Before they became major A-stars, Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger starred in the third sequel to the 1974 classic horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Written and directed by co-creator Kim Henkel, this should have been a worthy sequel, but only two words can describe this film: utter garbage. Originally released as Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1994, the film was released three years later to capitalize on the fame of Zellweger and McConaughey

The film revolves around a group of teens on their prom night. Jenny is the resident wallflower who has a honorable date in Sean. The other couple in tow are bickering couple Heather and Barry. When in a car accident the middle of the woods, Sean stays behind when he sees a man enter and faint while the others look for help.

Jenny, Heather, and Barry find real estate agent Darla, who calls for help. Enter tow truck driver Vilmer, who finds the man and Sean. He snaps the man’s neck and goes after Sean. It is not long before Vilmer, driving his tow truck, finds Sean and proceeds to run him down. When Heather and Barry come across a farmhouse nearby, they find themselves the victims of the human-skinned wearing Leatherface, who hangs Heather on a hook and knocks Barry cold with a sledgehammer.

When Jenny looks for Sean, she finds Vilmer, who offers her a ride. As Vilmer begins to freak Jenny out, she escapes and runs in the woods, where Leatherface appears with his trust old chainsaw. The required chase ensues as Jenny runs towards the farmhouse and is constantly embattled by Leatherface. She manages to escape and returns to Darla’s place. However, as the truth is revealed, Darla is none other than Vilmer’s girlfriend and she manages to have Jenny kidnapped and sent to the farmhouse with W.E., the third brother of Leatherface and Vilmer.

Here’s where the film becomes even lower than expected. A myseterious man named Rothman arrives. Apparently, he has some sort of connection to the family, but it is never clear what it is. He tortures Jenny for a bit as does the rest of the family. However, the torturing only gives Jenny more confidence than she has ever experienced as once again, she escapes from the house and Vilmer and Leatherface go after her. Will Jenny be able to escape or will she become the next victim of the deadly family like her friends?

I was expecting something worthy of the first film because this was done by Kim Henkel, the man who created Leatherface with legendary horror film director Tobe Hooper. However, what should have been a 20th Anniversary version of a timeless horror classic turns into one of the worst films not in the series, but possibly one of the worst movies ever made. While on the gore level, it does equal that of the original film (more subliminal than visual), what made the original TCM and its other sequels known was there was at least one death via the chainsaw. Sadly, we are not given that option.

Aside from the entire Rothman-Family plot hole, it seemed as if Henkel tried too hard to somehow re-hash the original film by having Leatherface wear the three masks like in the original film. There’s the killer mask, a cooking mask (that of an old lady), and then the pretty dolled up mask, in which in a very disturbing twist, he wears a nightgown instead of a suit. In fact, Leatherface never wears a suit or even a tie like he did in the original. He wears more of an Army jacket, then an apron, followed by the nightgown. As much as the late Robert Jacks was the size to play Leatherface, he just didn’t have that sense of scare factor that ranked with Gunnar Hansen, Bill Johnson (Leatherface in TCM2) and R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface in TCM3).

The film’s only good point comes in the very end of the film as we are treated to cameos from three stars of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. John Dugan, who went under heavy make up to play the Grandfather in the original film, plays a cop. Paul A. Partain, who played invalid Franklin, plays a hospital orderly, and in the gurney that Partain’s character was pushing was none other than Marilyn Burns, who played survivor Sally Hardesty in the original film.

If you are a fan of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, it is best to say that this may be only worth seeing as a hardcore fan, but it truly is not worth the time or money to spend to see it. It totally did injustice to the series and thankfully, the remake came in 2003 and definitely would have blown away this rechid mess of a sequel. Thankfully, Zellweger and McConaughey have gone to a lot better films.

WFG RATING: D (would be a F, but the cameos from the original TCM stars was the only point of redemption).

An Ultra Muchos Pictures production. Director: Kim Henkel. Producer: Robert Kuhn. Writer: Kim Henkel; based on characters created by Henkel and Tobe Hooper. Cinematography: Levie Isaacks.
Editing: Sandra Adair.

Cast: Renee Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Jacks, Tonie Perensky, Joe Stevens, Lisa Marie Newmyer, Tyler Cone, John Harrison, James Gale.