The IMDB.O. List: Is ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation’ Really One of the Worst Movies Ever Made?
In The IMDB.O. List, ScreenCrush editor-in-chief Matt Singer watches every single movie on the Internet Movie Database’s Lowest Rated Movies list to determine whether they truly are the worst movies ever made. Previous chapters can be found here.
Movie #6 (In Honor of Halloween): Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
Director: Kim Henkel
Writer: Kim Henkel
Release Date: October 7, 1994
U.S. box office: $141,626
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 16 percent
Metacritic score: 50
Letterboxd average grade: 1.8
IMDb Bottom 100 Ranking: 39
Is This Movie Bad?
Yes, it is largely terrible.
How Bad Is It?
As I said: Largely terrible. But I suppose you want more than that, right? You’re so needy!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation earns its “largely” qualifier with the kernel of something interesting in the film’s final scenes. For the most part, this is a remake of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre disguised as a sequel. The opening title cards allude to the previous films, but The Next Generation restages scene after scene from Tobe Hooper’s watershed indie horror movie. (There’s a deranged family dinner, Leatherface (Robert Jacks) impales a woman on a meathook, the final shots show the killer twirling with his chainsaw like a mad ballerina, etc.) The only really serious deviation is the 11th hour arrival of a mysterious character named Rothman (James Gale) and the revelation that Leatherface and his monstrous brood may be agents of the Illuminati.
You read that right. Leatherface and his siblings (Arthur Leatherface, Miriam Leatherface, Bippy Leatherface etc.) are apparently in the employ of the secret organization that runs the world. Here is how these people are described to Leatherface’s latest target, a teenager named Jenny (Renee Zellweger):
You know how you always hear these stories about these people who run everything, like nobody knows who they are, right? Well it’s true. I mean I never would have believed it, but it’s all true. I mean who do you think killed Kennedy?
Wait, did Leatherface assassinate JFK? Come to think of it, he was killed in Texas...
Jenny’s tortured at length by Leatherface and his bigger, meaner brother Vilmer (a young, manic Matthew McConaughey) and then Rothman suddenly shows up. The Leatherface family are all dirty, insane hillbillies. Rothman is dressed in an elegant suit and speaks with a refined accent. He opens his shirt and reveals bizarre tattoos and piercings. He is not happy with Vilmer’s behavior. He tells him:
You are here for one reason, and one reason only. Do you understand that? ... It's very simple. I want these people to know the meaning of horror ... horror ... is that clear? You don't want to be a silly boy. Is... that... clear?
The concept, which is barely even explored, is that Rothman works for some organization that reminds people of the meaning of true horror. That adds a retroactive meta element to everything in the film. (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation’s writer and director is Kim Henkel, who worked with Hooper on the original film; the character of Rothman, who shows up to shake his head disapprovingly at Leatherface, feels like a creator looking with deep sadness at what’s become of his characters in the hands of other artists.)
It’s a little reminiscent of the premise of The Cabin in the Woods. The difference between the two movies is that even before the full scope of The Cabin in the Woods’ true story is revealed, it’s already a witty movie, filled with sly parodies of horror tropes. Then the premise gets revealed maybe halfway through, and you have the entire rest of the movie to ponder its thematic ramifications. In TCM: TNG, apart from a few tossed-off references, the Illuminati stuff only becomes important in the last 15 minutes. The rest of the movie is less of a critique of dumb slasher movie than an actual dumb slasher movie.
Take, for example, the ham-handed way the Illuminati stuff is “teased” prior to Rothman’s arrival. Like on Vilmer’s tow truck, where the word “ILLUMINATI” is emblazoned on the doors.
I’ve never been a member of an underground fraternity devoted to controlling the world economy, but this strikes me as a poor to way to preserve the confidentiality of the most secretive organization in human history. Also, why are the Illuminati so concerned with broken-down cars in East Jabip, Texas? It just seems like the puppet masters of the entire world would have bigger fish to fry.
Zellweger and McConaughey were still unknowns when they shot the movie in the early ’90s. After the two became famous, the film was finally released to cash-in on their stardom. While you can see the potential they both had at a young age, neither was quite ready for the spotlight when they made The Next Generation. McConaughey goes way over the top as Vilmer —a reasonable choice since he’s playing the redneck trucker brother (with a futuristic leg brace!) of a serial killer who likes to wear human faces. But there’s nothing to Vilmer beyond sweaty, bug-eyed madness. It’s like a Nicolas Cage performance, without the weird depth and soul. (Zellweger’s thankless part is 80 percent enduring McConaughey’s screaming and 20 percent screaming her own head off.)
I, on the other hand, spent most of the movie yawning. Then Rothman showed up, and things briefly got interesting. He’s too late to make the movie good, but he helps make it not quite so bad.
Does It Belong On a List of the Worst Movies Ever Made?
Eh, I’ve seen worse horror sequels. At least there’s a morsel of an idea here, even if it’s dissected with all the delicacy of a madman twirling a chainsaw.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is currently available to stream on Showtime Anytime. Next week on another Halloween month edition of The IMDB.O. List, things get a little foggy.
My Personal Ranking of the IMDB.O. List So Far From Worst to Least Crappy
- The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure
- The Master of Disguise
- The Avengers
- Jaws 3-D
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
- Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever
Gallery - The Worst Movie Posters Ever Made: