Who would have known a kooky collection of oddball cannibals would result in the birth of one of the most recognisable franchises in horror history? A film about the degradation of American society post-watergate, producing a memorable clan of cannibals, draped in the skin of their victims and wielding chainsaws with artistic, malice. Of course, this wasn’t the intention, and it took about a decade for even another film to come out. In 1986, Audiences were reintroduced to the familiar sounds of chainsaws, and the freakish families that you might meet on the back roads, In Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
After surviving that nightmarish ordeal in the first film, Sally is still hospitalised, yet the stories of those murders haunt one sheriff, Boude Enright, related to the lone victim, desperate to seek some form of justice after all these years. When a couple of prank callers end up on the tail end of a chainsaw, connections are formed in the former Ranger’s mind. Leads him to team up with local radio station jockey Vanita Brock, Stretch to her friends, evoking the wrath of the Sawyer clan. Can the duo get to the bottom of the ordeal, or will they both end up at the bottom end of a chainsaw?
In the 13 years since the subversive horror made an impression, The sequel has done a lot more than just drop the space between Chainsaw. The focus more on comedy than grungy horror is a fantastic route for the film to take. While that’s not to say the original didn’t have a comedic vein (if viewed in a certain light), shedding a more humorous light on the back of heightened horror, accentuates both. This change of tone is symbolised in the inclusion of Chop Top, who had a metal plate inside his head, allegedly from his time in Vietnam. Compared to his brother, has a loquacious personality and an increased penchant for mutilation.
With a rocking soundtrack from 1986, the change in the decade may have been just the ticket, featuring 80s alt-rock bands from Oingo Boingo to Timbuk3, filling the film with hip and iconic tracks. Leatherface has also had an upgrade, with his Yuppie power-suit to match the era. If you want more of a reflection of the attitudes of America in those 13 years, watching both films back-to-back would be an excellent way. As more insights are teased out about the Sawyer clan, Leatherface becomes more sympathetic, more of his personal life is revealed, and we learn has been carrying a torch for Stretch. Brock is a tremendous final girl, her aspirations of being a fine investigative reporter and her resourcefulness serve her well against an iconic foe like Leatherface. Also bringing Dennis Hopper as Enright, who has some memorable scenes, notably towards the end with characters wielding chainsaws like rapiers in a 50s Zorro serial.
As a sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a gorier and goofier entry, and I’m not sure if I could want more. Director Tobe Hooper et al. deserves acclaim for recognising how much potential lies in the dysfunctional family. (and meeting new members is a devilish delight), and to continue using them to reflect on society as a whole, while keeping the whole process vastly entertaining. A visual and sonically intriguing treat, filled with some iconic scenes and scares. Depending on your tastes, if you can stomach the camper intentions of this sequel, you can have worse guests come over for dinner.
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