The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 Blu-ray Review
The family that slays together, stays together.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 25, 2012
There are a few approaches that horror sequels typically take. They can be more cartoonish, like George Romero's Dawn of the Dead
, a comic
book romp compared to the stark Night of the Living Dead
. They can be more action-packed, like James Cameron's machine gun-happy
over Ridley Scott's brooding Alien
. And they can be more pointedly comedic, like Sam Raimi's hammy sequel-cum-remake,
Evil Dead 2
. For his 1986 followup to 1974's instantly influential Texas Chainsaw Massacre
, director Tobe Hooper unpopularly took all
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
ditches the slow, grimy documentarian tone of its predecessor—which was influenced by Ed Gein and the war
in Vietnam—in favor of over-the-top Grand Guignol violence, a wacky new setting, and comedy blacker than coagulated blood. Upon release it was
promptly trashed by critics expecting something as genuinely terrifying as the low-budget original, but over the years it's developed a sizable cult
following of fans who appreciate it for its utter ridiculousness. Taken as a grisly comedy—and not necessarily as a "horror" movie—it does work fitfully,
spewing Reagan-era satire alongside its gross-out Tom Savini gore effects.
Set fourteen years after the events of the first film, part two opens with a pair of coked-up, pastel-wearing yuppies speeding towards Dallas for a
debauched weekend of college football and booze. One of them sports a pair of those stupid round hologram glasses and leans out the window, shooting
up street signs with a .44 Magnum. The other, in a canary-yellow cable-knit sweater, calls into the local rock radio station—with his car phone!—to
harass smoky voiced DJ Vanita "Stretch" Brock (Caroline Williams). Obviously, these two jokers aren't going to last long. Soon enough, they find
themselves pursued by a pickup truck with Leatherface (Bill Johnson) in back, wielding an absurdly long chainsaw and using a withered corpse as some
kind of grotesque puppet.
Still on the phone with Stretch, who's recording the call, the yuppies are sliced and diced—one gets half of his skull lopped off in a great bit of special
effects wizardry—and their bloody, mangled car is found wrecked on the side of the road the following morning. First on the scene is retired Texas
Ranger "Lefty" Enright—Dennis Hopper, in the same year he starred in Blue Velvet
—the uncle of two of the victims from the first film. He's
been on a personal mission to track down the chainsaw killers, but none of his former law enforcement buddies take him seriously. He puts an ad in
the paper asking for any potential witnesses to come forth, and Stretch shows up at his motel room with her explicit cassette tape of the slaying. He
convinces her to play it on air—hoping to draw out the killers, essentially using Stretch as bait—and goes out to arm himself to the teeth with
chainsaws of his own. It's high time for some vigilante justice, Texas style.
In the years since we've last seen the cannibal redneck clan, they've moved up in the world somewhat. Papa Drayton (Jim Siedow), a.k.a. The Cook,
has developed an award-winning chili recipe with a special secret ingredient—"It's the meat," he says, "don't skimp on the meat"—and the family has
moved from their derelict shack into a failed amusement park called Texas Battle Land, where they've set up their gruesome, carnival-like butcher
shop, strung with Christmas lights, littered with desiccated corpses, and adorned with weird bone art.
Drayton, the source of the film's social satire, prattles on about taxes and how "it's the small businessman that always—always, always!—gets it in the
ass." After hearing that Stretch has played the recording of their most recent slaughter, he orders mentally challenged Leatherface face and his other
son, cuckoo Vietnam vet Chop Top (Bill Moseley), to go to the radio station and take care of business. What he doesn't expect is that Leatherface will
have feelings for his intended target, leading to a baldly Freudian scene where the skin-masked antagonist pelvic thrusts with his phallic chainsaw and
runs it—with the motor off, thankfully—tenderly up Stretch's inner thigh. This time around, the killer oddly acts a bit like Lenny from Of Mice and
; a simple-minded brute unaware of his own terrifying power.
There's not much of a story here, but there doesn't need to be. The bulk of the rest of the film consists of Stretch and Lefty skulking through the
subterranean tunnels of Texas Battle Land, the former trying to escape and the latter looking for revenge. You can expect several jump-scare shots
where Leatherface crashes through a wall like the Kool-Aid guy or Macho Man Randy Savage in those "Snap into a Slim Jim" commercials. You can
expect a mano-a-mano chainsaw fight between Lefty and Leatherface, with Lefty dual-wielding spinning blades. And you can expect a few obligatory
throwbacks to the first film, like another "dinner" scene with grandpa, who, once again, can't quite get a good grip on his hammer.
Perhaps letting loose after adapting the comparatively quiet Paris, Texas
for Wim Wenders, screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson goes hog wild with the
dialogue here, generating one campy, quotable line after another. ("Leatherface, you bitch! Look what you did to my Sonny Bono wig!") There's
restrained about Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
—it's gaudy 1980s excess in horror movie form. That goes for the oversized
slapstick comedy, the lurid cinematography—which seems to borrow its neon lighting from Dario Argento films—and the kooky performances. This
crazy-era Dennis Hopper after all, and he's bugnuts here, going increasingly loopier as the movie goes on. The tone is about as far from
the original as possible, which is naturally divisive—some folks will never
warm to the sequel—but if you can stomach the change, The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
is deep-fried cornball fun, and as gooey as a plate of barbecue slathered in sauce. Eat it down, enjoy it, and don't ask
too many questions about its origins.