Black October 26: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

October 26, 2009

With a title like that, how could it not be the best horror movie of all time? And look at that action: Leatherface! Texans Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger as the leads! Spelling their last names without looking them up is hard!

I bought this for a dollar in a video store last year. I’d seen it before, though; in the old days, I had a wall of videos, because they were sent to me for review purposes. I didn’t get a lot of the big blockbusters; I received films from marketing agencies desperate for any coverage at all. I have always had a lot of appeal for desperate people.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, also known as The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, makes no sense. If you see the preceding films, they follow a story, a lineage, that first fired up its Husqvarna with Tobe Hooper’s perfect original film. The sequels are lesser, but still effective, explorations of the aftermath as the tourist-eating family of Texans tries to move on.

TCM:TNG is some kind of reboot, maybe, or the story of a branch of cousins. I’m not clear on that. But it is not crap. After a different opening, it mimics the original film for a fair bit, right down to some of the stunt scenes, before offering up a frightening new element to the TCM mythos. I won’t spoil it, but in the final 10 minutes we learn something about this whole story that we didn’t know before, and when a newcomer unbuttons his shirt, he shows us something more frightening than Leatherface in your closet.

Plot? Sure. Zellweger, who is very young in this, is a high school student whose prom night ends on a lonely dirt road in rural Texas. She and her friends are helped by a weird tow truck operator (McConaughey, also very young) who has some kind of clockwork leg brace. And then they end up at a remote house, and there’s a guy with a weird mask, yadada yadada yadada.

Aside from the original, I like this the best of the subsequent films. It veers away from the stock slasher-flick stories of the earlier sequels (and doesn’t bother with the grim, scratchy rock video cutting of the later remake and its sequel) and offers something new while revisiting the better parts of the original. And McConaughey and Zellweger are great; Matthew, in particular, gives us a crazyman we haven’t seen since he realized he was a leading man and started peeling off his shirt all the time.

You’ll always be able to find this cheap, and it’s worth watching. It has a few good laughs, plenty of frights, and some very, very creepy moments.

  • Note: I’m reviewing a film a day from my horror movie collection this month. We’re almost done. Then it’s time for Christmas movies.

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