Before there was Blumhouse producing Paranormal Activity, Purge movies and Insidious, Robert Shaye built his own independent film studio on the success of cheaply made horror movies for teens and called it New Line Cinema. By 1990, the birthplace of The "Elm Street" Franchise had also purchased Paramount's "Friday the 13th" and the always indie "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". At the time, the slasher craze had become bigger, darker, glossier and aimed at the MTV generation. It was a conscious effort to return these franchises to their roots, though none of them worked. But "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" isn't bad, its just very forgettable.
The biggest knock against it is that its a retread, a "sleath remake" pawned off as a sequel. One of the first reboots I suppose. History repeats itself and film franchises have developed a pattern: the groundbreaking original, the experimental sequel, the lazy cash-in and then it alternates between the latter two. Ex: Star Wars, Godfather, Alien, James Bond. Horror is like any other genre and falls to the same trends.
As a remake, it fails miserably. It has none of the intelligence or hidden meaning of the original. There isn't one scare or even a moment of visceral carnage. It doesn't feel like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". This feels like any New Line slasher movie you've seen, but slightly better because of the Leatherface concept and some great technical direction by Jeff Burr, who is kind of a king of slasher sequels (Pumpkinhead 2, Stepfather 2, Puppet Master 4 & 5). But its dull and lifeless. Visually stunning, but tame and commercial. You only get the safest tropes that were expected even when it was released. There are no surprises and unless you're a filmgoer with extremely low standards, its just a loud and pretty bore. Like a bad date with a good looking person. All sex and no soul. In fact the movie itself is shot similarly to a softcore Skinemax film from the era. Are we supposed to find the TCM characters and world sexy and cool now? Sounds like a typical Bob Shaye idea. "Just make sure the kids want to see it!"
Not strictly as a sequel, it gives us some new ideas, if half-baked and uncharacteristic. The film references Parts 1 while negating Parts 2 by telling us characters who were alive in 2 somehow died in 1. But one can't expect much continuity when Leatherface clearly died at the end of Part 2. So after the retcon, we get the same old movie with some added characters and some younger and (at the time) hipper protagonists. The new villains are typical cliche villains and the kids are very thin stereotypes. Even Leatherface lacks personality this time around, which is bad when he never talked previously but still stole the movies.
I think the big misstep for TCM3 is that it abandons the great work done in TCM2 and tries to beat the original at their own game, which is just impossible with the commerciality and lack of artistry producing this thing. They should've followed TCM2 and continued going in new directions. More gore, more dark comedy, more sex, more new character types entering this world's rules. Not just a dumbed down, teen-friendly rehash. Even as Gen X slasher movie it fails. Its nihilism is too postured. The awesome/cheesy heavy metal "Leatherface" theme song is played over the end credits and we get a bland slasher sdtrk for the rest of the picture. And in their attempts to make Leatherface akin to Freddy and Jason, they lose all of his uniqueness and dimension. He's just a big lumbering frankenstein who now enjoys hurting people. The intention is that Leatherface has matured into a rebellious teen since this film has to somehow follow the character arc from TCM2. He stands up to his abusive family now, listens to rock music and has fathered a child. Its the only attempt to follow 2 and its a great idea to swipe, but its minor and wasted. The script needed way more drafts and way more original ideas. New Line knew this and greenlit it anyway. In fact, they even reshot the ending because the original is so lame and unexplained.
Its not essential viewing but its not a painful watch. Its better made than the TCM sequels and remakes that came out since. But its the most boring one of the whole series. I'm glad that I'm familiar with it though. TCM3 shows a lot of the pitfalls that reboots fall into, which clued me into not becoming a big mark for the endless wave of them. Its a big missed opportunity, a mediocre movie and a good lesson to filmmakers how not to make a sequel.