Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1989)

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While the film is officially the third installment of the horror series, this looks more to be a reinvention of the original with the violence amped up.

Michelle and Ryan are a couple who have split up yet Ryan agrees to go with Michelle on a trip to Florida to deliver her father’s car from Los Angeles. When they drive towards Texas, they find graves have been robbed and en route, they stop at a gas station where they run into the crazy attendant Alfredo, who takes it upon himself to peep at Michelle. Then, there’s the wandering Tex, who is looking to go home but is refused help even after giving the couple directions to get on the freeway.

That night, a near accident causes Ryan and Michelle veer off the main road into the backwoods. They soon run into the chainsaw-wielding maniac known as Leatherface. Despite getting help from survivalist Benny, Ryan eventually ends up a victim of Leatherface and Michelle finds herself kidnapped by Tex, who is revealed to be Leatherface’s brother. Now trapped in the house of horrors, Michelle must find a way out and must find some help in Benny, who has issues of his own with the clan.

After Tobe Hooper was done with Cannon with the release of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 in 1986, one would think it may have been the end of Leatherface. However, New Line Cinema (who had re-released the original film in 1980) had been given the rights to the franchise and decided to start fresh yet somehow make it a sequel, capitalizing on the Nightmare on Elm Street series.

Newcomer Kate Hodge joins Marilyn Burns and Caroline Williams as the lone female who must face the maniacal Leatherface, now played as both having the mentality of a child but menacing at the same time by R.A. Mihailoff. William Butler, who would become synonymous with horror films after this film, including a role in the remake of Night of the Living Dead in 1990, does pretty well as Ryan, who while being broken up with Michelle obviously still cares about her to a degree. Horror film vet Ken Foree does really well as Benny, a survivalist who ends up nearly a victim of the clan and uses his skills to confront them when Michelle needs him most.

Aside from Mihailoff, the clan consists of the more level headed Tex, played by the future King of Middle Earth himself, Viggo Mortensen; the hook-handed Tinker, played by Joe Unger; crazy gas station attendant Alfredo, played by Tom Everett; Mama, played by veteran actress Miriam Bird-Nethery; and Jennifer Banko as a little girl who may actually be the daughter of the chainsaw wielder himself. In a scene to show how mentally disabled Leatherface is, he is playing with the classic Speak n’ Spell toy yet attempts to answer with one word: food, showing the cannibalistic ways of the family.

KNB, the special effects team who would later gain fame for their work on the series The Walking Dead, did the effects here. In the opening credits sequence, Leatherface is seen killing a young woman and crafting what would be his mask. The make up on Leatherface himself looks quite impressive and while the film has been cut to get an “R” rating, some of the clips in the unrated cut, such as one woman getting pinned to a tree and getting sawed is nicely done. An alternate cut shows one character’s fate but this particular character ends up a different way in the final cut due to test audiences complaining.

In conclusion, don’t think of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III as a sequel, but more of an amped up reboot of the original. It is better to see the Unrated cut rather than the theatrical cut as it seems more complete.

A New Line Cinema production. Director: Jeff Burr. Producer: Robert Engelman. Writer: David J. Schow; based on the characters created by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper. Cinematography: James L. Carter. Editing: Brent Schoenfeld.

Cast: Kate Hodge, William Butler, Viggo Mortensen, Tom Everett, Ken Foree, Toni Hudson, Miriam Beth-Nethery, Joe Unger, R.A. Mihailoff, Jennifer Banko.

WFG RATING: B (unrated cut); B- (R-rated cut)

 

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