TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III (1990)
Director: Jeff Burr
I've said a million times that sequels are unavoidable, especially in the horror genre. If a horror movie is successful, then it's almost guaranteed to get more than one sequel. However, sequels to the legendary Texas Chainsaw Massacre were few and far between. Despite being released in 1974, it had only spawned one sequel in 1986 before New Line Cinema released Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III in 1990.
Michelle (Kate Hodge) and Ryan (William Butler) are driving across the country to deliver a car to Michelle's father. After ending up at a Texas gas station, they're given directions they think will lead them back to the highway, but it leads them deeper into the middle of nowhere. It's in the woods that they meet a survivalist named Benny (Ken Foree) and, like every other movie in the series, they encounter a family of cannibals. This time, the family is comprised of family alpha male Tex (Viggo Mortensen), technophile Tinker (Joe Unger), the oft-disrespected Alfredo (Tom Everett), matriarch Mama (Miriam Byrd-Nethery), and a little girl (Jennifer Banko) who's always clutching a doll that looks like it was made from the skeleton of a dead fetus. And let's not forget Leatherface (R.A. Mihailoff), who somehow managed to survive being gutted and blown up at the end of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
Despite having the House Party and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies raking in all kinds of cash at the time, New Line Cinema was still "the house that Freddy Krueger built." After the disappointing box-office numbers for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, New Line decided that Freddy was running out of steam and they saw a new horror cash cow in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. The movie was intended to be the start of a full-fledged horror franchise on the level of the Nightmare and Friday The 13th movies, but a poor showing at the box office killed that idea (although New Line did distribute the remake of the original Massacre).
Horror movie connoisseur Joe Bob Briggs once commented that this was the the Massacre with the least gore, and he's not too far off. The MPAA-imposed cuts really hurt the movie. According to director Jeff Burr, the movie was submitted to the MPAA eleven times (a record at the time) before it got an R rating. It ended up making some sequences almost incomprehensible, and the movie actually missed its original release date due to the constant editing. It also had one of the stupidest endings I've ever seen. I don't want to spoil what it is, but it seriously left me wondering what happened and why. Sometime that can work in a movie's favor, but not here. And what happened to the little girl? Her name is never said once, not even in the credits, and we never learn what happens to her in the end. She just disappears. And since she doesn't return in the fourth Massacre, we're just left guessing her fate.
I can't complain about everything, though. I really liked the movie's look. It goes from the glaring reds, oranges, and yellows of the Texas desert to deep blues and blacks of nightfall, and the interior of the Sawyer house feels like a normal family lives there (well, an insane version of a normal family). The score, composed by Jim Manzie and Pat Regan, is also great. It gives us a haunted house feel that really compliments the movie. Most of the acting is actually pretty good. Kate Hodge isn't bad as our heroine. She starts out as a non-violent pacifist (she actually says something to the effect of "violence is never the answer" during the movie), but by the end, she goes nuts and has to resort to some serious violence to save herself. Ken Foree was also good, but to be totally honest, anybody could have played this role. Foree gave it some legitimacy, however, thanks to his part in the zombie classic Dawn Of The Dead. And I can't forget Viggo Mortensen, who you may recognize from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The feminine apron and painted fingernails gave Tex a weird ambiguity, but he seems like the kind of guy you could bump into on the street and not think he's a cannibal nutjob. However, I wasn't too big on Jennifer Banko. I just hated the character (sort of a little girl version of Chop-Top from Massacre 2) and I'm glad she didn't show up in the fourth one, but I did get a giggle from her doll being named Sally (which could have been a reference to the character of Sally Hardesty from the original Massacre).
Overall, I'll give the movie two and a half stars. It's a fun way to kill some time, and you might enjoy it if you're into horror movies. Of the three sequels of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this one is probably the best, but you're not missing anything if you skip it.
Final Rating: **½