Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

He puts the teeth in terror.

Year of Release: 1990
Genre: Horror
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 86 minutes (1:26)
Director: Jeff Burr


Kate Hodge ... Michelle
Ken Foree ... Benny
William Butler ... Ryan
R.A. Mihailoff ... Leatherface 'Junior' Sawyer
Viggo Mortensen ... Eddie 'Tex' Sawyer
Joe Unger ... Tinker Sawyer
Tom Everett ... Alfredo Sawyer
Miriam Byrd-Nethery ... Mama Sawyer
Jennifer Banko ... Leatherface's Daughter
Duane Whitaker ... Kim
Caroline Williams ... Reporter (uncredited)


The infamous Leatherface is back in the most controversial horror movie of all time. A pair of college students driving coast to coast are lured off the main highway and on to a deserted Texas road. Here they are stalked by the menacing Leatherface and his demented family... a bizarre cannibalistic clan with blood on their hands and a feast on their minds. Their only chance for escape is a survivalist with enough firepower to blast Leatherface and the rest of the grizzly predators to hell.


Chainsaw Part III, remindin' us why it's prolly not a good idea to give the test audience more creative control over the movie than your director. Jeff Burr really got a raw deal on this one, I tell ya. Blamin' Jeff for the way this turned out is on par with walkin' into a Wal Mart an bitchin' out the customer service rep after your fat ass busts through the nylon webbing on a piece of lawn furniture made in some third world country by an 8-year-old kid with three missin' fingers and an eyepatch. Did the New Line executives miss the end of Jaws: The Revenge an the way that went over with the movie goin' public? Nevermind, stupid question. Of course they did, cause I've gotta imagine it's real hard to see what's happenin' on the movie screen when your face is buried in the laps of the MPAA board members.

An speakin' of sinful oral hijinx, everybody in town's got bees in their britches over this gay marriage thing they passed in the supreme court this week. Well, they ain't as butthurt about it as Justice Scalia, but then I'm not sure you can be without the aid of a rusty railroad spike an a guy who pounds it in a half an inch at a time an keeps askin' "is it safe?" Richard Fawner tried puttin' together a gay pride parade, but it turns out that he's the only guy in town interested in marchin' in it cause most of his one afternoon stands're generally just guys he met on Adult Friend Finder passin' through town from Seattle or Portland. Sadie Bonebreak's girlfriend tried gettin' 'er involved with it too, but Sadie hadda be at the Lumberjack World Championship quarter-finals this week, an besides that, I once saw 'er choke slam Richard through the air hockey table in the arcade of the Gutter Bowl for tellin' 'er the grease on 'er coveralls was "an affront to his nasal septum." Sadie never hadda buy 'er own drinks in there after that. I still haven't been able to figure out what all the hullabaloo's about, I mean, we live in America, don't we? The leader of the free world? Where anybody aughta be able to do any disgustin' thing they want with anybody they want so long as they ain't hurtin' nobody, or maybe even if they are hurtin' somebody provided they haven't squealed out the safe word like Ned Beatty in Deliverance yet. That America? The only explanation I can get outta anybody is that this rulin' is an affront to His Head Honchoness, even though I reread the entire Christian Bible again in a 16 hour marathon session Monday night an hadda call in to work the next mornin' cause I'd drank so much coffee to stay awake that I thought I WAS Juan Valdez there for awhile, an found little to no evidence for that point of view. All I could find was one little passage in Levitictus between the one about stonin' harlots an beatin' your slaves to death, an even that wasn't laid down from the J-man himself. So I gotta ask this question: is there a Cliff's notes edition of the Bible that says which parts're okay to ignore an which ones're essential for attainin' an all-access pass to the heavenly house party goin' on at His Lordness' place? Cause I been thinkin' about this an Sadie's a good friend of mine, an I don't see no reason to stone 'er just cause she's got Billy Ray Cyrus' 1990 haircut. Even if I TRIED stonin' 'er there're still rules in there about committin' suicide an let's face it; she's got 60lbs on me, an suicide's exactly what tryin' that sorta thing'd amount to. I guess I'll never understand what all the fuss is about. Course, that's basically par for the course when it comes to all the political bullstuff.

