all the way with a low-cut black dress and fake boobs! Kim Henkel, what the hell is wrong with you?! I know there was a dichotomy in the original that, in the final third, Leatherface became like a grotesque version of the female characters but this is like something you'd see in a John Waters movie! I'm not kidding, he looks like Divine! And since he goes out in broad daylight like that, you get a good look at just how awful this getup looks (that fake skin looks like latex with flour dumped on it). And the scene where you see Leatherface putting on lipstick and looking at himself in the mirror in that outfit with that record playing the background is like a retarded nightmare that you'd have. The same goes for the ending where Leatherface is running after Jenny and eventually does the chainsaw dance while wearing that stuff and screaming at the top of his lungs. On top of all of this, the freaking tagline was, "If looks could kill, he wouldn't need a chainsaw." Again, this had to have been meant as a parody. Had to have been. There's just no other explanation for it.

By the way, that tagline lies because Leatherface never kills anybody with a chainsaw in this film. In fact, the only person he kills period is Barry and he does that with a sledgehammer (I guess you could say that he killed the couple in the RV at the end of the film because he caused them to crash but you never see those two again and Jenny survived the crash so who knows if they were killed or not). I know in that the previous films, Leatherface has usually only killed one person with his chainsaw (two in the case of the last film if you count Benny's very apparent death in the alternate ending) so they can't really be called "chainsaw massacres" like the titles say but hey, if you've got the word "chainsaw" in the title, then you should have somebody get it taken to them. But nope, that doesn't happen here (which would make the film's alternate title, The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a bigger lie than that tagline because it sure as hell didn't return). Also, while Leatherface does do a lot of chasing with his chainsaw, his swings with it are just pathetic. There's a part where he's chasing Jenny through the woods and she runs through a puddle of water. He gets almost directly behind her, swings with the chainsaw, but his swings are so feeble that, even when he's that close, he still misses! He can't even kill Jenny with it when everyone else is holding her down like at the end of the dinner scene. I guess the metaphor that Tobe Hooper introduced in the second film about the chainsaw being Leatherface's manhood was literal. Now that he's lost his balls in this film, both in the sense that he's a wimp and that he dresses like a woman, it's useless to him. All I can say that if this really is meant to be the same character that we saw in the past films, then I want to know what happened to him! Did the fact that two more people got away from him at the end of the last film cause him to have a psychotic break that made him regress farther down in his mindset than he ever had been before? If there's an answer to this question, I want to know it.

One last curious bit about Leatherface in this movie is the actor who played him, Robert Jacks. I find it interesting in that the credits introduce him as Leatherface even though he was in two movies before this and would never act again after this. There's very little information about this guy. He was born in Monterey, California, was a good friend to Viggo Mortensen, oddly enough, as well as Patricia Neal and Deborah Harry, the latter of whom he recorded a CD with and one of the songs on that CD is featured in this movie. (The CD cover even has Harry standing in front of a portrait that features Jacks in all three of his Leatherface costumes. It's a surreal cover to say the least.) By all accounts, he had a miserable time making this movie and in some of the behind the scenes footage that you see, particularly in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth documentary, there's footage of him questioning a bit of direction given to him by Henkel as well as him complaining about his mask and how it keeps slipping off his face. Like I said, Jacks never acted again after this movie. He died in 2001 of an abdominal aneurysm the day before his 42nd birthday. To date, he's the only Leatherface actor who's no longer with us, knock wood, and while I didn't appreciate his performance in the role (I've heard some who say that they do, which is fine even though I don't get it), it's still a shame that he died so young and that he will undoubtedly always be best remembered as having played a horror icon in the most embarrassing incarnation imaginable.

There is a grandfather character in this film as well. He's played by Grayson Victor Schirmacher and appears briefly at the dinner table. W.E. talks to him continuously while they're sitting there but he never responds or moves and, at first, you assume that he's just another one of the corpses that the family has sitting at the table. And then, in the middle of the scene, he gets up and walks away, proving that he is alive. This is another aspect of the film that complicates the notion of where this film falls in the timeline since, as you remember, Grandpa actually was a corpse in the previous film. And even if this film is meant to disregard the last two, it still doesn't make sense because in the original, Grandpa was so old and weak he couldn't even stand up but now, he's strong enough to get up and walk. Once again, Kim Henkel doesn't seem to know what he's doing.

As if Henkel hadn't destroyed the franchise enough with the idiotic characters, nonsensical story, and the insulting portrayal of Leatherface, right before the film's climax, he introduces a character that causes this derailing train to finally crash. After Darla brings Jenny back to the family's house, she keeps telling her about how Vilmer and the rest of the family work for a mysterious shady group that controls everything, has been doing so for centuries, has engineered all sorts of tragedies, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to keep society in line or something to that extent, and so on. Now, you would think that this was just the nutty babblings of a crazy woman... until when Jenny attempts to leave after the dinner scene. Suddenly, this limousine pulls up and in steps this guy in a dark suit accompanied by his chauffer. The guy (James Gale) is named in the credits as Rothman, although I don't remember his name being spoken in the movie, and he confirms that he not only is the possible leader of this organization but he's actually offended that Vilmer has apparently disobeyed the rules that he has set for him and the family. He tells Vilmer to remember why he does this stuff, so people will, "know the meaning of horror." And that's where any belief that this film could salvage itself goes out the window. Basically, what Henkel is saying that the horrible things that happened in the original film and the two sequels before this one weren't due to fate, the influence of sunspots and Saturn being retrograde, or the simple fact that all of these victims just ran across these insane people who wanted to murder them for no reason they could possibly understand. In other words, there really was no terrifying randomness to it all. No, it was because this shady, mafia-like organization willed all of this to happen so people would understand what the meaning of horror is. That's the final nail. Not only has Kim Henkel taken away how terrifying Leatherface and his family once but he's also destroyed what made the nature of their horrific murders so scary: that there was no definitive reason for them other than their possibly being the acts of people who are desperately hungry or that these people are simply doing what they do. It makes you wonder just how much of the original film Henkel actually wrote because he doesn't seem to understand what made it and the other movies work.

Taking away what he does to the franchise as a whole, the character of Rothman is also just simply nonsensical. He comes out of freaking nowhere, tells Vilmer that he's disgusted at how he's deviated from the rules that were established for him (which makes no sense because isn't Vilmer showing Jenny the meaning of horror by torturing her like this?), opens up his shirt, exposing some weird tattoos and piercings on his belly, inexplicably licks Jenny's face for a little bit, and then just leaves. You're left just wondering what the point of all that was. And after Jenny escapes from the family, Rothman actually saves her and apologizes to her for what's happened (supposedly, he ordered a hit on Vilmer, which might explain that crop-duster flying down to clobber him, but that's another thing that I don't remember at all). This stuff he says, like the character himself, makes no sense: "This, all of this, it's been an abomination. You really must accept my sincere apologies. It was supposed to be a spiritual experience. I can't tell you how disappointed I am. {I love how, as he's going on and on, Jenny is just getting angrier at the bullshit he's saying.} I suppose it's something we all live with, people like us who strive for something-- a sense of harmony. Perhaps it's disappointment that keeps us going. Unfortunately, it's never been easy for me. One of my many failings." I have no clue what in God's holy name he's talking about. It makes no sense whatsoever and, you know, for Henkel to try to put in some sort of deeper meaning after all of the nonsense he has subjected us to over almost an hour and a half is not only pretentious but a slap in the face as well. He really expects us to take something from this crud, like he's making an art film. Not only do I agree with Jenny telling Rothman, "Fuck you," as I said earlier but I would like to think that it's directed at Henkel as well for coming up with this pretentious and insulting notion. Asshole.

The side-characters in the film aren't treated with much dignity either and some of them are as weird and crazy or stupid as the main characters. The guy who was in the other car that Heather crashed into is perhaps the most normal one since he only says one line but do you know what his name is listed as in the credits? I'm Not Hurt. That seriously is what he's called since that is the only thing he says in the entire film. Once again, that's something you'd expect to see in a parody. When Heather arrives at the prom, there's a girl out in the hall who is acting like she's doped up on medication and she calls some teacher a bitch several times. Don't know what that's about. There are these two cops who are at the pizza place that Darla stops at and while the woman (Debra McMichael) is fine, the guy (Derek Keele) is really stupid in that he comes up to Darla and tries to hit on her, even though he was close enough to hear her tell Jenny that she was going to tape her up if she didn't keep quiet. I know he didn't see Jenny because of the dark garbage bag she was wrapped up in but he still should have heard what Darla said and yet, he's so much of a horndog that he didn't. It's just stupid. Even the couple in the RV (Geri Wolcott and Axel L. Schiller) at the end are weird because they keep calling each other Mr. and Mrs. Spodish. What kind of sense does that make? And, finally, we have several cast members from the original film who got roped into appearing here. The cop at the hospital that Jenny talks to is played by John Dugan, who played Grandpa and while they're talking, an orderly pushing a gurney walks by. The woman on the gurney is none other than Marilyn Burns (credited simply as Anonymous in the ending credits, which is also stupid) and the orderly is Paul Partain, aka Franklin. So, is Burns meant to be Sally and, if so, why is she at a hospital instead of a rehabilitation center? I know it's simply meant to be an homage to the original but it's not one that makes any kind of sense.

