Aka – Leatherface, TCM 3
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series is an interesting beast. The first one is a certified classic, though surprisingly tame in actual blood shown on screen. The second is completely different in tone and much gorier (thanks to our boy Tom Savini). The fourth is hot garbage (despite starring then unknowns Renee Zellwegger & Matthew McConaughey), the remake was okay, the prequel was awful and the upcoming “Texas Chainsaw 3D” could go either way. I’d always found the third entry to be underrated (among TCM films) but it had been awhile since I’d seen it. So, how does it hold up ?
The plot revolves around a couple who are driving through Texas on their way to a meeting. They drive past a bevy of policeman unearthing 30-40 bodies, presumably from the murderous Sawyer clan of TCM fame. They stop for gas, meeting a friendly cowboy (your boy Viggo) and the perverted gas station owner. Viggo tells them about a shortcut nearby, before being attacked and seemingly killed by the attendant. The couple takes the shortcut and are eventually forced off the road and stalked by Leatherface and the infamous Sawyer clan. Will a nearby motorist (Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree) help them escape and stop the Sawyers once and for all ?
As previously mentioned, the big two in this movie are (then unknown) Viggo Mortensen (foreshadowing the next movies’ use of McConaughey and Zellwegger) and Ken Foree (who has gone on to co-star in several Rob Zombie films). Viggo does a good job chewing the scenery (eerily like McConaughey in part 4) and Foree is great (as usual) as the tough as nails Benny. Interestingly, Kane Hodder does Leatherfaces’ stunts, interesting since he also played Jason multiple times.
I’m not sure what scale to use while rating these movies. I mean, this isn’t a great movie, but it’s instantly better than the 4th and 6th (prequel) ones just by having Viggo/Foree, so that’s something. I suppose you could argue that the first three films are their own thing, much like Hellraiser 1-4. The quality of each varies, but they pretty much continue the main story, never really living up to the originals (though Hellraiser 2 rules). That said, for a TCM flick, this ones not bad.
The first time I saw the original TCM I didn’t think much of it. I was in high school, we watched it in broad daylight (inside of course) and we pretty much picked it apart as we went. I appreciated it more on each viewing, much like its sequel. I’ve always liked the tone of the third film, I think it gets back to the grittiness of the first film while still containing some of the dark comedy of the sequel. It’s not perfect, but it’s a masterpiece compared to the follow up.
The MPAA ripped the film to shreds upon release. It was the last film to be rated X before the invention of the NC-17 rating. Interestingly, the second film had also received an X rating, so at least they maintained some consistency, right ? I was really excited when they released an extras packed DVD of the uncut versions of the second and third films. It may not make them “deeper” movies, but they sure are more fun to watch.
Our local Mayfair Theatre had a 35mm screening of this film on the same night that I watched it. I wasn’t able to attend (unfortunately), but at least I was able to pretend I was there by spilling soda on the floor and having my friends yell at the screen. It wasn’t quite the same, but I did what I could.
Anyway, you know what to expect from the series at this point. It is what it is, but it’s definitely fun to watch an early Viggo in something like this. It’s not the best or worst TCM film, but it does a good job with the premise and is certainly watchable. Just never watch the fourth one, please.