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In Defense of ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation’

In Defense of ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation’

This month marks the 23rd anniversary of the initial release of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. The movie hasn’t exactly been held in high regard by horror fans, and even was once shunned by the film’s stars, Renee Zellweger and Mathew McConaughey. While the movie is embroiled in a web of disgust, I feel a lot differently; I actually like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Next Generation. I know—fuck me, right?

Now before you come at me with your fighting words in the comments section, here me out first. When Next Generation was released on home video, I was 12. My mind was still burgeoning and so was my love for the genre. I hadn’t even seen the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre yet, or even knew what it was. However, when I watched Next Generation, I was excited by the idea of an unfortunate prom night run-in with a crazed Texan family, and I wanted more.

I was immediately drawn to Jenny (Zellweger) because I identified with her. She was a totally shy, weirdo, but she was simultaneously likeable. Jenny may have been meek, but that didn’t stop her from expressing her opinion and standing up for herself. Plus, she turned out to be a lot stronger than the louder and more assertive characters in the film, and proved to be much braver.

Being a quiet, shy nerd that flew under the radar throughout my adolescence, I wanted to be like Jenny. Seeing her overcome so much, despite her insecurities, made me feel like maybe I could, too. And while I didn’t actually have to fight Leatherface, I did have to face the school cafeteria and social hierarchy—and at the time, that was much worse.

Zellweger’s performance sold the movie to 12-year-old me. I was absolutely terrified for her, and I wanted to see her succeed so badly. Then, a mesmerizing man named Vilmer (McCaughney) showed up on the screen, and everything I knew was flipped upside down.

I sensed that Vilmer was a bad person, but McCaughney’s presence was so undeniably charming that I couldn’t help but like him. My feelings changed as the film progressed and Vilmer displayed just how sadistic he truly was, and that’s all thanks to the laudable performance McCaughney gave.

One of the memorable moments in the film is when Vilmer has Jenny and her friends in the kitchen. It’s obviously a throwback to the infamous dinner table scene in the original, but with a lot more head-squashing. I remember being disturbed by Vilmer’s dead stare as he stomps on Heather’s head, squishing it like a grape, and then having absolutely no idea what was going on with his leg afterward. It was bizarre, and it created a warped atmosphere that left me feeling uneasy.

I felt similar when I found out that Darla—the woman from the real estate office—wasn’t as nice a person as she presented herself. Initially, I loved Darla. I thought she was this super cool lady who was really helpful to the kids, and then—BAM! She reveals that Vilmer is her boyfriend. I got schooled on the ol’ befriending the enemy trope, and I loved it.

You see, Next Generation was a learning experience for pre-teen Amanda. I had been a fan of horror movies growing up, but my obsession wasn’t fully alive yet, especially at that age. I was still coming into my own and figuring out what I liked, and this movie was like a fun re-introduction to the genre.

When I finished Next Generation and my father told me about the original—and the “true story” it was based on—I was pumped. I imagined that my prom night would consist of a chainsaw-wielding maniac in the middle of the woods too! So, I sought out the original film and when I watched it, I felt so uncomfortable and dirty. It was a different feeling than the one I got from Next Generation, and I loved it.

Now, Next Generation is in nowhere near as good as the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it did its job. It made me want more of the crazy family and pushed me to want to watch the original film, its sequel, and the third movie. Zellweger and McCaughney captured my young, black heart and steered me on the right path to more horror.

So, the next time you shit on a movie—whether it be a remake or original concept—remember that there are people out there who are just getting into the horror genre. While a movie might not live up to your seasoned opinion, it could very well be unleashing a whole new world of horror fun on an impressionable young mind. And there’s nothing better than that.



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COMMENTS

54 Comments
  • Igor Leoni

    Thank you for writing this. Next Generation (actually The Return) is my favorite TCM film after the original and it really deserves a little more love. I can understand a lot of the hate, the satiric tone is not for everybody (and I don’t say that in a pedantic way, there are a lot of subgenres in horror that are not for me either) but a lot of people hate the film for misguided reasons (the aliens were terrible). There are no aliens in this film people!
    Time for a Bluray release of the fully uncut version with the original opening credits and the scene of Jenny and her stepfather.

