Retro Review: ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation’
As I am sure you have noticed rebooting franchises is all the rage in movies right now. Sometimes this works but a good number of times it does not, with few rare exceptions it does not. Fans of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre have watched multiple attempts to kickstart that particular franchise with little success, but they can take solace in the fact that no attempt has been as bad 1994’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. This failed attempt at rebooting Leatherface and his cannibalistic family gave viewers a completely bonkers take on Tobe Hooper’s original horror masterpiece. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger who were both on the cusps of fame, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation proved to be the perfect movie for the people who wish the original classic was made by possible mental patients….and not in a good way.
To start this movie roughly follows the same plot as the original 1974 film; but instead of heading to check on the family plot, the teens are on the way to prom. Automobile troubles leads to a call to Vilmer, a tow truck driver who is not quite right in the head….or leg for that matter as he has this bizarre steam powered contraption which helps him walk. Of course Vilmer slaughters the teens who waited with the car, while the others venture to the creepy house his family lives in for help. This is when we are finally introduced to the star of the Texas Chainsaw franchise, Leatherface. Many cite this as when the movie officially goes off the rails, as instead of the hulking, mysterious, monster of a man we have seen throughout the run of this series, we get a Leatherface who has been turned into a transvestite for some unknown reason. If you are looking for the merciless killer the franchise is famous for, you will no doubt be sad and dispointed to see him playing the caring maternal role for his demented family. Also injected into this rendition of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a secret agent/Illuminati type character named Rothman, who informs us that this cannibalistic family is actually part of a grander conspiracy. In case you were wondering: YES this plot thread is as stupid as it sounds and NO it does not go anywhere.
Granted the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a strange movie, but it was strange in a way which worked for the overall movie by creating a tense and disorienting atmosphere. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Next Generation on the other hand, is a strange movie in a way that makes you sit back and say “….the hell…?”. About the time secret agents appear to reveal the cannibalistic family is part of an experiment you can only throw your hands up in exhaustion and surrender any hope of logic. It is safe to say those behind this movie knew they had a disaster on their hands, because after the brief initial run as Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Columbia had it shelved for two years. When its stars McConaughey and Zellweger broke out to find Hollywood fame, the studio rode that wave and rereleased it under its current title.
Pretentious non-horror critics in recent years, have recently tried defending this movie as some misunderstood avant-garde film that is too smart for us commoners. But this is just a sad and pathetic attempt to sound high-brow when discussing one of the worst horror films ever made. Fans of the genre in particular have a hatred for this movie, mainly for what it did to their beloved Leatherface. The fact that director Kim Henkel brought such a radical change to the character of Leatherface served no purpose to the story but rather turned one of the scariest monsters in filmdom into a joke. When the brutal villain of your movie spends more time screaming effeminately and playing a nurturing matriarch than slicing up teenagers there are bound to be problems. Given that the saw-wielding killer donned women’s garb in the original, it is not outside the realm of possibility this characterization could work, provided it remained true to the character and he was still a merciless killing machine. Other than moments seemingly inserted just to weird out the audience, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Next Generation simply follows the plot of the original very closely. So if you feel the need to watch Leatherface and his clan do what they do best, you can simply watch the 1974 classic, and not have to deal with superfluous filler the reboot provided.