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Movie Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2

texas chainsaw massacre 2 poster

@theevilbread arrives late to the 40th anniversary party but brings with him a huge slice of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2...

You know, a lot of horror films get sequels, A LOT. Those sequels usually go one of two ways. They suck immensely and kill the franchise or they (on very rare occasions) better their predecessors). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is neither of these, it is in fact on its own level, a level of sheer ‘What the actual f*ck’. Allow me to explain. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, although layered with dark humour within its context, is for the most part, a very grizzly and realistic horror film which aims to make you as uncomfortable as humanly possible. Its sequel, which arrived over a decade later, is nothing but camp, chainsaw fun. Okay, that might be a bit unfair, considering Tobe Hooper’s original idea for the film never actually saw it to the screen or any subsequent releases, that footage is long gone I’m afraid, but from what we can see, Hooper had the smarts to know there was absolutely no way he could recreate or out-disturb what he did a decade prior. Smart man. What we got is a horror sequel as iconic as the original in its own right, particularly with the introduction of a new member of the Sawyer clan and a rather specific line that has been branded into horror iconography. Plus, it has Dennis Hopper with dual chainsaws. That alone should give you an idea of what it’s like.

texas chainsaw massacre 2 imageWe open thirteen years after the original massacre with an opening narrative explaining that the cannibal Sawyer clan were never caught or convicted for their crimes and that no evidence was ever recovered from the farmhouse. Sally Hardesty, the survivor of the original film, uttered a maddening tale before sinking into a catatonic state. A pair of, for the better word, douchebag preppy kids are driving along Texas, shooting up mailboxes, playing chicken with other drivers, you know, the usual things that warrant a swift boot to the face, or in this case, a chainsaw. They use their car phone to call up DJ Vanita “Stretch” Brock, played by Caroline Williams, who headline the KOKLA radio station and essentially harass and annoy the shit out of her, unfortunately for her, she cannot hang up on them through her end of the line (smart design choice there), so she is forced to endure their harassment. That is until they come across an old truck at an empty bridge, it gives the boys a taste of their own medicine before we find out, you guessed it, it’s the Sawyers! (The family are actually given an ironic name in this sequel). Leatherface, goes to town, showing off his rather dapper new mask along with the corpse of his brother, The Hitchhiker, before one of the preppy drivers’ head is sawed in half, showing off some of that Tom Savini special effects magic, leading them to crash and bite the dust. Leatherface unfortunately isn’t reprised by Gunnar Hansen, but is instead played by Bill Johnson and he plays him well for the most part, however, he’s not nearly as iconic or disturbing as Hansen was. This of course has all been captured on tape by Stretch, all calls to the station are recorded, the only evidence of the Sawyer’s existence.

texas chainsaw massacre 2 image
Enter Lt. “Lefty” Enright played by the late Dennis Hopper, who is Sally Hardesty’s uncle and he has been hunting the cannibal chainsaw crazies ever since the original massacre over a decade earlier. He manages to get a newspaper to print a small article about the series of mysterious chainsaw murders which catches the attention of Stretch. Stretch aims to be more than just a radio DJ, wanting to get into real journalism, so she snatches this chance at the big time, offering Lefty a copy of the tape, to which he requests that she play it on-air for him, as a request. Meanwhile, Drayton Sawyer, ‘The Cook’ from the original film has been flourishing, winning various chilli awards across the state of Texas for his award winning food, don’t worry, that wasn’t a tooth in your bowl, it was just one of those ‘hard shelled pepper corns’. Drayton is played by the late Jim Siedow and he is the only returning cast member from the original film, he plays his character faithfully, if not more eccentrically and still finds himself having to hold together his family as much as possible.

Stretch plays the audio of the murder on-air and catches the attention of the Sawyer clan, Lefty’s plan all along, later that night, after her assistant, LG, goes out from the radio station, she hears some weird noises and come across a ghastly looking figure played by Bill Moseley, who without a doubt, is not only the best actor in this film, but the role he plays as ‘Chop Top’ is as iconic as Leatherface and essentially launched his career as a horror icon within his own right. Moseley delivers some deliciously disturbing dialogue and just oozing with creepiness. Chop Top is actually the twin brother of The Hitchhiker from the original film and the resemblance is certainly noticeable through the performance. Both equally bat shit crazy. Stretch tries to get rid of Chop Top unsuccessfully when Leatherface bursts through from the darkness, narrowly avoiding Stretch with his chainsaw but slicing the side of his brothers head, exposing his metal plate (“Lick my plate you dog dick!”), Stretch flees behind a metal door similar to the one that lead to Leatherface’s abattoir in the original film, I guess that the “in” thing for interior decorating was psychopath-chic between 1973 and 1986.

LG returns to the station and is attacked by Leatherface and Chop Top, Leatherface rushes back to try and kill Stretch as Chop Top smashes LG’s brains in with a hammer. Messy stuff. Leatherface eventually breaks through but finds himself attracted to stretch, doing that odd chainsaw thrust I mentioned earlier, before leaving her to live. Chop Top believes Stretch to be dead so they take LG’s body in the back of their truck and head for their hideout.