Not surprisingly, this film looks like shit as well. It has this orange tinge to it, like it was shot through a filter made of cheese, and it's very ugly and unpleasant to look at. The majority of the locations are bland as well, from the outside of the high school (we never actually see the prom that's going on; the closest we get is the hallway right outside of it) to the bland woods that so much of the film takes place, there's basically no imagination put into the film's production design. As I said, the woods are especially uninteresting. Most of the first half of the film involves the characters walking down the road in the middle of this murky, fog-filled forest and due to the unappealing color palette and the fact that, even though it's supposed to be night, it's so brightly lit that you can see just how bland it all is, it gets old really quickly. The scenes with Leatherface chasing Jenny through the woods aren't much better for the reasons I've just listed and as for the climactic chase that takes out in broad daylight, I think the sight of this happening in an open field surrounded by woods with a road in the middle of it is nowhere near as scary as the ending of the original where it takes on an open, public road with a vast horizon all around it. It's hard to explain but something about that climactic scene is much scarier to me (although, Leatherface wasn't wearing a damn dress then so that might have been a major plus). One credit I will give to the art direction in the film is that the house does look a lot like the house in the original, both on the outside and on the inside. I can't deny that. But, that said, it's not even close to being as creepy, not just due to the inept direction of this flick but also, again, due to the film's ugly look (although the shots with shafts of light coming in through the windows do kind of work and give it a bit of a nightmarish feel) and due to the fact that, instead of being filled to the brim with bone sculptures, this house is mainly just cluttered with a bunch of junk. There are some bone creations here like a chandelier above the dinner table that's made of bones as well as what appear to be bones making up the backs of the chairs (I think there were some lamps made of bone as well) but they're so barely dwelt upon and there's so much chaos going on in that scene that it's unlikely that you'd notice them. There is a swing outside the house as well as what appear to be animal hides hung on the walls in random spots as there in the original but, again, they're not used as effectively and you barely get any time to notice them, as you did in the original, unless you pause the film and look closey. So, again, kudos to the art directors for making the house similar to the one in the original but the details are not used even half as well as they could have been.

The similar look of the house leads me into another major problem the film has: it's trying more to be a remake rather than a sequel. Now, you could argue that the house looks similar because it's meant to be the same one that was in the original (again, if Henkel is simply following that film and ignoring the other sequels, which is up to debate) but, even putting that aside, Henkel copies so much from the original that it's impossible not to notice. The kids come across a type of place run by someone who appears normal but later turns out to be part of the family; a girl sits on a swing in front of the house while her boyfriend goes to investigate; said girl is put onto a meathook and into a freezer (the only difference here is that the order is switched); Leatherface bashes the boyfriend on the head with a heavy hammer, whose body then twitches before it's dragged away; Leatherface chases the main girl through the woods, into his house, saws the door down in order to get to her, chases her up the stairs, she goes through the window, makes her way back down to the ground, and he continues the chase up to the aforementioned public service-providing station (I know that's an awkward term but I couldn't think of a better way to describe it); the seemingly normal person who runs the place turns on the main girl and brings her back to the house; she suffers a lot of torture before escaping; she's chased by Leatherface and another family member, the latter of whom is killed when a vehicle kills them; the girl gets away in another vehicle while Leatherface does the chainsaw dance. The only thing that keeps these scenes from being complete xerox copies of their counterparts in the original are some notable additions to the proceedings, like how Leatherface chases Jenny onto the roof after she goes through the window or how Vilmer is killed by a random crop-duster plane rather than a cattle truck like the hitchhiker or the fact that you think Jenny is going to get away in the RV but it crashes and she ultimately escapes in Rothman's limousine. And even then, some of the scene lifting doesn't make sense when juxtaposed with certain aspects of this film. The one that stands out the most to me is Leatherface putting Heather on the meathook. The reason I bring that up is because it's highly suggested that the family isn't cannibalistic in this film. I doubt a family that is so destitute that its members have turned to cannibalism to fill their stomachs would be able to afford a pizza for at least four people (five if you count Grandpa). And if they could afford it, why cannibalize people at all? What, did they just decide to eat something other than human flesh that night or something? And Heather is placed at the dinner table along with the corpses of many other people so they're clearly not devouring their victims. Now, I can buy the bone sculptures in that those bones are probably all that's left of people they killed long ago and they decided to do something with them, but why the meathook? How did that make sense in conjunction with this depiction of the family? You could argue that this randomness is just more evidence of how crazy they all are but that's grasping at straws to me. I think the real explanation is simple: no thought was put into it other than, "Well, it's a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie so we have to have someone treated like a piece of meat even if they're not going to be eaten." Shameful.

As you're no doubt aware of by now, this movie's biggest flaw is that it's just too damn crazy for its own good. I know that sounds like an odd criticism for an entry in a franchise that is well known for being insane but this one just goes way, way too far with it. Tobe Hooper himself has made some pretty insane and nonsensical movies throughout his career but this movie makes the craziest of his look downright sober by comparison. It's not just the annoying and insane characters but also that there are so many scenes where it's evident that Kim Henkel has no clue how to instruct actors to reign in their performances or how to plot and structure what's going to happen without it becoming overlong and monotonous. I know there is some feeling that scenes in the original film went on too long, like the montage at the dinner scene with Sally screaming and her tormentors laughing at her, but that was done in such a way that it was horrifying and disturbing. Here, it's just constant chaos, people acting crazy, and nonsensical yelling for almost five full minutes or so, to the point where you agree with Jenny when she yells at everybody to shut up. It makes you wonder how it was supposed to be entertaining because it's not. It's just a bunch of madness. Again, I know there was a lot of madness in the first two films but there, Hooper had an idea of how to stage and play it all out and he also gave good direction to his actors. It's obvious here that we're in the hands of someone who doesn't know what he's doing and that the actors either don't understand the direction that he's given them but they're just doing it anyway or they're making up stuff because they've not been given any direction at all. Whatever the answer, none of this stuff meshes and these scenes end up being long stretches of craziness that quickly become boring and make you want to turn the movie off.

The movie also has a bad habit of repeating itself. Besides the number of purely insane scenes whose faults I mentioned above, another one is the shear number of times Jenny either escapes from her captors only or is about to but gets captured again. She gets picked up by Vilmer, jumps out of the truck when she realizes he's a psycho, gets chased by Leatherface and he chases her to the real estate office where Darla captures her and takes her back to the house; Jenny manages to get the shotgun, make it out the front door, and almost gets away in Darla's car but she's captured again by Vilmer; during the dinner scene, she manages to once again regain control and tries to leave but is stopped yet again and is briefly tortured by Rothman; and after that is when she runs out the front door with Leatherface and Vilmer in hot pursuit and finally gets away from them for good. (I bet by this point, when the RV that briefly picked Jenny up got turned over, most people panicked and thought she was going to be recaptured again and the movie would go on for another fifteen minutes or so!) Can you spell repetitive? That is a prime example of bad screenwriting right there and, remember, we have nobody but Kim Henkel himself to thank for it. (What really frightens me, though, is that Henkel now teaches film! Yeah, just let that sink in for a little while.)

When it comes to horror movies, I feel that you can go one of three ways: you can genuinely try to terrify or disturb the audience, you can make it into a fun time with a lot of over the top gore and death scenes, or you can do both. Obviously, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a prime example of the first method and the second movie followed the middle method. The Next Generation, however, doesn't do any of those. I guess Henkel was trying to make it a lot like the original by putting almost no blood in (I'd say there's even less blood here than there was in that film) but since this movie doesn't come close to being genuinely scary, we're left with a movie that's also not any fun in an over the top, gory way. You don't see any gore whatsoever when Barry gets bashed in the head with the sledgehammer, Sean's death happens virtually off-screen since you don't see a closeup of Vilmer's truck getting run over his body, and you don't see anything at all when Vilmer crushes Heather's head. The only bits of blood you see in the entire film for the most part occur when Vilmer cuts himself like the maniac he is. There are a couple of fairly gruesome-looking corpses, like a dead animal that Jenny, Heather, and Barry come across in the middle of the road (which looks decent but is on-screen so briefly that it might as well have not even been there) and the heavily-decomposed corpse that Barry finds in the family's bathtub (which does look pretty gross, I must admit). That's all there is basically. Despite the lack of gore, the film actually is quite violent but some of it comes across as downright mean-spirited. That's yet another odd criticism for an entry in this franchise, I know, but think about it, as mean-spirited as the previous films often were, they were worked in conjunction with what each film was trying to do (the original was truly trying to scare the crap out of you, the second was trying to be a gory satire, and the third was trying to be quite nasty). But since this film is not scary at all and is most certainly not fun or even nasty, the mean-spirited, violent scenes just make you cringe and not in a good way. When W.E. constantly zaps Jenny with the cattle prod when she's captured at Darla's agency building, it goes on far longer than it should (a common problem with this movie) and comes across as bullying sadism on the part of both the character and the director. The same goes for Heather's death. As much as I hated that character and wanted to kill her myself because she was so annoying, the length of time it takes for Vilmer to crush her head, even though you don't see it, feels very drawn out and the crushing sounds add to the unnecessarily sadistic feeling of it. Heck, I think some could even argue that Sean's death, with Vilmer driving over him again and again, is a case of overkill. So, not only is the film not scary or entertaining but Henkel's inability to sense when enough is enough makes some instances of violence very unpleasant to sit through.

