Written and directed by Kim Henkel, who wrote the original film, this take on the Sawyer family has sadly been forgotten, but it had — as so many films do — a rocky creation, a two year period where it disappeared and features two big stars who pretty much don’t want anything to do with it. It’s also the last movie in the original timeline of the films before remake and reboot and reimagining became the constant status quo for chainsaw movies.
I can see why some people dislike this movie. After all, there’s now a thousand-year-old secret society paying off the Sawyers — who now choose pizza over human flesh — to kill people to keep the population in a constant state of fear. Or maybe they do it so people can achieve transcendence through that terror. Leatherface, who used to be a killing machine, now struggles with not only his ability to capture and murder the teenagers, but his sexuality, cross-dressing and screaming like a child.
He also does not use a chainsaw.
The real center of this story is Renée Zellweger’s Jenny, who Henkel wrote the story around, claiming that was about “her transformation, her refusal to shut up, to be silenced, to be victimized. And by extension her refusal to be oppressed.” In the director’s cut, it’s shown that she’s been abused her whole life, so the terror of the Sawyers leaves her unafraid.
Actually, they’re now the Slaughters, not the Sawyers, and led by the other big star in this production — he wasn’t at the time — Matthew McConaughey as Vilmer Slaughter, a maniac who combines the characteristics of the HItchhiker, Chop Top and Leatherface with a cybernetic leg and the need to self-scar himself. His wife Darla reveals much of the conspiracy theory in the film, except that she also claims that she has a bomb implanted in her skull and that Vilmer is from space.
This movie played 27 theaters, then Japan and then disappeared for two years, as CAA wanted nothing to ruin the success of McConaughey. It finally played in twenty cities in 1997. Yet it has its fans, as no less a Chainsaw fan as Joe Bob Briggs said, “This is the best horror film of the 90s” and called this “a flick so terrifying and brilliant that it makes the other two Chainsaw sequels seem like “After-School Specials.”
The end of the film features John Dugan, Grandfather from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Paul A. Partain, who was Franklin and Marilyn Burns, who was Sally. I love that she locks eyes with Kenny as the movie closes. I also adore that this movie has so many Texas bands, like “Der Einziger Weg” by Debbie Harry and Robert Jacks (who was Leather in this), plus songs by Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston.