Our review of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Blu-ray), published September 28th, 2012, is also available.
After 14 years, the buzz is back!
Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a masterpiece of horror and suspense. It's more creepy than my family reunions. The Sawyer family, complete with the demented "Leatherface," has more skeletons in their closet than the Kennedy's. At the end of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, scream queen Marilyn Burns was able to barely escape as Leatherface stood spinning with his chainsaw in the middle of the highway (note to self: this is not an ample way to hitch a ride. Continue to use thumb). In 1986, Hooper came back to direct the sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. Panned by critics and fans as a much lesser effort, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 has been released in the original widescreen format by MGM. Let me do a little "dissection" to see where it stands (and falls apart).
Facts of the Case
Now begins the second chapter in the Chainsaw legacy. The Sawyer family has gone into hiding ("Kids, pack your skulls and skins, we're movin' to Dallas!") and are now working in a local town as award winning chili-makers (!) Mmmm, mmmm, people just love that Sawyer brand chili. But what's REALLY inside that chili? Yup, you guessed it. Locals such as farmer Bob and his wife, Edna. Food for thought, eh? PEOPLE! THE AWARD WINNING CHILI IS MADE OF PEOPLE! (This works best when said with your best Carlton Heston voice).
In the opening scene, two boys are attacked and killed by Leatherface and his brother Chop Top (his head has been covered with a metal plate due to a Vietnam injury) while joyriding in their truck. A local radio DJ, "Stretch" (Caroline Williams from Days Of Thunder) records the incident on her tape deck and holds onto the recording (the boys called in right before the attack to harass her).
"Lefty" Enright (Dennis Hopper), who's nephew was killed 14 years before by the Sawyer clan, rushes to the scene of the crime. "Stretch" reads about "Lefty's" story in the paper and tracks him down to show him the recording of the two boys being massacred ("It's the hottest single on the chart! The kids love this groovy new sound!"). The two devise a plan to play the tape on the radio to get police help. But bad news comes knocking when the Sawyer clan their own handiwork on the radio and decide to track down "Stretch" at her station.
From there we get some wild car chases, a few people getting fricasseed by Leatherface and his chainsaw, and finally a showdown underneath a Six Flags-type amusement park where "Lefty," Leatherface, and the whole cast do a musical showstopper set to the tune of "Buuuuzzzzzzz."
Now we're talkin' rip-roarin' fun.
This film is gross. I usually don't just flatly blurt that out, but WOW. This movie as so many entrails, human skin, and limbs flying around that you almost expect Sam the Butcher to walk onscreen and ask you to take a number. Not that I'm complaining (this is my kinda show). Although the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a great film, the one thing it lacked was a good, sloppy liver rolling around on the ground. I'm happy to report that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 has this tenfold, plus eyes and ears and teeth and limbs…well, you get the point. God bless America.
Many believe that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is inferior to the original film. I certainly won't debate this; however, I don't think it's the mess many have made it out to be. Unless we're discussing James Cameron's Aliens, sequels are almost never as good as the original. That, of course, leaves them only one place to go—down. The difference in this sequel is whereas the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a horror films with elements of black humor, this sequel is a full blown black comedy with elements of horror mixed in.
In Part 2, Leatherface is not the gibbering wacko he was in the first film (though he still two lids short of a Tupperware set). This time Leatherface is much more childish, obeying the commands of his father (Jim Siedow), who is like a trailer park version of Lee Iacocca on speed (even complaining about his chili and the plight of the "small businessman"). I do think that Leatherface is still one of the most terrifying movie monsters ever. I mean, the guy's the size of a Buick, wears dried human skin as masks, and carries a weapon that could take down the Jolly Green Giant. I think that would be sufficient enough scares to make me smoodge my shorts. The ENTIRE Sawyer family is just one degree away from ending up as Jerry Springer guests (I take that back; they should be HOSTING the show).
The plot is, once again, nothing we haven't seen before. But you horror buffs should be plenty happy with the gore and performances throughout. Dennis Hopper is a downright inspiring as the crazy "Lefty," going more and more Anne Heche as he searches for his nephew's killer. He's fruitier than a Christmas cake, and most scenes just have him bugging out his eyes or grumbling like a drunken sailor. Brav-O, Mr. Hopper. Ironically, he was up for an Oscar that same year for the Indiana basketball drama Hoosiers. Go figure.
The rest of the cast does what they can with what they're given, but you know the story…they're all there to really just be ground chuck.
Now here comes the real trouble spot. MGM presents The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 in 1:85.1 widescreen (non-anamorphic), with a B-side of pan and scan. The print that MGM has given us barely passes as a decent showing. Grain and print damage show up throughout, and some of the blacks looked a tad bit gray. Otherwise, colors tended to look fine with no digital artifacting apparent. It's a shame that MGM continues to play God with their DVD titles, giving new transfers and editions to some while others suffer (and don't complain to loudly, we should be thankful we even GOT a widescreen version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. Pumpkinhead and Child's Play weren't so lucky).
Audio is Dolby Digital and does fine for what it is. I heard no distortion of dialogue or overpowering of effects (except where needed, as in the final chainsaw duel). Nothing to make you sit up and cheer, but it'll do the job (which is more than I can say about the video portion).
For extras the only thing that MGM has decided to give us is a widescreen theatrical trailer which is very '80s (though fun to watch). With the wide array of supplements presented on the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre disc released by Pioneer, this DVD looks downright paltry in comparison. I can maybe buy that there was no video or documentary footage filmed for the making of the film. Fine. Could we AT LEAST have gotten a commentary track by some of the cast or crew (or even a P.A.)? Or how about at least some bios on everyone? Grumble Grumble…
The Rebuttal Witnesses
…and more grumble grumble. I realize that MGM is not known for being heavy supporters of the DVD format (with the exception being the James Bond films). So, I'm not shocked to see a lack of extras on this disc. I am surprised,, though, to see such a poor transfer done by such a major film studio. Maybe someday MGM will get with the program and learn how to do right by DVD.
Although a fun horror romp, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 does tend to lag in a few spots, and in others is just boring (most all of the scenes with Chop Top are pretty pointless. He's like a bad Xerox of Jim Carrey. I was not amused). Hooper gets points for attempting to make this material fresh, but has a hard time making it rise above what it is (a typical '80s horror flick). At least it's not half as bad as the other films in this series (although I will say that Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part III had some interesting ideas…ah, but that's for another time and another review). Okay, so the material is nothing even remotely new…the good news is it hasn't changed, so if you like the same toppings on your pizza night after night, this should be your slice of pie.
For the price ($15.99-$19.99) this is a relatively good deal. Then again, for that price you better be a pretty big horror fan, because for that price you get a sucky transfer (though not as bad as the numerous copies of Night Of The Living Dead floating around), okay audio, and extras that are almost non-existent. Is it better than a VHS copy? Yeah…but try your old VHS copy on eBay first and then see if then you have enough to buy the DVD version.
And until MGM cleans up their act…(all together now, in one collective voice)…MGM, YOU'RE GUILTY!!!
Guilty as charged, but out on parole…this is the only copy out there, so your choices are limited…AND THE CHILI! IT'S PEOPLE! PEOPLE I TELL YO…
[Editor's Note: If you're wondering why Dennis Hopper would stoop to being in a movie like this, it could have something to do with the fact that he and Tobe Hooper are brothers. Dennis is the one who changed his last name.]
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