It probably won't surprise you when I tell you that the music by Wayne Bell (who did the music for the original along with Tobe Hooper) sucks too. It's instantly forgettable, with no distinct sound or style to it at all. At least I could remember some of the music from Leatherface. The only bit of music for this movie that I remember is the bit that plays over the ending credits, which is an off-beat, silly fiddle-played piece of music that makes you feel like you're being mocked after having sat through this god-awful movie. It would work well for the closing credits of a spoof or parody but, as I've said too many times in this review, I can't be sure if that really was Henkel's intent (and if it was, he failed on that score too). There are a bunch of forgettable songs on the soundtrack as well. The only ones I remember, at least in terms of what they sounded like, is that song playing on the record when Leatherface is getting dolled up for dinner (someone correct me if I'm wrong but is that the song Robert Jacks produced with Deborah Harry?) and when he and Vilmer are chasing Jenny during the climax. I assure you that the only reason I sort of remember those songs is because of the surreal scenes that they accompanied. And, worst of all, Henkel was so sure that he was making the "real" sequel to the original that he had Wayne Bell put that eerie screeching sound into the film at various points, like right before the car crashes into Barry's and it's the last thing we hear when we see drag-queen Leatherface dancing with his saw at the very end. They even put it in inappropriate spots, like when the kids are getting their pictures taken at the prom at the very beginning. Why?! You know, Mr. Henkel, when my good friend Jeff Burr had that sound put into the background during the excavation of the mass grave in his movie, it helped give it a creepy feeling. It feels like you're just putting it into this movie in order to say, "See, see, the sound from the original is in here, so that makes this the real sequel!"

Like Cannon Films and New Line Cinema before them, the heads at Columbia/Tri-Star weren't exactly sure what to do with the film once it was finished and the journey that the film took from post-production to its very brief theatrical release is a little hard to keep straight but I'll try my best. After it was completed, I think it had a very limited and brief theatrical run in 1994 and it was shown at the South by South-west Film and Media Conference in 1995. I think then the studio agreed to release the film in theaters all over the country in October of that year and, after that deal was made, the film, which was still called The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre at that point was re-edited (which, to be far, could explain why so much of it doesn't make sense but that still doesn't the questionable decisions Henkel and company made) and given the title it now has. The release date in October of 1995 was yanked however when Renee Zellweger won her role in Jerry Maguire and Columbia/Tri-Star, feeling that Zellweger would be a high-profile actor after starring in a big movie with Tom Cruise, decided to wait and release the film after Jerry Maguire had came out in order to cash in on Zellweger's newfound fame. While the filmmakers agreed to that, apparently Matthew McConaughey's agent pressured the studio not to release the film in theaters at all and I think Zellweger's representatives may have done the same. McConaughey and Zellweger have never told their side of this story so whether or not this is true is unclear but, in any case, the film was released in theaters in 1997. However, it was a very limited release, in less than twenty cities, and it had almost no marketing as well, which lead to box-office returns that were positively anemic. Kim Henkel and producer Robert Kuhn were not at all happy about this set of circumstances and felt that Columbia should have either given the film back and let them distribute it themselves or done the best release that they possibly could have without upsetting the stars' agents. But, again, who knows if there actually was any controversy with the stars' agents? Maybe Columbia just realized what an awful film it was and didn't want to embarrass themselves by releasing it all over the country. Whatever really happened, Columbia's drastic tinkering of the film ended up creating another movie that has a fabled alternate cut to it. That cut, which still has the original title, is only available in Canada and, from what I've heard, while the movie is still bad, that version makes more sense and has the subplot with Jenny's abusive father (but, I've also heard that it has even more dialogue between Barry and Heather and I out and out refuse to believe that can be a good thing). It doesn't matter, though. I still hate this movie and I sure as hell am not going to spend money on another DVD just so I can see an alternate cut of something I already can't stand.

Before I end, I just want to say that, while this movie does generally have an extremely negative public and critical opinion, there are people who actually like this film. Its biggest supporter is Joe Bob Briggs, who went as far as to call it the best horror film of the 90's and prefers it much more so than the first two sequels. Now, I have nothing against Briggs. I actually like the guy quite a bit and he has every right to like this movie as much as he does. I really don't get it but, again, that's his opinion and he's welcome to it. When the film was originally released, some critics did give it some fairly good notices. John Anderson of the L.A. Times liked it quite a bit, calling it, "a giddy mix of gruesome horror and campy humor" (I don't know what "gruesome horror" he's talking about and the humor is campy, yeah, but in an annoying way), and I know the Village Voice said that Leatherface crossed Divine (see, I told you) with Hannibal Lecter (where the hell was Hannibal Lecter's influence on this movie?) And today, there is a small but passionate cult following for the film who do enjoy it. I only bring all of this up to reiterate my stance that everybody likes what they like and if you enjoy something that I don't, great. It doesn't make you an idiot or a bad person or anything else. It's fine. I certainly have my share of movies that I like that everyone else seems to hate (case in point, that list I did) so it's all relative. It'll just remain one of those odd mysteries of life on how someone can get any type of enjoyment out of this movie but, again, if you do, no foul.

Joe Bob Briggs may think it the best horror film of the 90's but I, and a lot of other people, consider The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation to be one of the worst horror films ever. It's a nonsensical, crazy film with characters who, except for the main girl, are either so annoying that you can't stand them or are just batshit insane, a plot that rehashes elements from the far superior original and does it very poorly, sequences of pure craziness that go on for so long that they're just tedious and almost impossible to get through, a tone that can't decide if it's trying to be serious or if it's trying to be a spoof, and it all comes from a man who helped write the original but clearly had no clue what he was trying accomplish by making this movie and yet, insultingly enough, tried shoehorn in some deeper meaning after filling the movie with such stupidity. While I do respect the opinions of those who do get enjoyment out of it, to me this movie sucks big time, is one of the worst entries in any franchise, and if it weren't for this blog, I would have never put myself through it and, now that this review is done, I never will again. This movie can kiss my ass and so can Kim Henkel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Franchises: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

As I mentioned back in my review of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, I bought this movie along with that one and so, I basically watched them both back to back. Given how I tend to watch new movies, I more than likely either watched this later that same day or, at most, the day after I saw the second one. Anyway, like I said in my review of it, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the second film after I watched it because of how freaking crazy it was. Also, although I appreciate them now, the black comedy and satirical tone of that film was rather off-putting, especially after I had seen both the original and the remake many times before. This film felt more like my cup of tea, especially since, as I mentioned in my previous review, I had heard two classmates that were rather snobbish about films say that they really liked the original movie and this one but hated the second one. That, coupled with a few other reviews I had read, gave me the impression that this one was generally more well thought of than its predecessor (however, as we'll see, it's kind of the opposite actually). Plus, everything I read made it feel like this one was more in line with the original in terms of tone than the second film was. I had actually seen the VHS for this movie in the horror section of my local video rental store and it was rather creepy looking, with Leatherface in a dark purple mask and the blade of his big chainsaw coming up from the bottom. Basically, after the initial mixed reaction I had with the second film, I went into this one feeling that it could possibly deliver the goods in terms of what I wanted in this type of movie. And I came out of the movie feeling quite satisfied. It was no masterpiece or anything but I really, really liked the direction this movie decided to take after the second film and I enjoyed it a lot more. While I now hold the second film in just as much regard as this one, I thought and I still do think that, not counting the remake or its prequel, that this was the actual sequel in the franchise that came the closest to being like the original film.

A California couple who are traveling through Texas on their way to Florida in order to drop off a car they borrowed from a close relative and then go their separate ways. However, their trip soon turns macabre when they pass through a security checkpoint at a site where the police are excavating a horrific mass grave. The next day, they come across a small gas station run a very disturbed and perverted man and they also meet a hitchhiking cowboy who asks for a ride but, due to their tight schedule, they're forced to turn him down. After a fight breaks out between the cowboy and the station owner, which leads to the latter seemingly shooting the former with a shotgun, the couple take off in a panic and take a route that the cowboy had earlier said would be a lot quicker. However, they become lost in the backwoods and soon fall prey to Leatherface and his cannibal family. Now, with the two of being hunted, it's up to a survivalist, who has accidentally become involved in the whole affair, to save the couple before they become the main course of the family's next meal.

