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Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

Review by: 
Catwalk
Release Date: 
1994
Studio: 
Sony
Genre: 
Horror
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
1 NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 
1.85:1
Directed by: 
Kim Henkel
Cast: 
Renee Zellweger
Matthew McConaughey
Robert Jacks
Tonie Perensky
Tyler Cone
Movie: 
1
Extras: 
1
Bottom Line: 
1

Teenagers, Texas Farmhouse, Chainsaw, You know the rules of the game.  This time around, it’s two couples who hate each other.  Jenny (Zellweger) and her friend Sean wind up in a car with the pompous ass, Barry (Cone) and whiny girl Heather (Lisa Newmyer).  The couples are paired up on a premise thinner than Mary-Kate Olsen.
 
Clad in thick black glasses with her hair up, Jenny is a shy, virginal teen with only one friend.  Naturally, she proves to be the only sane voice.  The teens wreck their car, and walk to find help.  They met Darla (Perensky), a bizarre real-estate woman who does two important things: invite the killer into the film, and flash her breasts.
 
Prom queen Heather gets the inevitable meeting with Leatherface (Jacks) first.  The over-sized killer is a panicked, screaming brute.  His interactions involve high-pitched hollering, tossing victims around and lots of bludgeoning.  This Leatherface is a cowering, frightened pig.  When he is revealed as a cross-dresser, it just seals the deal.  Actually, with the wig and lipstick, he looks like Jackie Stallone.
 
The real maniac is Vilmer (McConaughey).  This tow-truck driver has a passion for running down victims while popping in hair-metal cassettes.  Despite the inhuman method of his kills, the sadist interviews each of them first.  He’s the psychotic extension of an adrenaline junkie.  The family also includes W, the literary expert younger brother who does most of the transport work.
 
So, after an hour of terror and violence, enter the bizarre plot twist.  Vilmer is just a puppet to a bizarre character called Rothman, whose intends for victims to be truly horrified.  He is appalled at Vilmer’s brutal idea of what “fright” entails.  When he belittles Vilmer, it might as well be Vincent Price telling Eli Roth there’s more to horror than gore.
 
Then, there’s a chase scene involving a Winnebago, a tow truck, Snoopy in a prop plane, and a transvestite with a power tool.
 
The characters are stereotypical and overblown, which makes them a perfect fit for this goofy, backwater slasher flick.  The typical slasher film tricks are present; backlit sets, lots of gels, quick shots of the full moon, etc.  Hinkel is guilty of the typical error seen in the Chainsaw remakes.  Leatherface erupts on set from absolute silence, saw blade roaring.  Chainsaws make noise when they’re idling.  That piece of reality just disappears.
 
Every action scene relies heavily on volume.  That’s good for Spinal Tap, but not TCM:TNG.  (See that, horror and Star Trek can merge after all!)  Instead, the chainsaw and screams and electric leg-mover thing all just become an annoying wash.
 
Director Kim Henkel was an associate producer and screenwriter on the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  This film contains several nods to its predecessor, but seems to draw more heavily from the abundance of slasher flicks from the 80’s.  While there are a few new wrinkles, it’s not enough to make The Next Generation credible.  There are too many characters, as if the number of family members and victims was set in stone by the original.
 
The DVD packaging markets the film as a horror/comedy, but that may not have been by intent.  It seems more that Henkel was trying to show some of the frayed types of psychology all under one roof, but the end-result is too watered down and formula-driven to be successful.
 
The Columbia Pictures DVD includes both Full-Screen and Widescreen formats, production notes, subtitles in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Thai, notes on the talent and trailers.  There are no deleted or extended scenes, and sadly, no commentary track.  The DVD packaging is outright misleading, calling the film a remake, and featuring a picture that has nothing to do with the movie.
 
If Zellweger and McConaughey hadn’t become the stars they are, this film would more likely be in VHS hell alongside Bikini Island.

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