Deliciously dark, depraved and deviant exercise in satirical shock tactics
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: 3 Disc Blu-ray ReviewThe Buzz is Back.
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?
Audiences require that most unattainable of things from a much anticipated follow-up – that it be both more of what they loved the first time around and also that it adds something different to the mix. They want the same thrills and excitement that wowed them to begin with, but they don’t want to be palmed-off with a simple rehash of the same basic ingredients all over again. This is the perennial dilemma that damns filmmakers and the cash-cow sequels that they come up with … and this is magnified exponentially when it comes to sequels to celebrated, one-off genre classics like Tobe Hooper’s seminal 1974 grungy groundbreaker, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which inevitably carries an even greater weight of expectation and higher hopes.
Yet, despite all these odds stacked against it, Texas 2 is actually quite a brilliant film in its own rights.
Stuffed with skinning and face-peeling, running, fighting, sawing and lots and lots of screaming from the excellent Caroline Williams, it seems like just another fun-filled night with the cannibalistic 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 all rolled into one bludgeoning ode to 80’s excess.
Hysterical, horrid and a classic.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: 3 Disc Blu-ray Picture Quality“Crayyyy-zeeee Booger!!!Let’s haul butt, bro!!!!!”
Arrow supply an AVC encoded digital transfer of Texas Chainsaw 2 that was supervised by its DOP Richard Kooris and with restoration undertaken by James White to improve dirt, sparkle, debris, scratches and overall stability. The results are authentic and faithful to the source and carry an appreciably film-like depth and texture. It is region B encoded.
The image is 1.85:1 and festooned with grain. Sometimes the already very textured picture spikes even more, leading to some shots that are positively coarse, but this is still vastly more welcome than an image that had been scrubbed smooth with DNR. It looks film-like and it looks authentic. Some minor instances of noise can be spotted down in the subterranean Sawyer lair, but these are not problematic.
Despite the clean-up, the film still looks rough ‘n’ ready. A few pops and flecks still remain, but the image is very stable and consistent in terms of detail, contrast and colour. This is a very colourful movie, but the hues and palette are somewhat dusty and muted due to the source photography – but for fans of the genre product of the era, it has that essential 80’s gaudiness amidst the grainy shadows. Primaries are certainly bold enough to satisfy. Redolence down in the caverns is very apparent – the subtleties of Savini’s anatomically correct strips of flesh and smoked limbs can be clearly scrutinized even in the murk. There is effective deployment of blues – Stretch’s denim hot-pants and boots - and their midnight shades. Greens and lilacs (Chop-Top’s horrible dyed shirt!) and yellows also come over well. Reds, by necessity, are deep and luxuriant.
Despite the clean-up, the film still looks rough ‘n’ ready.
Lots of detail can be gleaned. The wall of giblets and guts; the transparency of flaps of shorn flesh; the shreds hanging down from LJ’s sliced face; the record labels and posters in the radio station; the little colour changes on the eyeball goggles that the gun-toting yuppie wears; Chop-Top’s ghastly teeth and pieces of skin that he rakes from his skull plate; the mechanisms of the multitude of chainsaws and the sparks and woodchips they send flying; the trio of brain spurts from the driver’s bisected head. Even the old MGM DVD made all of this stuff far clearer than all of those wretched bootlegs we had, but there is definitely greater definition to be savoured here. I have not seen the US Blu to compare, however. Exterior daytime shots, which are relatively few, provide a startling contrast to the hazy neon and shadows that make up the majority of the film, and they also reveal a pleasing level of visual depth. The rolling meadows that the yuppies are seen driving through, the sudden transition to blue skies during the finale. The Devil’s Playground of the amusement park caverns provide an incredible amount of paraphernalia and bizarre bric-a-brac to study, and it is really worth taking the time to have a good look around the sets to take in the insane design work and the diabolical dioramas.
The wounds and the desiccated corpses of Nubbins and Grandma, and the swirling, glassy dead eyes of Grandpa have never looked so impressive. There is even more clarity on the big balls of spit that LJ constantly honks up and hurls. Plus, you can make out the rich variety of badges that adorn Chop-Top’s costume. Look at the illuminated skeletal chandelier, the skull wall that Savini crafted for the smoke-house and the great Slim Pickens gag.