A big question that often arises concerning this movie is where exactly it falls in the series' timeline. Is it a reboot that takes place in its own continuity or is it, in fact, the second sequel to the original movie? Most people would simply look at the film's subtitle being The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III as proof that it does indeed follow the two films that came before it but it's not quite that simple. We definitely know that it follows the events of the original film since they're mentioned in the opening crawl and so is the eventual fate of Sally Hardesty. So the question really should be, "Does this follow the second film?" That's a trickier one to answer. On the one hand, the opening crawl says that Sally died in 1977, just four years after the events of the original film, whereas the crawl for the second film simply said that she sank into catatonia; as we'll get into shortly, Leatherface is a much different character here than he was previously, especially in regards to the second movie; there is no plausible way to explain how Leatherface survived getting a chainsaw shoved all the way through him and then being caught in a big explosion that apparently killed everyone else that was involved; and, going outside the realm of the movie, screenwriter David J. Schow had said that he was told by New Line Cinema to disregard the second film. However, on the other hand, there are some references to it, the most blatant being that Leatherface gets a new chainsaw with the saying The Saw is Family engraved on the blade and, as we know, Drayton said that in the second movie. Plus, Grandpa is sitting at the family table, although he's now a corpse, possibly after being killed by the aforementioned climactic explosion of the previous film. One other reference that most probably miss is that Caroline Williams, Stretch from the previous movie, appears briefly at the mass grave as a reporter and Williams as well as director Jeff Burr have said that this character is meant to be Stretch. There was a moment in the second film that suggested that Stretch aspired to be a reporter some day(which could have also been what she meant when told Lefty that her involvement in this story was her chance to do something real with herself) and Williams has said that, after the events of the second film, Stretch eventually did become a reporter and her presence here was to meant to say that she had taken it upon herself to track down the family. So, exactly how this film fits in context with the other movies is a little tricky to figure out. It's possible to view it both as the second sequel to the original and as a reboot like Halloween H2O that follows the original but ignores what happened in-between. Personally, I've never tried to rattle my brains over it. Since the opening crawl, as well as the story and characters, of the next film complicate matters even further, I just simply view the movie as what the title says it is: the third entry in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.

After the release of the second film, New Line Cinema, who had distributed the original film in a re-release in the early 80's, picked up the rights to the franchise and, in an attempt to follow up on the huge success they had had with the Nightmare on Elm Street films, intended to turn Leatherface into a full-blown franchise character, which is why his name is the real title of the movie. Apparently, Tobe Hooper was going to be involved in this film in some capacity. I don't know if he was ever slated to direct but, at the very least, he submitted a story treatment to the executives at New Line. Eventually, though, he left the project altogether to direct Spontaneous Combustion which, as we all know, was the better choice on his part (and if you've read my review of that film, you'd know I'm being sarcastic in every sense of the word). Hooper himself has said in recent years that he never intended to make any more after the second movie but I'm not sure how truth I put in that, seeing as how that sounds like something somebody would say when they were originally going to be involved in a sequel but bowed out. In any case, New Line went through a whole line of directors, including Peter Jackson and effects-guy Tom Savini (whose remake of Night of the Living Dead would be released the same year that this movie was). Eventually, the studio chose Jeff Burr, who had just finished directing The Stepfather II. Now, here's where I have a very personal attachment to this film. Jeff Burr is a very good friend of mine. I met him at a convention in Pikeville, Kentucky in 2010 and, due to our common interests in films, we've remained close friends ever since and communicate all the time through e-mails. He's a very good guy and is as modest as you can get, often feeling that he's made more mistakes in his directing career than actual successes (which I, personally, don't agree with). I felt I should bring that up and so, while I will try to be objective towards this film, it is important to know that I do have personal biases when it comes to it as well. In any case, like Hooper before him, Jeff (I will continue to refer to him by first name throughout) would find himself battling the production company behind the film and, while I do like the film as I've said, his original vision for it would eventually be compromised both by the studio and the ratings board.

One of the weak points of the movie for me are two of the three lead characters: Michelle (Kate Hodge) and Ryan (William Butler). They're not loathsome or annoying and Hodge and Butler give decent enough performances but I don't find them to be that compelling either. It's weird that they are a couple because, for the longest time, I swear I thought that they were brother and sister instead of boyfriend and girlfriend. I guess it's because they never kiss or anything and since they say they're dropping off the car they're driving at a relative's place, I assumed they meant a relative to the both of them, which would make them siblings. However, according to all the synopses I've read, they're a couple so I guess I'm just not very perceptive. In any case, the two of them are in the middle of some sort of quarrel (exactly what is never explained) and they're going to go their separate ways once they reach Florida. Fortunately, they don't bicker about whatever's happened between them to the point where you wish they'd shut up. It's simply established at the beginning of the movie and, since it's not important to the overall plot, it's not dwelt upon afterward. In any case, both of the characters have their good points. Michelle is the type who likes to avoid trouble, like when she encourages Ryan not to get into an arguement with this police officer who tells him that what happened at the crime scene they pass by is none of his business. Also, she has a sympathetic side, which is shown several times. One is after they accidentally hit an armadillo. Not wanting to leave it there to suffer, she tries to put it out of its misery but can't bring herself to do so and, therefore, Ryan has to. Later, when they get to the gas station, she's still upset about it, to which Tex, the hitchhiking cowboy, says, "There's roadkill all over Texas. It's the natural order of things." Another sign of her sympathy is when Tex asks for a ride and while Ryan turns him down, she says, "Maybe." After they spot Tex on the road again after he was supposedly killed by Alfredo, the gas station owner, and they meet Benny, the survivalist, she becomes concerned for Tex and asks Benny to try to find him. And, finally, when she's looking for help and wanders into a house she finds in the middle of the woods, she tries to comfort a sobbing little girl that she finds inside. However, her sympathy gets her in trouble in this case when the girl is revealed to be a member of the family. Like Sally did with Drayton in the original film, Michelle tries to reason with the mother of the family to make them stop but this proves to be useless. I do feel really bad for Michelle because she's gagged and her hands are actually nailed to the arms of a chair instead of simply being tied. That shot does make you wince. Like Sally, she has enough initiative and sense to get herself out of there when given the opportunity, despite how painful it is pull her hands off of the nails. And while I do wish that she had done something to help Benny in his fight with Leatherface in the marsh, like bashing Leatherface in the head with a rock as she does a few minutes later, she makes up for it when she and Benny are ambushed by Alfredo at the end. She fights with Alfredo, bites and punches him, and eventually blows him away with a shotgun. That's awesome. To be fair, my only real complaint about Michelle is that she tends not to listen to Ryan, even when he's making a good point, like when he's telling her that he needs the flashlight so he can properly change their car's tire but she keeps shining it into the desert and when Ryan tells her to stop so he can finish fixing the tire, which he couldn't because they were ambushed by Leatherface but she refuses to. I know she was scared but still, he had a good point. And she yelled out for Benny at one point when she knows that Leatherface is out there, which was stupid on her part. Didn't make me hate her but that was still dumb. So, all in all, Michelle isn't a bad character but she's not one of my favorite horror movie heroines either.

I would have to say that Ryan is my favorite of the two. William Butler always have a very likable presence to him and he brings that here. He's a bit of a smartass, with his comment of, "I didn't want to be on TV anyway," after that cop tells him what happened at the crime scene is none of his business but he also mainly a likable jokester. At one point, he says, "Here we are," and when Michelle asks, "Where?" he responds, "The middle of nowhere." I also like his comment about the gas station's restroom after he uses it. He tells, "Go ahead. It'll change your life." I also feel that Ryan is more practical than Michelle. He has no problem with putting the injured armadillo out of its misery when Michelle is unable to. He's not sadistic or uncaring about it, he just has to do what he has to do. And when Tex keeps trying to get a ride from the two of them, he says, "Look, I understand. You're trying to get home. But, listen: we can't help you." Some might see that as kind of dickish on Ryan's part but he had already politely told Tex that they don't have time to take him where he needs to go and when he keeps pushing it, Ryan felt he had to be a little more stern to get the message through Tex's head. While he does temporarily lose it after they're first attacked, you also have to like Ryan for keeping a relatively cool head for the most part and being an ever faithful boyfriend when they're being hunted. He helps Michelle get up and get moving in order to metabolize the drowsiness-inducing pain-killers than Benny gave them out of their systems and when they're attacked again by Leatherface and Ryan gets his foot caught in a beartrap, he tells to Michelle to forget about trying to help him and run so she won't get killed too. He sacrifices himself so his girlfriend can get away, which is commendable. Unfortunately for Ryan, he isn't killed right away by Leatherface and is later brought to the family's house where he's hung upside down like a slab of meat for a while and is eventually killed with a sledge to the head. Fortunately, most of the family is killed by Benny and Michelle before he can be turned into barbecue and least Ryan went out as an attempted hero (even though it didn't work since Michelle got captured) but still, poor William Butler never survives these types of movies. (He was killed by Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, he was killed by Freddy Krueger in an episode of Freddy's Nightmares, and he was killed by Leatherface's family here. As Butler himself said, the only one of the major horror icons he was never killed by was Michael Myers.)

