Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
|Texas Chainsaw Massacre: |
The Next Generation
Theatrical re-release poster
|Directed by||Kim Henkel|
|Written by||Kim Henkel|
|Based on||Characters created|
by Kim Henkel
|Edited by||Sandra Adair|
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (originally The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is a 1995 American slasher film written and directed by Kim Henkel, and starring Renée Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, and Robert Jacks as Leatherface. The plot follows four teenagers who encounter Leatherface and his murderous 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 Next Generation's opening prologue as "two minor, yet apparently related incidents" which happened after the events of the original film, though no explanation is given for how Leatherface survived his apparent offscreen death at the end of the third film. Next Generation 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 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 May 1996, four teenagers—Jenny, Sean, Heather, and Barry—leave their senior prom after Heather and Barry get into an argument. They are forced to take a detour off the main highway onto a wooded backroad. Heather becomes distracted when she thinks she sees something in the woods, and accidentally crashes into an oncoming vehicle. The other driver exits his car and collapses. Panicked, Jenny, Heather, and Barry leave to find help, while Sean waits with the injured motorist.
Jenny, Barry, and Heather stumble upon a rural real estate office occupied by a tawdry woman named Darla, who calls her tow trucker boyfriend Vilmer to the scene while the three rest. Vilmer soon arrives at the accident, where he breaks the injured motorist's neck before chasing after Sean with his truck and running him over. Meanwhile, the three depart Darla's office, but become separated when Barry and Heather chase a passing car, leading them to a derelict farmhouse. While Barry attempts to enter the house through a back door, Heather is attacked by Leatherface, who drags her inside and stuffs her in a meat freezer. Barry is held at gunpoint by W.E., one of the house's occupants, but manages to enter the house, where he is bludgeoned by Leatherface. Heather then escapes the freezer, and Leatherface hangs her on a meat hook.
Meanwhile, Jenny is approached by Vilmer's truck, and he offers to drive her to the accident. Their small talk soon grows disturbed, and Jenny sees the bodies of Sean and the other motorist in the back of the truck. She leaps from the car and runs into the woods, where Leatherface appears with a chainsaw. She flees, soon stumbling upon the farmhouse, and runs inside. Leatherface breaches the front door, and Jenny jumps from the second-story window onto the roof. She manages to leap from the roof and hang from a telephone line, but Leatherface cuts it with his chainsaw and she falls into a greenhouse below.
Disoriented but unscathed, Jenny runs back to Darla's real estate office, then Leatherface disappears. Darla initially comforts her, but W.E. soon arrives, and Jenny realizes they are in cahoots with Vilmer. W.E. taunts Jenny with a cattle prod before stuffing her in the trunk of Darla's car. Darla picks up pizza on the way to the farmhouse, where she discovers Heather attempting to crawl away on the road. She sheepishly hits her with a tree branch before summoning the others to bring her back to the house.
Inside, Vilmer taunts Jenny, but she manages to take control by obtaining a shotgun. She takes Darla's car keys and attempts to leave, but is stopped by Vilmer. She is taken back inside and dressed by Darla, who confides that Vilmer works for a secret society operation, the "same people who killed JFK." Jenny is taken to the dinner table, surrounded by the corpses of the Sawyer family in addition to Leatherface, who is now dressed in drag. Vilmer explains Leatherface's plan to take Jenny's face. A melee ensues, which is interrupted by the arrival of Rothman, a mysterious man in black, near dawn. He expresses disdain for the manner of Vilmer's exploits, and displays an array of piercings and scars on his abdomen before licking Jenny's face. After he leaves, Vilmer crushes Heather's skull in frustration and begins cutting himself. Leatherface and Vilmer attempt to decapitate Jenny with a chainsaw, but she manages to break free.
Jenny flees the house and is pursued by Leatherface, who chases her to a dirt road in the woods. She is picked up by an elderly couple passing by in an RV, but they soon crash when Vilmer chases them with his truck. Jenny escapes and is followed by Vilmer and Leatherface on foot, but a small airplane mysteriously appears, descending on the scene; the plane's wheel strikes Vilmer's head, killing him, before flying away. A limousine appears, and Jenny enters it to find Rothman, who assures her he plans no harm. He explains that the horrors she experienced were intended to be a spiritual experience, but that they were poorly-executed due to Vilmer's inadequacies.
Later, while being questioned by police at a hospital, Jenny becomes distracted by the sight of a catatonic patient being wheeled by on a gurney. Back at the scene of Vilmer's death, Leatherface swings his chainsaw maniacally, screaming in depression.
- Renée Zellweger as Jenny
- Matthew McConaughey as Vilmer Slaughter
- Robert Jacks as Junior Slaughter / Leatherface
- Tonie Perensky as Darla Slaughter
- Joe Stevens as Walter Edward Slaughter
- Lisa Marie Newmyer as Heather
- John Harrison as Sean
- Tyler Cone as Barry
- James Gale as Rothman
- Debra Marshall as Cop in Bud's Pizza
- John Dugan as Cop at Hospital
- Paul A. Partain as Hospital Orderly
- Marilyn Burns as Sally Hardesty
Secret society subplot
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. Critic Russell Smith noted in discussion of this plot point: "Could the unexplained "them" be an allusion to the insatiable horror audience that always makes these gorefests a good investment, or is it a cabal of governmental powermongers...?"
