Wednesday, January 13

Some quick thoughts on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

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How do you make a sequel to one of the greatest modern horror films of all time? I have no idea, but here's Texas Chainsaw 2 anyway. I must admit to not liking this one for quite some time. The original is an unquestionable landmark that still ominously looms over the genre to this day. It's an impossibly grisly act to follow. Much like the almost childish-toned Return of the Living Dead Part II, this comedic take on the Family Sawyer punched my most formative horror watchin' years in the guts. It was simply a massive disappointment being fresh off the first experience high of Hooper's baby, but over the years and with subsequent viewings, my appreciation has grown in bounds for this Reagan era B-take on the Saw.

A good portion of this sequel's mediocrity is from meddling at the hands of Cannon Films who were shocked by Hooper's laugh injection in what the studio figured would be visceral horror piled atop a mountain of '80s-favored grue. The budget was slashed of over a million bucks, constant re-writes ensued, and Cannon excised expository chunks in favor of its horror elements. Dennis Hopper is a million miles of celluloid away from the likes of Easy Rider and really adds nothing special to the film aside from being a semi-bankable name. One can't go in thinking it'd be cool seeing Hopper with a chainsaw as many of the shots of his religiously vengeful Lefty Enwright swinging the tree killer are a stunt double. Even Leatherface, despite some stupid saw = penis innuendo, isn't terribly memorable with his other two members of the inbred 'fam running delirious circles around his whiny ass. I also actually just realized today the film was always released unrated, as the MPAA called for an X initially, and for the sake of deadlines Cannon just said fuck it sending the flick off into theaters lacking any rating. Not a bad thing, but "unrated" was and still is mainstream box office poison.

As for the good, the reprising Jim Siedow and then-newcomer Bill Moseley are hilarious in their respective, demented roles. Siedow has an undeniable grandpappy likability even when shouting "coon shit" as an insult or prattling on about rattling grandpa so as not to "ball up his shit." Moseley gets a surprising amount of face time, yet deserving so, Chop-Top is one of the most indelible minor roles in '80s horror whether it's all his little off-the-cuff gibberish or manically prancing about with his corpse relative screaming "'Namland!" to the annoyance Siedow's Drayton. These two are pretty much the sole reason to watch Texas Chainsaw 2 at least once, even if you don't think you'll care for it.

Caroline Williams as Stretch, a radio DJ sucked into the backwoods fray, is leggy and has a set of great lungs. Lou Perryman's L.G., Stretch's board operator, has what might be the best line in the flick and delivers it better than any other in history. Together they share the most affecting scene in the sense of approximating the hopelessness of the original when Stretch finds L.G. skinned alive by Leatherface's electric fillet knife. Tom Savini's gore feels restrained, but the crew wasn't shooting with a no rating release in mind. A shame, knowing that all along could have resulted in an disembodied intestinal extravaganza.

The cover above is actually a pre-release design MGM devised for their most recent Gruesome Edition DVD, which beats the hell out of the white photoshop quickie job ultimately released. As you probably know, this SE is overstuffed with commentaries, bad VHS dup-sourced deleted scenes, and ninety minutes of featurettes, but I have my qualms with the image quality. The transfer is one of the most color-boosted pictures I've seen. Trees and grass intensely radiate green, solid reds bleed all over, and everyone looks flush while wearing red lipstick. This is a very different appearance than MGM's initial no-frills DVD and I can't say it's all that appealing. Otherwise, the SE is the one to own even over Elite's old Laserdisc SE. Avoid the barely-audible Video Treasures EP VHS edition.
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4 comments:

2vs8 said...

i am a fan of this film, nothing like the original... more of the gore than story, i was a kid when i had seen it... anything for leatherface...

thanks for the flash of memories!

Planet of Terror said...

I was totally taken aback when I first saw this. Not what I expected. Its grown on me over the years and it should definitely be considered an underrated classic.

DWizard said...

Well, ya know... it's a step From: A film I admire and worship... To: A film I think is coolish, yet somewhat majorly ghey. I still really only like the first out of all of em. Though, that Jessica Biel is pure wank material in teh remakes. Wet Teeeeeeeeee...

Zach S. said...

The one thing about this franchise is it has more hollywood stars than any other. Dennis Hopper, Viggo Mortissen, Matt Macana-hey-what-happened-to-my-shirt, and the Bridget Jones chick too. That's not including the remakes/prequel. Sadly not many have returned to horror since. And for my money it's our DJ heroine splattered with chainsaw carved ice that does the trick from this gem.

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