I’ve always had this idea that the sequels to Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” were just glorified remakes of the first film. While it’s true they’re all very similar, filmmakers didn’t start to remake Hooper’s horror film until “The Next Generation.” The Hooper fueled sequel, and “Leatherface” are different films from the first film with finales that are in fact nearly identical to the end of the first film. It’s almost as if the writers never really know where to go once they’ve had their fun, and just go back to the whole dinner scene where the heroine screams bloody murder for thirty minutes. Wherein the second film in the series had poorly developed story, “Leatherface” really has little story.
You could really explain the premise in a few short sentences. There’s nothing to this 1990 third leg of the series, except for much carnage, and torture. And yet, when I was finished with “Leatherface” I much preferred it over the second film. Mainly because, while it does have the nineties tameness to it, it’s brutal and tense. And it sports Ken Foree as one bad ass Sawyer stomper. As Benny, Ken Foree is the reason to sit through “Leatherface” as he poses the first real threat for the Sawyers since Dennis Hopper and his miniature chainsaws. There’s something of a plot presented, as brother and sister Michelle and Ryan are tasked with delivering their dad’s custom car across the country. Rather than flying, they figure a drive would be better. While driving to their father’s home, they stop at a local gas station where they meet the unstable gas attendant and the hunky Tex.
Tex is a hitchhiker who wants a ride with the brother and sister, and proceeds to woo Michelle while Ryan insists on driving off and leaving them in the dust. Because we all know hitchhikers are never dangerous in Texas. After being attacked by the gas station attendant, Michelle and Ryan are attacked by the Sawyers and realize they’re being stalked and hunted down. Of course, when Michelle and Ryan crash, they’re fortunate to find Benny, an ex-war veteran who tries to help, but is soon embroiled in the battle against the Sawyers. Foree is a bad motherfucker who bounces back whenever he’s attacked, and decides to become Rambo and bring down the cannibalistic clan when they kidnap Michelle and her brother. Beyond all obstacles–and inherent logic, Benny becomes a survivalist who manages to spell doom for the Sawyers, and Leatherface meets his match.
Of course, Viggo Mortensen is a fine precursor to the god awful Matthew McConaughey, playing the goofy Tex. He may seem hunky, but deep down he’s another Sawyer mama’s boy. R.A. Mihailoff vindicates Leatherface as a menace once again, wielding his chrome Chainsaw with the words “The Saw is Family” etched on it, for good measure. Sure it’s one goofy scene, but damn you have to love that chainsaw. And Leatherface really is given some hefty slaughtering time for this installment, providing him with the center stage, finally. Sure, “Leatherface” may once again mock the original film by treating this premise as somewhat campy schlock, as well as lacking a cogent story to lure audiences in. But the third leg in the “Texas Chainsaw” series is definitely a step up from part two, and infinitely superior to “The Next Generation.”