MOVIE REVIEW : 'Leatherface': Massacred Sequel

Back in 1974, Tobe Hooper's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" crawled out of the hinterlands, reeking and screaming, a low-budget regional horror movie about a family of demented slaughterhouse workers turned cannibals that slashed its way into the public and critical light. Now, 16 years later, with one failed sequel in between, comes "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" (citywide), minus Hooper and co-writer Kim Henkel, minus the original cast, minus everything but the plot--shamelessly looted and stripped of everything but its bare, bloody essentials.

Almost two decades after the original massacre, new director Jeff Burr and screenwriter David Schow would have us believe that the cannibal family is still operating, undetected, in their woodsy farmhouse. None of the events of the 1986 "T. C. Massacre 2"--in which the kill-crazy bunch opened up a string of barbecue houses and an amusement park--seem to have affected anyone. Perhaps that episode was all a bad dream.

But this third one, a complete retrenchment, is no bad dream at all. It's just vapid deja vu . Every basic scene or plot element is repeated doggedly. This opportunistic, empty, often illogical sequel, is done without the crazy energy or stylistic volatility of its predecessors, executed with the grim wariness of an apprentice butcher who wants to keep his ax clean.

Since 1974, hordes of low-budget horror movies have copied Hooper's nubile teens-vs-crazed killers form--and then replicated themselves endlessly, like rotting toadstools on a felled tree.

But you can't catch horror in a bottle--especially a recycled one. "Leatherface" (MPAA-rated R, for language and violence) is as tasteless as its predecessors, but it reduces fear to a business and blood to a drip. It's a slaughterhouse without any real buzz.

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