Gettin' back to Chainsaw III though, I don't care what anybody says, it's still the finest Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie ever filmed in California. Now I understand that the MPAA got to do more carvin' on this flick than Leatherface did, an I get that the New Line executives were spineless appeasin' wiener wraps who didn't have the guts to release it unrated like MGM did with Part 2, an maybe it wasn't real smart to bring people back to life after Leatherface'd buzzsawed 'em into pork riblets just cause the test audience liked the character, but I still say it's the third best in the series up to this point. Really though, Jeff Burr got robbed like a liquor store in Compton, an outta respect for Jeff I'd like to show my appreciation by runnin' down a few of the more pertinent bits of information I learned from his movie, that I'll now carry with me until the end of my days. First, chainsaws are amphibious, an can maintain a full throttle even while submerged in a swamp with nobody holdin' onto 'em. I dunno about anybody else, but I'm never goin' swimmin' in the river behind Stumpy's Lumber Mill an Rendering Plant ever again. I sure's heck don't need no surprise Poulanoscopy exam. Second, the skulls of the airheaded float. So the good news is that even though you're far more likely to be killed in a McCulloch related massacre when you've got excessive oxygen flow to the brain, you're at least 10x more likely to be found after the fact. An third, not just any man can pull off the frilly pink kitchen apron. But Viggo Mortensen is not just any man. Thanks again, Jeff, you're a credit to your profession. However, despite these excellent facts on film, there's one part of the movie that I take serious issue with, an that's the shameless wasting of food by Leatherface an his newly adopted family of serial chewers. The first time this happens is essentially right outta the chute, when we see the guys who raided Dee Wallace's house while wearin' space suits in E.T. scoopin' up the glopolafied remains of the family's victims who're stacked in a cannibal compost heap. Now these bodies clearly had a LOT of meat still on 'em when they got tossed in this hole, otherwise they'da never melted into noxious puddles of people pulp. As a hunter myself, I find this behavior completely unacceptable. Killin' for food is one thing, but if you've got no intention of eatin' your kill, you needa just back off an think about all the starvin' people in Detroit. I know these guys had mamas cause she's in the movie, an as bigga hardass as she is, I'm pretty sure she's explained the whole "take all you want, but eat all you take" concept to these ingrates. This happens a second time when Alfredo starts pitchin' perfectly good vittles into the swamp so nobody'll find 'em. Just what kinda crowd has Leatherface fallen in with here? Drayton Sawyer, an particularly Grandpa, would be disgusted if they could see this display, cause they taught 'im better'n that. I know that every generation says this about the generation proceedin' 'em, but kids these days really needa learn some respect.

The movie begins with this narration about Sally Hardesty kickin' off in the nut house after sufferin' eight simultaneous heart attacks when the gardener revved up the ole Homelite to prune a coupla trees, an that the only survivor of the family that caused 'er early onset dementia (W.E. Sawyer) died in the gas chamber as an ironic punishment for sellin' the kinda cheap meat that caused unparalleled flatulence for the better part of his life. Then the real movie starts an we see these two college kids (Michelle an Ryan) drivin' down a desert road arguin' about just how "over" their relationship is on a scale of one to "divvy up the cassette tape collection." Later that night, they hafta stop at this police roadblock where the guys from the Apollo moon landin're ladelin' up the remains of a whole messa corpses that've melted into New England clam chowder, til Sheriff Joe Cowpaio waves 'em through an tells 'em to get their drawlless, heathen hides outta his county an not to even think about stoppin' for B-B-Q anywhere that don't have a health inspection ratin' posted in the window. So Michelle pops about 17 caffeine tablets an a six pack of Jolt cola an drives on for another 12 hours til she ends up smearin' this armadillo all over the road like dog drool on a pickup window. They try administerin' first aid, but the armadillo's been pretty well been turned into gash browns by their radials an they've got no choice but to stone it to death like a rape victim in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, up the road a piece, Viggo Mortensen's hitched a ride to a gas station where this sun dried potato (Alfredo) is sittin' in a lawn chair scissorin' up a Penthouse so he can make 'imself a collage a twat, til the kids pull in to get some gas an buy some turquoise jewelry made by the Krankaway Indians in the gift shop. Then Alfredo shoves this little skeleton prop from the discount bin at Hot Topic into Michelle's face an takes a picture of 'er when she recoils an tries sellin' it to 'er. Only she don't want it cause he got 'er bad side an so he gets P.O.'d an starts fillin' up 'er car all suggestive like til Viggo smacks 'im around an makes 'im quit tryin' to pick up women with tips he fished outta Bill Clinton's memoirs. Viggo needs a ride, an Michelle tells 'im she'd be happy to give 'im one, or just take 'im home or whatever he needs. Cept she hasta use the can first, even though there's no chance of freshenin' up in there cause it's one of those public bathrooms that looks like it survived a Mexican standoff with a buncha guys who got drunk on Tequila an packed away a couple dozen gas station burritos.

