Originally I was very upset at the notion of a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” back in 2003 when it was announced. The original is so perfect as is, it’s tough to think that someone would try to top it. Thankfully the remake didn’t top it, and after watching it I realized my antipathy toward it was pointless because “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is one of the many genre classics that’s been unofficially remade almost a dozen times already. So what’s the big deal? And as much as I enjoyed the sequels, they also couldn’t quite top the original film. And Tobe Hooper was behind the second film, oddly enough.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” implies in the title that it’s a reboot of the series. In reality it’s just another remake of the original Tobe Hooper film except with the sensibilities of the nineties. It has that grit to it that you only see in straight to video fare, and it is only memorable because it sports two of the most overblown movie stars of the late nineties and early aughts. Seriously, the only things this film has going for it is that it features Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey before they were huge stars in Hollywood.
And even then it’s not worth sitting through this film just to see them in early roles. They were never good actors during this, and aren’t good after the fact. “The Next Generation” is a sloppy, poorly written, lazily conceived mess from start to finish. The script has so many holes it looks like a groundhog went through it over a dozen times. The Sawyers are back and none of them ever seem to show up for more than one movie, save for Leatherface. And even then his attitude varies. Tex is nowhere to be found, and neither is Chop Top, or Leatherface’s daughter. Now there’s a basically tame version of the Sawyers, including Vilmer, as played by McConaughey.
He is a tow truck driver with a knack for murdering helpless bystanders, and walks around on a mechanical leg. As with the other installments, the writers have zero confidence in creating their own iconic horror moments, so they regurgitate the scenes from the original film. Someone gets clubbed with a mallet, someone is hung on a meat hook, and Zellweger’s character Jenny is forced to sit with the Sawyer’s for dinner while screaming like a banshee and witnessing their lunacy. For some inexplicable reason, there are hints that the Sawyers are a part of a Government program that’s working outside of the public’s knowledge, and as such they’re supposed to play roles. But that shred of sub-plot is thrown away in a haze of confusing scenes and badly edited action.
There’s also the horribly befuddling finale where Leatherface chases down Amy, resulting in the introductions of characters we only see for a few seconds. Who was the person in the crop duster helicopter that helped out Jenny? Who were the couple in the RV supposed to be? And after doing research, when Amy is wheeled in to the hospital, she passes a mental woman who happens to be Marilyn Burns reprising her role as Sally Hardesty. The scene is so badly directed that only eagle eye viewers will spot Burns. General audiences won’t know what the hell the final moments even mean. “The Next Generation” killed the original series for a long time, and it’s a shame we had to go out on this embarrassing note for many years.