Parody and self-reference
The film is recursive in that it opens with an intertitle referring to two "minor, yet apparently related incidents", a joking acknowledgment of the previous two sequels. Justin Yandell of Bloody Disgusting interprets the film as a cynical reimagining of the original film, with Henkel parodying his own work. He cites Leatherface's ineffectiveness at dispatching his victims as well as the archetypical teenage characters as evidence of the film being a commentary on the declining state of horror films in the late 1980s and early 1990s:
Leatherface, once efficient, methodical and near-silent, now struggles to competently capture or kill his victims, all the while screaming like a petulant child. The family, no longer backwater cannibals, dines on pizza instead of the fresh meat of their victims. The dinner sequence, originally one of the most effective and horrifying scenes ever committed to film, goes so far off the rails it climaxes with Jenny turning the tables on her captors and scolding Leatherface into sitting down and shutting up. The ineffectiveness of it all of this is intentional, and we know this because a man in a limo pulls up and openly acknowledges it."
Cross-dressing of Leatherface
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. Film scholar Scott Von Doviak also took note of this, likening Leatherface's presentation in the film to that of a "tortured drag queen."
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. 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."
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. Most of the filming took place at night, and was described by makeup artist J.M. Logan as "very, very rough for everyone."
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 protracted post-production that wrapped in 1994, the film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film and Media Conference on March 12, 1995, and received "glowing reviews" at the time. The film was purchased by Columbia Pictures for $1.3 million. The studio 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. The film was released theatrically on September 22, 1995, and was screened in 27 theaters in the United States, grossing $44,272.
Later in 1995, the film was released theatrically and on LaserDisc in Japan, and then was shelved for the following two years, when in 1997, Columbia re-edited, re-titled, and re-released it as 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 producers agreed to; 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 approximately 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. The film earned $53,111 on 23 screens between August 29 and September 1, 1997. It would go on to gross a total of $185,898 domestically (including both the 1995 and 1997 versions), making it the poorest-performing film of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.
Reviewing the film after a screening at the Boston Film Festival in 1995, Betsy Sherman of The Boston Globe referred to the film as a "shameless rehash" of the original, adding: "Henkel's idea of an imaginative stroke is to put [Leatherface] in red lipstick and black widow drag. No thanks, Julie Newmar." Critic Joe Bob Briggs championed the film upon its South by Southwest screening, referring to it as "a flick so terrifying and brilliant that it makes the other two Chainsaw sequels seem like 'After-School Specials.'"
Upon the film's 1997 re-release, much of the critical reviews focused on the lead performances of Zellweger and McConaughey, who had garnered significant fame in the interim.[a] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote: "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." Rob Patterson of the Austin American-Statesman awarded the film three out of four stars and praised the performances, noting: "Everyone here certainly pushes at the ceiling of near-absurdity, yet The Next Generation never quite goes over the top." Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press similarly championed the lead performances of Zellweger and McConaughey, but expressed disappointment in the "Men in black" subplot and that writer-director Henkel "turns poor Leatherface into a whimpering drag queen." The New York Daily News also noted that "Zellweger impresses in her strenuous, scream-driven turn as Jenny."
Mike Clark of USA Today called the film "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." 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]." Dann Gire of the Daily Herald suggested "a massacre might be less painful." John Anderson of Newsday wrote that the film was the kind that "Wes Craven's Scream has now rendered virtually defunct... What we want from Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is a giddy mix of gruesome horror and campy humor. What we get is less massacre than mess."
Joe Leydon of Variety wrote that 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 Hollywood Reporter's Dave Hunter similarly noted the film as being "blackly comic and extreme." The Austin Chronicle also gave the film a favorable 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 holds a 14% rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews. On Metacritic the film holds a score of 50 out of 100 based on reviews from 11 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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.
On June 4, 2018, Scream Factory announced a collector's edition Blu-ray release of the film slated for September 25, 2018. The following week, Bloody Disgusting reported that the proposed artwork for the release, which had originally featured stars Zellweger and McConaughey, had to be altered to remove both actors due to licensing issues. In July 2018, Scream Factory stated the release date for the Blu-ray had been pushed back to October 30, 2018. In September 2018, it was announced that the Blu-ray would again be delayed until December 11, 2018. The Blu-Ray was released on the scheduled December date, and featured the theatrical cut, a 93-minute director's cut with optional commentary by writer-director Henkel, and several other special features.
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 Einziger Weg" 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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- Harper, Jim (2004). Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies. London: Critical Vision. ISBN 978-1-900-48639-2.
- Huberman, Brian (dir.) (1996). The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Documentary (Documentary film). Huberman/Wolf Productions.
- Macor, Allison (2010). Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-72243-9.
- Von Doviak, Scott (2012). Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-48212-2.