    • It’s ambiguous as to whether or not Rothman is an alien, but I thought the Illuminati thing was just as bad. I wouldn’t really call the reasonings misguided; I understood that it was trying to be funny, and I still didn’t like it. I also found it to be exceedingly dull. The film was directed by the co-writer of the 1974 original, so I had no biases going in. Regardless, I can respect your opinion if you enjoyed it.

      • Igor Leoni

        I can respect your opinion too, but I think what’s left ambiguous is if Rothman is actually an Illuminati member controlling the family or something else. It is left for personal interpretation, Kim Henkel said so himself. But no, Rothman was never conceived to be an alien, he’s definitely from the planet earth lol. People just like to trash this film so much that they started to create things so they can shit on.

  • Michael Voorhees

    no

  • Dave

    I just watched Texas Chainsaw 3 for the first time last night and it was beyond terrible. I 100% enjoy 4 more than 3. I saw 4 first when I was a young kid too and always liked it.

    • Jared LaPine

      haha yeah I watched it 2 nights ago after many years and was super disappointed. It was so dry.

  • Necro

    This one is the second worst of the franchise, worst being ‘Texas Chainsaw’. Now second worst movie ever? Not even close. So for a young impressionable mind to come along and find this film, or others like it, and it propels them through the proverbial door into the Horror world, then I’m all for it!

    • I’m not going to lie, I actually had a harder time watching Next Generation than Texas Chainsaw 3D. That’s just me, though. I agree that those are the bottom two (with the best ones being the original, TCM2, and the 2003 film).

  • Neto Ribeiro

    No. No excuses.

  • poopsadaisy

    I thought it was a lot of fun. Never liked the original (looks like an amateur film and not sure if it’s meant to be funny…) but the sequels have a good bit of comedy in them and this one works well.

  • Christian

    I want a Vilmer prequel.

    • I didn’t like the film, but Vilmer was awesome to me because of Matthew McConaughey’s insane performance. Speaking of a prequel, I won’t get to see Leatherface until next week, but I heard that Drayton Sawyer is portrayed as an homage to Vilmer in it. I can’t confirm or deny this until I watch it, though.

      • Stogie Jones

        Just physically.

  • James Allard

    I had heard nothing but hatred (HATE-RED!) for this film, and when I finally came across a new and damn near free copy… I thought, yeah, completist me bought it, and it sat there on the shelf for… a year maybe? Be that as it may, I was looking for something to watch, saw it sitting there (and this was after the McConaughey resurgence) thought, well, you bought the damned thing…

    …. and yeah. I am with you.

  • Colin Perkins

    I loved it and I wasn’t a little kid when I saw it. I always felt the reason for the cannibals eating people should stay unknown. So the idea of explaining their motive with a new mystery that makes even less sense and brings up even more questions(they are being run by a government organization from behind the scenes? Huh!? WHAT!?) feels really creative and smart to me. And as your comments point out the cast is really likeable.

    • Honestly, I wouldn’t think too hard about the government organisation storyline. It’s difficult to treat it as canonical and, at the heart of it, it’s just nonsense. I think the filmmakers were just trying to make a political joke because of the more comedic tone. Even though it’s technically a sequel to the previously films (and references events from them), it really doesn’t have much regard for continuity and I highly doubt that the family was controlled by the Illuminati in TCM 1-3.

  • Flu-Like Symptoms

    I used to insult this movie vehemently. I think I, as a fan of the series, felt insulted when I saw it. Nowadays I’m content to say it just isn’t for me.

  • I’m just glad this article didn’t try to say “People just didn’t understand the Illuminati twist”, like I’ve seen on other Bloody-Disgusting articles. Yes, everyone who saw the film knows there was an Illuminati twist. There was nothing subliminal or ‘hidden’ about it; it was literally the twist of the movie. In my opinion, it was also one of the worst aspects of it.

