Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. 1994. Directed & Written by Kim Henkel.
Starring Renée Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Jacks, Tonie Perensky, Joe Stevens, Lisa Marie Newmyer, John Harrison, Tyler Shea Cone, James Gale, Chris Kilgore, & Vince Brock.
Genre Pictures/Return Productions/Ultra Muchos Productions.
Rated R. 93 minutes.
As an avid lover of all things Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there’s only so far I can stretch my love for a franchise. Like Halloween it is a series that has its ups, big ones, and real low downs. As is the case with the previous movie, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, I first remember encountering this movie – then known as Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre – as a lurid looking bit of cinema staring down at me from the shelf of my local Allan’s Video. After seeing the original, this may have actually been the next one in the franchise I actually saw. Either way, when I did see it there’s such a distance in quality, and tone, from the original that it’s hard to even imagine these as in the same universe. Yet co-creator with Tobe Hooper of the original classic, Kim Henkel, considers this the true sequel to that impeccable, terrifying horror. With passing reference to the other sequels, The Next Generation picks up on its own grounds. A strange look at what Leatherface and his clan came to be. I can’t help wondering if Henkel even remembers the original. Because this movie is nothing but a gratuitous, jumbled mess of of slasher horror that takes us a beloved horror villain and turns him into almost a caricature of himself. Along the way there are a couple decent scares, in terms of disturbing subject matter. Overall, this is a hot mess. Emphasis on the mess.
One thing that really boggles me is the change in Leatherface. Now, I’m not saying that having a character like this whose mind gets lost in a fluid identity wouldn’t be good fodder for a horror character. What I don’t understand is how Leatherface went from the sort of mentally challenged, hulking young man from Hooper’s original, to this mentally challenged crossdresser. Just doesn’t make sense to me. And I know, we’re talking about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre here. Doesn’t have to make complete logical sense. However, there’s a point where things simply get lost. The horror of Leatherface was enough. We could’ve seen him here as an older version of himself, living such a fucked up existence that he got more vicious, more unfeeling, whatever. Instead, Henkel turns Leatherface into a sideshow. He is disturbing, no doubt. Not near as scary. In the first film when he slides that door open and smashes his unsuspecting victim with the big mallet, that image burns itself into your brain. Such an odd, quick shock. Here, the wailing and screaming sounds of Leatherface are creepy, they just don’t have any weight. If this were a completely new character I’d say it might work. Rather than do that Henkel only works off the existing character, taking him to new and inorganic places. Only one of the reasons this movie doesn’t work at all.
Not only are the characters awful, particularly our lead killer, the dialogue in the movie is atrocious. Along with some of the nonsensical ways people react to the situations at hand. I’m a seasoned movie watcher and horror lover – 4,200+ films deep, many of which are horror and thrillers. So I’m not entirely judgmental about how characters act in movies. Especially horror, as you need to really put yourself in the shoes of these people. How would you act if a massive mentally challenged man with a skin mask on his face and a chainsaw in his hand ran after you? Probably not with much sense. But even early on when McConaughey’s character breaks a neck, the other guy standing around doesn’t seem all that worried. I’d be shitting myself. There are so many instances of behaviour like this throughout. A couple are, I believe, purposeful, as Henkel sort of toys with subversion of the genre. Most of it is likely unintentional. The dialogue is weak, more and more as the time goes on. One character goes on quoting writers endlessly, as if this backwoods maniac killer belonging to a family of killers is a bookworm. He goes from Samuel Johnson to Machiavelli to any number of nonsense references. It’s poor writing and serves no purpose other than to try giving the family members quirks of their own, to make things weirder and more unsettling. Only thing it effectively does is make this sequel come off like a comedy. A bad one. Comedy that’s unintentional is not always a good thing, and here Henkel makes nothing funny in the right way, unfortunately.
When the Illuminati stuff starts coming in I can barely bring myself to keep watching. There’s no reason for any of it and the angle of the Rothman character was an awful decision to include. Takes this sequel to an entirely other level of crap.
I’ve seen the movie a bunch of times over the years. Because I marvel at how incoherently bad the whole thing is, and other than a couple unnerving scenes at most the movie is a trashpile. A burning pit of shame. Also, it’s the first of the series that really goes for any sexuality. While the second movie has a couple very suggestive moments, in particular one scene in the radio station, this one goes for outright nudity. So not only is the violence exploitative, as are a good many of the horror movies out there, this one has to go and join the shitty trend of adding breasts into the mix. For no reason, either. And again, Leatherface’s new transvestitism is another log on the fire for unnecessary sexuality; a ploy to make his character somehow more unsettling, as if that were needed in any shape or form.
This is most definitely the worst of the franchise. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation brings together two different movies, one that Henkel wanted to make as a separate film and then the other he wanted as a sequel to the original Hooper masterpiece. What results is one of the messiest horror movies out there. Another sad bastion of the 1990s, instead of some of the better work during that decade. There are so many things going on by the end of this movie that the original focus of Leatherface is all but completely lost. Bringing in the character played by McConaughey, adding in new elements to the family, it only makes things feel out of place and disjointed. Perhaps if Henkel made a better effort to make these characters the original family, only twenty years down the line, then the story and its plot may have worked well, or better at the least. The performances here are all fairly brutal. The changes to Leatherface do nothing for the character or the whole Texas Chainsaw universe. From start to finish this is one bad movie, not even the set design is as good as any of the others in the series. I gave it a single star simply because there are a couple creepy scenes that actually weirded me out. Apart from that this is a write of. Watch it only if you’re a completist. If not, then just stay away. You’re not getting anything here that’s worth your time.