Plot: A group of friends has run into some trouble on prom night, but its not just an uptight principal or a lousy DJ, instead they have found themselves lost in the middle of nowhere and rather stranded. The friends aren’t alone for long however, as tow truck driver Vilmer (Matthew McConaughey) soon arrives on the scene, complete with his strange mechanical leg apparatus. His presence doesn’t mean good news or rescue however, instead he is joined by an assortment of colorful, dangerous friends of his own, all looking to unleash violence. As the prom kids are stalked down and some face gruesome fates, it seems as if Jenny (Renee Zellweger) might have the best chance to survive, even if she keeps running into one life threatening situation after another. As she and some of her friends try to manage an escape, will Vilmer and his offbeat crew be denied the carnage they so desperately want?
Entertainment Value: This installment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is wildly inconsistent and makes some odd choices, but I think there’s decent fun to be had at times here. The narrative fits into the series well, but the story is quite thin and relies on colorful characters more than anything else, though I have no issue with that. And these characters are quite colorful, from Matthew McConaughey’s outrageous Vilmer to the offbeat take on Leatherface. I’ve seen this a few times now and the movie is just too inconsistent, as some stretches are rather dull and the pace slows too much, while others are wild and off the deep end. Those wackier moments are fun to watch and I think the finale is a manic, over the top home stretch, but until the last act, it is start and stop, which dampens the good times. I also don’t love how little focus Leatherface is given, especially since this is an interesting version of the character. More development and of course, more chainsaw carnage from the series’ figurehead would have worked wonders here, I think. There is some bloodshed here, as well as some quotable dialogue and over the top performances however, so Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is able to pack in some genre thrills between slower segments. I would have liked more commitment to the craziness, but even in this inconsistent presentation, horror fans will likely get some solid entertainment out of this.
One of the reasons this movie remains talked about is the presence of Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger, who of course become big time stars in other pictures after this one. That’s not much of a surprise, since a lot of movie stars get started in genre movies, but perhaps it is because of how off the rails McConaughey’s turn here is that it stands out a little more than most. He really goes for it as the outlandish Vilmer and especially in the final act, he just uncorks some bonkers moments. I think his colorful presence adds a lot to the movie, but I wish as was as bananas in the entire film as the finale. Even so, it is a lot of fun to see such a world famous actor in such a totally unhinged performance, so it makes sense that his fans would revisit this one, even those who aren’t typically horror movie buffs. Zellweger is more reserved, but still turns in a humorous, dialed up effort and of course, this movie is a far cry from her romantic comedies that made her a star. Robert Jacks brings a unique vision of Leatherface to life in memorable fashion, I just wish more time and development was devoted to the character this time around. The cast also includes David Laurence, Lisa Marie Newmyer, and Tonie Perensky.