Synopsis: When a helpful family invites two lost couples in for a good ol’ down-home massacre, the prom night teens find themselves all dressed up… with nowhere to escape. Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey star in this hilarious bone-chilling remake of the horror classic.
eyelights: its campy performances. its corny script.
eyesores: its campy performances. its corny script. its new villains. its ending.
‘My brother here is tired of whats-her-name’s face and he wants a new one! It just happens to be whats-this-face right here!”
In 1994, Kim Henkel, writer of the original ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre‘ returned to the well and directed a sequel called ‘The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.
Starring Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey, who were fresh new talent at the time, the picture was initially supposed to be the direct follow-up to the original.
Alas, it was not to be.
Not only were some of the original players not available for the picture, but financing and distributing it was to be a hellish experience for the first-time filmmaker.
Ultimately, the picture was recut heavily by the studio and was released years later, in 1997, under the new title of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation’.
It was a flop.
This time, our picture follows two pairs of teenagers on the night of their prom, after they decide to go for a ride but get stranded in the woods after a car accident.
Naturally, they have to contend with a few backwood locals.
One of whom has a chainsaw.
(Need I say more?)
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of ‘TCM: TNG’. Was it intentionally supposed to be silly? Was it supposed to be satirical? Or was it just a really corny horror film?
Right from the start, at the prom, the dialogues were utterly moronic – and the staging was even worse. I didn’t know if I was supposed to laugh or groan in displeasure.
For instance, one girl is speaking in gibberish as though she were schizophrenic, and another is calling for her boyfriend who’s right there making out with another girl.
And yet he doesn’t hear her.
When he does, he catches up with her as she drives off in his car, and proceeds to make the most risible excuses for his behaviour. It’s all completely unfathomable.
And that’s for starters.
Every encounter is patently absurd, from finding Jenny and another boy in the backseat, to the car crash, to the meeting with Darla, who runs a business out of a trailer.
Even the villains of the piece are ridiculous: McConaughey plays a wild-eyed, woman-beating, psychopathic, conspiracy-nut who wears a deficient, remote-controlled leg brace.
And don’t even get me started on Leatherface, who is less of a primal threat here and instead is a wailing, crying, blubbering, cross-dressing chainsaw-wielding nightmare.
The scares are also a mixed bag (!): one moment you have McConaughey coldly breaking a defenseless car crash victim’s neck, and the other Zelwegger is attacked by a garbage bag.
The tonal shifts are so jarring that it’s hard to know what to make of ‘TCM: TNG’; it’s not nearly as manic as ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2‘, but it’s also not straight horror.
The scene that best illustrates how different this picture is from the original, is when one of the girl is captured and moved from the freezer to a meat hook by Leatherface.
In the original, it’s a disturbing sight, watching as the girl twitches and claws vainly to release herself. Ugh. Here, it’s treated with banality: pop… fresh meat on a hook.
And then it’s over.
Part of me wonders if the original cut (i.e. ‘The Return of…’) was more coherent, if it makes its intentions more explicit, or if the results are all due to Henkel’s inexperience.
It wouldn’t likely make the picture any good (ex: nothing can save that ridiculous ending!) but it might at least leave one less quizzical. That alone would be a big bonus.
‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation’, however, is as confused as its Leatherface.
It seems purposely campy, enough so that I was able to get a few laughs out of it. But, if it wasn’t Henkel’s intention, then this is really one heck of a stupid movie.
Either way, it’s not the original.
Post scriptum: I finally did watch the original cut, ‘The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. Aside for an opening scene that delineates Jenny’s terrible home life, the extra footage consists of little extensions that add length but not much else.
It creates a more atmospheric picture, and it situates the characters better in some instances, but it’s not a “night and day” difference. I’d pick that one above the ‘The Next Generation’ cut, if I had to watch it again, but it’s no big deal either way.
Date of viewing: October 2, 2017