Sunday, August 4, 2013

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (Kim Henkel, 1994)

Watching drab damsels in distress running away from equally drab psychopaths for ninety minutes straight is not my idea of fun. I don't care if the latter is wielding a chainsaw, I need something with a little more pizazz, a little more pep, if I'm expected to raise my fist in the air and heartily declare what I'm currently looking at to be awesome. What if I told you there's a film out there where both the damsel in distress and the power tool enthusiast wear lipstick? On their lips? On their lips, baby. At the same time? What do you think? Well, if that's case, colour me intrigued. You know how you're always telling me how you can't stand it when the so-called "damsel in distress" dresses like a twelve year-old boy? I don't know if I'm always telling you that. But it's true, the defeminization of horror heroines is one of my least favourite things to happen to the horror genre. In fact, I'd put it up there with CGI gore/monsters, found footage, torture and grainy cinematography as things that repeatedly fail to churn my proverbial guacamole. Oh, and don't get me started on the recent spate of remakes, reboots, and reimaginings. Now, I'm not declaring Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation to be some kind of groundbreaking example of horror done right; it does a lot of things wrong, very wrong. I'm just saying that I appreciated the weird little unexpected quirks it throws our way every now and then. Of course, some people might not appreciate these "weird little unexpected quirks," as they will be too busy complaining about the film's lack of gore. But if memory serves me correctly, the original 1974 film by Tobe Hooper had no gore whatsoever. Besides, who needs gore when you have transvestitism? Transvesti-what? You know, cross-dressing.
It only makes sense that Leatherface (Robert Jacks) dress up pretty if he's going to chase women who are wearing prom dresses. Actually, I'm not sure if that makes sense at all. Think it about. I don't want to think about it. C'mon. Think. Okay, I'm thinking. Nope, I still don't get it. All right, I'll explain what I mean. If you're a reclusive cannibal with low-esteem, and all your masks are made out of skin that used to be attached to fine upstanding ladies, wouldn't you slowly start to manifest feminine attributes and characteristics over time? Judging by the blank expression on your face, I'll take it you're still not following.
You see, female skin is less coarse than male skin. And wouldn't you want the rest of your ensemble to match this new-found dermatological smoothness? Of course you would. You would be an idiot not to. If you got a vaginoplasty, you wouldn't wear men's trousers on your first post-op trip to the grocery store, you would wear a pleated teal skirt with matching pumps. Well, the same logic can be applied to people who perform amateur facelifts on themselves using the skin from the faces of the women who were unfortunate enough to stumble upon your den of  brainsick degenerates.
After opening with an unnecessary forward, we get a close-up shot of Leatherface's new face. Only, his new face is still stuck on the old face, which just happens to belong to a bespectacled gal named Jenny (Renée Zellweger), a Texas teen who is getting ready for the prom. Deciding to remove the lipstick she had been fastidiously applying to her pout perfect lips (I guess she thought it was too much for rural Texas to handle), Jenny slips into her white prom dress, and waits for Sean (John Harrison), her date, to arrive.
It wouldn't be prom night without some domestic distress, so Jenny is groped and threatened with sexual violence by her sleazy ass stepfather (David Laurence) before she leaves. The problem with this scene is that it makes Jenny's multiple attempts to not get killed by a family of mentally unstable cannibals seem fruitless, as her family is just as dysfunctional. Okay, maybe they're not as psychotic as the Slaughter clan, but at least they're more out in the open about their lack of sanity.  