Stretch makes chase after them, with Lefty following behind her, unbeknown to her, he used her as bait. They find themselves at an abandoned underground Alamo Theme Park again decorated with human remains, bones and…Christmas lights? Stretch falls through an opening in the floor and finds herself trapped within the lair of the family. I should take this time to mention that earlier on, we saw Lefty try out numerous chainsaws at a rightfully named ‘Cut-Rite’ chainsaw store and he’s brought them in bunches. Strapping two small ones to his belt and brandishing a large one, he begins going to town on the structure beams of the lair, trying to bring it down. With Stretch still inside. Considerate guy. While doing so, he comes across the skeletal remains of Franklin from the original film, still sat in that wheelchair of his; thankfully it’s a non-speaking role.

Stretch ends up in Leatherface’s slaughter room and is discovered by Leatherface, now being called, ‘Bubba’ by his family members. He ties her up and places a skinned human face on her, before having a little dance and setting her in the corner in order to hide her from the rest of his family. LG wakes up and reveals its show to us that the skinned face put on Stretch is in fact his. He frees her and dies shortly afterwards from his wounds. Plot convenience, really. Stretch sneaks around the lair trying to escape but she is soon caught by the Sawyers and Leatherface is forced to make a choice between “Sex and The Saw”, you see, sex is good but…get ready for it, the iconic line… “The Saw is Family!”. Stretch is knocked out and forced to attend dinner, and we all know that’s not the best of places to be in a Chainsaw film.

Finding herself in a similar situation to Sally Hardesty, Stretch is tied up at the dinner table and is about to be bludgeoned to death by Grandpa, yes Grandpa is still kicking about, a diet of blood must do wonders for the cholesterol. Lefty soon crashes the party however and goes chainsaw-to-chainsaw with Leatherface, yes, it’s as fantastic as it sounds. Stretch manages to slip away and Chop Top makes chase. Drayton is sawed by Lefty and hides under a table with the Hitchhikers corpse, pulling a grenade from within him. Grandpa throws his hammer, trying to hit Lefty but accidently hits Leatherface, causing him to saw Drayton, he drops the grenade and we then switch to Stretch escaping with Chop Top chasing her and a grenade explosion sound with some dust in the background. A little bit anti-climactic.

Stretch manages to climb up a tower as Chop Top slashes her with a razor from behind; she comes across a mummified corpse holding a chainsaw which turns out to be Grandmama Sawyer. Snatching the chainsaw from her decrepit hands, she starts it up and slashes at Chop Top, causing him to fall off the tower to his death. We then cut to Stretch doing the same chainsaw dance that Leatherface did in the original before cutting to black and letting the credits roll.

So yeah, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, it’s a lot to digest at once isn’t it? It’s certainly out there but it has a lot of iconic and positive aspects within its own. It was a better design choice to go with the black comedy rather than trying to out-disturb the original film because there is no chance that could have ever happened.

texas chainsaw massacre 2 imageThis film sees an interesting development in Leatherface’s character, he was very much a grown man with an obvious mental disability in the original film, he had the intelligence capacity of a child, however, in Texas Chainsaw 2, Leatherface seems to have entered puberty, he’s very clearly attracted to Stretch and uses his chainsaw as an external phallic object, dry humping it and thrusting it towards her open legs at one point (thankfully it’s off). He definitely has more depth in this film than he did in the original, because he doesn’t switch masks at all in the film, Hooper has decided to give him more of a personality this time, a sort of conflicted rebellious teenage status, he wants to do good by his family but at the same time, he’s entering adulthood and certain urges are starting to take priority. Oh to be young again.

While we’re on the subject of Leatherface though, I mentioned previously that Tom Savini is in charge of the special effects of the film and anyone who is a horror fan will know that his stuff is THE go-to shit whenever you want fantastic splatter effects and his stuff here is impressive and good for the most-part, there’s not a lot to go from because this film again, isn’t as gory as you would think, a few shots here and there mainly because it had to be cut from getting an NC-17 rating upon release. Anyway, Leatherface’s mask. I don’t like it. In fact, out of allllll the Chainsaw sequels, I’d have to say it’s my least favourite one, okay second least favourite next to Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3’s mask. Mostly because it looks too good, it’s not sloppy or amateur in any way, I get that the guy has been slicing and dicing for over a decade so he’s bound to know what he’s doing by now, but the one and only mask that appears in TCM2 completely lacks personality, it’s just there for the sake of identifying Leatherface as Leatherface. Again, less is more sometimes, I would’ve been perfectly happy with a copy/paste of ‘The Killing Mask’ from the original film.

Caroline Williams also makes a fantastic scream queen in this, she’s a very likeable actress and manages to inject Stretch with plenty of personality, she’s one of those scream queens who you actually care for, not a plot device, one of the badass ones who fights back when she gets the chance and is of course successful at the end.

That being said, this is the one and only true sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre unfortunately, sure Texas Chainsaw 3D is a ‘sequel’ but they can’t even get the damn dates right so I’m not going to acknowledge that, despite it being a guilty pleasure film of mine. The following films either restarted the canon with a few nods to the previous films or just outright rebooted the series again, in fact, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is the ONLY sequel that isn’t a rehash of the original story, and it does its own thing and rolls with it. If it’s the only entry in a long running series that does it, we at least have to give it props for that. It helps that it’s a fun and campy 80’s horror flick also. I’d certainly recommend it to horror fans, but just know what you’re getting in for, I mean hell, and the poster is a parody of The Breakfast Club. It’s crazy, it’s out there and that’s what I love about it.

Jozef Hamilton

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Images: Provided by author, thepinksmoke.com & craveonline.com

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