THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2"
Tobe Hooper made an all-time horror classic with 1974's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Twelve years later, he decided to make a sequel. Hooper was smart. Perhaps realizing that he could never recapture the raw, down-and-dirty nature of the original, he opted to go in a completely different direction. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (and yes, “chainsaw” became one word) is a little slicker, with its bigger budget, recognizable star (Dennis Hopper), and '80s alt-rock soundtrack that features Oingo Boingo, Timbuk 3, and Stewart Copeland. It's also, more or less, a comedy. The film is still brutal, but it's also brutally funny. While not as financially successful as the first TCM, the sequel has amassed a passionate cult fanbase over the years, for good reason. Scream Factory brings The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 to Blu-ray in a magnificent 2-disc set that is packed to the gills with bonus features.
The story reveals that Leatherface (Bill Johnson, taking over for Gunnar Hansen) has a family, and they've spent the last 13 years traveling around Texas. The head of the clan is Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow), a.k.a. “the Cook.” He's a master of making chili from...well, consider the title of the franchise when trying to figure that one out. Chop-Top (Bill Moseley) is a Vietnam vet with a plate in his head and a love of creating violent mischief. And then there's wrinkly old Grandpa, who can't even hold a hammer long enough to bash a victim's head in anymore. This bizarre group targets disc jockey Vanita “Stretch” Brock (Caroline Williams) after she makes a recording of Leatherface killing two preppies who called into her show at the time he attacked. The only person who may be able to keep her safe is former Texas Ranger “Lefty” Enright (Hopper), whose niece and nephew were past victims of the chainsaw-wielding killer.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has much higher production values than the original. If it was going for that same gritty vibe, this would be a detriment. But since it's going for something grander, it's a benefit. The entire third act takes place inside the clan's underground bunker, which is packed with old junk, dead bodies, and the most unappetizing dinner table you're ever likely to see. It's extremely well-designed, and the cinematography makes it eerie and yet somehow oddly endearing. The location makes a marvelous setting for the acts of brutality that follow, especially a gruesome scene in which Stretch is forced to wear the skinned face of a coworker while the now-faceless guy watches in agony.
That's just one example of the violence. Black comedy is here in equal measure. In one clever idea, it becomes clear that Leatherface falls in love with Stretch in the process of stalking her. They have a seduction scene in which he fiddles a chainsaw between her legs and seems to get aroused by it. The great Dennis Hopper gets laughs, too, particularly when Lefty straps a couple of chainsaws on his holster where the guns should go. He and Leatherface have one amazing chainsaw battle at the movie's conclusion that is the gore equivalent of an Errol Flynn sword fight. Then there's Bill Moseley, who plays Chop-Top with such over-the-top menace that the very concept of “over the top” would say, “Damn, that's over the top!”
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 inserts subtle satiric commentary on everything from family dysfunction, to politics, to sex. Leatherface's kin might be a bunch of psychotic lunatics, but they're not all that different from you and me – aside from that whole “killing people with chainsaws” thing. Hooper balances the traditional horror aspects and the comedic elements to create a fright flick like no other.
It may not have a whole lot in common with its predecessor – at least tonally -- but TCM 2 works because it's a complete original. You never know from minute to minute where it's going to go, and that unpredictability keeps you riveted for every single second.
Scream Factory has an early candidate for Blu-ray Release of the Year with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. There are hours and hours of bonus goodies in this 2-disc set.
Disc 1 contains a new 2K HD scan from the interpositive film element, which looks incredible. There are three audio commentaries, one from director of photography Richard Kooris, production designer Cary White, script supervisor Laura Kooris and property master Michael Sullivan, one from Toby Hooper, and one from actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and special effects makeup creator Tom Savini. There are also interview segments with writer L.M. Kit Carson and actor Lou Perryman, a behind-the-scenes footage compilation from Savini's collection, and an alternate opening credits sequence. But that's not all! Additionally, you'll find some deleted scenes, multiple still galleries (including amazing posters and lobby cards), and theatrical trailers/TV spots.
Disc 2 has the movie, presented in MGM's original HD master with color correction supervision by Richard Kooris. (It also looks quite good.) It Runs In The Family is an 81-minute retrospective documentary featuring enlightening interviews with Carson, most of the film's stars (save for Hopper and Siedow), and key crew members. It's informative and fun; only Hooper's participation would have made it better. Regardless, everyone recounts the good time they had making the picture, which was rushed to meet a release deadline, leading to near-constant rewriting of the script on-set. The actors in particular have some great stories to tell about playing their offbeat characters.
Also included here are multiple substantive mini-docs. “House Of Pain” looks at the makeup effects, as explained by those who created them. “Yuppie Meat” is an interview with actors/victims Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon. “Cutting Moments” focuses on editor Alain Jakubowicz, who details some of the many challenges of assembling this movie. “Behind the Mask” looks at stunt man and Leatherface performer Bob Elmore. Finally, “Horror's Hallowed Grounds” revisits some of the locations used during production.
As is always the case with Scream Factory releases, these extras are extremely well-produced, and they add greatly to one's enjoyment of the main feature. If you love horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 will be one of the definitive Blu-rays in your collection.
For more information on this title and others, please visit the Scream Factory website.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is unrated, but contains language, sexual content, and, of course, lots of awesome chainsaw violence. The running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes.
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