But while she's in there playin' hover broad (that's where you try usin' the pot without actually touchin' it), Viggo catches Alfredo peekin' at 'er an hasta rough 'im up a little bit cause this is exactly the sorta thing that's causin' all the bad feedback on the "how we doin'?" surveys the customers're turnin' in. Alfredo's P.O.'d, so he grabs up his scattergun an blows out the back window of the kids' Benz an then blasts Viggo for threatenin' to get 'im put on the national sex offender registry, while the kids gun it outta there to go find Chuck Norris an Wilford Brimley. Course, it takes a real long time to get anywhere from the dead center of nowhere, an before they can even get to a Stuckey's, this big ole crummy with deer blinders comes up behind 'em an rubs some of the paint offa their fenders an tosses a dead coyote onto their hood before leavin' 'em in the dust. The kids're from California, an don't understand that it's just the local custom to offer up supper to those that ain't have, so they've gotta pull over an try to Woolite the piddle outta their seats an change the tire they blew out gassin' it through a patch of Horse Cripplers, only about that time Leatherface shows up wearin' Forrest Gump's leg brace, an pretty quick he ends up sawin' the mark of Gorro into their chassis an tearin' their trunk off like a one man chop shop. They're able to get outta there, but just a little ways down the road Viggo comes outta nowhere an when they swerve to miss 'im they end up runnin' themselves an Ken Foree offa the road an completely gimpin' their rides. Both rigs look like Gravedigger used 'em for trampolines, so Ken drags the kids' worthless hides outta the wreck to demand their insurance info an feeds 'em a coupla Prozac so their version of the crash'll be good an hazy for the claims adjuster while they're tellin' 'im about Leatherface an his painsaw. Ken's skeptical until he sees how the kids' car's been turned into a D- art project from a community college metal sculptin' class an tells 'em not to worry cause he's been preppin' for Y2K or somethin' an he's ready for anything. Then Ken goes to look for Viggo, cept when he gets to the toppa the embankment he finds a trail of road flares laid down by this greasy lookin' guy (Tinker) who lost is paw in the Arby's meat slicer. Tinker offers 'im a ride to the nearest carrier pigeon, but when Ken's hoppin' into the bed of Tink's truck he spots the weapons of ass destruction the kids mentioned an tells Tink he's gotta get somethin' out of his car.