Michelle and Ryan may not be the strongest lead characters in a horror movie but, fortunately, Benny, the survivalist played by Ken Foree, picks up the slack. He's by far my favorite character in the film. He gets caught up in this madness purely by accident when he and the two kids almost run into each other while he's coming back from a survival retreat and while he's not too happy about his truck being totalled in the crash, he doesn't hesistate in helping the injured Michelle and Ryan. Naturally, he's skeptical about Ryan's claims that they're being stalked by some insane people, one of whom is carrying a chainsaw, feeling that it's just a delusion caused by his dazed condition but when he sees enough evidence that they're telling the truth, he knows exactly what to do and goes back to his truck to get some weapons. Granted, he should have been suspicious when this odd man with a hooked hand just shows up out of nowhere but it doesn't take him long to realize that he's part of it and he attempts to load his gun. He soon ends up getting attacked by Leatherface but is saved by the intervention of a survivor of the family's carnage. One thing that's great about Benny is that he's ever grateful when someone saves his life and, also, he becomes a Rambo-like badass. He's walking around, managing to avoid the traps that the family has set up around the woods, punches out Alfredo, saves Michelle from the family by blowing most of them away, beats up Tex and sets him on fire, and has a scuffle with Leatherface in the marsh. He also has some great lines, like when he sees Leatherface sitting in his room in the house and, upon seeing the bones and stuff lying around, he says, "What kind of sick shit is this?" When he's fighting with Tex, he says, "The fuck is wrong with you people?! Why don't you leave us alone?!" When Tex answers, "We're hungry," Benny yells, "You ever heard of pizza?!" And, even though they're not much, I like it when Benny yells, "Motherfucker!" right before he saves Michelle and, before he lights Tex on fire, he says, "You're toast, fuck!" Benny is a great character but, even though I like that he lived, it's one of those situations where you go, "Wait, that makes no sense." We saw Leatherface put his head right to the blade of the running chainsaw and yet, he suddenly shows up with barely a cut on his forehead! Jeff himself says that your bullshit alert should go crazy at that point. The reason for this nonsensical ending is because the executives at New Line asked for the bleaker original ending to be changed and, even though it doesn't make sense, for Benny's life to be spared since test audiences really liked him. Like I said, I have such mixed feelings about because, on the one hand, I'm glad Benny survived but, on the other hand, it's just preposterous. Oh, well. Despite that, Benny is an awesome character and is worth rooting for.

There are a couple of aspects about the family in this film that I really like. For one, I like that by this point, they've become much more technologically efficient in their methods of trapping and killing people. They've got traps set in the woods around their house such as beartraps and one elaborate trap that swings around and impales the victim against a tree with sharp, bladed sticks. And instead of bludgeoning people themselves with a sledgehammer, they've now got this elaborate piece of equipment that hangs people upside down like a slab of meat in a slaughterhouse and a system where this sledgehammer comes down and whacks the person in the head, spilling a lot of blood. There's even little stuff like when Leatherface whips out this tiny little cutting weapon to get Benny off of him when the two of them are fighting at one point. They've also got an elaborate setup of radios in the house (I think those were radios) as well as a gigantic lighting system that illuminates their entire front yard. And they now will even use their truck to stalk and run people down, something that the members of the family never did before (although they probably could have when given the opportunity). Basically, this side of the Sawyer family is much more technologically proficient and it increases their chances of catching victims. (Although I doubt Drayton and the other family members who hated the new technology that was installed in the slaughterhouse would be too happy about it. Maybe that's why they were never mentioned before; Drayon refused to have anything to do with them when he found out about the advanced methods they were using.)

The other aspect I like about the family as a whole in this film is that they really do feel like a family. The cannibalism aside, you actually do get a feeling that this is a close-knit bunch, rather than it just being an angry patriarch who beats on and verbally abuses his younger siblings. It helps that there's actually a mother figure as well as a younger daughter and the characters of Tex and Tinker do really feel like close, working brothers to me. And, while there are little quarrels that sometimes escalate rather extremely, like when Tinker throws Leatherface's new walkman into the oven and Leatherface, in a rage, forces him to get it out, there's no over the top physical and verbal abuse like the stuff that Drayton dished out to his brothers. The moment that brings the feeling of family home for me is when the little girl asks if she can pull the cord that will make the sledgehammer hit Ryan in the head. Tex picks her up, puts her on the counter, shows her how to do so, and as she does it, Leatherface and the mother watch on like you would expect to see in a real family. It's sick but it also shows the bond these characters have with each other, as does when the mother blows a kiss at one point. And when Benny attacks them when Leatherface is about to kill Michelle, they're very distressed about the mother getting shot as well as what happens to Tinker, something that you never saw at all in the previous films. So, despite the gruesome ways that they fill their bellies, there is love amongst this section of the Sawyer clan and, for me, up until the remake and its prequel, this is the closest the cannibal family ever came to actually being a family.

It's interesting that Peter Jackson was once on tap to direct this film since Viggo Mortensen plays one of the lead members of the family, Tex. He's both the most normal, good-looking family member and yet, at the same time, he's sort of like Drayton from the first two films. When Michelle and Ryan first meet him at the gas station, he comes across as kindly, charming, and even helpful, telling Ryan that a route that isn't on their map is a lot faster than the one that is. But, when he shows back up at the family's house, he proves how sadistic and cruel he really is. In fact, he may be the cruelest member of this clan. He nails Michelle's hands to the arms of a chair and threatens to put one in her head if she doesn't shut up, later puts a gag in her mouth and tapes her up with the help of the little girl, tells Ryan, while he's barely alive and hanging upside down, that if he needs anything, "Just twitch," and while fighting with Benny, he continuously taunts him. That's another thing that Tex does: he loves to dish out some verbal torture, which is another thing that makes him a little like Drayton, although he does it to his victims instead of to his siblings. When he grabs Michelle at the house, he says to the little girl, "They just keep getting dumber and dumber,"; while nailing Michelle's hands, he says, "So, how you like Texas?"; while stripping Ryan down, he makes fun of his under-shorts; and when they find out that Ryan will supply them with enough meat to last them for a while, Tex tells Michelle, "Seems we get to wait a spell on you. Maybe we should let Junior (Leatherface) have some fun. He always does make the prettiest damn babies." Finally, even though he's eerily calm during a lot of this, you do see just how unstable Tex really is when Tinker calls him Eddie instead of Tex and he angrily slams a cleaver down on the table and says, "I wish you'd call me Tex. I told you." And yet, despite how sadistic and unstable he is, he clearly loves his family, with how he lets the little girl finish Ryan off and also due to his interactions with his brothers. At least that's one good point that you can give him (if you can call that a good point).

The same time we meet Tex, the most normal looking of the Sawyer clan, we also meet the most out there member, Alfredo (Tom Everett). Whereas Tex is sort of like Drayton, Alfredo is a combination of Drayton and the hitchhiker from the original film, in that he runs the gas station but unlike Drayton, who managed to put on a sympathetic public face, Alfredo acts unstable and crazy all the time. You learn that, like most other members of the family, he used to work at a slaughterhouse but was put out of a job by automation (another callback to the hitchhiker). Although apparently, he lost his mind a whole lot more than the rest of the family. He has sort of the same weird speech pattern that the hitchhiker did and he also likes to take pictures of people and demand money for them, saying, "It's a good picture." He tends to ramble on about stuff like the hitchhiker and Chop Top as well, only much more so than they ever did. He's a bit of an outcast of the family in that they keep him at the gas station all the time, they make him dispose of the remains of their victims, a task that he complains about endlessly, he never shows up for dinner (although one could argue that he was on his way after throwing the body parts into the marsh and Benny interrupted him) and the only family member he interacts with is Tex at the gas station. He just seems like he's full of bitterness and contempt for the rest of them, talking a lot of trash about them when they're not around, even going so far as to make up a song about how much he hates being ordered around them by them. And yet, despite all of this, he gleefully takes part in their trapping of victims, like how he happy runs around, shooting his shotgun in the air, when Leatherface drives off to hunt Michelle and Ryan down, yelling, "It's Armageddon! It's Armageddon, you bitch! Goddammit! The trap is sprung now!" So he does get some enjoyment out of what the family does. And finally, I have to comment on how he's the most sexually deprayed member of the family so far. He runs the entire gambit, from cutting up dirty picture in magazines and pasting them on the walls of his office, saying off-color remarks to Michelle when he's filling the car's tank up ("I'm gonna service you real good, babe"), and peeping at Michelle while she's in the bathroom to more hideous stuff like kissing the decapitated head of woman and saying, "We had some good times, didn't we?", which suggests that he's engaged in necrophilia before, and saying that he had a girl in Tupelo who had to, "go down below," which suggests that he's murdered other women outside of Texas. This sick pervert is finally killed by Michelle at the end of the movie. I like the last exchange between the two of them. "What are the chances a brainless bitch like you knows how to use that thing? Hmm?!" "Pretty goddamn good, you backwoods motherfucker!", and then Michelle blows him away.

