Director – Tobe Hooper
Cast – Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow, Bill Mosely, Bill Johnson, Ken Evert, Harlan Jordan, Kirk Sisco
Release Year – 1986
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Well…if there was ever a late sequel, I think this one counts. After Tobe Hooper shocked the horror realm with his 1974 exploitation classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he found success with Salem’s Lot in 1979 and Poltergeist in 1982. No one would have thought that he would put out a sequel to his best horror film to date, but he did just that, and 12 years later too. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 seems to be love/hate in the horror community, with the naysayers thinking the movie is silly, and the proponents finding much joy in Hooper revisiting the exploitation scene. Personally, I am a believer in this film, and I think it rocks.
This flick stars Caroline Williams(Rob Zombie’s Halloween II) as Vantia ’Stretch’ Brock, a radio DJ who captures a phone call of a group of young troublemakers getting hacked up by the chainsaw-welding cannibalistic family that has been plaguing Texas for years. When former Texas Ranger “Lefty” Enright(Dennis Hopper) gets wind of the recording, he convinces “Stretch” to play it on the radio in an attempt to lure the elusive cannibals out of their hiding place and give him a shot at putting away the family that has caused him so much pain over the years. The plans go awry however, and both Stretch and Lefty find themselves in the very lair the cannibalistic family resides, in. Stretch is desperately trying to escape with her life and her face, and Lefty has only one thing on his mind…revenge.
While this flick comes heavily flawed story-wise, I dug it. We get more much insight into the workings and personalities of the “family”, which some will like and some will dislike. I personally liked that element because it showed just how screwed up the family is mentally, which I of course was not surprised over given the events of the first film but it was nice to see and hear things from the family themselves in that matter. This film marks the first “real” role for the now veteran horror actor Bill Mosely, and I found his performance highly enjoyable and very well executed. It is obvious this guy has a knack for portraying mentally unstable characters given his roles in The Devils Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses, but his role in this film as “Chop-Top” Sawyer has to be his most uncanny role yet. I also really enjoyed Bill Johnson’s performance as Leatherface. For a guy with no previous Leatherface experience(not the original actor, Gunnar Hansen), he did a swell job and provided most of the iconic jump scares Leatherface is known for.
I did have some problems with the character usage of both Stretch and Lefty. They were portrayed at first as the “stars” of the film, but neither really got that treatment from this flick. In all reality, it is as if Stretch, Lefty, and The Family received equal amounts of screen time, and for some reason I really did not enjoy that. A big problem as a result of the equaled screen time is that one character, usually Lefty, would disappear for long periods of time, then appear again onscreen for some nonsense, then disappear again and repeat the process until the ending sequence. I found it detrimental to the film, and it came with a price.
Tobe Hooper’s direction in this film is great, and he definitely brings back the exploitation feel he abandoned over a decade prior. It was nice to see him find success with “bigger” films, yet come back and give us the same style of horror that he used to make his name. Sam Raimi did the same thing with directing the Spiderman trilogy then coming back to the horror realm and giving us the nice Evil Dead-esque demon-infused horror film Drag Me To Hell. If Sam and Tobe can do it, then all horror directors who have now abandoned the genre can do it, and they should. We get plenty of crazing antics all throughout the film, and with Hooper’s excellent editing and camera angles. The gore is present as well, and comes to us from none other than horror maestro effects guru Tom Savini. I also loved that Tobe Hooper threw in LOTS of decaying bodies all throughout the film at the hand of the Family. It added to the psychosis behind the crazed people and added even more fun to the film when I saw what the Family did with their old victims and relatives. I really wish we got more films like this these days, there is just always something creepy about a decaying body, especially when done with live-action effects like this film expertly gives us.
Overall, this is a really fun sequel to a tremendous horror film that shocked the world over a decade prior. If you watch this film for what it is and going in expecting just that then I do not see how you can not enjoy this watch.