The “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” has been a movie series that’s experienced great highs and crushing lows. While surely it’s been a long running series with a lot of sequels, it’s also a series that’s been rebooted numerous times. “The Next Generation” is basically a remake of the original Tobe Hooper film set for a nineties crowd and it is god awful. It’s deliriously bad. You could almost consider it so bad it’s good, if you’re very forgiving, but in the end of the day it’s awful. It’s so awful even stars Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger have distanced themselves from it.
“The Next Generation” centers on a group of teenagers that ditch their prom early. They end up crashing their car in the backwoods of Texas in the middle of the night, and while looking for some help, they run in to Vilmer Slaughter. Vilmer is a psychopathic hillbilly with a mechanical leg who begins terrorizing the teens with his truck, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As the group scatter looking for help, they run across Vilmer’s horrifying brood of cannibals that capture and torture them. This includes the evil Leatherface, a chainsaw wielding maniac dressed in female garb and human skin. As Jenny struggles to survive and escape, she gradually learns the odd origin of the family.
Kim Henkel’s “The Next Generation” can be appreciated in some angles as a bizarre deconstruction of the original film, but I just downright think it’s awful. It’s poorly directed, the editing sucks, and plot holes litter the entire movie. Henkel and co. also pack the film with so much bizarre plot points, and weird character choices that they seem included for the sake of leaving audiences babbling to themselves incoherently. It seems like somewhere down the line there was a coherent script for this, but it went through the blender and was rebuilt in to this nonsense stew. There’s stuff included about the family here being the subject of some illuminati experiment, and there’s a lot of focus on Leatherface being transgender for reasons never expounded on.
Why does Vilmer have a mechanical leg? Is this supposed to be a satire of Tobe Hooper’s original film or some kind of meta-satire a la “Scream”? In either case, so much of “The Next Generation” looks cheap, and filmed on the fly, as if it was all cobbled together at the last moment. Much of the inherent terror and menace of the original film is gone in favor of a lot of goofy off screen violence, and Matthew McConaughey chewing every bit of scenery as if it’s the last role he’ll ever have. The movie stumbles along in to a climax that is so absolutely befuddling and incoherent it’s infuriating. I remember my first experience watching this, once the credits began to roll I literally exclaimed “Wait–what?!” Who was the couple in the RV that tried to save Jenny? Who was in the crop duster? Who did Jenny see in the ER in the final scene of the film?
Why does Marilyn Burns appear for a brief cameo as another victim? Is this movie set in some alternate universe and is acknowledging such a concept? Is Jenny being hauled away with the other victims of the family by the unnamed illuminati discussed for a brief moment? “The Next Generation” is a humongous, embarrassing mess, one that has to be seen to be believed, as it’s the sequel that killed the series as whole until 2003.
Featured on the Scream Factory release is an audio commentary with director Kim Henkel, for the director’s cut only. There’s “The Buzz is Back” at eleven minutes, an interview with DOP Levie Isaacks, who discusses his uncredited work on the original film, his contact with Tobe Hooper over the years, and his satisfaction with the film, despite his frustration with the Illuminati Twist. “Marked for Death” is a sixteen minute interview with actor Tyler Shea Cone, who goes over his role, the shoot, and working with Robert Jacks. “If Looks Could Kill” is a nineteen minute interview with special makeup effects artists J.M. Logan and production designer Deborah Pastor, both of whom describe the film as “A terrible, horrible experience but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” Finally there’s the original trailer with the film’s title being “The Return of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”