When I was a kid and just beginning to explore the horror movie genre, I never watched “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,” because I could never summon the courage the finish the first one. After the opening scene when the protagonists pick up a hitchhiker from the slaughterhouse, I said “nope” and promptly turned off the movie. Despite never finishing it, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” left my younger self scared of both road trips and Texas.
So going back and watching the first two “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” films was a cathartic experience. The first was just as unsettling as I remembered, but the sequel was a more complex movie experience. Director Tobe Hooper abandoned the grisly low budget exploitation style of the original for demented, over-the-top absurdity.
Thirteen years after the original, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” follows radio DJ Vanita “Stretch” Brock and Lieutenant Boude “Lefty” Enright as they try to track down the Leatherface and his inbred, cannibalistic family. Lefty is the uncle of two kids who were murdered in the first film.
He has spent the last 13 years investigating reports of mysterious chainsaw-related killings across Texas. Lefty teams up with Stretch after a drunk radio caller is murdered by Leatherface live on her show. For the most part, Stretch plays a grounded Neve Campbell-esque victim rather well– which juxtaposes against Lefty’s slow descent into madness.
The original’s settings and characters contributed to its overall terror-inducing effectiveness. It followed immature teens in a mostly-deserted part of rural Texas. This time around, we follow two rather mature individuals in a more populated Texas town. The lack of vulnerability and isolationism in the sequel makes it significantly less terrifying than the original, although it makes up for many of these shortcomings in the final act.
The characters provide enough over-acting to invoke plenty of cringing laughs. But fans of horror-comedies might find this sequel a bit uneven. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” will often shift from silly to disturbing without skipping a beat. The changes can be jarring, but it makes for a uncommonly quote-worthy affair.
When Lefty confronts Leatherface and his family, he holds a chainsaw above his head and proclaims, “I’m the Lord of the Harvest!” to which Drayton responds, “What’s that? Some new health food bunch?”
Leatherface’s kin is close-knit group with uniquely sinister characteristics. My favorite of the bunch is Chop-Top (played by Bill Moseley, who later plays Drayton in the “Chainsaw” reboot). His fidgeting mannerism and frequent use of the phrase “far out” make him one of the more fascinating characters in the franchise. Chop-Top is also the twin brother of the hitchhiker in the first film and has a literal steel plate in his head that’s revealed after Stretch attacks him in self-defense.
Hooper’s contribution to the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” franchise concludes in a vast, underground lair. Its winding paths and hanging corpses (both animal and human) make for an intensely thrilling final act– as Stretch tries to escape and Lefty seeks his final revenge. This pitch black comedy sequel is funny without really becoming self-parodying. And in the cinematography department, this entry is arguably superior to the original.
Since its 1986 release, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” has become a cult classic among horror enthusiasts who don’t take the controversial slasher sequel too seriously.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is available on DVD, blu ray and digital download here; and the original here. And be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!