Horror was booming in 1989! Freddy, Jason, Pinhead, and Michael Myers have all become pop culture phenomenons, with only Tobe Hooper’s granddaddy-of-horror-flicks on the outskirts of pop culture fandom. Hooper had resurrected his nightmarish family only three years before with the divisive Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 for Cannon Films (Go watch Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films now if you haven’t seen it). The decision to turn his iconic horror family into a black comedy remains one of the most puzzling decisions in horror movie history.
By 1989 it would seem that these characters were to be stuck in limbo until New Line Cinema (the house that Freddy built) swooped in and purchased the franchise rights from The Cannon Group. New Line’s goal was simple: Make Leatherface the next great horror franchise star. This seemed like a match made in horror movie heaven but looks are not always as they seem.
Bringing Texas Chainsaw Massacre III to the screen was more than New Line CEO Bob Shaye had bargained for. In an attempt to distance their film from the black comedy of Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, New Line looked to many of the upcoming horror directors of the time including Peter Jackson (Dead Alive, Bad Taste) to bring the series back to the gritty realism of the original. Directing duties eventually fell to Jeff Burr, who had recently finished filming The Stepfather sequel and would later be fired & rehired during the production of the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Scripting duties went to David J. Schow who had recently penned episodes of New Line’s Freddy’s Nightmares series.
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With the cast and crew set Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III began filming in July 1989 with a release set for November that same year. However, with filming setbacks and trouble with the MPAA issuing the kiss of death X rating to the film, the release was ultimately pushed back 2 months to January 12, 1990.
Horror movies getting the X rating wasn’t something new in the 1980’s, especially for New Line who had recently had trouble securing an R rating for Nightmare on Elm Street 5. Unlike other films, the X rating stuck to Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and even became a part of the film’s marketing, with the posters suggesting it was “The Most Controversial Horror Film Ever.” The film never lives up to those lofty expectations, mainly because the final product is a tourniqueted version of something greater. Despite these cuts, I still find Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III the best of all the Texas Chainsaw sequels/prequels/remakes/reboots.
During a recent rewatch, I was surprised to discover how much of this movie, and not the original, has inspired the franchise entries since. Excluding Kim Henkel’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, the Leatherface of Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is the model for the character that would be used going forward. Gone are the cross-dressing traits of the character, along with the overly childish behaviors from Hooper’s original. This Leatherface is a brutish figure closer in tone to Jason Vorhees than any previous incarnations.
Admittedly, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III works better as a history lesson of ‘80s horror cinema than it does as an actual movie, from being the last film to receive the X rating to being the last true sequel to the original film until the release of Texas Chainsaw 3D in 2013.
Horror fans will immediately recognize that Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is a product of it’s time, from the opening scene with a sledgehammer to the face, followed by a clever reworking of Freddy’s “Glove Creation” from Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is a polished franchise-building horror film that features gorgeous visuals, a menacing Leatherface, a fantastic supporting cast (including Viggo Mortensen and Ken Foree), and a heavy metal soundtrack that feels perfectly ‘80s.
Happy 30th Anniversary Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III! The only film in the franchise that dares to ask, “So, how do you like Texas?” How do you feel about Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III? What is your favorite Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel? Share your thoughts by heading over to Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!