Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, The (1986)
Release Date: August 22nd, 1986 MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Tobe Hooper Actors: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow, Bill Moseley, Bill Johnson, Ken Evert, Lou Perry, Barry Kinyon, Chris Douridas
nly a single survivor, Sally, emerged from the bloody chainsaw massacre in South Texas in 1973, though she soon fell into a coma. But after a month-long manhunt, local authorities were unable to uncover the killers – or any hard facts at all. Although the case is eventually abandoned, the following 13 years still finds the persistence of reports about chainsaw killings, leading some to believe that Sally’s account was anything but fabricated from hysteria.
K-OKLA’s Red River Rock ’n’ Roll show, helmed by DJ Stretch (Caroline Williams), imparts an “American Graffiti” vibe as two teen revelers call into the station while playing chicken with a truck (shooting mailboxes doesn’t provide the lasting thrills for which they were hoping). And, for some inexplicable reason, Stretch and her tech guy L.G. (Lou Perry) are unable to disconnect the pranksters call, forcing their mischief-making to be broadcast live on the air. Later that evening, the twosome calls back, but this time their harassment is cut short by Leatherface’s (Bill Johnson) buzzing weapon of choice.
The following morning, Lieutenant “Lefty” Enright (Dennis Hopper), Sally’s uncle, appears at the scene, taking note of the chainsaw marks all over the victims’ crashed car. He’s convinced that a gang of “mad dogs” have been continuing their butchering ways right under the noses of Texas police, and he’s intent on finding the group responsible for harming his family. And with Stretch’s fortuitous recording of the double-homicide, the two of them are certain that the authorities won’t be able to disregard their claims yet again.
There’s instant violence at the start, but it’s a lot less scary than before. In fact, thanks to the obnoxious behavior of the rowdy kids and the exaggerated gore effects, the entire situation feels over-the-top rather than frightening. Compounding this problem are the designs and scripting of the characters. Everyone is comical or absurd, which makes the horror elements difficult to take seriously or to simply appreciate in the context of the evolving genre. A chili competition amplifies the goofiness, as Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow) boasts of the secret prime meat he uses, along with Lefty visiting a shop to test the heft and the ease of wielding of various chainsaws (as if preparing for a chainsaw war). It would be far more comprehensible and effective to just gather up some guns. Even the advertising embraces the jokiness, with the Sawyer family striking poses on the theatrical poster to match “The Breakfast Club.”
“They live on fear!” A few jump scenes ensue, but the majority of the petrifying magic of the original has vanished. This sequel may have been long awaited, but the passage of so many years has changed director Tobe Hooper’s goals and views of the premise. The chainsaw brood has become bumbling, incompetent, and laughable, focused intently on sudden scenes of intense brutality rather than the careful building of unshakeable dread. The documentary feel is also absent; here, the look is too crisp and staged, and the interactions overly rehearsed. And Caroline Williams attempts to out-scream Marilyn Burns, but it’s not as genuine or unnerving as it is merely annoying.
With its black comedy notes, the film adds details about Leatherface’s derangement and the use of his chainsaw as an extension of his manhood. But, as in many tales of serial killers, knowledge about his specific disorders isn’t as horrifying as the unsolved mystery of homicidal psychosis. And Lefty, who desperately needs to be a sensible hero, becomes nearly as crazy as the cannibalistic killers. The violence has also changed, with Tom Savini’s makeup effects allowing for an increase in the ghastliness. It’s not scarier, however, even if it’s bloodier. And it may not even be more disturbing – but rather weirder and more ludicrous; it would have been appallingly sadistic if it weren’t for its deliberate silliness. To top it all off, the pacing is slow at the conclusion, resorting to remaking many of the most notable sequences from the original (these would be homages if they weren’t so identical), and the parting shots fall back on ill-fitting humor instead of the tension and suspense that helped the 1974 cult classic become such a defining chapter in the pantheon of horror films.
– Mike Massie