Speaking of lacking sanity, let's all hail Carmen Nogales as "Girl in Red Dress," as her glorified cameo is a beautifully bizarre sight to behold. Appearing briefly in a scene that takes place in the hallway outside the gym where the prom is being held, Carmen Nogales treats us to some first-class crazy. Talking to her friend Heather (Lisa Marie Newmyer) about something that is clearly bothering her, Carmen puts her hand to her temple in, what I can only guess, was a veiled attempt to contain the batshit that was about to start leaking from her feverish brain, and launches into this incoherent tirade. And just like that, Carmen Nogales earns her place in the pantheon of off-kilter film performances that inexplicably make me giggle and shout.
I'm not sure if Carmen Nogales, a.k.a. The Girl in the Red Dress from Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, already has a cult following or not. If she doesn't, I'd like to be the first to sign up as a member of the Carmen Nogales, a.k.a. The Girl in the Red Dress from Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, Appreciation Society.
Don't worry, even though that's last we see of Carmen Nogales, another actress is about to come along to fill the Carmen Nogales void. In fact, here she comes right now. Remember that friend Carmen Nogalas was talking to outside the prom? Yeah, Heather. Well, she's going to blow your sock garters off. Really? Oh, you better believe it. Blackish stockings? Check. Tight dress? You know it. Gloves? That's an affirmative, good buddy. Is a volumizing scrunchie too much to ask? Don't be ridiculous, Heather will gladly wear a scrunchie that causes her hair to seem bigger than it really is. Wow, this Heather chick sounds amazing.
I have to ask, though. If this Heather chick is so "amazing," why is her boyfriend Barry (Tyler Cone) making out that other girl? Good question. On top of sounding exactly like Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down, this Barry fella is what we like to call a "cad." Realizing this, Heather, after she catches Barry kissing another girl, hops in his car and tears out of the parking lot. Managing to get into the car before she leaves, Barry pleads with Heather to forgive him. When Barry starts trying to explain to Heather that he needs to have sex with other girls or else he'll get cancer, Jenny and Sean reveal themselves. I don't know why they chose the back of Barry's car to smoke pot, but it would seem that this prom has become a mobile affair.
Due to her frazzled state, and the narrow nature of the dirt road she turned onto, Heather winds up colliding with another car. Despite the fact that the driver of the other car  insists that he is not hurt, he falls to the ground like a bag of dirt. Stranded on a road in the middle of the woods, Jenny, Heather, and Barry decide to go look for help, while Sean stays with the car and the unconscious teen. It's during Jenny, Heather, and Barry's hike through the spooky woods that I really began to take a liking to Lisa Marie Newmyer's Heather. Not as a dumb as we originally thought, and saying what everyone else is thinking, she tells her friends that "we're all going to die," Heather manages to maintain her sex appeal even with a cut on the bridge of her nose. If anything, I thought the cut made her even sexier.
Already boasting two memorable characters (Carmen Nogales' "Girl in Red Dress and Lisa Marie Newmyer's Heather), you wouldn't think that Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation would have enough room to fit in one more. Well, think again. After successfully traversing the woods, the teen trio stumble upon the office of Darla Slaughter, a woman with legs for miles and a chichi sense of style. Played by the alluring Tonie Perensky, Darla, who is rocking a tight purple skirt with black stockings and a matching blazer (I think she's in the real estate business), warmly welcomes the wayward teens into her bosomy fold and calls them a tow truck. 
While that sounds like a kind gesture, as we'll soon find out, Vilmer Slaughter (Matthew McConaughey) isn't your average tow truck driver. For starters, one of his legs is in some kind of remote control leg brace, one that causes him to sound like a robot when he walks. And secondly, he is clearly insane.
In an effort to get back some of the thunder that was siphoned slightly by Darla, Heather tries to re-establish her status as the film's primary hottie. Declaring that she is not stupid but in fact a "bitch," Heather, who, unlike Jenny, has chosen to keep her heels on for the duration of this ordeal, accompanies Barry to a secluded house in the woods. Ditching Jenny a couple miles back, Heather and Barry wander towards the house totally unaware of the horrors that await them inside.  
Sitting on the swinging bench located near the front door, Heather, in addition to providing us with a mild upskirt, finally comes face-to-face with the horror legend that is Leatherface. Now, long time fans of the world's most famous chainsaw-wielding cannibal will probably be appalled by what this film has turned Leatherface into. I, on the other hand, could have been more pleased by Leatherface's transformation from a mindless killer to a skittish transvestite. You can tell right away that this isn't your grandfather's Leatherface when we see how transfixed he is by the sparkly nature of Heather's bejeweled scrunchie. He may have been reduced to a preening drag queen, but knows a first-rate scrunchie when he sees it.
Meanwhile, around the back of the house, Barry meets W.E. Slaughter (Joe Stevens), a John Hawkes look-alike holding a shotgun. While he ain't no Chop Top from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 in terms of entertainment value, W.E.'s habit of quoting famous people and his cattle prod abuse are at least something to latch onto. People quoted by W.E. in this movie: Ulysses S. Grant, Niccolò Machiavelli, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Voltaire, William Shakespeare, John Paul Jones, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The best thing about Renée Zellweger's performance is her ability to run in a prom dress. Actually, prom dress or not, Renée is quite the athlete in this flick. Seriously, no one will ever accuse her of "running like a girl." Which reminds me, why doesn't she run more often in movies? The only film I can think of that properly exploits Renée's athleticism is Chicago. Anyway, I'd be interested to know if Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey ever run into one another at fancy Hollywood parties or pompous award shows. And if they do, I wonder if they're still on speaking terms. I mean, the amount of abuse they inflict on each other is off the charts.
My favourite Renée/Matthew abuse moment is when Vilmer mocks the wheezing sound Jenny makes when she cries. And judging by the genuinely annoyed look on Renée's face while Matthew is imitating her crying technique, I'd say his mocking was improvised. But then again, Renée's face always looks like it's genuinely annoyed. Zing!
It's a misguided dream of mine to make, or watch (I like to dream small some times), a movie that stars Carmen Nogales. The only catch being, she has to act the way she does for the twenty or so seconds she's in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. How no one on the set of this film saw the weird energy Carmen was exuding is beyond me. The second she appeared onscreen and started ranting and raving in a red prom dress should have been the moment the writers/producers began making her part bigger. Just think about the amount of nonsensical chaos Carmen Nogales could have caused if she had been given carte blanche in this flick. Pretty amazing, right? Okay, now imagine if she was paired with Lisa Marie Newmyer's Heather (a.k.a. the girl who can't be killed) and Tonie Perensky's Darla Slaughter (a.k.a. Mrs. Black Pantyhose 1994). Judging by your silence, I'll just go ahead and assume that your head just exploded and are currently in the process of picking up the gooey pieces.


  1. I'd love to see a cage match between this version of McConaughey and Reign of Fire McConaughey, the yin and yang of crazy McConaugheys suplexing each other into obliteration.

    P.S. The ending is ludicrous.

  2. I don't remember the ending, but I'll take your word for it. ;)

  3. Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo made a movie?!? Dafuq?

    Hi. :)

    Seriously, what happened to Renee? Yes, she needs to run more. You nailed it.

  4. Not only did they make a movie together, I totally watched that movie.

    Hey. :)

    I was going to say someone should start a kickstarter campaign to get Reny Z to run more, but I'm not sure it makes any sense.