Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
|Texas Chainsaw Massacre:
The Next Generation
1997 promotional poster
|Directed by||Kim Henkel|
|Produced by||Robert Kuhn
|Written by||Kim Henkel|
|Based on||Characters created
by Kim Henkel
|Music by||Wayne Bell
|Edited by||Sandra Adair|
Ultra Muchos Productions
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures
Cinépix Film Properties
|94 minutes (original cut)
87 minutes (re-release)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (originally The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is a 1994 American independent slasher film written and directed by Kim Henkel, and starring Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. The plot follows four teenagers who encounter Leatherface and his maniacal family in backwoods Texas on the night of their prom. It is the fourth installment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, and also features uncredited cameo appearances from Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, and John Dugan, all stars of the original film.
Writer-director Kim Henkel had previously co-written the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) with Tobe Hooper; the events of the previous two sequel films are addressed in the The Next Generation's opening prologue as "two minor, yet apparently related incidents" which happened after the events of the original film. It was shot on location in rural areas outside of Austin, Texas in the summer of 1994.
The film was screened as The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1994 and 1995 before being shelved by Columbia Pictures. Two years later, it was re-cut and released under the title Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation on August 29, 1997, after Zellweger and McConaughey had both become major Hollywood stars, but was a critical and financial failure. Though a full soundtrack was never released, a companion single featured in the film performed by star Robert Jacks and Debbie Harry was released on compact disc in 1997.
In 1995, four teenagers—Jenny, Heather, Barry, and Sean—are celebrating during their senior prom. Heather finds Barry, her boyfriend, making out with another girl and attempts to drive away in his car alongside Jenny and Sean. After Barry eventually gains access into the car, Heather scolds him angrily. The four are forced to take a detour off the freeway, and Heather makes a wrong turn, driving them into a remote area. Distracted after thinking she sees someone standing in the woods, Heather crashes into another driver, who passes out in the ensuing confusion. The four decide that Sean look after the driver, while the others look for help. Heather, Barry, and Jenny discover a rural real estate office occupied by Darla, an insurance agent, who calls up her boyfriend Vilmer, a tow truck driver, to help them. Meanwhile, Heather and Barry are separated from Jenny.
Vilmer eventually arrives at the scene of the crash, where he snaps the driver's neck and chases Sean in his pickup, eventually running him over. Meanwhile, Heather and Barry come across a dilapidated farmhouse. Barry goes to the front and is confronted by W.E., Vilmer's brother. While waiting on the porch, Heather is captured by Leatherface, who stuffs her inside a meat locker. Meanwhile, W.E. lets Barry into the house, but Barry then discovers human remains in the bathroom and is killed by Leatherface with a sledgehammer. Leatherface then removes Heather from the meat locker and hangs her on a meathook afterwards.
Jenny returns to the crash site and meets Vilmer, who shows her the bodies of Sean and the driver, and then chases her in his truck, but she escapes into the woods. She is then attacked by Leatherface, wielding a chainsaw; after a long chase, Jenny retreats back to Darla's office, begging for help. However, W.E., now revealed to be Darla's accomplice, arrives and subdues Jenny, and they take her to the family home. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, Jenny falls unconscious and awakens at a dinner table with the family, during which Vilmer has a mental breakdown and beats W.E. over the head with a hammer, knocking him unconscious. They are joined by a mysterious suited man named Rothman, a member of a secret organization responsible for many of the world's major events and for hiring the family in a conspiracy to show their victims "the true meaning of horror". Rothman criticizes the family for botching their mission with Jenny, before leaving. In response, a furious Vilmer crushes Heather's skull, killing her.
Jenny tries to escape, but is held down by Vilmer as Leatherface prepares to kill her. However, she manages to dislocate Vilmer's knee and escapes. Fleeing to the main road, Jenny is helped by an elderly couple, but their RV is turned over by Vilmer and Leatherface, forcing Jenny to again flee. Eventually, an airplane operated by one of Rothman's colleagues swoops over head and grazes Vilmer's skull with its blade, killing him. A black limousine appears, and Jenny enters it only to discover Rothman inside. Rothman tells Jenny that her experience was supposed to be spiritual, but that it went awry and that Vilmer had to be stopped. She is dropped off at a hospital, where police question her.
