Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generationrecommended viewing

Wait a minute--is this SUPPOSED to be funny?
★★★★
☆
Released: 
1994
Director: 
Kim Henkel
Starring: 
Matthew McConaughey, Renee Zellweger, Robert Jacks, Tonie Perensky
The Setup: 
New group of killers terrorize new group of teens.
Discussion: 

I picked this up for a few dollars a while ago, knowing that it had a reputation as one of the worst movies ever, and it sat on my shelf until that sudden urge hit me that I HAD to see it now. And imagine my pleasant surprise that far from being horrendous, it's actually quite, QUITE good. This is written and directed by the writer of the original, and he succeeds in delivering more of the queasy mixture of real horror with really grim humor, all amped-up for the 90s.

So we begin with a text saying that the killings from 1974 were never solved, and the killers are still out there, now in 1996. We then join this girl Heather at the prom, looking for her boyfriend, Barry. He is soon found outside making out with another girl, and they have a fight in which they end up in a car speeding away from the scene, with Renee Zelleweger as nerdy Jenny in the backseat with some other guy whose name I didn't catch. You're expecting horror, so it takes a bit to realize that the film in these early scenes is just plain mocking of dumb teenagers. Heather is a not-bright valley girl type, and Barry is a big ignorant douchebag, forever blaming everyone else for the most trifling inconvenience. For example, when they find themselves going down the old spooky backroad, too narrow to turn around, Barry erupts "There's NEVER anywhere to turn around! Fucking ASSHOLES don't even know how to make roads!" They end up crashing their car, and Heather, Barry and Jenny all set off on foot to find help, leaving the other guy back with the cars. They end up finding this office peopled by super 90s businesswoman Darla, in a tight dress with hair shellacked up high. It's occurring to me that I didn't write down enough specifics to express to you how hilarious all of this is, but just trust me that for a good portion, this is all a scathing comedy making fun of all these teen idiots and skanky 90s backwoods businesswoman. Darla calls the local wrecking company and tells them where the accident was, saying he'd better get over there pretty quick.

Back at the wreck, Matthew McConaughey as Vilmer shows up, being all amped-up and a trifle too weird to feel completely comfortable with. He then tells the teen there that he's going to kill him. The movie gets a lot of good terror out of the massive truck with its bright lights, and he runs down the guy--who obliges him by politely staying in the road and never venturing into the woods, where the truck couldn't go.

Meanwhile Heather, who has explained twice to Barry that she is, by her own description, a "bitch," hangs on the front porch while Barry goes around the back and becomes occupied by a psycho. As she sits there, Leatherface, who now wears women's clothes, sneaks up behind her and plays with her hair without her knowing he's there. When she finally sees him, it is a knock-down drag-out fight to get her inside--she really struggles! She ends up on the famous meat hook. Then Barry wanders into the house, ending up in the bathroom, which he fails to notice is covered with human skin. I found all of this terrifying, but apparently some on the IMDb found it so stupid as to be laughable. Then there are things so over-the-top they're supposed to be funny, like when Jenny ends up back at the house and is chased out onto the roof, up a dinky little antenna, then out onto a telephone wire. It's a parody of over-the-top horror movie chases, but this movie contains no tonal winks to let us know it's supposed to be funny.

SPOILERS > > >
Now--more comedy! Jenny makes it back to the office with Darla, who promptly ties her up and throws her in the trunk. In here, The Clapper makes a notable appearance. Darla then goes to pick up her pizza order with Jenny still in the trunk. While she's there, the cops come! But all they want to do is flirt with Darla, ignoring the sounds coming from the trunk. Darla makes it home and brings Jenny in, where we have a similar scene to the original with a lot of twisted family comedy played against Jenny's terror. I found McConaughey quite scary as lead psycho Vilmer, because now that more was acceptable in movies, in 1996, his torture of Jenny has an overt sexual tone that makes them that much more threatening. When Jenny screams, the whole family screams back at her, mocking her, and it begins to approximate the crazed terror of the original. Then back to humor as Jenny gets a gun and takes charge, prompting Heather, who is laying semi-conscious on the floor, to get up and escape. But no, Heather is just sooooo tired. Jenny is soon subdued again, and Darla comes up and tells her that sometimes when she's scared it helps to breathe in and out of a paper bag.

Finally Jenny gets frustrated and yells "Look, are you gonna kill me or not?" She asks Darla for help, since Darla is abused by Vilmer, but Darla says Vilmer has put a chip in her head, and if she makes one wrong move it'll explode. Jenny realizes that even THIS is a form of messing with her. This movie succeeds in the tradition of the original in that these people really are PSYCHOS.

But wait, because this movie's going to push it even FURTHER. This guy in a business suit shows up, and it seems that he is in charge of all this. He MAKES this sort of thing happen to people because "I want them to know the meaning of horror." He then gets on the tied-up Jenny and gives her face an EXTENSIVE licking, which, I need hardly tell you, is EXTREMELY sexual. Then he leaves.

Now one of the most silly aspects that you just have to deal with: Vilmer's leg is moved by this hydraulic brace that is controlled with TV and VCR remote controls. He put his boot on Heather's head and crushes her skull [not shown], then Jenny gets a remote and uses it to escape. Then follows a MASSIVELY overblown chase sequence which brings in an old couple in a Winnebago and an airplane chase. Finally Jenny ends up being whisked from the scene in the back of a limo with the suited boss guy from earlier. He tells her that it didn't go the way he planned: "It was supposed to be a spiritual experience." So I guess he arranges these things on purpose and sets them up for people? And he basically keeps the psycho family on call? I wouldn't think about it too deeply.
< < < SPOILERS END

I was 100% satisfied. In many ways it's a remake of the first film [and someone on the IMDb was saying this is the movie he intended to make in the first place... but then you don't know where people are getting their info], as you have the bizarre humor and psychotic terror clanging off each other, and the reptition of a certain pattern, such as the teens enountering different members of the family, and running outside and meeting someone they think will save them, who only ends up taking them back to the family. Then you have certain other repetitions like the dinner scene, etc. But this film took the humor further, what with all the mocking of 90s teens at the beginning, Darla and her hotpants ways, and funny situations like the police flirting with her while Jenny is tied in the trunk. If you read a lot of the very negative reviews on the IMDb they say they find the film 'laughable" or outright ask: "Is this supposed to be funny?" Well YES, it's supposed to be funny!

So I guess it depends on how you go into it--it's difficult to see past McConaughey and Zelleweger in early, fairly ridiculous roles--although they're both QUITE good--and I think by the time this came out audiences just weren't used to there being much humor mixed with their horror. Plus this has the fact of it's being the third sequel more than 20 years after the original, so all it can look like it a cheap cash-in. All that said, one also has to observe that the people who dismiss this outright also aren't looking at it for what it is, but judging it by circumstances. If you're a fan of the original, even if you've seen this one, I think you owe it another look with fresh eyes.

Should you watch it: 

Yes, it's hilariously funny and viciously horrific!

RELATED MOVIES:
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE [1974] is a justified masterpiece and if you've never seen it, or seen it long ago, you might be amazed and how brilliant it is.