Given how everybody felt that Leatherface was a pussy in the second movie, and since this was supposed to be the start of a new franchise starring him, the filmmakers felt that they'd better make him into a more threatening character and so, to that end, R.A. Mihailoff plays him with a lot more anger and rage than Gunnar Hansen and Bill Johnson before him. This Leatherface isn't the wimpering, cowering man-child who, while dangerous to the family's prey, was terrified of his older siblings and let them beat on him and order him around. This guy isn't scared of anything, is much more intentionally fierce when attacking victims, and, as Tinker says, is a bit hard to control and keep in line. This Leatherface also doesn't take any crap from his brothers. While he initially slinks down in shame when Tinker admonishes him for not catching Benny, when Tinker throws the walkman that he took from Ryan into the oven, Leatherface grabs him and forces him to stick his good hand inside and pull it out. On top of that, Leatherface now knows how to drive a truck, something that I doubt the mentally challenged creature from the first two movies would have known how to do. That's what I meant earlier when I said that Leatherface's characterization here makes it a little difficult to accept that this is the same character who was in the first two films. It is hard to imagine that character doing things like this. But, there are two things that I use to try to rationalize it. First, Jeff and the other filmmakers have said that if, in the first films, Leatherface had the mindset of a frightened child, here he's more of a rebellious, out of control teenager. So take that piece of information from the filmmakers themselves and juxtapose it with what happened to the character in the previous film: he felt his first sexual kicks when he met Stretch. Maybe this sexual awakening in his retarded, childlike mind eventually stirred something up in there and led to his mindset growing into that of an angry, hormonal teenager. In other words, maybe it allowed him to grow some balls so to speak.

Not only is Leatherface fiercer and smarter in this film, like I said, but he's also more sadistic. When he kills Sara, the only person who was able to escape from the family, he doesn't just simply gut her with the chainsaw. He lures her into the spot where he wants to kill her, grabs her, slams her up against a tree, and then takes the chainsaw to her. Later on, when he's about to kill Michelle with his new saw, his doesn't do it right away but actually holds it in front of her for a little bit before finally lunging towards her, as if he really wanted her to know that she was about die and how he was going to kill her before he actually did it. There's also a sick, sexual perversion to Leatherface here that's much different from the innocent, curious mindset of the man-child who had just discovered arousal in the previous film. As if the idea of Leatherface having sex and apparently siring a daughter isn't disgusting enough, he also seems to be a sexual deviant. Look at the way he looks at Michelle when Tex suggests that maybe they should let him have some "fun." You can't see his facial expressions or eyes behind the mask at that angle but that stare says it all. He has really bad plans in store for her. Even worse is that we're told that Leatherface loves the private parts and that, "We knows what to do with them parts." When you take into account that Leatherface was about to kill Michelle after we've heard all this nasty sex talk, it's not too difficult to think that he may intend to engage in necrophilia as well as do "things" with her private parts. (I think Leatherface needs to quit hanging out with Alfredo. Also, does anybody else feel like they need to take a shower after reading that sick stuff I just wrote because I do. I may need to scrub my brain as well.) And yet, despite how much different of a character he is here, there are still signs of the childlike mindset that Leatherface used to have, like how he wimpers to Mama Sawyer after Tinker gives him back his now melted walkman or, in one of my favorite moments, he plays a word game on this little computer-like device and keeps typing that an image of a clown that he's shown is food even though the thing tells him several times that he's wrong. (You have to love how he becomes more and more frustrated each time he's told that he's wrong, eventually banging the table with his fist in anger.)

While I still the masks that Leatherface wore in the original film, especially the "kill-mask," were the creepiest, I think there's a really sick, twisted quality to the one he wears here that makes it probably my second favorite. It looks a lot more real to me than the one in the second film for one. It's hard to describe but it has a moist quality as well as a crudeness to it to where I can buy that it is sewn from various different faces. Again, it's hard to put into words but if you've seen the movie, then maybe you know what I mean. It also helps that the closeups of his face, and there are a lot of them, are quite nasty and creepy-looking, particularly when you can see Leatherface's ugly teeth and chapped, diseased lips up close as well. Plus, R.A. Mihailoff's facial expressions behind the mask are very effective as well. And also in this film, we actually get to see a montage of Leatherface making his mask, something we haven't seen yet up to this point. We see him kill a girl with a sledgehammer and then, after flaying her face off-camera, begins cutting it up, getting rid of some of the excess moisture by dabbing it with a towel, and then sewing it. Since the face was so small and he cut bits of it up, we can safely assume that it really was one of several faces that he sewed into one whole mask. While not done to the point where you can't watch it, it's a grisly montage nevertheless and, being the first scene in the movie, it does a good job in setting the tone. And I also have to comment on the new silver and gold chainsaw that Tinker makes for Leatherface. That thing is pretty damn cool, with its shiny, chromed blade with The Saw is Family inscribed on it and its golden body and handle with the sharp points going parallel to the blade. It's the weapon than any chainsaw-wielding maniac would love to have at his disposal. It's just a shame that it isn't used for any kills except for Benny's supposed death, which you barely seen anything of, and it never appears again in any future films either.

The member of the family that got them hooked on using more advanced methods to catch and kill their prey is Tinker (Joe Unger). He has a real affinity for technology and machines, constantly saying that, "Technology is our friend," and, at one point, saying, "We got the means, we got the machines." He loves technology so much that he actually made it part of his body, putting a big metal hook in place of his right hand when he lost it (whether he lost his hand by accident or did it on purpose is never made clear though). Other than his role of introducing technology to his family, Tinker doesn't do anything that important in the film though. He almost runs over Benny when he first meets him, helps Tex hang Ryan upside down, gives Leatherface his new chainsaw, and, as I described earlier, tries to give him a lesson in discipline that goes very bad for him (the latter are probably his most notable parts of the film). He also says something that suggests that there's an underlying reason why Tex doesn't like to be called by his real name of Eddie. After Tex says, "I wish you'd call me Tex. I told you," Tinker pats his brother on the back and says, "I'm sorry, boy. Goddamit, I'm sorry." Nothing more is made of it after that but it makes me wonder why Tex has such a problem with being called Eddie. And we learn from the not so PC stuff that he calls Benny that Tinker is a racist (I would write what he says but I'm afraid I might get some angry comments over it). By the end of the movie, it's not made clear whether Tinker died or not. He gets shoot up by Benny but the only injuries we see are two of the fingers on his left hand getting shot off as well as one of his ears. The last we see of Tinker is him sitting on the floor, telling Tex to, "Go get the meat!" His last line is, "I'll be in Hell for breakfast," suggesting that he was fatally wounded after all. Since we don't see him again after that, I think it's safe to assume that he did die shortly afterward.

The idea of there being a 9 to 10 year-old girl amongst the family (Jennifer Banko) and that she's as sadistic and twisted as the rest of them is a disturbing thought in and of itself but that she's supposed to be Leatherface's daughter, possibly conceived from the rape of a past female captive, as well makes it even worse. They never actually say that she is his daughter but there are subtle hints, like when the mother-figure of the family tells her to go wash up for dinner. She looks at Leatherface, who nods his head and kisses her before sending her off to do so (honestly, I always thought that just meant that Leatherface is a member of the family that she's particularly fond of). Also, when Tex tells Michelle that they're thinking about letting Leatherface have some "fun" with her, he adds, "He does make the prettiest damn babies." Whether or not she is Leatherface's daughter, there's no doubt that, as young as she is, she's a very malevolent individual. When Michelle first comes across her, she acts like a scared little girl in order to gain Michelle's sympathy and, before Michelle knows what hit her, she stabs her with a sharp object and, while operating the mouth of her doll (which I thought just looked like a skeleton but, apparently, it's actually meant to be the remains of an infant, adding a horrific new dimension to the family and her in particular), she says, "Yakkity-yack, don't talk back!" in a growly little voice. She also laughs when Tex grabs Michelle from behind and takes her away (we then see that her room is filled with bones). While the reason that the family has resorted to cannibalism is that they have no other way to get food, to the little girl, who has been around this stuff from the beginning of her life, it's simply a second nature that she doesn't question. When Michelle asks the family why they're doing this, the little girl matter-of-factly says, "Because if you don't poke 'em, then they don't leak, and if they don't leak, we can't feed Grandpa. Silly!" Not only does she view her family's ways in that manner but they've taught her to take pleasure in killing people, which she does very much so when she pulls the rope that makes the sledgehammer bash Ryan in the head. She also enjoys watching her family members attempt to kill other people, like when she's looking out the window and going, "Whack! Whack! Whack!" while watching Tex and Benny fight. In the actual film, her fate is never revealed but in the original ending, it's revealed that she's been picked up by the police, although whether or not she's been arrested is made unclear since she's not handcuffed.

