Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

on August 29, 1997 by Karen Achenbach

   It's prom night in a small Texas town. Clever circumstances find four teens cruising in a car, bickering with a "next generation" modernity; it's a wonderful sequence. Only later, as they blithely walk into horror after horror, do audiences realize these "modern" teens have never been to the movies.
   Although sometimes funny at the film's expense, much of this 1994 production contains clever humor built through snappy dialogue and the creation of incongruent characters. Even so, its current main attraction will be its stars--native Texans Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey, in their second film and in their second film together (both debuted in "Dazed and Confused").
   McConaughey (who's since appeared in the likes of "Contact" and "A Time to Kill") plays the killer, Vilmer, with a psycho's gusto. Zellweger, of "Jerry Maguire" and "The Whole Wide World," plays capable teen Jenny, who endures unending assaults with great physical stamina; a fabulous nighttime jump from roof to clothesline is a highlight. Zellweger commands the screen, her Jenny becoming more and more beautiful the longer she survives. Arrogant teen Barry (Tyler Cone) and imperturbable real estate agent Darla (Tonie Perenski) are excellent counterpoints to terror.
   Also welcome is a touching loyalty between the resilient teenage girls Jenny and Heather (Lisa Newmyer, playing a seemingly stupid beauty). Although rendered meaningless by unexplained story elements, this Ultra Muchos/River City Films production does have good original music from local Texas bands, well used both for terror and for relief. "Chainsaw" fans who mourn the degrading of the Leatherface character take note: This fourth "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movie was written and directed by Kim Henkel, who scripted Tobe Hopper's original 1974 "Chainsaw," and who therefore has a right to toy with his creation. Recommended for viewers who haven't enough fear, stress, violence or ugliness in their lives. Starring Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. Directed and written by Kim Henkel. Produced by Robert J. Kuhn and Kim Henkel. A CFP release. Horror. Unrated. Running time: 87 min.
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