Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Favorite Era: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

This is a movie I've had a sort of love/hate relationship with.  Tobe Hooper's debut film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the seminal horror movies of the 70's.  Grim and unbearably tense, it is one of the scariest films of all time.  The sequel went down a different path, however, keeping the tense moments but also throwing in some grisly dark humor.,  The second film is actually more of a  horror comedy than anything else.  Let's take a closer look.
  • The film is one of the three films Hooper did for Cannon, along with his Invaders from Mars remake and Lifeforce.
  • Solid opening with a couple of yuppie jerk college guys annoying the hell out of our female lead Stretch (Caroline Williams) on her radio show and subsequently being gruesomely killed by Leatherface and his family complete with awesome f/x from Tom Savini.
  • Dennis Hopper is fun as always here as the uncle of two of the characters from the first movie, a former Texas Ranger hell-bent on revenge.  He really delivers a solid performance here, proving that even a clean and sober Dennis Hopper can bring the crazy like nobody else.  He has one completely silent scene at a hole in the wall chainsaw store that is one of my favorite bits from him.
  • I like the store owner too, he reacts just about the way any person would react to Dennis Hopper trying out chainsaws.  Amazement with just a little bit of terror.
  • I love that the chainsaw family has gone into the chili business and is locally famous.  That's just awesomely wrong.  The late Jim Siedow was terrific as The Cook, Drayton Sawyer in the first two films, just ghoulishly funny.
  • The extended sequence in the radio station where we meet the talky psycho family member of the day, Chop-Top (Bill Moseley) is a nicely done bit of suspense.  Moseley goes way overboard later on in to a rather annoying degree but here in his first scene he;s nicely creepy.  The makeup job is really good and Leatherface's appearance is a genuine shock.
  • After some decent chasing around, we get a truly odd bit as Leatherface falls for Stretch...sort of.  It's a really goofy bit with some of the most obvious sexual imagery I've ever seen.  Hooper has never been subtle and he isn't here either.  It makes sense to a degree but it's still goofy as all hell.
  • On a side note, Caroline Williams is really good in this movie.  She's pretty, likable and has one hell of a scream.  Lou Perryman is also amusing as Stretch's engineer.  I also enjoy that rather than be totally freaked out and helpless, she just gets pissed and goes after Chop-Top and Leatherface after they leave the radio station.
  • Bill Johnson is also pretty good as Leatherface though he's nowhere near as scary as he was in the first film.  Actually, none of the sequels have really done justice to the character.
  • The production design of the chainsaw family's home is amazing considering the relatively low budget of the movie.
  • The second half of the film is pretty straightforward as Stretch tries to evade the family while Siedow and Moseley ham it up shamelessly.  During this, Leatherface does some skinning, Hopper progressively goes more and more crazy as he looks for Stretch (he meets up with her before they get to the main part of the lair but she falls into a hole) and Tom Savini gets to strut his stuff.
  • The only big issue I have with the movie is the need to re-do the dinner scene from the first film.  This has happened in all but the most recent installment of the franchise, including the crummy Platinum Dunes films and it can never be as effective as it was the first time.
  • Making it better is the entrance of Hopper who proceeds to go on a great, over the top chainsaw duel with Leatherface.
  • Stretch's fight with Chop-Top is decent as well and the film ends on a nice note as she goes nuts on him with the chainsaw, literally and figuratively.
I didn't much care for this when I first saw it but  I've come to appreciate this film for what it is, a ghoulishly amusing horror film with some great f/x and a few nice performances.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.