The events of the previous sequels, Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) and Jeff Burr’s Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), are described in the film’s prologue as “two minor, yet apparently related incidents” – an attempt to distance itself from the established mythology and reboot the franchise for a new generation.
The story begins with four Texas teenagers “” Jenny (Zellweger), Sean (John Harrison), Heather (Lisa Marie Newmyer), and Barry (Tyler Shea Cone) “” who ditch their senior prom only to get into a head-on collision on a wooded back road. Panicked, Jenny, Heather, and Barry leave to find help, while Sean waits with the injured motorist.
The kids stumble upon a real estate office occupied by Darla (Tonie Perensky of Varsity Blues), who calls her tow truck-driving boyfriend Vilmer Slaughter (McConaughey) to the scene. Vilmer doesn’t lending a helping hand, however. Instead, he breaks the motorist’s neck before running Sean over with this truck. Meanwhile, back at the office, the remaining kids are lured to a derelict farmhouse – the homestead of Leatherface (Robert Jacks) and his family of deranged cannibals.
What’s most interesting about Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is a subplot that suggests the Slaughter family is employed by an Illuminati-esque secret society that controls the U.S. government. Darla tells Jenny at one point, “You know how you always hear these stories about these people who run everything, like nobody knows who they are, right? Well, it’s true. I mean, I never would have believed it, but it’s all true. I mean who do you think killed Kennedy?”
So yeah, it turns out that Leatherface and Matthew McConaughey were behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy – who would’ve thought? Why is a family of cannibals in cahoots with the U.S. Government? We learn the reason behind the madness from the mysterious Rothman (James Gale), who reminds Vilmer that he and his kind are here for one reason and one reason only. “It’s very simple,” he says. “I want these people to know the meaning of horror.”
It’s a meta-concept straight out of Cabin in the Woods, albeit poorly executed and barely explored, but intriguing nonetheless. Leatherface exists solely to scare the bejesus out of people and push them to the brink of true terror; triggering a spiritual experience in the victim that gives them a deeper appreciation for life. Don’t get me wrong – The Next Generation isn’t a misunderstood masterpiece. It isn’t nearly as disturbing as the original film, nor is it the genius satire that Hooper’s sequel is. It isn’t even as mindlessly entertaining as Burr’s lackluster third installment is, but it is interesting and worth a watch – if for no other reason than to see McConaughey’s unhinged performance.
As for the disc, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition offers two cuts of the film: the theatrical release (87 minutes) and the director’s cut (93 minutes), the latter of which features more of the Illuminati subplot via standard-definition inserts. The transfer is about as good as this movie is ever going to look and certainly an upgrade from the previous DVD release. While it’s disappointing that McConaughey and Zellweger still refuse to acknowledge this bizarre film, there’s a brand new audio commentary with Henkel and a handful of new featurettes, including “The Buzz is Back” with director Of photography Levie Isaacks; “Marked For Death” with Tyler Shea Cone; and “If Looks Could Kill: The Return Of A “Chainsaw Massacre” with special makeup effects artist J.M. Logan and production designer Deborah Pastor.
Scream Factory’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (Collector’s Edition) Blu-ray is now available at Amazon. For more reviews of Scream Factory releases, click here.