Arrow Video blu-ray
Director – Tobe Hooper
Starring – Caroline Williams, Dennis Hopper, Jim Siedow
Many years have passed since a rural Texan family slayed several teens in a massacre still talked about across the whole state. The family in question have gone into hiding as Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright (Dennis Hopper) is determined to bring them to justice for what they did to his family. Lefty is the uncle of a wheelchair bound man murdered by the family and the sole survivor, a young woman, is his niece. Radio DJ ‘Stretch’ (Caroline Williams) overhears the killers claim new victims while they called in to her live show. Stretch reads about Lefty’s mission to stop the death toll and requests his help, but the murderers have taken an interest in her…
Director Tobe Hooper made this film as part of a three picture deal with Cannon Films. Lifeforce (1985) and a remake of Invaders From Mars (1986) came before this. The films did not fare well (although Lifeforce has been re-appraised since) and the last movie in the deal was the long awaited Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
Cannon and fans alike must have been disappointed with what was made. While the original ‘Chainsaw’ is a grim and horrific classic, the sequel is very different. While there is gruesome kills and plenty of chainsaw action it has the feel of a black comedy or an obscene satire. Hooper wanted to mock some aspects of his best known work but for it to come in a sequel that took over a decade it wasn’t what the cinema goer wanted. The tension and dread of the original is gone and in its place is a madcap, bizarre-in-places tale of love, murder and revenge.
The ‘love’ aspect comes about thanks to Hooper addressing the phallic nature of his killers murder method. Throughout the movie Leatherface’s pleasure in using the chainsaw on people is acknowledged and mocked for what it is: his way of gaining sexual gratification. He has Stretch cornered at one point in the radio studio and leers at her legs and gently places the tip of his toy on her crotch, she takes advantage asking the killer if he likes what he sees and she indulges him in some ludicrous ‘dirty talk’. As if to prove he is all man (and because he now feels he cant kill her with the chainsaw) Leatherface goes berserk, wrecking everything in sight with his weapon before running back up to Stretch and starts thrusting the now phallus-like chainsaw up and down at her from his crotch. This is easily the funniest scene in the movie and the most memorable. Credit to the actors involved, Caroline Williams and Bill Johnson, for somehow being able to do this without cracking up. Later, when Stretch is held captive by Leatherface, she manipulates his libido and emotions once again.
The rest of the plot is far fetched and at times strained. Lefty’s mission to wipe out the Sawyer family (as we find out they are named) sees him load up on chainsaws in order to tear down the hiding place of the killers (beneath a fair ground, a nod to Tobe’s Funhouse?). Teeth gritted, eyes ablaze he saws away at the wooden beams that support the family home from caving in. Stretch endures some horrific treatment once she is captured by the clan.
But Chainsaw 2 mainly comes across as a dark humour movie that mocks the horror genre as a whole while also criticising commercialism (the films large budget compared to the original can be seen as Leatherface ‘selling out’). As Stephen Thrower mentions in the brilliant extra, ‘Still Feellin’ the Buzz’, the viewer is at times made to celebrate the killers (the yuppie car scene at the start) and be horrified by them (Chop-Top bashing someone’s head in with a mallet) later on. Hooper knows that fans were longing for the ‘buzz’ to be back and he works it into the plot.
The most impressive extra is ‘It Runs in the Family’: a 90 minute long look at various aspects of the movie. Many names involved are interviewed including Caroline Williams, Tom Savini and Bill Moseley (who comes across as a brilliant guy). The usual “He always had a cigar and a can of Dr Pepper” anecdote in relation to the director is spoken of (he even appears in the film with said items). The actors acknowledge that fans originally didn’t like the movie and that it is only recently that it has been accepted by the cult following.
There are also deleted scenes and an alternative opening sequence on offer. The footage is grainy and with awful sound quality but that adds to the charm of seeing what was left on the cutting room floor.
There is a disc of early works by Tobe Hooper that many fans will be eager to view. One is The Heisters (1964) which is 10 minutes long and features some unusual comedy that brings to mind The Three Stooges. Eggshells (1968), however, is a full length feature and contains many psychedelic and trippy visuals. With it being so old and such an early work of a notorious director it is a must see for mega fans but it may leave others feeling cold. It features the house that would be used in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, fact fans.
There are numerous other extras such as the usual trailers and commentaries. The HD transfer of Chainsaw 2 is impressive and the sound is loud and clear, just the way it should be in order to hear ‘the buzz’ all the better.
Overall: A sequel that, for a lot of years, was treated like the inbred cousin has been given a make over and will hopefully be re-accessed on its own merits. The extra’s are first class and make this a ‘must have’ for any fan of the Massacre franchise or Hooper himself.
Film: 7 out of 10.
Extra’s: 10 out of 10.
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