More like twelve years to be exact, but who the hell’s counting, right? Released in August of 1986, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 comes off like a loud, psychedelic nightmare. Leather Face and company return with a vengeance, this time cookin’ up some mean prize-winnin’ chili, and setting their chainsaw revvin’ sights on a slick radio gal who goes by the cool handle “Stretch”, played with rapt enthusiasm by Caroline Williams. Jim Siedow reprises his role as the gleefully warped cook, Bill Johnson happily takes over Chainsaw duties for Gunner Hansen, and Bill Mosley debuts as the twistedly vicious Chop Top. Throw in a duel chainsaw-wielding Dennis Hopper in an unforgettably over-the-top performance as the implacable Lieutenant “Lefty” Enright, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a kick ass horror sequel that goes a little something like this…
A couple of yuppie punk collage boys out looking to raise some hell (hell is exactly what they raised) have a most unfortunate run in with Leather Face and family, and their messy encounter is all caught on audio tape. Enter sassy little Vanita “Stretch” Brock, radio DJ and the film’s heroine. She’s got the tape and the proof Lieutenant “Lefty” Enright needs to confirm his “chainsaw killer” theories, but no one’s taking him seriously. After reading an article lampooning the former Texas Marshall, Stretch tracks Lefty down at a sleazy motel. Thinking she’s there to further humiliate him, he runs her off. Later, after a change of heart, Lefty shows up at the radio station requesting Stretch play the tape on the air in hopes of luring the killers out in the open. It works.
I think it’s safe to assume most of us seasoned horror enthusiasts have seen this nasty little gem, so I won't get too deep into the plot particulars, but for those who have yet to witness the mad and the macabre on acid, do yourself a favor and check it out. If you’re a young’un and base your chainsaw viewing experience solely on the Platinum Dunes efforts, you're cheating yourself big time. The plot (such as it is) for TCM 2 is as waaaaaaay out in left field as the production values of the movie itself, but what the hell, it works for me. It’s loud, obnoxious, twisted, gory, and damned entertaining. Here’s a little taste of what you’re missin’…
After playing the yuppie collage boy murders on the air, Stretch gets a visit from Chop Top and Leather Face. What follows is an exercise in pure unrestrained craziness. Stretch meets the ghoulish Chop Top, who is seated on a couch in the radio station’s lounge area. Wearing an obvious Sonny Bono wig, he goes on a rant about how music is his life, all while digging in his scalp with a metal coat hanger he burns with a lighter. Did I mention he eats the dead skin off the coat hanger? Anyways, Stretch is obviously uncomfortable with this late night visitor, and rightfully so, but before he’ll leave, he requests a “tour” of the radio station that will end with Leather Face exploding out of a nearby record room. His chainsaw accidentally catches Chop Top on the dome, destroying the Sonny Bono wig. While Chop Top is on the floor favoring his now exposed metal plate and ruined wig, Leather Face chases Stretch upstairs, where he proceeds to destroy the entire radio station with his trusty chainsaw.
And then there’s the chainsaw pelvic thrust dance—don’t ask, just watch.
All of this leads to a climax set in the subterranean lair of the Sawyer clan, located beneath an abandoned theme park, which—in my humble opinion—has to be the quirkiest damn locale of any horror film, boasting an endless network of tunnels, Christmas lights, and all manner of junk acquired over the years (I would imagine) from all of their victims. My words can’t do this place justice, so I won’t even bother trying. This place is literally a maze of the macabre, and still gives me the creeps to this day. Imagine being trapped in this wacky underground funhouse of death and debauchery, not knowing when and where you might run into Leather Face or Chop Top…
Okay, so I went into some of the plot details, but I just couldn’t help myself. This movie is crazy and deserves to be seen.
There are several delightfully gory set pieces including F/X from the “Wizard of Gore” himself Tom Savini. Add to that a hectic panic inducing music score and you’ve got a crazy loud sideshow attraction in TCM 2. All that’s missing are clowns and popcorn. While these loathsome villains are the most colorful of the entire franchise (remake and prequel included) it is Dennis Hopper who ultimately steals the show as the vengeful uncle of the first film’s heroine. In one of my favorite scenes from the movie Lefty is “testing” out a couple of chainsaws he will later use in an assault against the Sawyers. The owner of the shop watches excitedly as Lefty mercilessly attacks a log with a large chainsaw. Don’t try to picture it, just see the movie.
Originally released without the coveted “R” rating, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is an almost treasonous film compared to the first, forgoing the tension and suspense of the original in favor of in-your-face-villains and bucket loads of the sticky red stuff. If not for the returning Jim “Cook” Siedow and a chainsaw wielding Leather Face, you’d swear the two films weren’t even related. Though the movie really makes no sense, you don't go into it for the deep meaning subtexts hidden throughout, which there are none...you go into this movie expecting pure lunacy. No more, no less.
Fast paced and brutal, with a dash of dark and I mean dark humor, TCM 2 is far removed from the original (hell, the entire franchise) indeed, and that’s just fine by me. So, grab a six-pack (of Shiner Bock) and have a blast!