You can certainly spot the stunt-doubling taking place. The guy who stands in for Dennis Hopper does look like a younger version of the actor, but there is no mistaking the fact that it is not Hopper, himself, doing the jumping and leaping about. Williams’ double is given away only in a couple of shots, but you can see when the anti-violence Bill Johnson’s Leatherface suddenly becomes the much more aggressive Bob Elmore.
Contrast is consistently and blacks, for the most part, are deep and satisfyingly atmospheric. The eerie carnival lighting strung about the place emanates convincingly from the shadows, adding a giddy sense of dizzy depth.
Finally, the image has no unsightly elements of digital mucking-about. There is no banding, aliasing or sharpening going on to spoil the gritty, spitty, gristly view.
Another fine and faithful transfer from Arrow. 8 out of 10.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: 3 Disc Blu-ray Sound Quality“Nam-Land!!!!”
Arrow has not provided a full surround mix for Texas 2 and stuck with its original uncompressed stereo track.
This is one of those soundtracks that is pumping and full-blooded and possibly contains more screaming than any dozen other horror films. It is also one of those soundtracks that, should the neighbours hear it, is sure to have the police calling round in riot gear. There is absolutely no mistaking what this film is about – chainsaws and incessant screaming!
This is not a subtle track, by any standards. Whereas the original film has a startling sound design, full of intense and unusual effects, this is far more generic. There are squealing wheels, grinding metal, gunshots, clashing saws and tumbling wood, earth and masonry. It is not especially clean and crisp, and very much of its era in that everything is thrown in as a wall of sound and, as a consequence, it can lack sharpness and come across as slightly softer and more muffled than you would expect, given the subject matter and the type of action that dominates. But, this said, listen to the sloppy flood of the guts from behind the wall, or the wet flapping of the shorn flesh.
It is also one of those soundtracks that, should the neighbours hear it, is sure to have the police calling round in riot gear.
The Psycho-inspired score from Hooper, himself, and Jerry Lambert, is full of jangling synth and arch stingers, but it comes across well. The various songs – The Cramps, Oingo Boingo, Concrete Blonde – also have some finer presence than ever before. Dialogue doesn’t pop with any particular nuance, but it is always perfectly clear. You can really appreciate the wacky and off-the-wall adlibs from Bill Moseley and the exasperated ranting of the ever-frustrated Siedow. But this is Williams’ track in terms of the shrieking. There is also that bit where she yells at the yuppies to “Hang up! Hang up! Hang up! Hang up!” ad infinitum that I find so damn annoying and obnoxious.
The yuppie attack on the bridge is a powerful example of the track’s bludgeoning appeal. Music, screaming, grinding metal and saw, and gunshots really combine in a lurid audio assault. Hearing Hopper’s deranged singing echoing down the pipes in the underground lair is also pretty well rendered.
I noticed no drop-outs, hiss or distortion. This mix won’t win any awards, but it is certainly the clearest that I have heard Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 sounding. Good, solid vintage fare. 6 out of 10.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: 3 Disc Blu-ray Extras“Oh, LJ … they got you too …”
This is a lavish limited edition 3-Disc package from Arrow, who appear to have gone a little further than the extra mile for Hooper’s often neglected sequel.
Accompanied by an elaborate 100-page illustrated book of opinions, new writing and critique on the Chainsaw movies from the likes ofCalum Waddell, Kenneth Muir, Stefan Jaworzyn and Joel Harley, this is roster of real quality, this even goes the distance and provides Tobe Hooper’s Early Works, two films from that hail from before the original Massacre was unleashed. On both Blu-ray and DVD (discs 2 & 3) we have the opportunity to view 1965 short The Heisters, which is heavily influenced by Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations, and 1970’s full debut feature Eggshells. Hooper even provides a commentary for Eggshells.
Discs 2 & 3 also contain the 24-minute In Conversation with Tobe Hooper, in which the filmmaker talks about his career from the early days to Texas Chainsaw 2. There is also a Trailer Reel for all of his major works.
But the real meat of the matter is devoted to the central movie in question, and found on Disc 1.