What Ken's gotta get is his AK-47 with armor-piercin' hollow-point bullets, an once Tinker figures out what Ken's up to he rams his crummy into Ken's truck an sends 'im rollin' down the hillside like Chris Farley in Black Sheep. As if that ain't bad enough, Leatherface's waitin' for 'im at the bottom, an Ken hasta ninja kick the saw out of his hands an tan his hide til it matches his face, cept Leatherface don't like that at all an pulls out his portable electric bone saw an turns Ken's calf into ground beef. Then this girl (Sara) pops outta nowhere an shouts disparagin' remarks about Leatherface's limp bar an insinuates that he ain't the sharpest tooth on the chain til he gets P.O.'d an charges off through the woods after 'er. She circles back after ditchin' 'im an tells Ken about how she's been out there for a week with no place to wash 'er unmentionables an that she's the only one left out of 'er girl scout troop after they tried hockin' thin mints at Leatherface's house, but Ken don't have time for Paula Harvey to tell 'im the Rest of the Story, cause pretty quick he hears Michelle an Ryan whinin' for 'im to come help 'em pick the cockle burrs offa their silk shirts. Unfortunately, once Ken's gone, Leatherface shows up an saws 'er from rear to ear to remind 'er that even fat sweaty inbreds with teriyaki jerky stretched out across their faces have feelins. Then he catches up with the kids an Michelle hasta watch 'im gut Ryan like a Coho in Ketchikan after he gets caught in a Bigfoot snare, before she eventually makes it to a house out in the boonies where this little girl's havin' a tea party with 'er special edition Achmed the Dead Terrorist Cabbage Patch doll. Turns out, she likes trespassers about as much as White House security, only her house is a little harder to get into, an she hasta shank Michelle with this gnarly nail file til Viggo sneaks up on Michelle an nails 'er to an armchair in the kitchen. Then Mama Sawyer wheels 'erself into the kitchen an gripes Viggo out for wreckin' 'er nap while he looks at his shoes an says "yes ma'am" a lot, til Tinker shows up draggin' Ryan like a cavewoman an the two of 'em hang 'im upside down like a gut-shot mule deer. It's been awhile since they entertained, so Leatherface tries to be a good host an lets Michelle listen to his Walkman, only she really hates Skynyrd an starts screamin' til he gets this look on somebody else's face like he worked on a casserole all day long an she just spit 'er first bite into 'er napkin.

Then Viggo brings in this chrome-plated personalized buzzsaw that weighs approximately 175lbs for Leatherface an he gets positively giddy. Unfortunately, Tinker comes back inside an starts tellin' Leatherface what a big screw up he is for lettin' Ken escape an tosses his Walkman into the oven to teach 'im a lesson. To say that Leatherface is P.O.'d doesn't adequately illustrate just how P'd to the O he is, an he grabs up Tinker by the scruff of the neck an makes 'im reach into the oven without the benefit of an oven mitt to retrieve his tunes, before mashin' his face into the kitchen floor like a bowl of overturned potato salad. While that's goin' on, Alfredo's out in the nearby swamp dumpin' last week's leftovers like a teenage girl whose boyfriend just noticed 'er father/daughter purity ball glamour shots, til Ken sneaks up on 'im an busts out about six of his permanent teeth with the butt of his gun an watches 'im sink into the swamp like a gator with intestinal blockage. Back at the house, Leatherface takes a break from torturin' Michelle to break out his Speak 'n Spell to bone up for his college admittance exams, an once he gets tired of that he heads back into the kitchen where the little girl's goin' into the 10-year-old version of an equality speech on account of her never gettin' to be the one to bash dinner's brains in. The Sawyers're nothin' if not progressive, so Viggo an Tink rig up their cranium clubbers an Viggo hoists the little girl up so she can pull the release an... just... gimmie a second to compose myself here, this display of old fashioned family unity's gettin' me all teary eyed. Alright, that's better, it's just a very touchin' scene is all. So anyway, the little girl crushes Ryan's skull til he looks like Billy Barty after a bonsai drop from Michael Moore, at which point Leatherface starts waivin' his chrome-plated dick extension in Michelle's face, threatenin' to give 'er a bar oil bukkake. Cept about that time Ken finds his way to the house an starts shootin' up the joint like a redneck that walked into a bar an got offered a wine spritzer, an by the time Ken runs outta bullets he's killed Mama, blown Tinker's ear off, an bought Michelle enough time to tear the nails out of 'er stigmata wounds, allowin' 'er to flee the house in search of freedom an a guest appearance on The 700 Club. It ain't gonna be that easy though, an she don't get too far before the little girl kicks on the 1500 watt Yankee Stadium lights, allowin' Leatherface to take off after Michelle while Viggo grabs an axe an starts tryin' to hack off Ken's Rocky Mountain oysters. I'ma end the summary here, an trust me, it's better this way.

