The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre

This pathetic fourth entry in the series was shown, probably shamefacedly, at a few festivals and then shelved until 1997, when it got a limited theatrical run to capitalize on the success of its stars, Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. Until then, die-hard Leatherface fans (like me) had to track down bootleg tapes struck from the Japanese laserdisc. I can’t imagine anyone thought it was worth the effort or the wait. This makes the previous two sequels look like Citizen Kane, and is little more than a pale Xerox of the first movie’s plot.

The saddest part is that Kim Henkel, co-writer of the original, is fully to blame for this mess. (The pompous trailer, as found on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre DVD, announced the movie as “the real sequel.” Right.) It’s fitfully amusing because of Zellweger (as the shy heroine Jenny) and McConaughey (as the sadistic, hee-hawing Vilmer, one of the new chainsaw clan) in most undignified pre-stardom roles. (Both stars, trying to be nice upon the film’s ’97 release, said they had fun doing it.) Their scenes together are the only watchable moments, largely because they’re about the only ones who can act; Toni Perenski, as Vilmer’s crazy girlfriend Darla, is easy on the eyes and shows some wit before she’s reduced to being pushed around.

But for the most part you stare at the screen and wonder how anybody involved thought this could possibly have been any good. Henkel throws in some sort of X-Files subplot involving aliens (?!) to explain the exploits of Leatherface and his family; it makes about as much sense as anything else in the movie. Of interest only to Zellweger fans curious to see her in a torn prom dress, waving a shotgun and spitting F-words at her tormentors. With Robert Jacks as Leatherface, re-imagined here as a chainsaw-wielding Divine.

To clarify: The version I saw and have reviewed was called The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The version released in ’97 was cut from 94 to 84 minutes (reportedly removing all inferences that Zellweger’s character has been sexually abused by her father) and retitled Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.

Explore posts in the same categories: horror, one of the year's worst, sequel

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