TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION
Director: Kim Henkel
Year of release: 1994
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 83-87 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "If looks could kill he wouldn't have a chainsaw" and "Still buzzing after all these years".
Also known as: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: After a fight on Prom Night two teens while still bickering take off in their car only to find shortly after that two friends have become stowaways in the back. Upon the stowaways revealing themselves the four argue and banter back and forth which together with diversion signs and road closures result in the group getting lost. To make matters worse they soon get into a car wreck when they are blindsided by another driver who collapses as a result of the accident. While trying find a ride back into town and also obtain help for the injured party the unfortunates stumble across Leatherface and his latest red neck brethren. This time the hostile degenerates are led by the Psychotic Vilmer who has a mechanical leg and a hot temper. The kids are quickly left wishing they had never left the Prom.
Good points: *The Next Generation has two big stars involved in Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. It is very rare for what is often considered the lowly slasher film to feature two such big names even if in the case of Matthew he wasn’t exactly at the height of his career at the time. It remains something of a novelty though to have such big names involved in this kind of film so it is perhaps worth seeing just for them. Despite not having too much to work with they both do a solid job as well in big roles as final girl and psychopath respectively.
*Mild spoilers: Much like with previous film Leatherface nearly everything that has gone before in terms of story is disregarded so although not very good for continuity there are some small things on show that help tie this in with the rest of the series. For example at one point Vilmer cuts himself with a saw in a similar way to what the Hitchhiker did in the original and there is an elderly member of the family present at one stage who resembles a corpse. Leatherface, at this point the only real constant in the series is of course back again and in similar fashion to what we have seen once or twice previously parades and dances around like the lunatic he is with his chainsaw at the end. On top of this we also see a freezer and meat hook related kill and skin and bones scattered around in a homage like fashion to the Tobe Hooper original. Much like the others Next Generation also opens with a spoken monologue Star Wars style beginning but sadly here it contradicts what was said in previous monologues.
*Very minor spoilers: The highlight of the film for me was a chase sequence involving Leatherface and Zellweger’s final girl character Jenny. This I found to stand head and shoulders above everything else in the film in particular the quite exciting section on a roof. To a lesser extent there is also a decent yet shorter chase sequence that occurred earlier in the film this time involving another female character Heather. I was also fond of the part where Leatherface is standing right behind one of the girls without her realising he is there.
*For the first twenty minutes or so I enjoyed the dialogue/banter between the characters especially that heard between Barry and Heather. In their early scenes the conversations they had reminded me a little bit of older slashers from the eighties. The film as a whole in fact had a bit of an eighties vibe to it in the first third which was something I appreciated.
Bad Points: *The way the kids get lost is really poorly done as they don’t seem to be driving for very long. As such they can’t be that far from the Prom location but it’s as if they are in the backwoods in the middle of nowhere once the action gets underway. The accident comes right out of left field as well with the other driver just randomly smashing into them on a quiet road for no apparent reason. Presumably he was supposed to be completely high or drunk but this was never properly determined. Maybe one of group could have mentioned the guy reeked of alcohol or something which would have made this segment seem a bit more believable. At around this time the characters also all make a big deal about needing a flashlight despite it not being that dark and the flashlight barely making any difference once it’s switched on. Still better that I suppose than things being too dark and it being hard for us to see.
*One thing I found annoying is that there is an awful lot of screaming going on in this movie, more so than what we normally have to deal with within the genre. Some of the culprits for this like Vilmer really started to grate on me after a while.
*I didn’t find the film to really make much sense at times. It isn’t properly explained what the relationship is between Vilmer and one of the women. I think something was said about her leaving her husband for him but quite why she would do that to endure the torment Vilmer seems to put her through is not elaborated on. They could have justified it maybe by saying that she wax a submissive into the domination scene but alas they didn’t use any such explanation.
The main issue that brings about confusion however is the introduction of the Mr Rothman character and his suited collegues towards the end who seem to be working for the Government or some such body of authority. From what I could gather they seem happy to allow Leatherface and company to do what they do in order to build up fear within the community but then they seem to take umbrage with this when it is taken too far. Quite why they would want the community living in fear in the first place though isn’t revealed and it all just comes across as a mess.
Spoiler: Finally at the very end while Jenny is in the hospital she sees a woman being wheeled past on a stretcher that she appears to recognise though I myself had no idea who this person was supposed to be. Maybe I just missed something and it did make sense but even if that were the case I probably wasn’t the only one confused so it can’t have been presented as clearly as it should have been.
*By this point with the series I feel as if they had overdone the whole thing with Leatherface being associated with a different psychotic family each time. Though on each occasion he is largely the central villain or at least one of them I would much prefer it if he was just on his own or maybe only accompanied by one other person. Too many cooks can spoil the broth and it doesn’t make sense or do much for continuity that there seem to be so many different factions to the family that are all just as mad as the bunch seen in the original.
*I guess I should touch on the transvestite themes that were at work with the Leatherface character this time out. I didn’t mind this aspect of things as much as some do and I actually found it to up the creep factor a little bit but it did come at the cost of rubbing many people the wrong way. It’s a controversial move which would alienate some of the fanbase and maybe make Leatherface seem like a little more of a joke with some of his fear factor diminished so overall I’ll have to list it as a negative. He was fine in the original really so his character is probably something that should have been left well alone.
Verdict: I’d read a lot of bad things about this film going in but for the first twenty minutes or so I had a decent time with it and didn’t find it to be bad at all. As it went on though my interest rapidly began to wane so much so that I was finding it a struggle to keep my attention on the screen. By the end things had deteriorated completely into a confusing mess with The Rothman character in particular not making any sense. This is worth seeing just as it is part of a big franchise and once you get started you most likely want to check them all out but after a promising enough start it’s plain to see why this is considered by most to be the weakest entry.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Car Driver: Knocked unconscious in the accident and then has his neck broken by Vilmer.
2)Sean: Run over by Vilmer with a truck multiple times.
3)Barry: Hit in the head with a hammer/sledgehammer by Leatherface.
4)W.E. Slaughter: Hit on the head by Vilmer with a hammer. Possibly just knocked unconscious and not actually killed though we don’t see him again so I assume he died.
5)Heather: Neck crushed under Vilmer’s boot after meat hook and burning injuries.
6)Elderly person possibly killed in camper van crash. It wasn’t really made clear whether or not the couple actually died.
7)Another elderly person involved in the same accident mentioned above in the camper van.
8)Vilmer: Killed by being hit with a crop duster style plane presumably flown by one of Rothman’s men.