    Not a bad article, though. I can see where you are coming from with a lot of this, even though I personally didn’t like the film.

    • Mr. Red Right Hand

      what are you talking about

      • Have you actually seen the movie? The reveal that the Sawyer family works for the Illuminati is only the biggest (and dumbest) reveal.

        “I want these people to know the true meaning of horror. Horror!”

        • Mr. Red Right Hand

          it’s been years since i’ve seen the film, i’ve always found it funny. quite frankly, the only thing i truly remember was Renee running her ass off in literally every scene.

  • Carlos Parlo

    I understand why you like this article based on your article. I never saw this one until earlier this year and personally I find it to be not only the worst of the series but possibly my least favorite horror franchise sequel ever. The first film was an undisputed classic for many reasons, 2 was a black-comedy masterpiece and 3 is a surprisingly solid action-horror film. So to then get to this one with such stark drop off I was pretty disappointed.

  • Kyle Cole

    Even though this one is probably the least liked out of the franchise, I atleast enjoyed it. I liked the comedic theme they added to it.

  • Nefferson Taveira

    It had one of the best final girls of the whole franchise and a least one great chase scene with her, but there’s a lot of questinable decisions (trans-leatherface, illuminati shit, etc). It’s still one of the worst of the franchise, but it’s not ALL that bad.

  • Meatwad

    Hated it.

  • Ryan Jackson

    I didn’t mind it. The “music” was goddamn unbearable though.

  • Jackson

    Thank you. Our reasons for liking this movie are very different, but it’s nice to know at least one other person out there has fond memories of this movie. I first saw it has a screener VHS tape (I worked at a mom/pop video shop in the early 90s; best job ever) and I didn’t even know it existed. I was already a huge horror fan and fan of the original. With the black/white and color going back and forth, I loved this movie. It felt to me to be the most similar to the original, of all the sequels. I think Part 2 is one of the most overrated horror movies of all time. There is a lot to like about it, but it felt way too goofy for me. And Leatherface seemed to miss the mark completely. Like if someone had only ever seen a trailer of he original and tried to make a sequel. But I know I am in the minority here. Even my closest friends completely disagree with me.

    • Jamesyjames

      I watched the same screener when I worked at a mom and pop video store! It sat in the back room for ages.

      Also, I dig this movie. It’s had an unfair go of things, and Matthew M. was totally batshit.

      Still miles better than Texas 3D…

  • Elizabeth

    I think TNG is totally batshit and completely hysterical. It’s like David Lynch got drunk and went slumming.

  • Demonizer

    Nothing to defend, Amanda. It’s all good.

  • Demonizer

    Check out Joe Bob Briggs review.

    • Master Rooster

      This is Bloody-Disgusting, far removed from the greatness that Was Joe Bob Briggs, don’t direct them to avenues where they can steal material lol

      • Travis_Bickle

        Joe Bob Briggs show ended 20 years ago……and why are you posting on the BD boards and then hating on them?

  • Blade

    That’s a cool story and I think a lot of us forget about things like this. I still am not a fan of the movie but the fact that it made a horror fan out of somebody (and who knows how many more?) is a good thing. Thanks for sharing!

  • The Next Generation is pretty brilliant. When Rothman enters the scene and expresses how pathetic the Sawyers are, it’s a statement for how degenerate and pathetic the film itself has become. These aren’t the Sawyers as they once were, but a pale imitation; a statement for the genre itself of the time.

    The main cast is hilarious, deadpan deliveries all around in the spirit of The Room. But what I find interesting is that they actually really feel like dumb, stupid teenagers. This is how real teens are. At least where I went to high school they were. Teenagers aren’t likable, super smart survivalists. They’re dumb, snotty kids who don’t know how to stay out of trouble.

