Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3

So here’s where the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series collapsed upon itself, never to return. The original film stands out in the world of horror as one of the scariest damn movies ever made, and, knowing he couldn’t top that, Tobe Hooper went for broke on the humor with the second film, making it a delightful horror comedy. This film, however, the first not made under his watchful eye, lacks the nerve to go in either of those directions, instead preferring to just kind of sit there and quietly stink.

The film follows a guy and a girl on their way through Texas, and after stopping at the required Awful Gas Station where they run into a young Viggo Mortensen (I guess starting a trend of the series showcasing eventual film stars that would continue into the next film with Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger) and the required Horrid Gas Station Attendant, who chases them to an unmapped road. If you’ve never seen this film before, you should already know where this is leading. Of course, they all run into the cannibalistic family from the first two films, and of course both Viggo and the gas station guy are connected to them, though I admit I didn’t quite expect the two additional comrades they acquire in their struggle. One is a survivalist that they almost drive into while fleeing from Leatherface, the most impressively charismatic of the family, and one is a young girl who fled from Leatherface in the film’s opening scene. She has such a small, useless role in the film I have to question why she wasn’t just killed right at the start.

I guess the biggest problem with this film is that every character in it is so far beyond stupid that their deaths would seem, if anything, a wasted effort. At one point, the two main characters have had their lives threatened twice already, and at least two of the last three people they’ve met have turned out to be crazy psychopaths, and so naturally when a man claiming to be a survivalist offers them unnamed pills to relax them they down them without question. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me and my hang ups about taking strange pills from strange men during life or death struggles, or maybe it’s just my aversion to what certainly seems to be an eagerness to do the most counterproductive action possible at any given moment. Then there’s the survivalist himself, who listens to the two talking about how there’s people trying to murder them, sees that their car has been attacked with a chainsaw, and then decides the best course of action is to go back onto the unmapped road and flag down help from the first car that passes by. Then there’s the girl from the beginning, who, after drawing Leatherface away from another victim, runs from him for all of half a minute and then just starts to roam the woods like she’s on a Sunday stroll. These are not people even interesting enough that you can be satisfied when they’re killed, whether they live or die you just feel kind of sad about the whole situation.

There’s also another pretty big problem involving the film’s rating. Originally rated an NC-17, it was pared down to an R for theatrical release. The DVD claims to have both the R rated and unrated versions, though when I watched the unrated version, not only did I notice nothing that would warrant anything more than an R, I noticed several moments where they cut away from the violence right before it got really graphic, leading me to the inescapable conclusion that the unrated version on the DVD is still edited. I hardly require gore to be entertained (hell, the first film was all about implying rather than showing, and I loved that), but when the film has little else to offer, it would be nice to not have the absence of graphic violence be so glaring in its omission.

I don’t know that I’ll ever find a horror franchise that didn’t fall apart somewhere along its path. Halloween held out surprisingly long, and I’ll always have a place in my heart for all of the Nightmare on Elm Streets, even the one where he kills someone with the Power Glove. This series did not last as long as them, obviously. I haven’t seen the most recent one (the prequel that was intended to explain how the family got the way they are), but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the others now, and every one from this film on was ass. Stop after the second film, there’s no reason to tarry.

Rating: * ½

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