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"The house is the same, but Leatherface is bigger,
whinier and much more feminine. This is the best horror film of the '90s!"
- Joe Bob Briggs, The Movie Channel

"An unnerving shriekfest, blackly comic and extreme."
- Hollywood Reporter

"Leatherface crosses Divine with Hannibal Lecter."
- Thelma Adams, NY Post

"A giddy mix of gruesome horror and campy humor."
- John Anderson, LA Times

"The oddball whimsy demonstrated in The Next
Generation is vaguely reminiscent of Sam Raimi's
kooky Evil Dead series."
- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Genuinely scary and sharply satirical all at once....
Zellweger makes Jenny the most formidable scream
queen since Jamie Lee Curtis."
- Joe Layden, Variety

Mark Savlov, Austin Chronicle

After three long years of languishing in limbo, the Austin-lensed film Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation [ originally titled The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre ] is finally seeing some sporadic, regional release under the auspices of independent distributor CFP. That would be cause for celebration, except for the fact that the film's executive producer, attorney Robert Kuhn, has until recently been involved in a bitter legal dispute involving Columbia/TriStar itself. Currently, the film [ directed by Kim Henkel, who penned the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre for Tobe Hooper ] is showing in less than 20 cities across the country, and the general feeling among cast and crew is that the production is getting a raw deal from the film's original distribution agreement with Columbia/TriStar. On top of that, the film has also endured some minor cutting at the hands of the studio, which excised a prominent backstory involving star Renee Zellweger's character Jenny and her relationship with her abusive father. The film, which opens today at the Dobie Theatre, may not be the "classic" some cast members refer to it as, but it's still a decent entry into the Chainsaw pantheon, filled with over-the-top performances from local actors such as Robert Jacks and Lisa Newmeyer. It doesn't make perfect sense to everyone [ what's up with that mysterious, third-act businessman from Hell? ], but it does have its bloody, nasty moments. On the eve of the film's impending release, Jacks [ who plays the infamous Leatherface ], Newmeyer [ affectionately dubbed "meat-hook girl" ], and director Henkel took time to reminisce on a shoot that redefined the term "rough" and speculate on its ultimate fate in the midst of legal limbo.

Joe Bob Briggs, The Movie Channel

And speaking of great American institutions, it took more than 20 years, but we FINALLY have a decent sequel to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which is, of course, the greatest drive-in movie ever made. All along we thought that Tobe Hooper, the director of "Saw," was a genius. And he is. He really is. But we completely overlooked the WRITER of "Saw," Kim Henkel, who not only wrote that movie, but wrote the SECOND greatest movie to come out of Texas in the last 20 years, "Last Night at the Alamo." And now Kim has finally done what he probly shoulda done years ago, and he's become a director himself, and his first effort is "The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre," a flick so terrifying and brilliant that it makes the other two "Chainsaw" sequels seem like After-School Specials. Kim basically kept three things from the original. He kept the house in the woods. He kept the idea of a mutant cannibal family that lies in wait for anybody lost on the highway. And he kept, of course, Leatherface, the chainsaw-wielding transvestite human-skin-masked legend who inspired every great horror villain of the last three decades, from Jason to Michael Myers to Freddy Krueger to Jame Crumb. Oh yeah. One other thing. He uses that giant meat hook again. Yuk. This time two prom-night couples get lost out on the highway where a creepy redneck named W.E. roams around in a satanic wrecker, collecting bodies and quoting literature and trapping teenage girls in gunny sacks. When you first meet W.E. you think they're probly couldn't be a scarier situation than finding this guy staring down over your hood with a flashlight in the middle of the night. Wait till you meet the rest of his family. This one has so many completely unpredictable twists that I don't wanna give it away, but it definitely satisfies the first rule of great drive-in filmmaking: Anyone can die at any moment. There are a couple of scenes in this baby that were almost too intense for ME to watch--and I've seen 47,000 of these things. This is the best horror film of the nineties. Eight dead bodies. Two breasts. Neck-breaking. Sledgehammer to the head. Bimbo on a meat hook. Stuffed state trooper. Woman on fire. Face-licking. Head-stomping. Four motor vehicle chases, with four crashes. Evil stepfather Fu. Meat-locker Fu. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Tyler Cone, as the spoiled rich-kid son-of-a-lawyer who gets caught kissing another woman on prom night and says "I can't believe how possessive you are"; Tonie Perenski, as the oversexed violence-loving girlfriend who thinks there's a remote-control bomb in her head, for saying "It's just local boys trying to give you a little scare, that's all"; John Harrison, as the nerdy doper; Lisa Newmyer, as the whiny gossipy girlfriend who says "Because I told you, I'm a bitch" and lives up to the tradition of great screamers in this series; Robert Jacks, as a new, improved, more WOMANLY Leatherface; Joe Stevens, as the Machiavelli-quoting redneck with a cattle prod and bad teeth who says "Family values have gone straight to hell"; Matthew McConnaughey, as the metal-legged chest-slicing man of the house who says "Why are my batteries not charged?"; James Gale, as the mysterious body-piercing enthusiast who says "I want these people to know the meaning of horror--is that clear?"; Renee Zellweger, as the mousy abused teenager who turns out to be the only one with courage; and writer/director Kim Henkel, for doing it the drive-in way. Joe Bob says check it out twice. * * * *

Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle

Once upon a time [ back in 1995 ], this movie was titled The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it starred a couple of "unknown" actors named Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. The Austin-lensed film played a few festival dates [ SXSW among them ] and it was eventually picked up for distribution but then... well, it's a blurry story of delays and complications, which over the years have become so tangled that chainsaws themselves could not cut a clear swath through the overgrowth. Yet, somehow, after all this time, the film is finally playing in limited release [ about 20 cities ], albeit with a new title, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and some retooling that has trimmed some 15 minutes off the original running time. As it stands now, the film is a knowing horror picture that builds on our knowledge of the three Chainsaw predecessors but also keeps its tongue firmly planted in its cheek at all times. Writer-director Kim Henkel penned the original Chainsaw and this effort shows that he still has a felicitous grasp of the things that cause us to shudder in dread. There are also most of the familiar conventions of the horror film: prom night, meat hooks, and of course, chainsaws. But this time out we also discover that Leatherface [ Jacks ] is a sensitive cross-dresser, that his tightly wound brother Vilmer [ McConaughey ] is the real threat in the family, and that the backwoods clan is in some kind of dastardly cahoots with respectable-seeming businessmen. The performances here are uniformly fun, from the over-the-top Vilmer and his mechanical leg contraption that jerks his unwilling limb in uncontrollable Dr. Strangelove-like motions, to Vilmer's exhibitionist girlfriend Darla [ Perenski ] who lends a comedic air to all she does, to the determined pluck of prom-night heroine Jenny [ Zellweger ], to the plaintive demeanor of the beskirted Leatherface. Events are a bit choppy throughout the picture and it's hard to imagine that such continuity lapses are the sole fault of the low budget and pre-release trim. [ One of the things excised was an entire sequence that depicted Jenny's home life and demonstrated that family dysfunction crosses many thresholds. ] Bits and pieces of the story will, on occasion, leave you scratching your head but it, nevertheless, moves rapidly enough to keep you scurrying to keep pace with the new business at hand. The film is also fueled by an all-Austin music soundtrack. Even though The Next Generation moniker makes the film sound like it ought to be a Star Trek sequel, there's no mistaking this film's lineage. 2.5 stars.

Pat Taggart, Austin Chronicle

[ XSW ] festival's most aptly titled. Unlike the two previous sequels to the groundbreaking 1974 horror film, writer-director Kim Henkel really does return to the original movie, not just one of the characters. Consider the familiar elements: a group of unsuspecting, middle-class young people driving out in the country; a ghostly house that becomes a prison of horror and which is populated by an exceeding [ and sometimes comically ] eccentric array of characters; and of course, the guy in the leather mask. I guess I don't have to mention the chainsaw. To say that Henkel's film is infinitely superior to the other remakes is to damn with faint praise to be sure. Henkel, who wrote the original Chainsaw as well as the brilliant and bittersweet Last night at the Alamo, certainly knows the territory. He is especially adept in the film's earlier scenes, where the characters are established and his wry humor flows freely. Once into horror territory, though, the energy dissipates, and I'm not so sure it's Henkel's fault as much as the legacy of the earlier Chainsaw. The first movie so raised the stakes for horror gore and suspense that a movie like this, less violent and terrifying than the first, hardly hold us in the way we expect. You can admire Henkel's restraint, but this noble thinking has kind of handicapped the movie. You'll like the performers, especially Renee Zellweger, in what is essentially the Marilyn Burns part. You wouldn't know Henkel is a first-time director here, and there are times when the dialogue reminds his fans that he is one of the best untapped screenwriting resources in the state.

Karen Achenbach, Box Office Magazine

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.

Scott Phillips, Alibi

I think it's safe to say I wasn't expecting too much from this one, but boy, was I pleasantly surprised. Shot several years ago and starring then-unknowns Renee [ Jerry Maguire ] Zellweger and Matthew [ Amistad ] McConaughey, this fourth entry in the TCM series found itself balled up [ as rumor would have it, anyway ] in all sorts of legal trouble when the two headliners went ballistic career-wise, and their respective agents tried to keep the movie from being released. While I'm not sure I completely buy that story, I'm glad the flick is finally rearing its blood-spattered head, 'cause it's damnably entertaining! Written and directed by Kim Henkel [ who wrote the original 'Saw ] , the flick follows the misadventures of a bunch of prom-going teens who find themselves lost in the woods after a backroads car-wreck. Renee is the gawky, unattractive one [ yeah, right ] , therefore she's the only one with the sense to realize something bad is happening as the 'Saw Family begins to close in. I don't wanna give much away, because while the whole flick is basically a rehash of the first movie, Henkel puts enough of a spin on things to keep it interesting, and it's certainly one twisted piece of drive-in cheese. Renee and Matthew [ who plays the alpha male of the 'Saw Family this time around ] are good in their roles, but my heart belongs to Lisa Newmyer [ Heather, the ditsy, self-proclaimed "bitch" prom queen ] , whose acting is so endearingly goofy I could hardly control myself. Tyler Cone as her lust-crazed asswipe prom date is great as well. In fact, the only character who doesn't deliver like I'd hoped is Leatherface himself, although when he dons his Liz Taylor outfit for the final dinner scene, he starts to shine. While not as cool as TCM Part 2, this one definitely tops Leatherface: TCM Part 3 [ which had its moments ] but still doesn't approach the original. Definitely worth renting.

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