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Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Premise: In Hooper’s follow up to his 1973 film, the cannibal family travels to the big city in pursuit of radio disc jockey Stretch (Caroline Williams) while being investigated by Lieutenant “Lefty” Enright (Dennis Hopper), a lawman with a personal vendetta against the family.

What Works: Chainsaw 2 takes a decidedly different approach from the first film. It was not made until 1986, thirteen years after the original film, and in that time the slasher genre had grown to include Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Prom Night and all of their sequels and imitators. Chainsaw 2 abandons the gritty realism of the original film and instead goes for an over the top, Grand Guignol-like gore extravaganza. The film is very funny and one of the most successful horror comedies of its kind. The three lead family members are like the Three Stooges, and Bill Moseley as Chop-Top nearly steals the show with some great (but unrepeatable) lines of dialogue. The film still has its scares, and the laughs work in concert with those scares. As a result the film is a satire or a metatext about these kinds of films.

What Doesn’t: Those expecting a retread of the shock of the original will not find that here. Also, the presentation of Leatherface is not the same as it was in the original, and great liberties are taken with the character’s personality. This may upset some diehard Chainsaw fans.

DVD extras: The video rights to this Chainsaw film have also passed through many hands. The current MGM release (“The Gruesome Edition”) provides two commentary tracks, deleted scenes, stills, trailers, and an extensive documentary It Runs in the Family on the making of the film.

Bottom Line: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is one of the first films that paved the way for such fare as Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Scream. In its tone, Chainsaw 2 has more in common with Evil Dead 2 than those films, but it is an important entry in the subgenre and although it departs greatly from the original, it is an entertaining film in its own right.

Episode: #112 (October 15, 2006)