Starring: Renée Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Jacks, Tonie Perensky, Joe Stevens, Lisa Marie Newmyer
Directed by: Kim Henkel
Written by: Kim Henkel, Kim Henkel (characters), Tobe Hooper (characters)
Distributor: Scream Factory
Run Time: 1h 35min
Yes, I actually worked at a video store when Kim Henkel's direct sequel to Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released. At the time, no one had ever heard of Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. Obviously, today that is very different.
I remember watching the film and not thinking it was very good. First and foremost, not nearly enough nudity. Please forgive me, but I was 19 and nudity is a prerequisite for horror movies, especially in that era. What did stand out was just how batshit crazy the character of Vilmer was. He was unhinged in a way that, despite not being dressed as Leatherface, was really scary. So imagine my surprise when two years later I am watching the same actor lead the new Joel Schumacher movie, A Time to Kill with Samuel L. Jackson. On the flip side, same year, Renée Zellweger stars with Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire . With Shout! Factory's horror label, Scream Factory, releasing a Collector's Edition of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (aka The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre ), I knew it was time to revisit the film.
There are actually two cuts of the film included here. I chose the director’s cut (93 minutes - HD with standard definition). After all, Kim Henkel, co-writer of Tobe Hooper's original film, was present in the special features, I figured it was a sanctioned director's cut and therefore closer to his vision. I also have an issue with horror films, with a dirty and gritty setting that looks too clean in HD. Besides, despite the films not being very good, Michael Bay's Texas Chainsaw Massacre produced films look fantastic and would be hard to top that with a 1994 budget.
What really stood out for me on this go around were two things. First and foremost, how much like the original film this sequel is. Stupid characters fall down a hellish rabbit hole and try to escape. I've seen the original film numerous times on Blu-ray, DCP, and on 35MM. The characters aren't likable. In fact, you really hope that they get it. Here, outside of Renée Zellweger's Jenny, you pretty much hope they all die in a fantastic fashion (which, sadly doesn't really happen). My second appreciation for this direct sequel was, again, Matthew McConaughey. The character and position of Vilmer in this crazy world is fascinating. He believes that he is an agent for some top secret agency. His job is to wreak havoc and kill people. That alone is crazier than most horror films today. McConaughey, who dove into the cesspool of romantic comedies for far too long, really shines in this film. There is a gleam of pure insanity in his eye that looks all too real to not take seriously. Thankfully, the supporting players only add to his performance. In many ways they make him even crazier. Yes, the normal looking guy with battery-powered legs is crazier than a man who wears human skin, cross-dresses, and wields a chainsaw. Perhaps this is why I could never stomach McConaughey in roles like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and the Wedding Planner when his true acting chops were in Reign of Fire, Frailty, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.
The film itself, after all this time, really does run the horror numbers. The budget and sets are minimal but you are here, now, for the performances Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger. In looking back, with all the horror I've seen since my first time with Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, it is a step up and a different take. Where it could have gone would have been interesting, but many fans of the genre just want the same old thing over and over again. McConaughey's Vilmer showed a real sign of promise, but, alas, it went nowhere in the franchise.
Rated R for demented mayhem and torture, and for strong language