Finally, we have Miriam Byrd-Nethery as Mama Sawyer, the true head of the household. She's an elderly woman who is confined to a wheelchair and has to be speak with the use of an electronic voice box. As I said earlier, while she's like Drayton in that she's the actual head of the family in this film, she shows a lot of love and affection for them all instead of physically and verbally abusing them like Drayton always did. She does complain a little bit when they're making a lot of noise in the kitchen when she first appears and does tell Leatherface to take get his new chainsaw off of her cutting board but she never becomes screaming and hateful towards them. However, she makes it clear that she has no sympathy for the people who fall prey to her family. When Michelle pleads with her to make her sons let her go, she tells Michelle that if she doesn't shut her mouth, she'll shut it for her. Later on, she tells Michelle that Leatherface loves, "them private parts," and that she cut her own off years ago. She also says that she did the same to Grandpa! (Maybe that's why Grandpa quit his job at the slaughterhouse and didn't give a crap in the previous films. She took his privates! He had nothing else to live for! Although, I do wonder how she's related to Grandpa. Is she his daughter or his wife? Heck, knowing this sick clan, she may have been both. And if that's the case, then who was that mummified woman in the attic in the original film?) When Benny saves Michelle, Mama is the one who is undeniably killed in the attack. She gets shot to pieces and the shock of her getting shot causes Tinker to get shot as well.

One final character that I'll mention here is Sara (Toni Hudson), the sole survivor of an attack by the family. I'll say right now that I'm not a great lover of this character. Granted, she does save Benny from Leatherface early on, as well as give him the lighter that he eventually uses to kill Tex, and I do get that what has happened to her has left her half-crazed (her sister is the woman whom Leatherface murdered at the beginning of the film and whose face he sewed into his mask; she watched the whole thing through the window) but, in the small part of the movie that she's in, she does nothing but annoy me. The way that she talks, gestures, and moves just gets on my nerves. Again, I understand why she's acting that way but all it does is get on my nerves. The fact that she gets killed by doing the typical dumb horror movie cliche of going off to investigate a strange noise didn't endear her to me either. I know you're supposed to sympathize with Sara but she was a character that did little other than get on my nerves.

I've always felt that the look and tone of this film is a middle-ground between that of the original and the second one. While it's shot in 35mm like the second film, I think it has a bit of the rawness and crude quality that the original had. What I'm getting at is that, because of its tone, the second one had a hyper-realism look to the deaths as well as the settings and the film itself. This film to me is what the original would have felt like if Tobe Hooper had shot it on normal 35mm instead of 16mm. But this movie also has a slightly nastier and sleazier quality to it that the original didn't have. While the original wasn't exactly prudish, there's some stuff in this movie that can make you feel positively soiled. I've already described how much more sexually deviant Leatherface is in this movie as well as the talk about private parts that Mama Sawyer gives and how Alfredo is a truly disgusting individual in the way he talks about women, the pornographic pictures has on the walls of his office at the gas station, and the possible references to necrophilia, rape, and murder that he makes. That's stuff that would make any exploitation filmmaker proud. While the violence in the movie was severely neutered before its release, it's still much more gruesome than the original was, with Leatherface making his mask at the beginning, Michelle's hands getting nailed to the arm of the chair, Ryan getting hung upside down like a slab of meat and getting his head bashed in, Mama and Tinker getting shot to crap, and so forth. And yet, it comes across as being in line with the original since what you see feels quite realistic and not as over the top and cartoonish as the second one. Think of it as the original if they put a little more, for lack of a better word, meat on it. And finally, there are a couple of scenes in particular here that just make me go, "Ugh!" (in a complimentary way, mind you) not only because of what they show but also what they make me think about. The biggest one is the excavation of that mass grave at the beginning. That is nasty stuff right there. It's not just the image of these guys having to shift through the mushy decomposed skin and body fat in order to remove the bones and the body parts that are still intact (all of which looks very real, I might add) but it's also the talk about how potentially toxic this crap, with the one guy being told to make sure his bio-suit is zipped up tight and with Ryan's description of just exactly what's happened to these corpses. It just gives me a feeling that makes my skin crawl and causes me to shudder. That one guy at the scene describes it perfectly: "This is fucked." The other one that gets me is the idea that the family has a marsh where they dump all of the unused parts of their victims. I find the idea of Alfredo taking this garbage bag full of body parts (the idea of anything wet or moist in a garbage bag has always given me a gross feeling for some reason; it's weird, I know) to this bog where he throws them in the water is just disgusting to me. And let's not forget that a lot of characters fall into this death marsh as well. Ignoring the logicity that everybody who fell in there should later be dying from all of the diseases that are running rampant in that water, the thought of having to swim around in that nasty swamp water with skeletons and corpses floating around in it as well is another thing that will make you feel like you need a shower. To sum up, if the original is the scariest and the second one is the funniest, then Leatherface, to me, is the nastiest, both in what it shows and what it implies.

I feel that the film's production design mirror's the film's nasty grittiness. Basically, nothing is spotless here: not the inside of Michelle and Ryan's car, not the truck that Tinker and Leatherface drive, and the gas station and house are quite grimy. Alfredo's cluttered office as well as what you see of the restroom give the air of a disgusting place that you don't want to be in and in the family's house, particularly the kitchen, you get the feeling of a place that has been lived in for a very long time, with grime and dirt on just about everything. And, as in the previous films (although not as much I might add), there are bones strewn here and there, mainly in Leatherface's part of the house as well as in the little girl's room (I guess she is his daughter since she has his same longing to be surrounded by human remains). I'm not exactly sure if there were bone sculptures since the bones weren't as in your face here as they were in the original or even in the second movie but, given this franchise, I'm sure there were and I just didn't see them. I've already talked about how disgusting the mass grave and corpse swamp locations are so I don't think I need to go into any more detail on those. Basically, every environment of this film is enough to make you feel soiled and unclean. (The only thing in this film that's spotless is Leatherface's new chainsaw!) But, I do have an actual complaint about the movie's locations, it's with the major environment of the film: the pitch black woods. Since so much of this movie takes place in the woods at night, it can be hard to tell what's going at some points. That was a complaint I had even when I first saw the movie. It was hard to tell in a lot of those scenes exactly what was happening and so, after a few watches, I eventually was forced to turn my TV's brightness up. I'm not saying that the movie sucks because of that but, be advised, if you're going to watch it, you'd better make sure your TV's brightness level is fairly high. Other than that, I do think that, as with its predecessors, the design of this film works well in giving it its tone and atmosphere.

One complaint that I hear about Leatherface from time to time is that, because it wasn't actually filmed in Texas, it doesn't have the authentic feel that the others have. I must admit that I do get that. Up until Texas Chainsaw 3-D, which was filmed in Louisiana, Leatherface always stood out like a sore thumb as being the only one in the series that wasn't filmed in Texas. It was actually filmed in California and you can tell. Texas has a certain look to it and California has a certain look to it and the location in this film, with its long desert highways and mountains in the background, looks like California or, at the very least, some other state on the west coast. (The location actually reminds me more of The Hitcher than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.) When they get into the backwoods for the majority of the film's latter half, it's easier to believe then that it is in Texas but still, I have to be honest: the first half hurts your belief that this is Texas (sorry, Jeff). I can't deny that. But, New Line Cinema didn't want to spend the money to go down to Texas and shoot there so, what can you do? One interesting bit of trivia is that the ranch that they shot the film at was very close to Six Flags Magic Mountain and Jeff swears that, if you listen, you can hear the screams of people riding the roller coasters in some spots. On my latest viewing of the film, I actually do think that I did hear them. It was during some of the quiet moments in the woods. If you listen closely, you will hear something that sounds like screams (and no, it's not the screams of Michelle and Ryan being chased by Leatherface because that wasn't going on at the time).

There are two aspects of the film that people criticize the most. One is the plot, which many feel is very run of the mill and a rehash of the original. I can't deny that the basic plot as well as some story elements and characters do feel like they were photo-copied from the original. Writer David J. Schow has said in interviews that one of his directive for writing the screenplay was to "tip the hat" to the original but not completely copy it. I'm not a screenwriter but if I were and were given that directive, I don't know if I would know how to do that. I'm not sure how you're supposed to pay "homage" to something without ripping it off. (In fact, John Carpenter has said that paying homage is a polite way of saying that you're copying something.) I'm not trying to defend the fact that the movie is a lot like the original, I'm just saying that's what Schow was told to do with the script and he did it the best way he could. But, yeah, I can't deny that this film does feel like a remake of the original in some ways (at least they did it well, though, unlike the next movie).

