The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2

Synopsis: From the director of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and starring OSCAR® Nominee Dennis Hopper, this “ghastly and hilarious” (Variety) sequel descends into your deepest, darkest fears as a wacked-out lawman goes after human meat-cutters with his own high-octane chainsaws in a horrific showdown with the legendary Leatherface and his entire cannibalistic family.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2 4.5

eyelights: the set designs. the make up. Caroline Williams.
eyesores: its flamboyant performances. the dumb script. its campy humour.

“Peel that pig and slice him thick.”

It’s hard to imagine, given the current climate, but it took over a decade for someone to make a sequel to the massively popular ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre‘. In this day and age, it wouldn’t even take two years.

But it’s only in 1986 that ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’ was unleashed on the world – twelve years later.

If you’ve seen the original, but haven’t seen its belated sequel, you’re in for a shock. And not of the horror kind. At least not conventionally: you might think it’s horrifying, but that would be due to expectations.

The thing is, director Tobe Hooper (who actually only wanted to produce, but couldn’t find a director on such a low budget) wanted to make a black comedy, arguing that there had been humourous elements in the first one.

So he lifted the villains from ‘TCM’ and caricatured them for his latest effort. Now they had transposed themselves to a different part of the country, making a living selling their award-winning chili to the masses.

Its chief ingredient: the meat.

Unfortunately for the paterfamilias, his maniacal kinder Leatherface and Chop Top Sawyer have just massacred two teenagers in a very public fashion, drawing the attention of Lt. Enright, the uncle of Sally and Franklin.

He’s been looking for Franklin’s killer for thirteen years.

And now he has a hot lead.

With the help of Stretch, a local radio DJ who happened to broadcast the two teenagers’ drunken call as they got attacked, Enright lays a trap for these demented cannibals. They’ll lead him directly to their new hideout.

He’ll finally get to exact his revenge.

Honestly, the first time that I saw this picture, I was completely floored. I hated it. I hated it so much that I swore that I would never watch it again. I simply had no idea that it was supposed to be a comedy, not suspense.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a violent, gory film, but this doesn’t make it scary. The onus is absolutely on its campy humour, which is so heavy-handed in some instances that it’s nearly unpalatable – especially after ‘TCM’.

A perfect example is the moment that we encounter Drayton again for the first time since the original: he’s participating in a chili cook-off and the whole thing’s been set up like a scene taken out of a goofy sitcom.

It’s jarring.

The opening sequence with Leatherface and Chop Top was already disconcerting because it was so hyperbolic that it made the closing scene of ‘TCM’, in which Leatherface swung his chainsaw around, look subtle in comparison.

It gets worse. It really does.

There’s the attack on the radio station, which is utterly demented. Or the whole third act, which finds Stretch trapped with the Sawyers while Lefty attacks with his own chainsaws (yet disappearing mysteriously for a bit).

I should have known better: I’d seen the poster artwork on videotapes since I was a kid, and it spoofed ‘The Breakfast Club‘, looking nothing like what you’d expect from a horror film. I should have expected camp.

The problem is that, try as it might, ‘TCM2’ is neither fun nor funny. It’s merely 100 minutes of gross over-indulgence (pun intended). It feels like Hooper was given far too much money and slack to do what he wanted.

It’s his ‘1941’, his ‘Mars Attack!‘.

Dennis Hopper, who plays Enright (or “Lefty” as he’s also known), has said that it was the worst movie he’s ever been in. I’m sure that’s not true. In fact, ‘TCM2’ isn’t all that bad – if you like late-night B-movies.

This is exactly the kind of fodder that some people would savour with their friends, cracking wise over it and laughing at all of the absurdity – except that it was fashioned this way intentionally, not inadvertently.

Plus which it’s a follow-up to one of the creepiest horror films ever.

Hopper turns in a solid performance, though Lefty is morose through and through. Did Hopper not see the humour in the material and let his own feelings rise to the surface? Too bad: A camp turn would have been fun…

The rest of the performances are perfectly okay. In fact, one could argue that, overall, they’re better than in the original (though no one can outdo Marilyn Burns here). You just have to expect something outrageous.

Frankly, it was too much for me. And I found the script utterly insipid. I can handle (and sometimes savour) camp if its nonsense makes sense in its reality (ex: ‘The Forbidden Zone‘) but this picture is full of gaps.

I did find some enjoyment out of it up until the third act, but then it became so ridiculous that I couldn’t handle it anymore.

And I’m not alone: ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’ turned off audiences and critics alike; it wasn’t a hit like its predecessor. But it did eventually get a second life on home video and managed to garner a cult following.

For me, though? TCM2 = WTF!

Story: 4.0
Acting: 6.5
Production: 7.0

Chills: 1.0
Violence: 5.0
Gore: 6.0

Date of viewing: August 26, 2017

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