Alrighty, well, Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part III gets way more grief than it deserves, and much of that stems from the butchering it underwent at the hands of the MPAA. But as much as they'd like to, the MPAA can't take all the credit on that front, because Chainsaw 3 is one of the precursors (I realize studios were doing this in the 80s too, but this particular movie seems to get more flack than the others) to the pitiful PG-13 horror standard of the modern era. See, because the studios knew the MPAA was going to demand they remove approximately 18 minutes of gore footage just to get an R rating, they cut out the middleman and started censoring themselves. This practice eventually evolved into what we've got today, where the movies are castrated to such an extent that when it comes time for 'em to air on cable, the only cuts that need to be made are strictly to fit them into the allotted block of time. This is the fault of exactly nobody who worked on the crew this movie, and if you watch the unrated version on the DVD, a significant chunk of what was cut is restored, improving the overall quality a great deal. I'd also recommend checking out the original ending, which is not only a hell of a lot better, but actually makes sense. Something else that's very apparent watching it, is that the director, and particularly the writer, were big fans of the original, and opted to basically disregard the second movie in favor of continuing some years after the events of the first. This is made clear via the opening narration (which cites Jim Siedow's character as W.E. Sawyer rather than Drayton) and various other little homages and nods, including the leg brace Leatherface wears after having cut into his leg at the climax of the original. But there's more than just that, including the little girl's doll being named Sally, Duane Whitaker's character being named Kim (presumably after Henkel), a new bone room, and the scene where Alfredo takes Kate Hodge's picture and tries to sell it to her a la Edwin Neal. There're also several nods to the Ed Gein case, which the character of Leatherface was loosely based upon. These references include Viggo Mortensen's character being named Eddie (although he gets a little P.O.'d when Joe Under calls him by it), and the scene where William Butler gets hung upside down like a gutted deer (which is how some of Gein's victims were found in his barn). The movie certainly has some problems, the ending being chief among them, but something I found almost as insane is the fact that the credits list the preteen as Leatherface's daughter. Do these guys seriously expect me to believe that this cute little blonde girl is the spawn of Leatherface? I think maybe the kid's mother was sneakin' around Leatherface's back with Viggo, cause that I might buy, but Leatherface? Nuh uh.

In any event, let's bash this sucker's skull in and see if there's an original thought floatin' around in there someplace. The plot is essentially more of the same, considering it ignores the events of the second movie. There are some minor canonic conflicts, many of which I've mentioned, although another is the fact that all the members of Leatherface's new family bear the last name of Sawyer in the credits. This suggests that they're legitimate relatives, rather than a band of misfits that he just happened to join up with after Jim Siedow got hauled in and gassed by the feds. I suppose there's no reason why this cannot be the case, but it builds on the mythology of the characters in a way that doesn't seem too likely. Something else that's a little strange is that Caroline Williams, who played Stretch in Part 2, has a teensy little cameo near the beginning of the movie as a TV reporter. This is presumably a call back to the fact that her character wanted to do more than just "play head banging music" in the broadcasting industry, yet, the events of Part 2 are completely ignored, so why bother doing that? The acting is not up to the high standards of the first two movies, but it's still pretty good, and the cast features several of my favorite character actors. R.A. Mihailoff is no Gunner Hansen, I can tell you that without a shadow of a doubt (although he is better than Bill Johnson from the second movie), because Gunner managed to give the character a lot more depth. Here, Leatherface is essentially just a Jason Voorhees clone. I guess that makes sense, since Kane Hodder was the stunt coordinator. The real standout character in the movie is Alfredo, played by Tom Everett. That character is nuttier'n a Planters factory in ways that're completely new to the series, and as far as I'm concerned he's the guy that makes the movie. Viggo's pretty good too, in what has to be one of the goofiest roles he's ever had, and of course you can't forget about Ken Foree who gets to rattle off some pretty cheesy one-liners and fire his automatic weapon like Rambo on a bad acid trip. Joe Unger also gives an exceptional performance as Tinker, although there's really no good way for 'im to hide the wadded up hand he's usin' to hold that metal prosthesis. Particularly when the shirt they had 'im wearin' looks like it was designed to fit Calista Flockhart.

