Film Review - Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

Starring - Renee Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Jacks | Directed by Kim Henkel | Lionsgate DVD FF R 94min 1994

Review By Xmortis

This fourth outing into the backwoods of Texas has Leatherface with a new family making prom night for a group of teens truly one they will never forget. That is, if they live through it! So let's once again go to the backwoods of Texas and visit with the Sawyer clan. WARNING: this review will have spoilers.

It's prom night in 1994 as mousy Jenny, a young woman who is being abused by her mom's boyfriend, is on her way to the prom with Sean and her friend Heather and Heather's asshole boyfriend Berry. They get into a wreck in the backwoods of Texas and meet Vilmer Sawyer a towtruck driver with a mechanical leg brace, Darla an insurance agent with fake boobs, W.E. a shotgun welding history quoting asshole and of course Leatherface. One by one, like before, the friends are killed off as Jenny is the only one left to spend a horrific dinner with the Sawyer clan, but this time its different as the spend time playing mind games and cat and mouse chases with her. Weirdly, they refer to all of this as a job given to them by a secret government agency. But strangely a man dressed in black, a clear member of the secret government agency named Rothman, shows up and yells at the family but let's the madness continue. Jenny escapes the house with Vilmer and Leatherface in pursuit as a plane swoops down from nowhere killing Vilmer and stopping Leatherface dead in his tracks. Jenny gets to a limo where Rothman apologies for all she has been through and drops her off at a local hospital where she sees a crazed Sally Hardesty. The two lock eyes as we end with Leatherface swinging his chainsaw as the sun sets.

The fourth film in the series has part 1's co-writer, Kim Henkel, behind in the director's chair, but even with one of the original creators on board, this sequel still doesn't live up to the original or its sequel. The plot in this one is one part Prom Night and one part Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film tries to be a solid horror film like the original but with terrible dialogue and silly sub plots, it becomes a tongue in cheek cheapie with a bad movie night appeal. I hate how they act as if this was meant to be a dark comedy when it's clear that it was not. It just so happens to be funny for all the wrong reasons. Kim Henkel does an alright job directing this film, and it's clear that certain moments were inspired by the first film. I first saw this film in the theater at the Dayton, Ohio premiere at Page Manor Theater in 1997 and was so hyped to see it. Afterward I remember thinking it was bad fun movie, and in 2011 I feel the same way. Robert Jacks plays Leatherface in this one and with his overly cheap looking "kill" mask, flowing mullet like hair and over the top screaming he makes for one pale version of Leatherface. But not all of Jack's Leatherface is bad. When he puts on his female look and resembles Roseanne Barr, he shines in a creepy funny kind of way. Renee Zellweger is clearly the best actress as she plays the cute as a button Jenny who is really just a modern version of Sally from the original but stops taking the family's psycho shit by the end of the film. But the real star of the film, from his over the top performance to his amazing lines, is Matthew McConaughey. Where else can you see an acclaimed actor walk around with a mechanical leg controlled by a remote and scream about meat as he hits himself on the forehead? A new member of the family W.E. Sawyer (Joe Stevens) seems to be wasted. He spends most of the film bullying Leatherface. The plot of having a secret government agency knowing about the Sawyer clan and using them to strike fear in the world is super dumb and doesn't work. But the parts featuring Leatherface and family killing the prom teens works in a cheap sequel kind of way. The soundtrack is done well and features local Texas bands doing pop songs,except for a track from Blondie front woman Debbie Harry. This film has some blood and even a little boob shots to keep most horror fans a little happy, but with a dumb plot and some really bad dialogue this film is just a shell compared to those that came before it.

This Lionsgate release is pretty lackluster but is the only cut of the film that holds elements from the original Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a longer print. But it's also a Full Frame print of the film making it a little more lackluster. It's barebones with no extras unless you count the text bios of McConaughey and Zellweger as stunning bonus features. The Columbia DVD version is a much better buy and has a widescreen print of the film as well as a crappy full frame one.

This fourth film tries to take the film series back to the roots of the original that parts 2 and 3 got away from, but adds something far worse that takes the rawness of the series away with the Illuminati. It's easy to see why they decided to remake the series after this one because it's truly one of a kind and makes it really hard to follow it up with out diving deeper into its over all weird and wacky take on the Sawyer clan. It's worth a watch and still remains one of my guilty pleasure films.

Next up is the 2003 remake where the series is taken back to ground zero and built up with a new set of rules and a new last name for a much more violent and mean spirited Leatherface.