Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Film Review


Director: Tobe Hooper                       

Screenplay: L.M. Kit Carson

Starring: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow

Rating 18        

Running Time: 96 Mins   

Release Date: 11th November 2013

Format: Blu-ray

Reviewed by Guy Adams

I’m old-school, I remember when we were all supposed to hate this movie.

We had our copies of the original TCM on bootleg VHS, peering at third-generation white noise, a grim experience of power tools being put to naughty use in a blizzard. I got my copy via the principal of the theatre school I attended, a curious chap who prided himself on his collection of horror sequels, for him it was all about the numbers after the titles. He must love the current state of Hollywood horror.

I developed a taste for Tobe Hooper’s myopic, smoky barbecue, butcher’s off-cut selection of a movie at a time when the sequel was also unavailable in the UK. But that was OK, because Popular Opinion made it quite clear I wasn’t missing much. “It’s silly,” they said, “a real disappointment.”

Of course, these days, we know Popular Opinion usually doesn’t have the first idea what it’s talking about. In these days of the Internet, Popular Opinion is often a virus of mistaken belief, spread absurdly thin.

Hooper’s sequel is every bit as engaging and subversive as the original, albeit in an entirely different way. He was sensible enough to understand the nature of diminished returns, don’t keep returning to the old well, dig a new one. In fact, to hell with wells, who wants water anyway? Try some of this moonshine instead, it’ll send you blind but you’ll be laughing as the shadows creep in.

Grotesque, absurd, comic and satirical, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is filled with horrific set pieces that rival the heights of the original, from Leatherface’s first appearance, dancing behind a cadaver to the patriarch of the Sawyer clan trying to swing his killing hammer. It frequently manages to create the same sense of uncomfortable tension, of being in the presence of lunacy so sharp and gleeful, contemplating survival seems ludicrous. To this, Hooper and screenwriter, Carson, ladle thick, meaty black humour lick chill laced with bone-fragments and grit.

Dennis Hopper’s performance as a former Texas Ranger out for revenge against the killers of his niece and nephew, is often held up as a prime example of why the tone of the second movie has taken a crippling misstep. Yes, he chews the scenery with a ferocity the chainsaws he carries can only dream of, but in this Grand Guignol play of Southern Gothic, he fits right in. This is not a film of subtlety. This isn’t Filet Mignon, it is T-Bone and fries, and the tastier for it.

Critics also point out that Leatherface loses some of his psychotic power, falling, as he does, for Caroline Williams as DJ and accomplished leg-owner, Stretch. This is true, but Bill Moseley as Leatherface’s truly horrendous sibling, ‘Chop Top’ more than fills the gap. Moseley epitomises everything that is great about the film, a clown with rotting teeth, as horrifying as he is foolish.

I can’t resist threatening the stability of the Internet and the bland flatulence of Popular Opinion any longer: I think the sequel is better than the original. There, I’ve said it, come for me at your leisure, you’ll find me willing and able to fight back.

For this of you still labouring under the mistaken belief that this is a lesser cut, Arrow have given you the perfect excuse to tuck in a napkin and take another bite. Packaged in an utterly wrist-cracking three disc set, they’ve compiled a lovely HD remaster of the film (still grainy but, hell, this was the eighties, and you need a little crackle here and there) alongside a ninety minute documentary that walks the perfect line between being informative and witty. Interviews with L.M. Kit Carson being particularly fun. Add to that two commentaries, one production-led, one from members of the cast, deleted scenes and a separate disc containing two early works from Tobe Hooper (including his ninety minute first feature, Eggshells) and you have an all-you can eat buffet of Texan delights. They’ve also thrown a 100 page, perfect bound book in there, just in case you wanted dessert.

Easily one of the label’s stand-out releases.