Kim Henkel, the co-conspirator behind the seminal 1973 film chose to plumb the depths further with this iniquitously perky soft reboot which also lampoons the genre altogether. Tobe Hooper did the same juggling act with the kamikaze Cannon sequel but it fared poorly with audiences. The opening voiceover mentions and ultimately derides the previous two films as “minor yet apparently related incidents.”
Cut to 1996 where Rene Zellweger is suffering from She’s All that syndrome where spectacles and pinned-back hair certify that she is an ugly duckling in need of a Pygmalion makeover. Contrary to the horror films of yesteryear, Barry (Tyler Shea Cone) is a completely loathsome prom attendee (he defends his Lothario cheating as a measure to prevent prostate cancer) whose purpose is to be a victim whose comeuppance we crave. Likewise, Heather (Lisa Marie Newmyer) is lummox with a serial-killer fetish and her incessant idolization is tremendously mortifying under the circumstances. It’s my pet peeve of modern horror.
“First I’m gonna kill ya. Ain’t no fucking biggie” is nonchalantly funny gallows humor that spills from Matthew McConaughey’s frothing performance and he is the silver lining behind the whole film. His eyes are bulging and he is entertainingly unleashed as Vilmer, the wrecking-truck driver. Complaints about Leatherface (Robert Jacks) being emasculated are invalid when he was the Sawyer housemaid in the original. The drag persona in the later half is also more pertinent if he is a Ed Gein doppelganger. The sledgehammer and meat hook scenes too closely parallel events in the original. For the measly $600,000, the stuntwork of Zellweger on the rooftop and then the satellite antenna is quite harrowing.
The Illuminati conspiracy around the farmhouse has always been an opaque direction for the franchise. I can’t extrapolate whether it’s self-aware deconstruction or a far-fetched plot twist. After all these years of putrid memories after renting it from Blockbuster Video, this is actually a luridly frisky, tongue-in-cheek fourth installment in what has devolved into abattoir boredom. It also serves as an ingenious springboard for both McConaughey and Zellweger.
Rating: 3.25 out of 5