I’m just making a wild stab in the dark here but when the producers of the third Texas Chainsaw Massacre film put the wheels in motion I bet they were trying to reposition old Leatherface as the next Freddy Kruger by having his name at the front of the title. By the time 1990 was rolling around people were already getting bored of the whole serial-killer-as-star thing anyway, the last Nightmare on Elm Street had underperformed and the less said about Jason taking Manhattan the better. Fortunately, director Jeff Burr and writer David J. Schow had a different and better idea. Unfortunately the producers and the censors ruined it.
Leatherface starts pretty much the same way the original A Nightmare On Elm Street did. We see the close up of the main villain creating one of his signature images: where Freddy made his knife glove, here Leatherface is making his, er, leather face out of some poor sod. Its not going to win any awards for originality but the intention is clear: this is going to be a grisly, violent movie, honouring the original. However, this is not to be as the original release, and the stupid, stupid version that is still on iTunes has no more gore throughout the rest of the film. I mean literally apart from a dead armidillo you see nothing. This isn’t even a case of neutering a horror movie to make it more user friendly, it actually stops the film from making any sense. Okay, let me give you a quick low-down on the plot then I’ll get back to my foaming-at-the-bit rant which will basically take up the rest of this review.
A youngish couple are travelling across Texas to deliver a classic Mercedes/ old rust bucket to one of their fathers, they crash and are then hunted by a family of cannibalistic crazies consisting of Viggo Mortensen, a small girl with pig tales, an old granny, a rotting grandpa and of course Leatherface who is into wearing women’s faces and having babies with anyone who’s up for it (or even not up for it) and welds a massive chainsaw. That’s it on the story line. The film is well shot with tense moments, a fairly decent atmosphere and some wacky performances. Things don’t start off too well though as the couple are incredibly annoying and stupid. When they get a burst tyre and have to change it the guy is shouting at the girl to hold the torch up so he can see what he’s doing and she’s shouting at him to get on with it, but refuses to hold the torch on the wheel. They both deserve their head’s banged together for being such annoying idiots and if we had have been stuck with them for much longer I’m not sure I could have carried on watching the movie. Thank god Ken Foree shows up about half an hour in.
Ken Foree, as I’m sure you all know, starred in From Beyond and more importantly Dawn of the Dead where he got to kick slimy things and zombies. I don’t know if he had some background in Kung-Fu or its just his Street Fighter 2 style special move but he gets to kick Leatherface this time round, and he does a damn fine job of it. Foree is an instantly likable precence in any movie so even though he’s playing a survivalist nut who drugs the couple the moment he crashes into them he’s still a hundred times more relatable than those idiots. In fact Foree is a rare character in any horror movie where it takes him about thirty seconds to work out what’s going on and who is the bad guy, then he spends the rest of the film chopping, shooting and kicking the fuckers. Its just a shame you’re not really sure what is going on whilst he’s doing it….
And that is because the censoring edit that’s been made on this film is a terrible hatchet job that makes things pretty much incomprehensible, certainly as far as who’d alive and who is dead, pretty important in a film with the word “massacre” in the title don’t you think? For example:
- William Butler as Ryan, the annoying boyfriend. He is attacked by Leatherface and presumed dead as chainsaws can be pretty lethal, however we never see where the chainsaw goes, although at a gues it MIGHT be pretty final. However Ryan turns up alive and hanging upside down in the kitchen. Although we are only told he’s alive, he doesn’t seem to move much. And then he’s dead again and we don’t see how he died. Of course the uncut version has the whole thing: the little with pigtails bashes his brains in with a mallet contraption and then siphons off some blood into a cup.
- Grandpa, who surely must be dead by this third film (he was pretty much dead in the first one) has fresh blood dripping out of his mouth, where the hell did this come from? It turns out its from the cup the little girl has made for him but we never see that.
- There’s a big shoot up scene and its pretty much impossible to tell who is dead at the end of that and who isn’t because no bullet wounds aren’t acceptable in a horror film it seems – boo hoo, poor censors, what a bunch of cunts.
- Okay giving away a bit too much here so spoilers but Foree dies but then is back about five minutes later because you couldn’t see what Leatherface did to him. Unless of course you see the uncut version where he gets a chainsaw through his skull and then certainly does not come back.
- More spoilers: Leatherface gets hit over the head three times by the skinny little final girl with a rock. Anyone who knows anything about horror movies knows this wouldn’t even give a chainsaw swinging maniac a headache so the fact that we never see him again makes for a deeply unsatisfying climactic battle – again the uncensored version has him being called a mother fucker and his head beaten in eleven times.
Ultimately this is all my on stupid fault. I don’t even remember renting Leatherface off iTunes but I must have done it drunk the other night because there it was sitting on my account with twenty seven days left to go. I’d already done my research I knew there was a cut version and an uncut version so why on earth did I just download the first one I saw which states eighty minutes and is obviously the heavily edited and altered version? Although actually no! I will not take the blame for this! Why is this version still available? I’m all against banning things but surely NO ONE is interested in seeing this hack job? Things have changed in the 25 years since this came out. No one is upset by massacres with chainsaws in Texas any more, we’ve all moved on. Now a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie will get a big wide release (unlike Part 3) and we’ll all duck as the chainsaw flies towards us in 3D. Leatherface isn’t any worse than anything else kicking around nowadays so why not give the audience the film Burr and Schow intended?
I’m not just saying this as a hard done by horror nerd who feels cheated (although I AM a hard done by horror nerd who feels cheated) but because there are people out there who have never seen this third entry in the series and if they were to happen upon it through iTunes they will find a toothless, confusing and a little bit dull horror. Which is a shame because the proper uncut movie isn’t bad at all.