The other criticism that people level towards the film is that, even in its "unrated" version on the DVD, it's tame, with hardly any substantial gore or extremely gruesome moments. Ironically, though, it didn't start out that way. The original script that David J. Schow wrote was apparently so horrific and gruesome (apparently, Ryan originally was supposed to be naked when he was hung upside down with a long split down the middle, as a nod to a very gruesome crime scene photo taken inside of Ed Gein's house) that the producers asked it to be changed before it was even shot. However, the real trimming down of the film began after it was finished. When New Line Cinema was told that the foreign markets wouldn't accept the film because of how gruesome it was, that it would be banned in every country, and so forth, the executives took their scissors out and just gutted the film. All of the really gruesome effects scenes were taken out and you can only see them either as extras on the DVD or on a workprint version of the film that you can find at most horror conventions. But, as if that wasn't bad enough, the MPAA got ahold of it not too long afterward. By this point, the ratings board had become very dickish towards these types of horror films and would let hardly any bloodletting pass. The year before, they had butchered Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood to the point where there is basically no gore in it at all so they were definitely going to be harsh towards this film and, unlike Cannon, New Line Cinema couldn't afford to release the film unrated so they needed an R. The ratings board was so dickish to this film that the filmmakers basically had to cut little frames of it, like Tinker's fingers and ear getting shot off or the sledgehammer hitting Ryan's head, out to avoid an X-rating, which they got several times by the board. And, finally, due to the audience reactions at a test screening, Jeff had to reshoot the ending to where Benny lives even though, as I said, it makes no sense that he does. (They cut out the closeups of Benny's head getting shoved into the saw to try to make it more plausible that he lived but even then, what you do see still looks impossible for anyone to survive.) In the end, many forces came together to destroy a lot of potential and impact that the film could have had. Because of all this editing, re-editing, and reshooting, the film missed its initial release date of November of 1989 and ended up being dumped in January of 1990 where, despite having an awesome trailer (where Leatherface gets his chainsaw from the Lady of the Lake like King Arthur), it died at the box-office.

Because of all the cutting that was done to it, this film has gone through several incarnations since its release. For a while, the 81-minute, R-rated theatrical cut was the only one you could get on video. A few years after that, New Line Cinema released a version on video and laserdisc that they called the "uncut European version." This is the same version they eventually put on the DVD along with the theatrical cut except for one difference: the version on the DVD has the scene where the little girl pulls the rope that causes the sledgehammer to bash Ryan in the head, which was missing from all previous versions. This cut is known as the "Unrated Version," although it's not a true unrated version since none of the extreme stuff that was cut for the foreign markets is in there. Sadly, according to Jeff and other sources, the original negatives for that stuff is probably gone forever and the only ways to see it are, like I said, either in the special features section of the DVD or on a special workprint version. And none of these official releases have had the original bleaker ending (with Benny being definitely killed, a severely charred Tex briefly showing back up, and Michelle seeing the little girl in a police car, suggesting that the officer is possibly part of the family and that they will never be stopped) put back into the film although, like the very gruesome gore, you can see it as an extra on the DVD. Bottom line, like the second movie, it's highly unlikely that we'll ever see an official release of what this film was originally meant to be simply because it's not possible.

After looking at a lot of the deleted scenes from the film, most of the material that was cut for the foreign markets involved much more graphic and gruesome shots of stuff that you briefly in the "unrated" version on the DVD. You see lingering shots of Ryan's body when he gets killed while being hung upside down, including a bloodier shot of it after Benny has saved Michelle (the dummy looks rather fake in some of those shots though); there are longer and more excruciating shots of Michelle pulling her hands off of the nails on the chair's arms; more detailed shots of the little girl "feeding" Grandpa some blood as well as a deleted one of her feeding some of Tinker's blood after he's been killed to her doll; the aforementioned closeup of Benny's head getting pushed into the saw blade that they cut out of both official versions; and when Leatherface kills Sara, you see much, much more blood than you do in either official version of the film. Most of these deleted gore effects look great (KNB did the effects so, naturally, they look great) but there's one very graphic effect that they could never get to look right: Leatherface was supposed to bisect Sara in half with his chainsaw and she was supposed to split off in two. If you watch that raw footage, you can see the flailing arms of the dummy and some of the spewing blood but you never see the effect of her being cut in half (or at least I didn't; they probably couldn't get that far because the effect just wouldn't work). However, other than that botched kill, the effects work in the raw footage as well as in either official version of the film does look great. The flayed face you see at the very beginning as well as the shots of Leatherface cutting it up do look realistic as well as those corpses in that mass grave and the ones that Alfredo throws into the swamp (I already talked about those in nauseating detail), those wince-inducing closeups of Michelle's nailed hands, and the effects of Tinker's ear and fingers getting blown off (well, the fingers are a little suspect but the ear looks good). And one final deleted makeup effect that's worth mentioning is in the alternate ending where Tex shows back up. It's a shame that, even though you can see that ending as an extra, the scene is lit so darkly that you can't get a good look at the burned makeup on Viggo Mortensen because, judging from the behind the scenes footage on the documentary, it looked really good. In fact, there's a shot in that documentary where Mortensen turns to the camera and smiles with that makeup on his face and it is terrifying! I wish that effect had not only been left in but that it would have been more well lit so audiences could have seen it.

Long before I met him, I could feel that Jeff had mixed feelings about the film. The experience he had filming it was frustrating and difficult, mainly because he had to crank it out on a low budget of just over $2 million (which made it even cheaper than the second one) on a tight schedule of 30 days. He also had the disadvantage of not only working on a ranch near Magic Mountain but also having to shoot a movie that is set at night for the most part during a time of year where the evenings are quite short. And long before the issue of the film's content came up, Jeff had to contend with the studio, who were constantly on his back about getting the film done in the time alotted and without going over budget by a cent. Members of the cast and crew have said that they heard the producers and the execs saying not so nice things about Jeff, saying that he wasn't qualified to make this kind of movie, that he didn't know what he was doing, etc. And remember, the studio was also banking on this to be the first in a franchise so Jeff was under a lot of pressure to really deliver on this film. After the filming was completed, Jeff then had to deal with that whole headache of making the film "acceptable" to the masses, which has to be an awful thing for a filmmaker to endure. Jeff has said that the theatrical version of the movie made him look like an incompetent director (the theatrical version isn't the best, I'll give him that, although that's the version I first watched and liked so there's that as well) and that, before the film was released, he had an angry phone conversation with executive producer Michael De Luca where he told him, "I want my name taken off the fucking movie!" Now, I'm not telling you all of this to make you pity Jeff and I'm trying to say that because you know this, you must now like the movie if you didn't already. I just want you to understand that Jeff was put into a very frustrating situation that lasted all the way to post-production and release and that he himself feels that the movie is far from perfect and that he had to make a lot of damaging compromises in regards to what he initially intended the film to be. (It's kind of akin to what happened to David Fincher on Alien 3, although I think this was far less embittering. Even though he's not the proudest of it, at least Jeff will talk about Leatherface!)

For me, the most run of the mill aspect of the film is its music score. After the frightening banging and clanging sound-design score of the original and the insane carnival-style score of the second film, you'd would expect another distinctive score but, unfortunately, that's not the case. Jim Manzie and Pat Regan composed a score that is just typical horror film music and not much else. It's not awful, mind you, and it does serve the visuals well, but it's largely forgettable. The only part of the score that is memorable to me is the theme over the opening credits. That is really creepy and lets you know that this movie is going to more serious than the one before it. But, like I said, that's the only part of the score that stands out to me. The theme that plays during the fight with Benny and Tex outside the house is okay but it's generic rock music and there's nothing special about it. I can't remember any other themes besides those. The songs in the film are even more bland to me. The only song whose title I know is the actual Leatherface song by Laaz Rockit that plays over the ending credits. Not a fan of that song, I must say. It's so unmemorable and it's another sign of just how much the studio wanted to turn Leatherface into a more marketable character. But, again, it's the only song whose title I know. The rest of them are so generic that I don't know which is which and I really don't care to figure it out either. But, while the music and the songs leave a lot to be desired, there is a bit of sound design in the film that I must applaud. It takes place during the excavation of that mass grave. They're taking pictures of the decomposed corpses and every time the flash on the camera goes off, you faintly hear that iconic screech sound from the original. The way that it's more in the background instead of being front and center adds to the atmosphere of what's going on and I thought it was a nice, subtle way to connect this movie to the original. Although, I don't know why some of the stinger sound effects from Halloween 4 and 5 are in this film. I swear that sometimes during this film, you can hear those noises during some of the creepy parts and, like the screech, they're mainly in the background as part of the atmosphere instead of being really loud and making themselves known. I don't hate that they're present but it is odd. Do horror franchises just borrow sound gags from each other? Wouldn't that be hard to do legally? Who knows?

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is an odd bird of a film when put into the context of history but, for my money, is an enjoyable horror sequel. While you can't look at it without remembering that it was, first and foremost, an attempt to create another money-making franchise for New Line Cinema that failed and, for someone who has just seen the first two, it may feel like just a run-of-the-mill, virtually goreless horror film, I think there are some aspects of it that make it worth watching. While its feel is that of a middle-ground between that of the first and second films, it has a nasty, sleazy tone to it all its own, Ken Foree makes a great hero, the members of this part of the family are quite interesting in their own right, and there are some moments, scenes, and locations that will make you wince and cringe in a good way. It does definitely have problems, mostly due to its troubled post-production, and it may not be the greatest horror sequel ever, but I do think it deserves a little more credit than it gets and is worth watching by fans of the franchise at least once. And, look at it this way: if you're somebody who doesn't like black humor and zaniness of the second movie and you want an entry in the series that goes more for the feel of the original, this is as close as you're going to get apart from the 2003 remake.