- Renée Zellweger as Jenny
- Matthew McConaughey as Vilmer Slaughter
- Lisa Marie Newmyer as Heather
- Robert Jacks as Leatherface
- Tonie Perensky as Darla Slaughter
- Tyler Shea Cone as Barry
- Joe Stevens as W.E. Slaughter
- John Harrison as Sean
- James Gale as Rothman
- Vince Brock as "I'm Not Hurt"
- Chris Kilgore as Rothman's Chauffeur
- Susan Loughran as Jennifer's Mother
- David Laurence as Jennifer's Stepfather
- Grayson Victor Schirmacher as Grandfather
- Jeanette Wiggins as Woman Eating Chocolates
- Debra Marshall as Cop in Bud's Pizza*
- John Dugan as Cop at Hospital*
- Paul A. Partain as Hospital Orderly*
- Marilyn Burns as Patient on Gurney*
* indicates cameo appearance.
In developing the film, Robert Kuhn stated:
I wanted to go back to the original, and [Kim] did, too. We agreed on that right off. And the first major thing was getting him to write the script. I raised the money to get it written, and for us to start trying to put this thing together. Then we went out to the American Film Market in LA and talked to a bunch of people about financing. At that point I'd raised some money, but not nearly enough to make the film, and we looked at the possibilities of making a deal with a distributor. But I knew there wasn't any hope of us making one we could live with. There never is. Kim would say, 'Hey, so-and-so is interested, and it might be a deal we can live with.' So we'd talk to 'em and I'd ask three or four hard questions, and I'd just kind of look over at Kim and he'd say 'Yeah.' Then I'd go back and start trying to raise some more money. I just started going to everybody I knew and I got it in bits and pieces, wherever I could.
In a 1996-released documentary on the making of the film, Henkel stated that he wrote the characters as exaggerated "cartoonish" caricatures of quintessential American youth. Henkel cited the murder cases of serial killers Ed Gein and Elmer Wayne Henley as influences on his involvement in both Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
The movie was filmed on location at an abandoned farmhouse in Pflugerville, Texas and nearby Bastrop. The majority of the cast and crew were locals from Austin, aside from David Gale, a stage actor from Houston.
Renée Zellweger reflected on the film in a 2016 interview, and said: "It was very low-budget, so we all shared a tiny Winnebago that the producer of the film - it belonged to him, it was his personal camper. So, you know, makeup was in the front seats and there was a table in the middle for hair, and there was a tiny little curtain by the bathroom. That was where you put your prom dress and your flower on. It was ridiculous. How we pulled that off, I have no idea. I'm sure none of it was legal. Anything we did was a little bit dangerous But what an experience. It was kamikaze filmmaking."
After a lengthy post-production that wrapped in 1994, the film screened at the South by Southwest Film and Media Conference in 1995, and received "glowing reviews" at the time. The film was purchased by Columbia Pictures, who reportedly agreed to distribute the film theatrically (along with its home-video release), and agreed to spend no less than $500,000 on prints and advertising.
However, the film was shelved for the following two years, until in 1997, when Columbia re-edited and re-titled the film Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, slating it for a late August release. According to producer Robert Kuhn, Columbia Pictures had deliberately pushed the film back to await the release of star Renée Zellweger's new film, Jerry Maguire (1996), which the filmmakers had no problem with. Matthew McConaughey's agent then purportedly put "pressure" on Columbia Pictures to not release the film theatrically, which caused complications between Henkel and the studio.
In a 1997 interview with The Austin Chronicle, Robert Kuhn stated that:
|“||Well, we definitely feel that Columbia/TriStar has not done what they agreed to do in terms of trying to market this film in the best possible fashion. They have not tried to exploit this film to monetarily benefit us as they should have. They've just low-keyed it. They don't want to be guilty of exploiting Matthew because of their relationship with CAA, which is the strongest single force in Hollywood these days. You get on the wrong side of them, you're in trouble. So I understand their problem, but at the same time, they should have either given the film back to us or they should have done the best release they could have done. And they haven't done that.||”|
The film was released theatrically as Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation in a limited release in under twenty U.S. cities on August 29, 1997 under a co-distribution deal between Columbia Pictures and Cinépix Film Properties. The theatrical release featured the re-cut version of the film, which excised a total of seven minutes from Henkel's original cut.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation received mostly negative reviews. Mike Clark of USA Today called it "The kind of cinematic endeavor where you suspect both cast and crew were obligated to bring their own beer," while Owen Gleiberman wrote in Entertainment Weekly that the film "recapitulates the absurdist tabloid-redneck comedy of the great, original Chainsaw without a hint of its primal terror." Janet Maslin of The New York Times said: "It was way back in 1995 that this schlocky horror farce, then known as "Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre," first appeared with the unknown actors Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger in starring roles. But even in a film whose principal props include litter, old pizza slices and a black plastic trash bag, it's clear that these two were going places." Margaret McGurk of The Cincinnati Enquirer also remarked the film's narrative, writing: "The script, such as it is, establishes a new benchmark for incoherence. Something about some teens who wander away on prom night and run up against a family of psycho-cannibal-thrill-killers... Of course, there is no point to any of it, either the humor or the creepy (though relatively bloodless) mayhem—except maybe the permanent embarrassment of poor Matthew [McConaughey] and Renée [Zellweger]."
