Sometimes, there are characters in genre pictures that are so darned righteous and awesome, you can’t stop thinking about them or their amazing feats long after the movie is over. This column is dedicated to those cinematic bad-asses that keep us coming back for more. And this week, I’m bowing down to the man that tussled against Leatherface and (technically!) lived to tell the tale! I’m talking about the great Benny as portrayed by Ken Foree.
LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III is one of those special movies from my childhood. I was 14 years old when it came out and at that point, a full-on horror fanatic, especially for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE movies. So the fact that I was finally going to be able to see one on the big screen was a big deal. I waited for hours outside a theater until an older couple would agree to pretend to be my legal guardians so I could get into this R rated movie. And I loved it. Granted, at the time I didn’t know how plagued with problems the production was. I was completely unaware of the multiple issues with the MPAA in trying to get the violence down to an acceptable level. I was a kid that got to see Leatherface on the big screen and the character that stood out the most to me was Benny!
Sally put up a good fight in the original and eventually escaped. Dennis Hopper’s character Lefty was a man looking for vengeance and sought after the Sawyer clan. But here, Leatherface finally met his match. A worthy adversary. Someone that wasn’t afraid to fight back and kick his ass! At that point, I was so stoked that it was Ken Foree, the same guy from the original DAWN OF THE DEAD, but I loved him even more in this movie.
We meet Benny about 26 minutes into the movie as he’s driving the backroads of Texas, blasting some smooth music with a sticker on his jeep that reads “There Is Nothing In Here Worth Your Life.” This dude rules. He almost crashes into poor Michelle and Ryan who just narrowly escaped an attack from Leatherface and immediately after the minor wreck, Benny jumps right into action. It helps that he does have military training and knows how to deal with situations like this. He may have gotten more than he bargained for when he first meets Tinker, who offers to help turn his jeep right side up, but in reality, he was setting him up for a trap and he falls down the hill and right into his first (of a few) battles with Leatherface.
Physically, Benny and Leatherface are equally matched, but Leatherface plays dirty and during their first hand to hand combat pulls out an electric buzzer. He flees for the time being, but armed with his machine gun, this is not the last we’ll see of Benny!
He wanders the woods in search of Michelle who gets captured by the rest of the family, and also stumbles upon another victim that’s been lost in the forest for days. He manages to take out Alfredo, the weirdo black sheep of the family (I always thought he was the Hitchiker?) that runs the gas station.
Once Benny makes it to the house, that’s when the shit really hits the fan. He opens fire on the Sawyer family, Michelle escapes and then he goes up against Tex, a young, crazed Viggo Mortensen! “Why don’t you leave us alone?” Benny shouts at his baby-faced enemy. “We’re hungry!” retorts Tex. “Ever heard of pizza?”
Let’s just say that Benny comes out on top of this one and then goes straight into battle yet again with the main man, Leatherface. The two duke it out in a swamp and after trading blows for a few minutes, Leatherface pushes Benny’s head right into the blade of his 3 foot chainsaw blade. Ouch!
Now, the truth of the matter is Benny was intended to perish at that moment in the movie, but in no commercially released version does that turn out to be the case. And while looking back now, it may seem a bit silly that Benny could survive a chainsaw to the head, but you have no idea how happy 14 year old Rob G was when he popped up at the very ending with nothing more than a scratch on his head saying, “Hey, it’s me! It’s Benny! I’m OK!” I totally fist pumped in the theater with joy!
Unfortunately, this marked the end of the New Line Cinema Leatherface movies. They fully intended to franchise this sucker in the same way they’d successfully done with the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series, but with the MPAA still having a giant stick up their butts about Tobe Hooper’s CHAINSAW 2 going out unrated, and the filmmakers under tremendous pressure to make a street date (which they missed, forcing it to be pushed to January), this movie never got a fair chance. And the reason they left Benny alive is because, like myself, test audiences loved him and they would’ve brought him back to square off against Leatherface again had they continued doing more sequels.
Regardless, Benny… you stepped up, fought Leatherface several times over the course of one movie and managed to defy the odds and survive! For that, you’ve earned this hashtag, you invincible son of a gun, you.