On October 1, 1974, in Dallas, Texas, the original “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” premiered. Tobe Hooper (Salem’s Lot) directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Kim Henkel (Texas Chainsaw 3D), based off of Henkel’s story. The 83 minute film, was shot over a grueling four week period, where the daytime temperatures in Texas consistently reached 100 degrees. Did either man know, at the time, that they were working on a film that would be considered an icon of the horror genre? Did Gunnar Hansen, who portrayed the original Leatherface, ever think his character would live on in seven prequels and sequels? Would Hansen have ever imagined, in his wildest aspirations for the film, that his character would be turned into a video game? On March 14, 1983, a video game based on the film was released by Wizard Video Games for play on the Atari 2600. Could Hooper have predicted that the film he made for a budget of approximately three hundred thousand dollars, would go on to gross over thirty millions dollars? The answer is ‘doubtful’ to all the aforementioned questions. On April 2, 2015 “Entertainment Weekly” compiled a list of the scariest films ever made, and ranked the movie, second, only to “The Exorcist.” There is no doubt that the original “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” has earned a place among the best horror films of all time, but “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation,” the film, which stars not one, but two Oscar winners, doesn’t even come close.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” begins with four teenagers, who have left their senior prom. Three of the teens are Barry (Tyler Shea Cone), Heather (Lisa Marie Newmyer), and Sean (John Harrison). The fourth teen is Jenny, who is played by Oscar winner Renée Zellweger (Cold Mountain). The teens are not only lost, but they get into an accident, requiring their car to be towed. After making their way on foot to a real estate office, they call for a tow truck. Unfortunately, for the teens, Vilmer, the tow truck driver, replete with an electric leg, portrayed by Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), comes to their aid. He will turn out to be the last person they can depend on to get them out of trouble.
The teens eventually will get to meet Vilmer’s family, in a manner of speaking. The family, who for whatever unexplained reason, has had their last name changed, in this installment of the franchise, from Sawyer to Slaughter. Members of the murderous, cannibalistic clan include: Darla (Tonie Perensky), who is Vilmer’s love interest, as well as the poetry quoting, W.E. (Joe Stevens). Lastly, there is Leatherface (Robert Jacks). If the overall film hadn’t been so poorly executed, one of my main issues with it would’ve been, that Leatherface, in this movie, is reduced to a secondary character. Leatherface is the first and, in fact, the only person I think of, when I hear the title “Texas Chainsaw.” He has not only been reduced to a minor role, but the chainsaw which he is known to wield with such destructive force, doesn’t kill anyone during the entire duration of the film, hence making the title, in a sense, a rip-off. He does, however, continuously wail out-loud, while chasing victims, which contributes to his character coming across as more annoying than scary. Unlike the original film, the mask that Leatherface uses looks two sizes too big for Jacks, who is playing the part.
Unfortunately for all involved with the production, McConaughey and Zellweger, can’t save the film from being a complete mess. The two actors, who are excellent representatives of their profession, do the best they can with the material, or lack thereof, that they have to work with, but it’s just not enough. In addition to the problems with Leatherface, one of the other issues the film deals with, is that it doesn’t seem to know what it is trying to be. There is no consistent tone presented to the viewer throughout its runtime. The majority of the scenes are forgettable, and the ending defies logic. During several scenes in the film, hints are dropped to the viewer, that there is more going on than appears on the surface with the Sawyer / Slaughter family. The ending, blames The Illuminati, as those responsible for the carnage that has taken place. The Illuminati has apparently placed the crazed family in the backwoods of Texas, and has allowed them to do whatever they wanted to those unfortunate enough to cross their paths. The reason given, is in order to invoke a spiritual awakening in those few people who manage to escape. When the representative from The Illuminati makes his presence known, he states that the organization should have shut down the family a long time ago. In fact, the entire production should’ve been shut down before filming even commenced, but that’s just my opinion.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” was written and directed by Kim Henkel, who as mentioned earlier, co-wrote the screenplay for the original 1974 “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” based off of his story. The film premiered on March 12, 1995 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. There are two versions of the film; the original theatrical cut is 87 minutes in length, and the director’s cut, which has been released on Blu-ray has a runtime of 94 minutes. Trivia buffs take note: There is a scene which takes place in a hospital at the end of the movie, which features three of the actors from the original 1974 film: Marilyn Burns, John Dugan, and Paul A. Partain.
I can’t recommend this film. If those of you who are reading this count either McConaughey or Zellweger among your favorite actors, and you want to see them star together, in what was for each of them, one of their first film roles, then watch the movie. If you’re like me, and once you start watching a film franchise, you need to see all of the franchise’s offerings, then like me, you’ll have to sit through the movie, and more than likely, will be thankful when the ending credits begin to roll. For the rest of you, do yourselves a favor, and give this a pass.