THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2
Director: Tobe Hooper
Year of release: 1986
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 96-101 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "After a decade of silence...The buzz is back".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: The film opens by telling us that after Sally's escape from the Sawyer dinner table last time out the police have been unable to locate either Leatherface or the rest of his family. Over the years however rumors abound of unexplained disappearances across Texas which many suspect could be the work of the Sawyer clan. We then meet two young men who while driving through the state call a local radio station to harass the host. In doing this they run across Leatherface in the back of another vehicle who attacks the pair with his chainsaw killing one and causing the vehicle to crash which claims the life of the other. As the young men were talking to the radio host at the time the situation is captured and recorded by the radio station equipment. Though local police try to pass the incident off as an accident Lieutenant Enright, uncle to Sally and Franklin from the first film believes it to be the work of the Sawyers. Teaming up with the radio DJ Stretch they decide to play the final moments of the deceased young mens lives live on the air the following night to try and raise awareness that Leatherface could still be at large. Angry at the publicity the man himself and his brother arrive at the station and cause destruction. As they leave with Stretch a hostage they are tailed by Enright who follows them to their new lair, a kind of underground bunker. Enright takes it upon himself to try and rescue Stretch while also putting an end to the Sawyer family once and for all.
Good points: There is a welcome sense of familiarity and continuity between this film and the first. Even if it is over ten years later the return of Tobe Hooper to the helm aids this as does the return of several of the iconic characters in not only Leatherface himself but also The Cook and Grandpa. The Hitchhiker even puts in an appearance with his corpse being carried around like a kind of doll. Though Leatherface is played by a different actor here it isn't a major thing with him being masked anyway. It is a shame Sally didn't return (the character if not the actress) but at least we get a family member in Enright so there is continuity at least. The theme of the chainsaw is continued and expanded on here as well and we see the return of the opening monologue text scrawl.
The new character and brother here Chop Top drafted in to replace the Hitchhiker is a pretty good addition. Played by horror regular Bill Moseley he comes off as suitably mad and the metal plate in his skull is a nice touch. The new protagonists in Stretch and Enright are a bit of a mixed bag with Stretch being a bit irritating and older than your typical final girl and Enright appearing as much out of his tree as the Sawyers at certain points. I can't say he is likeable but he is interesting to watch and is someone due to his temperament that we would like to see square off with the Sawyers which he does at the end. Speaking of which the chainsaw fight near the climax is fun but could have done with being a bit longer.
I quite liked the bunker type setting where much of the latter parts of the film took place. It reminded me a bit of the mines seen in My Bloody Valentine. It was a logical hiding spot as well with them literally having gone to ground so it made it more feasible that they had been able to avoid the authorities for so long with the use of this bunker. It did look a bit cheap and tacky in the final moments though.
The Leatherface character is given more depth this time which can be considered both a bad and good thing. In his scenes with Stretch he appears to be quite enamored with her to the point of allowing himself to be seduced and manipulated by her feminine whiles. This conflicts with his murderous impulses leaving the poor fellow confused. It is interesting that he can develop this longing and sexual desire and is not merely just a mindless killing machine. This was touched on a little bit in the original where he was staring out of the window looking confused as to where all the kids were coming from but it is expanded on heavily here. It comes at a big price though as it makes him seem like a horny teenager himself almost and significantly diminishes the fright factor associated with the character which was perhaps the key strength of the original. As such this could actually be considered a bad point by many.
Bad Points: The deaths aren't all that good I didn't think with only a couple of gory moments that really stand out. One of the early kills with the chainsaw going through the mans head in the car is good and the protracted death of L.G is very gruesome to be fair if a little unrealistic. You wouldn't think he would still be alive and coherent in the bunker after the bludgeoning he took at the station with the hammer. There is a decent bit with a stomach getting pierced with a chainsaw later on but overall it appears a bit light on the death front with several of them towards the end happening off camera as the result of an explosion. I think it could have done with one or two more casualties before things reached the bunker climax.
I didn't like how they tried to replicate the dinner scene again. We even had Grandpa trying to bash the victim on the head with a hammer but as before he continuously messed up so we had to sit through that rigmarole again. It is a matter of opinion of course but as I wasn't keen on it first time around I didn't want to witness it again.
The early radio station parts are unrealistic in that the calls went directly to Stretch and not to a producer or whoever first to be screened. It was then even more unbelievable that they also couldn't terminate the call themselves at the station and instead had to wait for the caller to hang up. It was thirty years ago I know but it still seems unrealistic.
There is a lot more of a comedic vibe running through this one when compared to the original which I personally didn't care for. Sometimes it can work in slashers as seen in things like Hatchet and Stitches but here I think it mainly fell flat. There weren't any good one liners like someone like Freddy Kruger is known to deliver which didn't help the comedy. The parts with the Sawyers bickering and squabbling among themselves seemed a bit tiresome and irritating to me and not entertaining. Though the Chop Top character was a good invention he in particular would act a bit over the top sometimes to the point of being annoying instead of intimidating or humorous. The attempts to sway this into black comedy territory also mean it isn't as scary or shocking as the original. Maybe Tobe Hooper knew he couldn't come close to replicating what he created in the original which is why he chose this new direction but it does come at the cost of taking most of the scares and fear out of the proceedings. As mentioned before even Leatherface this time looses much of his aura and instead comes across as a bit of a joke at certain points.
Verdict: This is quite a departure from the original which is a bold move but one that doesn't really pay off. There was too much silliness and focus on comedy and also too many talking parts and not enough action at times which made things a bit boring. It did pick up a bit towards the end at the bunker but even then it wasn't as exciting as it should have been with some tedious talking parts still dragging on. I liked how they tried to make Leatherface more human but even this probably ultimately hurt the film as it rendered him far less intimidating. I always find that I enjoy slashers less as well when we know early on that there are multiple killers as we kind of have here with the entire Sawyer family being a part of things so this isn't exactly my favourite franchise to begin with. It isn't a total disaster by any means but a huge let down I thought after the original.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Buzz: half of head cut off with chainsaw while driving.
2) Rick: Killed in the following car crash.
3) L.G: beaten with a hammer and later has bits of his skin cut off including his face.
4) Leatherface: Injured by chainsaw to stomach and from accidentally being hit in the head by Grandpa. Finished off in the grenade explosion.
5) The Cook: Chainsaw to the butt and then killed in the explosion.
6) Grandpa: Killed in explosion.
7) Enright: Killed in explosion.
8) Chop Top: Slashed with chainsaw and then falls out of the high tower/shrine to Grandma room.