Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
The Players: Renée Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Jacks, Joe Stevens, Tonie Perensky
Tale as Old as Time: A group of teens meets an eccentric Texas family on their way home from prom, with disastrous results.
The Muse: Kim Henkel wakes up to the clanging sound of empty Lone Star tallboys flying to the floor, having knocked them off his nightstand in yet another one of his sleep spasms. Hungover every morning in the 20 years since he’d busted out of the gate to critical acclaim — and embittered that nobody sought his dialogue for the other Chainsaw sequels — the defeated Kim faces himself in the mirror and growls, “I WILL TAKE BACK WHAT IS MINE!” In his first time behind the movie camera (or apparently any camera), the grizzled ol’ coot aborts the sequels-from-another-mother and makes the movie he’s always wanted to make. And you’ll wish he’d died in his sleep that day.
Whoa, How’d They Get That Guy? “Alright, alright, alright.” Oh, you bet McConaughey finds a way to squeeze that catchphrase into Vilmer, by far his most irritating role. But despite being saddled with a shouty, psychotic character who’s supposed to be cool and menacing — all while relying on remote controls to operate his cybernetic leg (a lurching gag that they milk past the tits) — young McConaughey cranks up his wily performance with a reckless abandon that says, “Fuck it! I’m immortal. It’s not like I’ll ever do an AIDS movie.” And in the role of Jenny, the Last Girl, Renée Zellweger has the movie’s least grating performance. That’s because she’s not screaming like everybody else, even though she’s in the victim’s chair. That’s not an experimental decision on her part; it’s just one of the movie’s many stupid attempts to be subversive.
Wait, Did You Hear That? We’ll never get the glorious noise of the first movie again, but at least the cheap synths are easily ignorable slasher stock. The rest is a who’s-who of Austin acts hanging out at Quackenbush’s coffee house. There’s a batch of boogie-woogie Texas blues, Roky Erickson’s “Two Headed Dog” gets used to fangless effect during a limp kill scene, and Daniel Johnston’s “Careless Soul” just makes you think how scary the movie would be if Daniel Johnston had a chainsaw.
Most Disturbing Moment Not Involving Cannibalism: Some would say it’s the hilarious (?) scene in which McConaughey and the Mousey One battle over the remote for his robotic leg. But for me, it’s the portrayal (and betrayal) of Leatherface. To me, he’ll always be a menacing maniac running on “retard” rage (Gunnar’s word). But to Henkel, getting all edgy in his old age, Leatherface is now a sweet transvestite. And he just looks like a bloated Grace Slick with a mullet. It’s horrifying seeing this horror hero all dolled up.
Best Kill: Number of people killed with a chainsaw? Zilch. A guy gets repeatedly run over by a truck, but you only see it distantly through the ever-present and entirely nonexistent Texas fog. There’s a rehash of the ol’ meat hook, but you can see the damned harness in the actress’s hair. Uh … a guy gets hit by a plane flown by an Illuminati hitman (don’t ask). Guess I have no other choice but to go with Kim Henkel’s directing career (he never tried again after this).
Crimes Against Humanity: Midway through production, the cast ran out of beer. Fortunately, Zellweger traded her spare cheese to a local for a jug of his moonshine. And then they continued to make this movie where a fey Leatherface and family work for the secret society that killed Kennedy. Lee Harvey Oswald deserved better.
Verdict: If McConaughey hadn’t gotten all hot-shit-famous, this clunker would have stayed in the can. And it’s the only horror film I can think of that’s as bad, if not worse, than Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Like that movie, it aims and fails for comedy, but gets somehow more annoying as it overreaches into a corn-pone David Lynch parody. Gutless in every way, but offering one big fake boob more than its nudity-free predecessors, it’s just an unbearable waste of time, burgeoning talent, and fog machines (so much fog). And after spitting in our eyes for 90 minutes, Henkel closes the movie with cameos from John Dugan, Marilyn Burns, and Paul A. Partain (Franklin can walk!), thinking he can tie the mess he intentionally made to the masterpiece he accidentally helped make so long ago.
— Roy Ivy