There are two ace commentary tracks. The first is with Hooper, himself, and hails from 2006. The second is a group effort from stars Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley and Tom Savini. Both are packed with trivia and the second one, in particular, is a hoot. Like Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, or Carpenter and Kurt Russell, this is spectacularly amusing and deliriously infectious. At one stage we can actually hear Savini take a quick phone-call and inform the person on the other end that he can’t talk right now because he’s recording a commentary for Chainsaw 2!An epic hour-and-a-half long retrospective documentary called It Runs in the Family can be viewed in 6 individual chapters or has a whole feature. This is fantastic stuff that charts the conception, the endless screenwriting process, the casting and the performances, the elaborate FX, the censorship and ratings, and the critical response to the film. With terrific contributions from writer Kit Carson, DOP Richard Kooris, production designer Cary White, Tom Savini and stars Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley, Lou Perryman, Bill Johnson and more, this boasts wild and hugely entertaining anecdotes and copious behind-the-scenes footage. Especially nice are the make-up design memories of Savini and film of him applying them to the actors’ faces – especially for Chop-Top and Grandpa. The only person not present, although he is discussed at length by everyone else, is Hooper, himself.
The infamous Deleted Scenes are included. Of very poor video quality – as they have always appeared – these are still great fun and well worth wading through. The massacre of the college football hooligans has limbs flying everywhere, and the cameo from Texas film critic Joe Bob Briggs is another amusing cutting-room snippet. Obviously ditched for pacing reasons, and rightly so, these are still clever vignettes of heightened reality that would, ironically, have had you rooting for the trio of nutjobs!
There is the Alternate Opening sequence with a different musical score.
Author of Nightmare USA, Stephen Thrower, provides a terrific half-hour interview in Still Feelin’ The Buzz in which he discusses his opinions of Hooper’s return to the Chainsaw Clan. This is good fun, and as entertaining as it is informative.
Leatherface stunt-double Bob Elmore gets the chance to reminisce about his time behind the mask in Cutting Moments.
We get the film’s trailer and a gallery featuring images that have never been seen before.
And yet, besides his commentary, there is a marked absence of Hooper, himself, from the docs and features. He was able to invest his time and effort for Lifeforce and its sensational feature-length UK exclusive documenary, and it is a shame that he couldn’t do so for this. I find his soft growl hypnotic and his views and recollections perfectly frank.
This 3-Disc Limited Edition set also contains a very nice numbered certificate. It is a fabulous overall package that Arrow Video can be justifiably proud of.9 out of 10 for the supplements.
Is Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: 3 Disc Blu-ray Worth Buying“The Saw is Family!”
Arrow Video has put together an outstanding package for this cult classic chainsaw follow-on. It is hard to think of a better all-round release than this. We have a faithful transfer of the uncut movie, a brilliant book of opinionated critique, fabulous documentaries and features galore, plus hi-def editions of two of Tobe Hooper’s rare early works! Seriously, alongside the supplement-packed original movie and its dazzling transfer on Blu, Head-Cheese fans can happily retire to hog-heaven and rev their saws in deep satisfaction and luxury.
Some people have never taken to the satirical stance of Chainsaw Massacre 2 but, seriously, where else do you think that Hooper could have gone with the material? We’ve had further adventures, remakes and prequels and then the inevitable 3D lunacy, but the real meat of the matter lies in these first two official buzz-sawing yarns. This is a superb movie that satisfies on a purely visceral and gut level, tickles the darkest of funny-bones and genuinely adds to the mythos of the inbred Texan clan of redneck renegades, as well as making a delicious poke-in-the-eye statement about the superficial, money-grubbing decade of excess.
This is a superb movie that satisfies on a purely visceral and gut level and tickles the darkest of funny-bones
Alongside Fay Wray, Janet Leigh and her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis, and original Massacre’s Marilyn Burns, Caroline Williams becomes one of the all-time great Scream Queens … very literally. Bill Moseley, Jim Siedow and Bill Johnson become a terrific trio of blood-drenched Stooges, and Dennis Hopper brings his own unique brand of insanity to a story that starts off sky-high and just flies even higher from that point onwards.
Excessive, wacky and extremely funny, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 doesn’t do what you think it will, but once you settle into its wicked exuberance, you should have a big, bloody ball with it. The original movie is an unparalleled masterpiece of the macabre, but then so is this, in its own right.
A grotesque gem of a sequel gets an awesome UK release from Arrow!
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