    The Next Generation is endlessly entertaining, never dies down for a moment. With funny characters and a kick-ass soundtrack, it’s a lot better of a watch than anything that’s come out of the franchise since.

    • Greasy

      yes! you, me and about five other people in the world actually get this film! rothman is having these people, who may or may not be descendants of the original family, ritually re-enact the events of the original film. maybe even they’re just some people he’s blackmailing into do it? they’re meant to be going through the motions and missing the point. leatherface is meant to be useless. it’s supposed to be a nonsensical failure. the way that grandpa just gets up and walks off in disgust/confusion should really give that away to anyone. it’s a commentary on the state of horror films in the early 90s, and it’s utterly brilliant.

  • Evil One

    The movie is pretty bad. You may love or hate it (and I cant and wouldnt argue that) but it is a bad film.

  • Ocelot006 .

    I remember being nine and constantly
    checking the TV Guide for this to be on. Eventually dreams came true…but it was on at the same time as Darin Angel and a nine-year-old with crush on Jessica Alba can only go so far. I watched it during the commercials.

  • TrackRecord162

    Im sorry BUT only the first one is the one thats truly brilliant & great!

  • Jérémy Kuprowski

    This movie made me feel like I was drunk the whole time when I was entirely sober. I can’t say I dislike it… Because I really didn’t get it, AT ALL.

    In the end, I’d just say that this franchise is highly overpraised as a whole. The only memorable movie is the first one.

  • Dan

    Darla had a Grade A set of fun bags….

  • Bloodspatta

    Only the original is worth any praise. The remakes and the new Leatherface are good, but none of them match the raw, visceral power of the original. This movie is complete is trash.

  • Jimmy Cthulhuhan

    I always thought it was fine. Far from my favorite of the franchise, but far from the worst… 3 and 3D are the only ones I don’t like.

  • Seed

    This movie was always so odd. No wonder it was shelved for so long, only being released when Zelwegger and McConaughey became well-known.

    The only TCM films I’ve really liked are the original (of course) and the two Platinum Dunes films.

  • DrewHamster

    It was the first Texas Chainsaw film I saw as well. I need to rewatch it before I say I like it though. I remember the beginning being so damn bad and the acting from the majority of the kids that are killed off is laughably bad. That said, when the film gives the spotlight to McCaughney and Zellweger, the film gets really insane and an intense watch. I actually would feel no shame saying I loved the film if it kept up through the end, but no. Instead we get the Illuminati twist firmly securing it with Freddy’s Dead and Jason Goes To Hell as the worst entry in it’s respective franchise.

  • The Drucifer

    This movie is terrible and I endorse it all the way. It’s so, so stupid.

  • Demented Daniel

    I’ll take this one over part III any day!

  • Jay Kalidah

    Great review. I agree with you on a lot of these points. I can definitely see that Kim Henkel was trying to recapture the spirit of the original & did a great job especially with trying to make sure the house looked like the original, I guess the final outcome wasn’t AMAZING, but I can appreciate what they were trying to do.

  • Bryant Low

    Thanks for the article. I’ve been meaning to try the film out for a while and you just gave me that extra nudge…

  • George Brautigam

    I dig the film…saw the 3 others long before this one. I worship the original and part 2 and dig TNG for what it is. Hopefully it gets a blu-ray soon!

  • Drakk_Mallor

    Good point.

  • bigval

    I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said Next Gen is very underrated and is shit on for not being as good as the original. Although I would love to see an ‘In Defense of..’ for Part 3: Leatherface which I consider the best of the lot and probably my favorite horror movie, Next Gen had a decent enough storyline but was brought to life by the outstanding acting of Zellweger & McConaughey. Not an out and out classic sure but hardly deserving as being thought of as shithouse.

  • Noah Holt

    I have long been a defender of this film. The batshit crazy performance by Matthew is worth the price of admission.

  • Halloween_Vic

    I’ve always defended this film and honestly I enjoy it and find it to be a fun slasher film. Honestly Jenny’s chase scene is pretty awesome and one of my favs.

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