Saturday, 14 August 2010

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

There's road kill all over Texas... natural order of things

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III on the face of it, may appear to be the next installment of Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel's story of the Sawyer cannibal clan, but Jeff Burr's film is perhaps best described in today's vernacular as a reboot, and it was this break-away from the original sacred text that fiercely divided horror fans on its release in 1990. The plot of the film itself could be lifted from any one of the backwoods slasher films that came in the wake of the original film - a couple en route to Florida take an ill-advised turn off the highway only fall into the clutches of a family of killers with a taste for human flesh...

Leatherface gets his name on the title for this one, but had you missed the opening credits, you might think you were watching something more akin to The Hills Have Eyes. So far so cliched, but under Jeff Burr's direction the film moves at a fair lick and it's easily the best looking Chainsaw in the series - a scene where one of the killers is introduced, lit by the crimson glow of a flare is a visual highlight. What really impresses about Leatherface is its delight in sheer sadism, and takes the woman-in-peril concept as far as it can go - in the original film Marylin Burns was tied to a chair, in this film, Kate Hodge is nailed to one (causing much grief from the MPAA). It's gruesome, gory, and subversive too - one of the twists on the cannibal family is that it includes a 10year old girl, who delights in bringing a sledge hammer down on a victim's head. No wonder the British censors refused to pass this in 1990.

Performances are mostly great, the family get the best lines, and a pre-stardom Viggo Mortensen really shines as Tex, a cowboy who's charming, sly and deadly dangerous in equal measures. The Leatherface character is nothing special though - if you missed Gunnar Hansen from the first film, you might now be missing Bill Johnson from the second, but its not a big deal with Dawn of the Dead's Ken Foree among the cast.

New Line's DVD presents Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III in a fine looking 1.85:1 transfer. The film is uncut (with the useless R-Rated version on the flipside), and comes with a good commentary track from Jeff Burr and crew; a half-hour documentary on the making of the film, and some scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. Highly recommended.


  1. I first saw the R rated version on VHS when it was finally released after sitting on the shelf for some time. I thought there was some really creepy flair to the nighttime stalking out in the woods stuff that rivalled the first movie here, and found the rest a little meh. Seeing the uncut version on the same DVD - I really like this movie a lot now - in fact, it's third in quality as well as chronologically for me. I will point out a couple of other people in the cast - William Butler (now directing horror movies and Disney TV episodes) shows up and is dispatched, which is noteworthy as he is to date the only actor to be menaced by Jason (The New Blood); Freddy (Freddy's Nightmares on TV), Leatherface here, and Romero zombies (The '90 remake).

    My other cast shout out is for RA Mihailoff - who plays Leatherface here - I like him in this movie a little more than you do - and the actor was kind enough to endorse my blog recently...

  2. Yeah, me too, I think this is the 3rd best film, and like you also I wasn't crazy about it when I first saw it on a pirate video back in the day when Texas Chain Saw Massacre sequels were routinely banned over here. But the years have been kind to the film and I like it very much now... That's a great factoid about actor William Butler and his many gruesome ends at the hands of Cinema's great boogeymen... Excellent youtube clip of RA Mihailoff giving the blog the big thumbs up - "Let's Get Out of Here!!!", ha, ha ! Great pic as well of you guys !