THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Written by L.M. Kit Carson
Director of Photograpy Richard Kooris
Music by Tobe Hooper and Jerry Lambert
Cast: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow, Bill Moseley, Bill Johnson
1986/101 mins/Color/Dolby Surround
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the MGM Home Entertainment DVD
I'm sure that many of you are like me and have fantasized about being a filmmaker. It seems that making movies would be a great way to live, as one would be able to bring their vision to filmgoers (and hopefully entertain millions). However, as with any profession, there must be a downside to being a filmmaker, and I assume that one such deficit would be a "damned if you do, damned if you don't complex". This could occur when a director wants to branch out and do something new, but is afraid that an audience won't accept it. One the other hand, if a filmmaker never changes, they are labeled a hack. This must have been the dilemma facing Tobe Hooper when he went into the often-maligned THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is set 12 years after the original film. Texas rock DJ Stretch (Caroline Williams) receives a phone call from two drunk guys in a car which begins as simply annoying, but ends as disturbing as she can hear screaming and what sounds like a buzzsaw in the background. When she learns of a deadly car wreck which fits the description of her callers, she takes a tape of the call to Lefty (Dennis Hopper), a (former?) Texas Ranger who is investigating a series of chainsaw murders in the Dallas area. (He also happens to be the uncle of Sally and Franklin, two characters from the first film.) Lefty asks Stretch to play the tape on the air to see if they can draw the killers out into the open.
Meanwhile, we learn that the family from the first film (who are the "Sawyers") have gone legit...sort of. When we last saw Cook (Jim Siedow), he was running a road-side BBQ stand. He now has one of the most successful catering businesses in Dallas. He claims that his secret is the meat. What his customers don't know is that the "meat" is human flesh gathered by his brothers, Leatherface (Bill Johnson) and Chop Top (Bill Moseley) (who carries around the corpse of the Hitchhiker from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE). When they hear the tape on the radio, they go after Stretch, just as Lefty planned. Thus begins a deadly game of cat-and-mouse and Stretch and Lefty are drawn into the bizarre lair of this demented family.
When discussing THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, undoubtedly the first question should be "Is this sequel even necessary?" Given that the film was indeed made and the fact that we must discuss it here, that question is a bit moot. (Although if put to a vote, I would say that CHAINSAW 2 is unnecessary as the open-ended structure of the first film is one of its scariest assets.) So, the next question is, "How does it compare to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE?" This is where the pros and cons of the film are the most glaring.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is a film which seemingly wants to be two things at once -- it wants to be its own film, but it also wants to remind audiences that its the sequel to one of the most famous horror films ever. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE represents one of the most gritty and depressing movies ever made. The film depicts events which are clearly fantastic, but it presents them in a way which makes them appear very, very real. The action in the second film is much more stylized and cartoonish. Things in the first film which were over-the-top still felt real. In CHAINSAW 2, the over-the-top stuff is way over the top. Whereas on-screen violence is kept to a surprising minimum in the original film, the sequel has a great deal of gore and violence.
Another huge difference between the two films is the overall tone. According to screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is actually a comedy. While that point is highly debatable, it's clear that a sense of "goofiness" permeates the film. In the first film, the fussiness of Cook is somewhat amusing and his character seems to be the most human of the bunch. In THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, Cook is an uptight and paranoid businessman who is constantly muttering to himself about the importance of his catering business. This dialogue is funny, but it also takes the focus off of the main story. "Goofiness" flows freely into camp when Dennis Hopper appears with small chainsaws in holsters ready to seek his vengeance.
So, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is a movie which has a split personality. It's clear that Hooper and Carson wanted to make a film which was different from the original and it can also be assumed that they were attempting to distance themselves from the original and make a film which could stand on its own. The problem is that for every scene in which THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 wants to be a dark comedy which explores the insane the Sawyer family, there's a scene involving Leatherface menacing someone with a chainsaw in a room filled with bones which immediately reminds us of the original movie. And let's not forget that there's a dinner scene which essentially mirrors the infamous scene from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
Over the years, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 has clearly found an audience, but the movie still won't satisfy a majority of audiences. The sad part of this fact is that the movie has some classic scenes. Even though I've seen the movie several times, the first appearance of Leatherface still makes me jump because I can't ever remember exactly when it's going to occur. The exploration of the Sawyer family is an interesting idea, and the Chop Top character, whose dialogue is priceless, is particularly intriguing. Again, Tobe Hooper was "damned if he did and damned if he didn't". Horror fans were pleased to see a sequel to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but when it wasn't exactly what they wanted, they turned on the movie. So, Hooper tries to do something different and gets burned for it. If one can go into THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 with the mindset that it's a continuation of a theme as opposed to a continuation of a story, then they will find something to like.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 cuts a swath across DVD courtesy of MGM Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. As with the movie, the transfer has its pros and cons. The level of grain really modulates throughout the film, going from barely visible to incredibly bad. Similarly, the image goes from relatively clear to very soft. The one thing which is consistent throughout the movie are the colors, which are very rich and realistic. The dark scenes are often overly dark. There were moments where I wondered if different elements were used to make this transfer. The DVD carries a Dolby Surround audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects with only a slight hint of hissing. The dialogue primarily comes from the center speaker, and the stereo effects are pretty good. However, I didn't note any remarkable surround sound effects.
This newly released DVD is a Special Edition which replaces MGM previous DVD release of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. This edition carries a 101-minute unrated cut of the film. I cannot say if this cut is the true uncut version of the film, but all of the gore that I can remember reading about in Fangoria appears to be intact here. This edition also features a DVD cover which was clearly inspired by SAW.
The DVD carries many new special features. We start with a newly recorded AUDIO COMMENTARY with director Tobe Hooper and filmmaker David Gregory the director of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE SHOCKING TRUTH. This is an interesting commentary, as Hooper makes some select comments about the film. However, it's Gregory who propels the conversation, asking Hooper questions about the production, the script, the budget, and the actors. There is also a second COMMENTARY with actor Bill Moseley, actor Caroline Williams, special effects makeup creator Tom Savini, and DVD producer Michael Felsher. This is a much more animated and fun chat as the group reminisces about the making of the film. They all have vivid recollections of the film, and Moseley has a great eye for odd details in the movie.
"The Cutting Room Floor" features 5 DELETED SCENES from the film, all of which are presented full-frame and were clearly taking from a less than perfect video source. Each has a brief text intro. There are two scenes here where the family goes "hunting" and there's some excised Savini effects present, as well as a deleted cameo by Joe Bob Briggs. "It Runs in the Family" is a 6-part featurette which totals 87 minutes. The most interesting aspect of this is that Tobe Hooper is nowhere to be found. Instead, we get L.M. Kit Carson discussing the script and some details of the production. Director of photography Richard Kooris, production designer Cary White, and property master Michael Sullivan discuss the sets and the look of the film. Cast members Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, and Lou Perryman talk about their experiences on the film. Tom Savini shows off some makeup FX pieces from the and discusses the work that went into the movie. The extras are rounded out by the ORIGINAL THEATRICAL TRAILER and 6 STILL GALLERIES.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©