The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), directed by Tobe Hooper
Well devoted followers (or myself, as the case may be), we’ve arrived. When I set out on this Horror Pledge 2012, and really, every time I load up a horror DVD or sit down at the theatre, I set out to test my limits.
I like to be entertained, sure, but part of me also wants the horror movie that is going to take things to a new level and push what I can tolerate.
And I don’t mean that in a torture-porn kind of way. No, I can’t tolerate movies like Saw, and that’s OK by me. I don’t want to tolerate them. They leave me feeling sick and that’s about it.
When I say I want a film that pushes my limits, I mean a film that can surprise me, horrify me, make me extremely uncomfortable, but all the while making it so that I can’t look away. It has to be an actually good movie, one that sucks me in and spits me out wide-eyed and freaked.
Well, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has to be one of the most unrelentingly discomforting movies I have ever seen. And I mean that in a good way.
The film is a direct sequel to the 1974 slasher classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which is one of the all time great horror movies. It’s ultra low budget, bizarre, unnerving, brutal and brilliant.
Twelve years later the director of the original released this sequel, which, in the spirit of the 1980s, is like the original on coke. It flopped on release, nobody seemed to like it, Ebert hated it (of course) and it still seems to be a forgotten gem in the world of horror.
But people, give this one a chance because it is Messed. Up. Again, in a good way.
Dennis Hopper plays Lefty, a Texas lawman on the hunt for those responsible for the death of his brother’s kids in the original film. Caroline Williams plays Stretch, a radio host who gets a call from a couple of hooligans who manage to get themselves chain-sawed and car wrecked while still on the line.
Lefty convinces Stretch to play the call on the air to lure the killers in. They arrive. And it goes down.
This is a hell bent for leather, off-the-wall insane movie. It’s unrelenting in its carnage and energy. It’s far more gorier than the first, but still the most disturbing thing about the movie is the whole atmosphere it creates through bizarre characters, elaborate set pieces and a pace that never gives you a chance to breathe.
It also has this really off-putting humour to the whole affair that only adds to the movie’s general bizarreness. The first film took itself pretty seriously, but this one really cashes into how strange this cannibalistic Sawyer family is and presents them in a much more animated light. They all mutter and jump around hooting and hollering. Each is totally whacked in their own unique way and together they are about the strangest semblance of characters I have ever witnessed.
Even Leatherface is a totally different character in this film. The new remakes (I assume, I haven’t seen them) set up Leatherface as the typical unrelenting kill machine we’re used to seeing in these movies. In the original he was that, but also somewhat of a lackey for the controlling family.
In this one he’s a whole lot more: creepy, sexual, slightly sympathetic and hilarious. He falls for Stretch in an incredibly creepy scene where he puts his saw in between her legs. He then tries to hide her from his family and dresses her up in a skinned human face and dances with her. He gets all sheepish when Drayton finds out and starts ridiculing Leatherface for wanting a woman.
It’s extremely unnerving to watch but has these little comedic touches that only add to the discomfort.
My favourite is Leatherface’s little hip wiggle, chainsaw in the air move he does before an attack.
That’s just one of many notable parts. There’s Chop-Top scratching at his metal skull plate with a hot coat hanger. There’s Lefty buying chainsaws to fight the family and testing one out on a log while the clerk laughs manically. There’s L.G. stumbling around after being partially skinned. And his great last words.
And then end shot is a beaut. Just insane.
If this all sounds disturbing, it’s because it is. But it’s also funny. And disgusting. And just plain strange. And great.
It’s hard for me to explain why I think this is such a good movie and unless you are of pretty much the exact same temperament when it comes to these things, you’ll probably disagree. It’s really like nothing else I’ve ever seen and it certainly wouldn’t be made today. When it ended I was wide-eyed, weirded out and muttering “What the f- ?” It was perfect.
It got me to that place I like horror to take me once in a while, where I feel like I have just witnessed something awful, but I’m glad I did, because as strange and horrific as it is, I can respect it. This is a well made movie that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. And it’s a great sequel because it doesn’t merely strive to recreate the original. It goes for something significantly different and hits the bullseye.
Highly recommended and easily my favourite watch of Horror Pledge so far.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is available on home video.