Here's who matters and why (less Ken Foree and Viggo Mortensen, cause I shouldn't have to tout Ken's street cred to the horror community, or Viggo's cred to anybody else): Kate Hodge (The Hidden II), R.A. Mihailoff (Pumpkinhead II, Hatchet II, Alien Hunger, Smothered, Horrorween, Knifepoint, Dark House, Blood Scarab, Revamped, Trancers III), William Butler (Gingerdead Man 3, Dead Country, Watchers III, Night of the Living Dead 1990, Buried Alive 1990, Arena, Spellcaster, Ghoulies II, Friday the 13th Part VII, Terror Night), Joe Unger (Closed for the Season, Sutures, Altered, The Visitation, Night of the Scarecrow, Pumpkinhead II, A Nightmare on Elm Street), Tom Everett (The Island 2005, Tremors III, Prison, Friday the 13th Part IV), Miriam Byrd-Nethery (Stepfather II, The Offspring), Jennifer Banko (Cheerleader Camp: To the Death, Friday the 13th Part VII), Beth DePatie (Nightmare on Elm Street III), Toni Hudson (Uninvited 1988, School Spirit), Michael Shamus Wiles (Ironman 3, The Lords of Salem, Dragon Wars: D-War, Transformers, Mortuary 2005, Hellraiser: Inferno, The X-Files, The Puppet Masters, Puppet Master 4, Trancers III, Vampire at Midnight, Terror at Tenkiller), Ron Brooks (The Offspring), Duane Whitaker (Children of the Corn: Genesis, Dozers, Halloween II 2009, Trailer Park of Terror, Urban Decay, Feast, The Devil's Rejects, The Low Budget Time Machine, Groom Lake, From Dusk Till Dawn 2, The Haunted Sea, Within the Rock, Night of the Scarecrow, Tales from the Hood, Puppet Master 5, Deadly Dreams, Hobgoblins), Caroline Williams (Seed 2, Hatchet III, Monsterpiece Theatre Volume 1, The Unleashed, The Profane, Exhibit, Contracted, Abolition, Sebastian, Halloween II 2009, Leprechaun 3, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Stepfather II). Excellent genre cast, even though some of those roles are tiny little bit parts that don't really matter much.

The special effects are excellent, although ironically, the best one is probably the deep fried Viggo Mortensen that never made it into the movie. Still, it warrants mentioning, because Greg Nicotero and K.N.B. really outdid themselves on this one. But as for effects that at least make it into the unrated version, we've got Toni Hudson selling well in the scene where she's buzzsawed by Leatherface up against a tree, Mama's guts bein' blown out by Ken Foree, an excellent severed head, putrefied people parts in the mass grave, a pretty good animatronic armadillo, a severed ear that sizzles like a ribeye steak when it flies onto a stove, and the beginnings of a new mask in Leatherface's workshop. And of course, Leatherface himself is lookin' pretty dapper too, with a new mask that's pretty cool, although it's still not quite up to the high standard of the first movie. Definitely better than the mask from Part 2, though. I guess Joe Unger's fingers gettin' blown off don't look real good, but that scene lasts all of a half second, so what the heck. Woulda been fine if there'd been some blood. The shooting locations... now this is a can of worms. First thing everyone's going to bring up with regard to the shooting locations is how this was the only Chainsaw movie that wasn't shot in Texas, which is kinda blasphemous in its own way, but the worst thing about it is that it's not exactly a well concealed fact. We've got arid scrub desert during the driving scenes (which is fine), that quickly transition into a heavily wooded area, with visible hills in the background, and a conveniently placed swamp all within about three miles of each other. I'm not saying the areas they used look bad, but canonically, they don't work together and aren't generally what one associates with Texas. And in my opinion, the house is just way, way, too normal looking, both outside and in. They've got the bone room upstairs, but it's really half-assed when you look at what Tobe Hooper did with no money in the first movie. What they really needed was more props, more armchairs in the literal sense, lamp shades made from people's hind ends, taxidermied animals, that kinda thing. This house looks like the kinda "cabin" some yuppy from Rhode Island visits when he feels like braggin' to his friends about how he's gonna "rough it" for the weekend, it's pitiful. The soundtrack is reasonably successful at generating some fairly tense atmosphere to accompany the good acting and exceptional effects, and is generally catchy and pleasing to the ear. It kinda dates itself near the end with the early '90s hair band music when Ken's fightin' Viggo and during the closing credits, but the general composition is enjoyable and benefits the film. I did notice one track in there that would later be recycled into Pumpkinhead II, but I don't see a problem with that. Overall, very under-rated movie, and a solid entry in the Chainsaw series. Anyone that's only seen the rated version really needs to give the unrated cut a chance, and besides, if you thought this was bad, wait'll you see the 4th movie.

Rating: 85%