THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986)
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Twelve years after making his classic masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper returned to Leatherface and family with a much bigger budget from Cannon Pictures and a script from L.M. Kit Carson. Flick has the Sawyer family still on the loose and right under the authorities noses operating a mobile lunch truck from which they serve their award winning chili…and we already know what the prime ingredient is. They live under an abandoned amusement park and all is well for the cannibals until Leatherface (Bill Johnson) and brother Chop Top (Bill Mosley) get caught on the radio carving up two obnoxious yuppies. Not only does pretty DJ “Stretch” (Caroline Williams) begin to investigate but, it also catches the attention of Lt. “Lefty” Enright (Dennis Hopper), a retired Texas Ranger and uncle to victims Franklin and Sally from the first flick. He’s been on the trail of the Sawyers for over a decade and now with Stretch’s help, there maybe be a showdown between lawman and cannibal clan with sexy Stretch caught in the middle.
Sequel is a fun flick though it focuses far more on grisly humor and has a far lighter touch than the original classic. Gone is the oppressive atmosphere of dread and disturbing humor that got under your skin. No more evident is Hopper’s ex-cop wearing two chainsaws like six guns as he goes into battle. Hooper and writer Carson fill the sequel with more of this goofy style humor than chills and the impact of the plentiful Tom Savini supplied gore is lessened as a result of it. The body count is also relatively small and half the movie takes place with Stretch trapped in their underground layer while Lefty tears the amusement park above apart, with a chainsaw, looking for the Sawyers. Odd no one goes up there to investigate the racket. It’s a fun movie, but it’s also not scary in the least and the film stops it’s momentum dead about an hour in to do a retread of the dinner sequence from the first flick with the captured Stretch. To be honest, it gets tedious. Having seen it in a theater back in 1986, I had seen Cannon’s 89 minute release which was a result of the studio cutting out about twelve minutes. Now having seen the longer 101 minute cut, they may have been right, as it does go on about ten minutes too long. Still, the movie entertains, Hooper’s visual style works well here as the Sawyers’ underground layer is a visual feast of bones, tunnels and Christmas lights as designed by Cary White. It’s captured well by Richard Kooris’ cinematography and there is a fitting score by Jerry Lambert and Hooper himself.
The cast are having a good time with the gore and giddiness. Caroline Williams makes for a sexy, sassy heroine with her long legs, skimpy Daisy Dukes and raspy voice complete with thick Texas accent. She gives her character some fire and a toughness that make her very endearing…and very hot. Hopper plays Lefty straight and gives us a driven man, who, will stop at nothing to find the Sawyers and make them pay for killing his nephew and driving his niece crazy. Jim Siedow is back as Drayton Sawyer and he hams it up and provides a lot of the fun as he tries to preside over his maniacal offspring. He is not as disturbing as in TCM 1 ,but his performance fits the lighter tone. Bill Johnson plays the silent Leatherface and sadly, he is portrayed with far less menace even to the point of spending a good portion of the film acting like a love-sick puppy around Stretch. The script neuters one of cinema’s most shocking killer’s and is one of it’s biggest flaws. Bill Mosley is having a blast as the demented Chop Top. This underrated actor has a good time with the over-the-top character that has picked…and eaten…the skin off the metal plate in his head. He also carries around his dead brother (Edwin Neal’s Hitchhiker from TCM 1) and talks to him frequently. A good cast that works well with the tone of the film and helps make it work better than it should.
The long-awaited sequel to Hooper’s drive-in classic is a very entertaining horror, but hardcore fans of TCM 1 were disappointed, at the time of it’s release, that it went for laughs over frights. It wasn’t a big hit back in the day. It’s looked back at a bit more fondly now and I’ll say I do enjoy it, despite that it’s uncut edit does seem a bit too long and maybe Cannon was right to pair it down to a faster paced 90 minutes back in 1986. The cast have a good time and Tom Savini does gives us some top notch gore, but the film is a far cry from the disturbing nightmare Hooper gave us in 1974. A fun…and now nostalgic…sequel that disappoints in some ways, but entertains in others.