The film did receive some positive reviews, however: John Anderson of the Los Angeles Times referred to the film as "[a] giddy mix of gruesome horror and campy humor," while Joe Leydon of Variety said the film "manages the difficult feat of being genuinely scary and sharply self-satirical all at once... it is adept at keeping its audience in a constant state of jumpiness." He also lauded Zellweger's performance, calling her "the most formidable scream queen since Jamie Lee Curtis went legit." The Austin Chronicle also gave the film a positive review, stating: "Writer-director Kim Henkel penned the original Chainsaw and this effort shows that he still has a felicitous grasp of the things that cause us to shudder in dread." Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation currently holds a 16% rating on review aggragator Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews.
The film has been noted for its implementation of a secret society subplot driving Leatherface's family to terrorize civilians in order to provoke them to a level of transcendence; in a retrospective interview, Kim Henkel confirmed that the basis of the subplot was influenced by theories surrounding the Illuminati. Commenting on the film's ominous Rothman character, Henkel stated: "He comes off more like the leader of some harum-scarum cult that makes a practice of bringing victims to experience horror on the pretext that it produces some sort of transcendent experience. Of course, it does produce a transcendent experience. Death is like that. But no good comes of it. You’re tortured and tormented, and get the crap scared out of you, and then you die."
Other references to the Illuminati are made in the film's dialogue, specifically in the scene in which Darla tells Jenny about the thousands-years-old secret society in control of the U.S. government, and makes reference to the Kennedy assassination.
Henkel also deliberately wrote themes of female empowerment into the script, specifically in the Jenny character: "It’s her story. It’s about her transformation, her refusal to shut up, to be silenced, to be victimized. And by extension her refusal to be oppressed. Even by culture... Bringing Jenny into a world in which the culture was grotesquely exaggerated was a way of bringing her to see her own world more clearly – that is to say, my intent was to present a nightmarish version of Jenny’s world in the form of the Chainsaw family in order to enlarge her view of her own world."
Another element noted by both critics and film scholars is the film's overt references to cross-dressing in the Leatherface character, which was briefly explored in the original film but implemented to a greater extent. Robert Wilonsky of the Houston Press commented on the film's treatment of the character, writing that the film "turns Leatherface (here played by Robbie Jacks, an Austin songwriter who used to host a smacked-up radio show with Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes) into a cross-dressing nancy boy who screams more than he saws." According to Henkel, he wrote the character as one who assumes the persona of the person whose face he wears: "The confused sexuality of the Leatherface character is complex and horrifying at the same time," he said in a 1996 interview.
The subsequent home video releases also occurred through Columbia TriStar Home Video: It was first released on VHS in September 1998, and on DVD on July 13, 1999. The original Columbia TriStar DVD release was reissued with new cover artwork in 2003.
In 2001, Lionsgate, who purchased Cinépix Film Properties shortly after the film's 1997 theatrical run, released the film on DVD in Canada; the Canadian release featured the original 94-minute cut of the film.
The film's soundtrack featured many local Texan bands, but never received a release. However, star Robert Jacks, a friend of Blondie's Debbie Harry, produced a song with Harry titled Der Einziger Weg (sic; English: The Only Way; the correct German title would be "Der einzige Weg")—a single written for and featured in the film. The song was released by Eco-Disaster Music in 1997 as a single on compact disc, featuring Debbie Harry on the cover with a portrait of Jacks as Leatherface, featured in his three costumes, on the wall behind her.
- Songs featured in the film
- "Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)" by Roky Erickson
- "I Got It Made" by Skatenigs
- "Blue Moon At Dawn" by The Coffee Sergeants
- "The Wolf at Night" by Erik Hokkanen
- "Der Einzingerweg" by Debbie Harry and Robert Jacks
- "Aphrodite" by Cecilia Saint
- "Mother" by Pushmonkey
- "Torn and Tied" by Pariah
- "Mumbo Jumbo" by The Tail Gators
- "Tornado Warning" by Erik Hokkanen
- "Bodcaw" by Blind Willie's Johnson
- "Ruby" by Loose Diamonds
- "Love to Turn You On" by Pariah
- "Careless Soul" by Daniel Johnston
- "Milky Way Jive" by Erik Hokkanen
- "Don't Tell Your Mama, Don't Tell Your Papa" by Beau Jocque
- "Voodoo Kiss" by The Naughty Ones
- "Penitentes" by Russ C. Smith
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