Since its initial release in 1994, the third sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has had a streak of impossibly good luck: Not only have two of its leads, Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger, gone on to become stars, but the film's brand of campy, tongue-in-cheek horror has experienced an unlikely comeback, due in part to the runaway success of films like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. All of which is extremely fortunate for the people behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, because on its own, the film is a slightly above-average slasher film that's only partially redeemed by small but endearingly loopy shreds of black humor. The movie begins promisingly, with four prom-bound teenagers getting lost in the Texas backwoods. After demolishing their car in an accident that leaves one of them dead, the three remaining teens run across a creepy tow-truck driver with an electric leg (Matthew McConaughey) and are gradually introduced to his family of blood-crazed sadistic cannibals. As tends to be the case in this sort of film, the hero is a plucky, resourceful virgin, this time winningly played by a pre-stardom Zellweger. Next Generation's main problem is its inability to find a consistent tone: It can't decide whether it's a horror spoof or a straightforward slasher film, so its few scenes of dark humor are invariably interspersed with dreary, forgettable scenes of Zellweger running away from the cannibal's house with chainsaw-wielding maniacs in dogged pursuit. Similarly problematic is Next Generation's inconsistent government-conspiracy subplot: Throughout the film, it's suggested that the family of cannibals is working for some sort of giant governmental conspiracy, but nothing ever really comes of it. The two stars are terrific, though: Zellweger's plucky heroine is likable and sympathetic, while McConaughey's over-the-top turn as a redneck psycho shows that if he continues to hone his craft and choose his scripts wisely, he could have a future as a character actor in low-budget slasher films.

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