Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Kim Henkel
1994, 93 minutes, Unrated
Released on December 11th, 2018
Renee Zellweger as Jenny
Matthew McConaughey as Vilmer
Robert Jacks as Leatherface
Tonie Perenski as Darla
Joe Stevens as W.E. Slaughter
Lisa Newmyer as Heather
Tyler Cone as Barry
John Harrison as Sean
It’s prom night and Jenny, Heather, Barry and Sean are having a blast until Barry is caught cheating on Heather. The kids leave the prom and soon find themselves on a country backroad. Looking for a place to turn around, their car is suddenly hit by another vehicle. Everyone in Barry’s group is fine, but the other driver is unconscious. Sean waits behind while the others go for help. Soon the gang is being chased by a family of psychopaths, including the infamous Leatherface. Jenny is brought back to their house where she is tortured by the sadistic Vilmer, brother to the chainsaw-wielding maniac. Her situation grows more dire by the hour and things become increasingly bizarre as she is seated for a family dinner. Jenny is determined to survive this ordeal and repeatedly tries to escape her captors. Will she survive and what will be left of her?
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is all over the place in terms of tone and quality. The 1974 original is a classic exercise in terror, while the 1986 sequel is a pitch-black comedy, both courtesy of director Tobe Hooper. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) is more of a standard horror picture with a hint of comedy. The third sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (aka Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) (1994) finds the writer of the first film, Kim Henkel, stepping into the director’s chair with less than satisfying results. The picture attempts to recapture the chills of the first film and the script follows it as a blueprint, but something is lost from page to screen. The scares lack punch and performances that are intended to be filled with intensity come off as simply annoying.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is a forgettable film that would have disappeared into cinematic obscurity long ago if it were not for a coup in the casting department. Future Oscar winners Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’ Diary)and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) landed the lead roles of Jenny and Vilmer. The two carry thepicture and enjoy quite a bit of screen time together, but show little signs of their future success. McConaughey is way over the top in a performance shepherded by Henkel, who could have reeled him back in at any time but chose not to. Whenever possible he opts to infuse camp into the material. There is a lot of energy here, but there is also simply plenty of yelling.
Like the original film, there is little bloodshed, but the spark of creativity is missing. Kim Henkel is no Tobe Hooper, but he gives it his best shot. Most egregiously, nobody gets chainsaw massacred in this movie. Leatherface chases Zellweger and screams a lot, but nobody gets chopped up and eaten. The film underwent various edits before its eventual release and a director’s cut is included with this release. Surprisingly all of the extra material is character-driven, including a prologue about Jenny’s abusive stepfather.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is not a good film and is nowhere near the repute of its stars. Henkel recognized their talent and let them take center stage, but at the expense of his primary villain. Leatherface never gets a moment to shine in his own story. He runs around but doesn’t really do much, as it’s all delegated to Vilmer. The family lacks the sense of presence found in the original picture, so they are not as intimidating. I don’t watch a movie with “chainsaw massacre” in the title looking for great depth or character development, but I do look for entertainment and sadly this picture fails on all fronts.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture looks quite nice albeit loaded with grain. Colors are strong and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track does a fine job balancing the dialogue and music tracks. There is a lot of screaming in this picture and it sounds pretty great and is free from distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
This Collector’s Edition offers two cuts of the film, the original theatrical release (87 minutes) and the extended director’s cut (93 minutes) appearing under the title Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Both versions are remastered in HD with the director’s cut featuring standard definition inserts of previously excised material.
Writer/ director Kim Henkel contributes an audio commentary on the director’s cut of the film joined by actor Joe Stevens and documentarian Brian Huberman. Henkel is introduced as being gracious and reluctant and this proves to be very apt as he is frequently coaxed to expand upon his answers. Henkel is full of information and shares plenty of production anecdotes once he gets going. Huberman has a lot to say and his behind-the-scenes coverage is frequently mentioned, but is sadly absent from this release. The track is laid-back and conversational and worth a listen.
The segment The Buzz is Back (12 minutes) finds cinematographer Levie Isaacks discussing his work on the picture. He has a lot of fond memories and also discusses some of the hardships from the production.
Marked for Death (16 minutes) catches up with actor Tyler Shea Cone (Barry), who got his start on this film. He talks about how he got the role and how he approached the character. He also shares a funny story about Leatherface actor Robert Jacks.
Special make-up effects artist J.M. Logan and production designer Deborah Pastor share stories from the shoot in the all-new interview segment If Looks Could Kill: The Return of a “Chainsaw Massacre” (19 minutes). This was Logan’s first gig and he talks about his naivety in tackling the job. Pastor discusses her intentions when dressing the sets and how she navigated certain challenges.
The original theatrical trailer has been included.
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