Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3
Directed by Jeff Burr
Written by David J. Schrow
Starring Kate Hodge, William Butler, Ken Foree, Tom Hudson, R.A Mihailoff
Release Date January 12th, 1990
Box Office Gross $5.8 million dollars
Bottom-feeding cash-ins are always pretty obvious about their intentions. That was certainly the case when a group of huckster con-artists looked to cash in on the legacy of the greatest horror movie ever made, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Studio execs like money and when they can seize the rights to an exploitable property, they eagerly gobble up the opportunity with little concern for the quality of the product they plan to capitalize on. With this as the background, was there any way for Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 to succeed? No, probably not.
A very game and determined Kate Hodge stars in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 as Michelle, a student driving her dad's vintage car from California to Florida alongside her soon to be ex-boyfriend. William Butler is the soon-to-be ex of Michelle, Ryan, and he quickly makes a case for why they are no longer going to be together by being a whiny little prat. He can't understand why Michelle would want to leave him for a chance to travel the world. We understand it from just a few lines of whiny, man-baby dialogue from Ryan.
The story of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 kicks in when the couple stops at a last chance gas station. The creeptastic gas station employee, begins to perv on Michelle, eventually spying on her in the ladies room. He's stopped by a transient, Edward 'Tex' Sawyer (Viggo Mortensen), who hopes that interceding will convince Michelle and Ryan to give him a ride. He ends up getting shot by the creepy gas station attendant while giving Michelle and Ryan a chance to escape. He appears benevolent but it's merely a ruse, he is, after all, a member of the Sawyer clan.
Michelle and Ryan's escape is short-lived as they are soon chased down and menaced by what they assume is the gas station creep. They end up with a flat tire and try hiding on a side road. This side road however, leads them right to Leatherface (R.A Mihailoff) who attacks with his trusty chainsaw and his unnatural amount of physical strength which he demonstrates by ripping the top off of the car's trunk. Having made another narrow escape, Michelle and Ryan end up in another crash and, after colliding with Benny (Ken Foree), the trio end up in a life threatening game of cat and mouse with the horrific Sawyer family.
The mercenary nature of Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 is obvious in the dimwitted marketing campaign which focuses entirely on Leatherface's weapon of choice, a chainsaw. In this case, it's a custom made saw, silver plated and engraved with the film's tagline, 'The Saw is Family.' The movie was pitched with a comic teaser trailer in which the custom chainsaw is gifted to Leatherface, King Arthur style, via a lady in a lake. You can almost hear the cash registers ringing in the hearts of heartless studio execs.
Cynicism aside, for just a moment, I want to commend Kate Hodge and Ken Foree. These two terrific actors work very, very hard to bring something to this beyond the cash-in effort being put in everywhere else in the movie. Where the film's writers, director, and producers either don't know or don't care about the legacy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hodge and Foree are giving great performances that feel at home in the canon of the franchise. While the rest of the film appears dedicated to sullying the memory of the original, these two performance darn near redeem the misconceived enterprise that is Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3.
Hampered by a script that adds unnecessary aspects to the Sawyer legacy, Hodge delivers a gritty, hard as nails final girl performance while the horror veteran Foree is so good as Benny that the character is allowed to survive wounds that were absolutely intended as his death blow. Benny survived only because test audiences loved Benny and hated seeing him go. That's yet another testament to the mercenary quality of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3. But, it's also a credit to Foree whose performance is so good, you may not mind the ludicrous nature of his miraculous survival.
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 is not a good movie. Despite the hard work of Hodge and Foree, this is so clearly an attempt to cash-in that the whole thing feels dirty and gross. Where the original film earned a reputation as the greatest slasher/horror film ever made, this sequel is just a naked attempt to take advantage of that legacy by people who do not understand or care about the original film. Why else would they give Leatherface a mom and a daughter and have no explanation for why he now has new brothers who motivate him to kill? These are completely unnecessary additions that only serve to undermine the original where the absence of a woman in the Sawyer home is a richly detailed symbol of the family's out of control bloodlust.
I haven't mentioned the most well known star of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Viggo Mortensen. This is because I struggled to care about his performance enough to mention it. Tex Sawyer is not necessary. He doesn't add anything to the story. He's a plot convenience at two different points in the film, and Mortensen appears to enjoy his violent, rambling monologue, but he's the only one enjoying it. Tex is just unneeded and leads to unanswered questions about where Leatherface found this brand new extended family of murderous cannibals.
Not to revel in the failure of others, but, I am heartened by the fact that this attempt to leech off of the legacy of the greatest horror movie ever made seemed to fail, at least in terms of box office. Wikipedia pegs the total theatrical gross of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 at $5.8 million dollars. Even if the budget was low enough to make this movie profitable, it did not make the money executives hoped that it would and there is an element of kharmic justice in that.
This review of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 is a serialized excerpt from my book project, tentatively but not officially called 'Horror in the 90s.' I am watching more than 200 theatrically released horror movies from 1990 through 1999 to track the trends, tropes, and stars that defined the genre in this pivotal decade. The book will feature a ranking of the best and worst horror movies of the 90s, profiles of the franchises, stars, and directors who moved the genre forward in the decade, and reviews of more than 200 movies.
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