October Fright Watch: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Instead of reviewing a new horror film that I had not seen before, this time I have decided to feature a “classic” film that I had not seen before. In this case that film would be the cocaine fueled 1986 sequel to one of the creepiest horror films ever. This time I cover The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
Where to start? I know I had seen bits and pieces of this in my life at various points, but never sat down to watch it all. I have seen most of the films in this franchise, and somehow have missed one that is by many horror fans considered a sequel of equal quality to the original. This opinion is wrong. Where the first TCM was a low budget fright fest that evoked the feelings of watching a snuff film, the sequel seems to strive to be as goofy as possible at points. 14 years after the events in the original, former Texas Ranger Lefty Enright(Dennis Hopper) has been tracking stories of chainsaw murders across Texas. The reason for Lefty’s dedication is that the Hardesty kids, wheelchair bound human chainsaw holster Franklin and lone survivor and Olympic level window jumper Sally from the first film were his nephew and niece. When Dennis Hopper is the most subdued part of a film, something isn’t right. Stretch(Caroline Williams) is a local jean shorts wearing DJ that accidentally recorded audio of Leatherface and his brother Chop Top killing Texas’ two biggest dickhead college students. Lefty convinces her to play the audio on her radio show to lure the Sawyer clan to her so he can have his revenge. Led by older brother/father Drayton, an award winning barbecue(it’s people) cook, the Sawyers battle Lefty and Stretch to the death at their run down abandoned amusement park hideout straight out of an episode of Scooby Doo.
Now I could get further into the plot, but there really is no reason. This film is really just ten pounds of batshit crazy scenes stuffed in a five pound sack. Tobe Hooper who created and directed the first came back for this, and I fail to see why he would want to tarnish the legacy of the original with such a subpar second. There are some so bizarre they are funny moments that do help this move along a little easier though. A scene early on where Lefty goes to a chainsaw shop to get his arsenal for combat with Leatherface is one in particular. As the Ranger tests the saws on a log outside the shop, the octogenarian owner mumbles to himself in glee and seems a little too excited as he watches. L.G., who works with Stretch at the radio station may win horror’s most resilient victim award. After having his head bashed in repeatedly by Chop Top(OK, a pretty great Bill Moseley) and skinned he inexpicably remains alive. That is a gold medal in taking a beating. The family dynamic between Drayton and his brothers/nephews/cousins is funny to an extent, but wears thin quickly, as the entire last third of the movie is him yelling at them for being screw ups. The final scene is one of the strangest homages I have ever seen in a movie, as Stretch triumphantly dances with a giant chainsaw above her head, much like Leatherface did in the final scene of the original. That was creepy and kind of cool, this was just dumb.
Look, I know that this is just a fun horror film and does not try to be more, but the shift in tone from the grimness of the original to what they achieved here is jarring. The introduction of Chop Top and the focus on the barbecue business add to the inherit weirdness that the Sawyer family are rooted in, and the film definitely has a look and feel all it’s own. That said, the original was a chilling piece of horror, with nary a drop of humor in it. This one is just about the opposite, and in the end just did not work for me.