THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Directed by Kim Henkel
"It falls into the so-bad-its-good category!"
Well, well, well. Look who’s the big shot now…Matthew McConaughey has finally woke up from his romantic-comedy slumber and found a reward for it. After putting his big boy acting pants back on, it earned a very shiny Oscar. Good for him. He’s a damn fine actor (excellent on True Detective) but he does have…a horror past. In case somehow you missed it, McConaughey once starred with fellow Texan Renee Zellweger in the most-panned, the most loathed entry into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre world.
Well, it’s about time to re-release this one, right? Whoever owns the rights will inevitably add: “Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger star in…” That should add a little more creditability to a movie that has always lacked it. Is it fair to call it the worst of the franchise? Is it actually that shitty? Or is it like “Spock’s Brain” from Star Trek, where years of animosity have created a horrific legend of awfulness that's an exageration?
I’d say Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation fits somewhere in-between. It’s the kind of horror experience that must be watched with a certain mindset. You push play knowing and expecting bad, but just know that fans have been too harsh beccause this isn’t a good or even mildly good horror movie. Hell, this one is only loosely associated with the genre. This is high end, prideful crap. The kind you might snap a picture and share it with those who can appreciate this kind of art. It falls into the so-bad-its-good category, which is something I’ve discussed over the years. It’s a difficult genre to master. If a film intends to be bad, it usually ends up unfunny and not worth the time to mock. It takes a special set of something to find perfect, and I think Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation fits right at home within the wonderfully bad art world of camp.
Because that's what this film is...campy art. Only in name and characters does this maintain a horror relation as it's impossible to take this thing seriously. Jenny (Zellweger) does a lot of running and screaming, but no one cares if she lives or dies. Why would we? She a spoof of the female victim. Vilmer (McConaughey) carries the movie as a Looney Toons version of a psychopath, but he's so over the top (and he has a f*cking remote control leg that responds to many, many remotes...yeah) that nothing he does feels truly dangerous. McConaughey might not have much to work with in the role, but dude seems to dig playing a redneck psycho.
And then there's Leatherface himself, who isn't even the villain in this time. Hell, he's not much of anything except a whiny crybaby who suddenly has become a full blown transitive. He only chases people around when ordered to, and has little to do throughout the movie. If you're removing your main threat from the movie and mocking him that should be a hellva clue how to view the flick.
I think director/writer Kim Henkel has unfairly taken the blame for this one. He is, after all, the co-writer/producer of the 1974 original adventure, so this is his world. And let’s face it. Beyond that first movie, the sequels (until the Michael Bay versions) all played up the camp angle. Each movie became more awkward and strange. It just so happens that the fourth entry took it all to another level, and basically spoofed the series. Besides, Henkel had his work cut out considering this was yet another reboot/sequel (I don’t know of another series with more disjointed storylines). Some of the changes I enjoyed (Leatherface’s acceptance of his feminine side) others I didn’t (really, the illuminati has been controlling the family all along?).
The strength of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation depends on the viewer's willingness of accepting the camp. Think of it as a Troma feature. The dialogue is terrible (“There's no place to turn around... there's never any place to turn around! This sucks! Assholes don't know how to make roads...”) but that’s kinda the fun. It’s not supposed to be quality. Take the scene where Darla (Vilmer's girlfriend) has Jenny tied-up in her trunk. She stops for pizzas, only to have the pizza man question the obvious voice coming from her trunk. “Oh, that’s just somebody I’ve got tied up back there.” It’s stupidly funny.