A deliciously dark, depraved and deviant exercise in satirical shock tactics
After you’ve made one of the most shockingly original, profoundly disturbing and iconic horror movies of all time, just how do you approach making a sequel?
The cannibal clan, now known as the Sawyers, have upped sticks and vamoosed from their southern gothic hell-hole in the back of beyond, and taken up residence in the vast underground warrens that make up an old disused amusement park. With Ed Neill’s Hitchhiker dead (though still hanging around; his Big Red swigging corpse now called Nubbins), we have the Cook (a returning Jim Siedow), the ogreish Leatherface (Bill Johnson replacing Gunnar Hansen) and Chop-Top (Bill Moseley), who is the Hitchhiker’s twin brother, back from Vietnam with a steel plate in his head from a Gook machete-attack and a wholly unsavoury penchant for raking off shreds of his own scalp with a lighter-heated coat-hanger and chewing on them like they were beef-jerky dregs.
Where the first saga was pungent with Hooper and co-creator Kim Henkel’s anger towards the US involvement in Vietnam, the race riots back home and corruption in the government, this entry adopts Reaganomics with rabid fervor. The Sawyers have entered the cut ‘n’ thrust world of small business. Their special chilli is the talk of the town, even winning awards. Cook is quite the forward-thinker, having created their own unique brand made from some very dubious ingredients indeed. Times have changes, and the target of the hunting team of Chop-Top and Leatherface are no longer hippies who have strayed from the path, but yuppies. And, let’s be honest, we all applaud that strategy. The irritating jerks – or Beemer-Bums as Hooper calls them – who ride around the Texan roads shooting holes in signposts, gulping beer at the wheel and making abusive calls to the local radio station, pick the wrong truck to play chicken with. When the tables are turned and the two preppie slummers are slain by the Leatherface in a terrifically silly yet brilliantly effective set-piece on a seemingly endless bridge, their high-speed demise is recorded by DJ Stretch (Caroline Williams) over the airways. Their car is found wrecked and soaked with blood.
Honing-in on this mysterious “accident” is wild card Texas Ranger “Lefty” Enright (Dennis Hopper), who has been seeking out the Sawyer clan for years. Although the original massacre, and subsequent disappearances have been conveniently brushed under the carpet, Lefty will not stop in his crusade to hunt down those responsible. His relatives were involved in the Sally Hardesty incident so, for him, the case is personal. When Stretch hears of his investigations she comes to him with the tape recording of the yuppie murders, and Lefty has her play it over the airwaves as a request, hoping that it will draw the killers out. Unwittingly, Stretch and her producer and almost boyfriend LJ (Lou Perryman, Hooper’s friend and assistant camera operator on the original) are being used as bait. But Lefty is a little bit late to the party and the couple wind up in the vile clutches of the cannibals.
the second installment had to up the explicit nature of its inherent ultra-violence considerably
With the rest of the film filled with skinning and face-peeling, running, fighting, sawing and lots and lots of screaming, it seems like just another fun-filled night with the Sawyer Family. But this was a different kettle of guts than we previously recoiled from. It’s a twisted love story, a biting social satire and big bloody pantomime of subversive comedy ‘n’ carnage.
But with the cinematic spin that embraced graphic gore in the 80’s still whirling around like a Dervish, the belated second installment had to up the explicit nature of its inherent ultra-violence considerably. What is unique and clever about how this has been accomplished, courtesy of splatter-master Tom Savini, who was still the go-to gore-guy at this time, is that as wildly excessive and nasty as the mutilations and slaughter are, the sense of humour that prevails throughout never dilutes them. We all squirmed when a girl was hung up on a meat-hook in the first film. We all choked on our own hearts when poor Kirk got his skull cracked with a lump-hammer. But the crucial thing was that we imagined we saw a whole lot more going on than was actually up there on the screen. When Hooper and Savini ladle on the gore this time around we genuinely get the blood to go with it, and copious amounts of it too. As deliberately and darkly amusing as these crazed vignettes are, they are still shockingly vicious to behold.
It can’t be denied that the film lacks the raw, in-yer-face style of its predecessor’s groundbreaking cinema vérité and semi-documentary presentation. This is more comic-book and lurid, more action-packed and composed in a far more generic fashion. The editing, in some places, is quite clumsy, although overall this is a kinetic and vibrant ride that may appear more visually restrained and predictable than its ever-inventive forebear but still packs a punch when it counts.
a deliciously dark, depraved and deviant exercise in satirical shock tacticsTexas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a deliciously dark, depraved and deviant exercise in satirical shock tactics. I have enormous fun with it every time. Of course, it has its flaws … but it becomes the eccentric, oddball sibling to the first film’s dynamic gut-puncher, literally Chop-Top to Gunnar Hansen’s big deadly Leatherface. In 1974, Hooper unleashed what will always be regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made. He knew he couldn’t top that, so he confidently walked his sequel in a different direction and delivered something that certainly won’t appeal to everyone that so admires the original but remains an excitingly grisly, entertainingly inventive black comedy of merry mutilations and surreal schizophrenics.
Bold, violent and incredibly witty, Texas 2 comes very highly recommended.
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