Director: Kim Henkel

Sometimes, sequels can be good things. They can continue the story of the original, or tell a new story with familiar characters. But sometimes, a sequel comes along that cannot justify its own existence. One sequel like that is The Return of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, re-christened Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation upon its 1997 re-release (which is the version I saw for this review). Either version you look at, both make up the oddest segment of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre saga. The movie is just bizarre (and not in a good way), and it's actually the only Massacre movie that has no cannibalism or deaths via chainsaw. The movie is loathed by fans of the series, and rightfully so.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION (1997)The story follows four teenagers leaving their senior prom: the loud-mouth misogynist Barry (Tyler Cone), his bitchy girlfriend Heather (Lisa Marie Newmyer), stoner Sean (John Harrison), and Sean's best friend Jenny (Renée Zellweger). They head into the woods and almost immediately end up in a serious car accident, leaving them stranded out into the middle of nowhere. It's not long before the teens stumble upon a family of psychotic rednecks, comprised of Vilmer (Matthew McConaughey), Darla (Tonie Perensky), W.E. (Joe Stevens), and Leatherface (Robert Jacks). The movie ends up taking an almost incomprehensible turn when we learn that the family of cannibals aren't really cannibals at all, but just a bunch of whack-jobs that are working for a guy named Rothman (James Gale), who apparently represents the Illuminati. That whole Illuminati thing is just speculation, however. They never say exactly WHAT Rothman's purpose is, which I guess can be said for this movie as a whole.

One of the most noticeable things about the film is its stupidity. All the characters make idiotic moves, like getting in the truck of a stranger that doesn't look like he's all that happy, calmly asking a psychopath to give them a break after he snapped somebody's neck and tried to run over them with a tow truck, splitting up in the middle of nowhere instead of sticking together, and locking themselves in the home of the villains before asking their hosts where the phone is so they can call the police. My biggest complaint is the interpretation of Leatherface. Leatherface is now a whining transvestite whose collection of masks are the faces of his prettiest victims. Sure, Leatherface wears what's called the "pretty woman" mask during the dinner scene in the original, but he's totally queening it up here. I don't have anything against cross-dressers, but Leatherface is supposed to be an intimidating monster, and it's kinda hard to be scared of a serial killer dressed like RuPaul.

Writer/director Kim Henkel co-wrote the original Massacre, and after revisiting many of the original's more memorable moments, he gives the movie its own bizarre flair. The family actually orders pizza for dinner, which (as crazy as it may sound) gives us a great scene in which Darla picks up the food at the pizza place's drive-thru window with Jenny screaming from the trunk of the car while a police car. However, the movie has absolutely zero respect for the series, and blatantly rips off scenes from the original. Leatherface drops a girl on a meat hook here, as he did in the original. But instead of doing it with the intention of making her a meal, it doesn't matter. The family members aren't cannibals, but their motivation is to scare and kill people because Rothman says so. The only noteworthy things about the movie are Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. They both did the movie before becoming famous, and their performances are actually pretty good, considering what they had to work with. Zellweger does what she can, but any fault should be blamed on the asinine script. And McConaughey's hammy, over-the-top portrayal of Vilmer is the biggest reason that anyone should ever watch the movie. Without him, the movie would have been dead in the water, because he's the life of the whole thing. His character could probably be described as Viggo Mortensen's character from the third Massacre hopped up on angel dust. More movies should have redneck psychos controlling their knee braces with remote controls.

The movie may have been made with good intentions, but good intentions don't make a good movie. Unless you want to see an Oscar winner before she gets famous and Matthew McConaughey acting like a madman, you'd be well-advised to avoid this movie like the plague. You'll only get bad acting, crappy writing, and the reduction of one of cinema's most iconic murderers into an embarrassment.

Final Rating: *