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‘Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III’ (R)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 13, 1990

The producers of "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" have a built-inexcuse for its abysmal failure: They shot an X film, but edited it down to an R to satisfy the MPAA ratings board. Whether that was just a publicity ploy or not, the lack of hard-core gore in this latest installment is quite noticeable: Almost every time someone is killed or otherwise physically traumatized, the camera cuts away. Genre fans were probably hoping all the cutting away would be done by Leatherface's shiny new custom-built chain saw, the one with "The Saw Is Family" engraved on the blade.

Leatherface -- the name comes from his mask, stitched together from victims' faces -- is the most outre member of a post-nuclear family that inhabits a Texas wasteland and hunts, traps and kills motorists unfortunate enough to be conned onto their highway to hell. They're just meals on wheels for this cannibalistic clan. Apparently the family that slays together stays together, because the dinner table gets mighty crowded, what with Granddad trying not to crumble to dust before he gets his servings of fresh plasma, and a fresh-faced granddaughter learning the ropes -- and the pulleys and meat hooks.

Into this den of non-Equity (this is lousy dinner theater) stumbles a young woman, one whose main challenge is to scream, to suffer indignities at the hands of the family (she's the next course, of course) and to run through the woods while being chased by Leatherface and his saw.

For those who saw the first two "Massacres," this will seem pretty much deja-boo! All too much of "III" is rehashed horror. The first installment was genuinely shocking, unrelenting, visceral terror. "II" was camp terror, a gothic detour that cast Dennis Hopper as a good guy (albeit nuts). "III" envisions itself as a return to "I," but director Jeff Burr is no Tobe Hopper (director of the first installment), and even the special effects seem bloodless imitations. Sure, there are more bare bones cluttering the secluded family dwelling than there are at the Museum of Natural History, but that's a plot problem as well.

"Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" is rated R and contains some graphic violence, though not nearly as much as the filmmakers and fans would have liked.

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