The one film in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series I was not looking forward to revisiting was this one. But then again, it’s been several years since I last attempted to watch it, so perhaps time has been kind to it and its gotten better with age? Sadly this is not the case. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, aka The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4 is as awful as I remember it being.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s article, I loved Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. And as a huge fan, I was eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the Chainsaw saga, whatever that might be. Unfortunately, I waited a really, really long time. Back in those days, there weren’t frequent updates on the Internet as to the status of a project, which director was attached, which direction the franchise was going. Hell, there wasn’t an Internet! I had to rely on the pages of Fangoria and their Terror Teletype column to give me the first word on any new horror movies. And after a couple of years I finally read a blurb about a 4th Texas Chainsaw Massacre feature, this time being written and directed by Kim Henkel, the co-writer of the original film, which seemed promising. But then… nothing. Months and months went by and I never heard anything more about this mysterious Chainsaw sequel.
Finally, I managed to find a “rough cut” VHS of the flick at the time titled The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre at a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention in New York City and could not be more excited to check it out later that evening when I got home. I mean, this was a brand new Chainsaw movie; a follow-up to Leatherface, my first theatrical Chainsaw flick. And to say I was disappointed would be a vast understatement. The movie failed on every possible level and stands as not only the worst of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, but arguably one of the worst horror movies ever made.
The film opens with 4 teens, the main one being a gawky teen Jenny (Renee Zellweger) who’s pulling off the whole She’s All That thing. All the other characters think she’s an ugly duckling because she’s wearing glasses, yet us, the audience are all thinking ‘she is totally hot! With or without the glasses!’ Anyways, they’re all on their way to the prom when they get in a car accident on the road with another driver who seems to be badly hurt. Help arrives in the form of Vilmer (Matthew McConaughey) who shows up with his tow truck and immediately breaks the neck of the hurt motorist. “Well, he’s dead now!” Turns out he’s the head of the crazy Slaughter family, a group of cannibalistic lunatics that also have Leatherface in their clan.
Wait a minute… the Slaughter’s? Well, that’s the names they’re referred to on IMDB. Not sure if they ever actually say that name in the movie or in the end credits. (And no, I refuse to go put it on again.) But does that mean this is not the original Sawyer clan as established in the other 3 movies? That’d make sense considering its all new family with the exception of Leatherface, unless he’s a completely different person this go round. Oh, and I’m pretty sure there’s a Grandpa-esque character that’s just an old man in a chair.
Story-wise, the film tries really, really hard to just match the beats of the original movie. About 35 minutes in, the one jerk douche boyfriend gets a mallet to the head courtesy of Leatherface. A mere few minutes later, his girlfriend gets hung on a meat hook. There’s even a “Leatherface dancing with the chainsaw” ending shot like in the original, only all of these scenes do not even come close to their counterparts. They’re all poorly executed, not scary, hell they don’t even look cool. It’s not just the scares that fail; it’s the potential for suspense. For example, there’s one scene where Jenny is being held captive in the trunk of a car by Darla (Tonie Perensky), the normal looking girlfriend to Vilmer and she (stupidly) decides to get a bite to eat at a fast food drive-thru. First off, I thought they were cannibals? Why does she need a burger from a joint like this when they just captured 3-4 other people? Second, because of her looks, no one suspects what she really is, and hence a police car pulls up directly behind her in the line. This technically should’ve been a really tense suspenseful scene. Cops are right there, her victim is in the trunk of the car, but instead it just falls flat.
What about Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger you ask? They’re huge Hollywood stars so they have to be good in this, right? Wrong. Zellweger does her best in the role of Jenny, but it’s so poorly written that we don’t care about her nearly as much as we did Sally, Stretch or Michelle in the previous installments. And it’s ironic seeing McConaughey here because he literally just gave an amazing performance as a cold blooded psycho in Killer Joe, yet here he’s just kind of emulating what Viggo Mortensen had already done better in Chainsaw 3 as Tex. Oh and for no reason whatsoever, a guy straight out of a David Lynch movie with no sideburns shows up at the end in a limo (I think he’s government?) to lick Renee Zellweger and play with his body modification. No explanation is ever given to who the hell he is and what connection he has to this family.
Rumor has it that Henkel had submitted this script to be Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and New Line rejected it. In fact, when Leatherface director Jeff Burr initially met for that movie, his recollection was that the original treatment involved a group of kids going to a prom. So once the rights expired at New Line, it seems Henkel made the sequel he had always wanted to make.
Honestly, this is the lowest point of any horror franchise. I guess if you had never seen a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, you might find aspects of this movie that are both surprising and entertaining, but compared to what’s come previously; it tarnishes the name & reputation of one of the greatest American horror series ever made. Sadly, this was the death nail in the coffin to the Leatherface that we knew. Because it took almost a decade before he'd see him (or at least a new interpretation of Leatherface) again. He’d be reborn for the Platinum Dunes remake which I'll tackle tomorrow!
Post Mortem with Mick Garris Guest Starring Texas Chainsaw creator Tobe Hooper
Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Revisiting Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 Remake
Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
FEARnet Movie Review: Texas Chainsaw 3D by Scott Weinberg