@MsLauraHall helps us celebrate TCM’s 40th Anniversary year by reviewing a film far removed from anything the original created…
At various intervals this year, Haddonfield Horror will be reviewing all of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films both the good and the god awful. We start with a review of Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 3….
The main challenge for any horror sequel is to avoid outstaying its welcome. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 managed it by injecting lots of gory slapstick and a revenge plot that took the fight to the Sawyer clan. So how does Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 3 attempt to overcome this problem? By changing Leatherface’s name and family. It really is that basic. Unsurprisingly, this approach fails, leaving us with a film that feels like a sanitised, cynical, retread of its predecessors.
Part 3 follows Michelle (Kate Hodge) and Ryan (William Butler), surely one of horror’s most annoying couples, as they bicker their way across Texan back roads towards Leatherface’s dinner table.
Many know Part 3 as “the one with Viggo Mortensen” which is rather fitting, because he typifies everything that is wrong with this film. He is just too charismatic to be part of Leatherface’s clan, as are the rest of this new family of killers. They are a cynical, sneering bunch and their brand of madness is far too calculated and knowing to feel all that creepy. Even their farmhouse is more Clark Kent than crazy killer.
They feel more like action movie bad guys than horror antagonists. In fact, the whole film feels like it would rather be a Stallone vehicle than a slasher film.
The scares are low but the adrenaline is high; Leatherface’s big showdown is a fistfight rather than a chainsaw battle. There’s a huge explosion. It’s also full of one-liners like, “I’ll be in hell for breakfast” and, “You ever heard of pizza?”
This sounds pretty fun on paper, and perhaps it would be if it weren’t for the air of cynicism about the whole thing. Production company New Line notoriously booked a released date for the film and started building the set before Director Jeff Burr came aboard. Burr himself has recounted how he got the job and then went to the cinema and saw a trailer for the film he was about to make.
In spite of this, the film has its moments. The fight scenes are well done and the performances are remarkably solid for a third-in-franchise movie. Ken Foree’s Benny is a welcome likeable presence, but then Foree makes any film better just by turning up.
A special mention must go to Leatherface himself, played by R.A. Mihailoff. For those who hate the gurning, dry humping Leatherface of Part 2 – and let’s not even talk about the lipstick-loving Leatherface of Part 4 – Milhailoff’s take is a welcome antidote. His meaner Leatherface gives the film its only moments of true menace. Well, until he breaks out the Speak & Spell. No one wants to see that.
Lacking the grit of Part 1 and the gore of Part 2. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 3 is what most reviewers would call “for fans only”. But then, is part 3 of a franchise for anyone else? The answer is yes: the studio execs. While much of the film has been made for the suits, the talent involved makes Part 3 a comparably superior franchise sequel, even if it is an ultimately inferior Leatherface movie.
Images: wikipedia & brego.net