Let’s Visit Texas Part 3 (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, 1990)

After the failure of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, New Line Cinema got the the rights.  And they were determined to make the Texas Chainsaw Massacre into a franchise in line with their Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.  Let me get this out of the way.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 has one of the best Teaser Trailers Ever:

leatherface_tcm3_posterOf course, absolutely to be expected the movie is just not as wonderfully absurd as the trailer.  Truthfully, the most interesting aspect of the film is they tried to get Peter Jackson to direct and the film stars Future Aragorn, Viggo Mortenson.  Unlike the second film, this one goes for darker and gorier.

A young couple runs afoul of Leatherface and his new family.  Leatherface is the only returning character (to be fair, all the others died in the second film) and his new family is a different approach.  They are more of a traditional family.  You know, a traditional family who hacks people up.  But a traditional family.  A mom, dad, kids, a guy with a weird eye.  And a big, big chainsaw.

Again…traditional family.

The film’s cast was mostly unknown at the time, though they did include genre vet Ken Foree. The cast is generally likeable, but the story is kind of dopey.  The story includes all sorts of references to the original film, but they feel like moments where the film makers felt they should be following the original closely without directly ripping it off.  At the same time, it is clear that the first time screen writer David Schow was trying to take the series in a slightly different direction that made the sequel open for more sequels.

The film also had many re-shoots that significantly altered the story.  One character clearly dies at the hands of Leatherface.  And then shows back up at the end.  A lot of what is happening gets confusing.

Director Jeff Burr had made the entertaining horror anthology Whisper to a Scream (also known as the Offspring).  The film was made bloody, but it then cut extensively to satisfy the MPAA.  So gore hounds were not going to be satisfied, while people looking for a great scary story were not going to get that either.  Everybody involved seems to have put a lot of effort to do it right…but there were to many cooks in the kitchen.

Looking back, most of the crew is pretty honest about how terrible the film turned out to be.  I had a conversation with Jeff Burr back in 2004, and he made no pretense about how it would be a good film “if only”.  And I honestly enjoy that kind of honesty.  Here is a short documentary about it.

Try, Try Again (The Stepfather 2: Make Room For Daddy, 1989)

stepfather_2_poster_bTerry O’Quinn returns in this sequel that finds a healed Jerry in a high security mental institution.    He eventually breaks out and assumes the role of psychologist Gene Clifford (which will turn out to be a poor choice later in the film for a pretty obvious reason).  While leading a therapy group for divorced women, he finds Carol Grayland (Meg Foster) and her son Todd (the late Jonathan Brandis).  He starts building a relationship with them while her friend Matty (genre veteran Caroline Williams) starts to look into Gene’s background.

While Todd seems to like Gene, Carol is more prone to question things.  Though she is good at pushing those concerns aside, even when Matty is pressing buttons.

Like the first film, the primary focus is the state of mind of the Stepfather.  It is simple mistakes that interfere with his family, and his attempts to fix it only make it worse.  Carol trusts him less and less, and the moment when she realizes that Gene is a killer is very well done.  It involves the running theme of the films where the Stepfather whistles Camptown Ladies.

Director Jeff Burr had the film chopped up against his desire.  The Weinstein Brothers felt that it tested poorly and needed more blood.  The re-shoots were done without Burr or O’Quinn as both refused to participate.  In spite of this, Stepfather 2 is still a pretty fine follow-up focused overall less on bloodiness and more the characters.  It is a decent follow up to the original and still an enjoyable thriller.

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