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For a decade, Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Hopper) has sought to avenge the brutal murder of his kin by the cannibalistic Sawyer family – Leatherface, Chop-Top, The Cook and Grandpa. With the help of a radio DJ (Caroline Williams), who's also bent on putting an end to the terror, Lefty finds his way to the Sawyers' underground slaughter shop, where a battle of epic proportions will soon rage... and the line between good and evil gets chopped to bits! (From Scream Factory’s official synopsis)

 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition
 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: MGM Blu-ray

Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is an unrivaled technical and artistic achievement that stirred creative juices all over the film industry. To this day, its basic concepts have been recycled to the extent that has basically become a subgenre unto itself. Among the remakes/prequels/semi-sequels (Marcus Nispel’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2004; Jonathan Liebesman’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, 2006; John Luessenhop’s Texas Chainsaw, 2013) are dozens of conceptual remakes/rip-offs, like Tucker Johnston’s Blood Salvage (1990), Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses (2003), and Xavier Gens’ Frontier(s) (2007). When Hooper finally made Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – thirteen years after the original movie – his reputation had soured. Issues began as soon as his next movie, 1977’s Eaten Alive (aka:  Death Trap,  Horror Hotel, and  Starlight Slaughter),. Eaten Alive was a conceptual and profession disaster. He was actually temporarily fired from the production at some point, just as he was permanently fired from The Dark (completed by John 'Bud' Cardos, 1979) and Venom (completed by Piers Haggard, 1981). His biggest mainstream hit, Poltergeist (1982), has often been retroactively credited to producer Steven Spielberg by fans and critics – a distinction both filmmakers have denied. The Funhouse (1981) was completed, but, like Eaten Alive, its success was measured by comparisons to Texas Chainsaw Massacre – comparisons that were valid, based on how much Hooper and his producers courted them.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was the third film in a series he directed for Cannon Films – a smaller company that was trying to break into the mainstream with big budget B-movies. It was preceded by two sci-fi epics, Lifeforce (1985) and Invaders from Mars (1986), that cost Cannon a lot of money without delivering any revenue, so there was added pressure on Hooper (for the record, I’ve read/heard conflicting accounts on the positive/negative working relationship between the director and Cannon heads Yoram Globus & Menahem Golan). Not only did he had to deliver a satisfying sequel a decade after the original had redefined genre filmmaking – he needed to deliver a hit. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has earned a healthy cult reputation since its release (more on that below) and certainly doesn’t play like a studio-mandated sequel, but it does represent a filmmaker attempting to appease financiers following twelve years of struggles (it should be noted that Hooper wrings every ounce of the film’s better than average budget). The fact that he managed to inject so much of his personality into the mix is a testament to his overwhelming creative drive.

 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition
 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: MGM Blu-ray
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 might’ve owed a debt to Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead (1985), in that O’Bannon’s (who worked with Hooper on Lifeforce) movie also functioned as both a sequel to and a spoof of a silver-age horror favourite, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). However, while Return of the Living Dead appealed to mid-’80s youth with punk rock fashion and new wave music, Hooper’s bizarre and unique sense of humor is embedded in references to hippy culture, Vietnam era politics, meandering rants about capitalism, and literalization of the chainsaw’s phallic representation. It is as much a response to the popularity of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre as it is a reaction to a decade of backlash. Hooper was attempting to give both fans and detractors the sequel they expected, all while also poking fun at those expectations. As a result of Hooper’s experiences, angst, and subversive personality, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is the definitive cult film of the series. The first movie’s sheer craft makes it relatively mainstream-friendly and, in a certain sense, a timeless exercise (especially now that the aesthetics of ‘70s horror has become a modern era standard). The sequel is a product of its time and its success depends on personal taste over visceral experience. These facts put it on a long list of movies I respect without actually enjoying. To me, this niche and fervent appeal is the hallmark of a cult movie.

Among Hooper’s more exaggerated reactions to fans and critics is the film’s violence. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is famous in the horror community for its lack of bloodshed, despite the brutal imagery that its title evokes (apparently, Hooper was actually hoping for a PG rating). However, outside of those communities, the general public – even people that saw the movie – were under the impression that it was a gorefest. Though its tongue is firmly implanted within its cheek, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 attempted to deliver upon the undeserved reaction to its predecessor, as well as match the efforts of the contemporary slasher movies that the original Chainsaw Massacre had helped inspire. This time, the graphic bodily mutilation rolled out in buckets and was supervised by the era’s superstar effects man, Tom Savini. The sheer quantity of violence proved too extreme for the mid-’80s MPAA. When they were handed an X-rating, Cannon decided to just release Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 ‘unrated,’ which was (and still is) often box office poison. Though the film was censored for some international releases (it wasn’t released theatrically at all in the UK), there has been some confusion about whether or not home video versions were uncut. Apparently, the R-ratings that adorned some North American video boxes were inaccurate across the board, as the same unrated theatrical cut was used each and every time. There is a bootleg extended rough cut, but it was never intended for release.

 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition
 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: MGM Blu-ray

Video


Despite censorship issues upon its original theatrical run, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has never been a particularly difficult movie to see or own on home video. Following their non-anamorphic, barebones original DVD, MGM (who gained the release rights to the film following a series of Anchor Bay/Video Gems VHS versions and even some laserdisc versions) released an anamorphic ‘Gruesome Edition’ that was loaded with extras. That version was then released, minus the ‘Gruesome’ tag, on US Blu-ray in 2012. The transfer was supervised by director of photography Richard Kooris and was perfectly satisfactory, specifically in terms of detail and colour quality. I believe that Arrow Films used the same transfer for their special edition UK Blu-ray and, because the DP was involved with it, Scream Factory has included it on a second disc as part of their new Blu-ray collector’s edition. Though I’m not sure the compression/authoring is exactly the same as the MGM disc, I’ve still included comparison screen-caps with this review (it is the bottom image).

In addition to that perfectly adequate original HD transfer, Scream Factory has also supplied their own 1.85:1, 1080p transfer on the first disc – one that has been newly-sourced in 2K from the original interpositive film elements. It’s difficult to definitively say one transfer is better than the other (which is why I assume Scream Factory included both), but the 2K scan certainly has some advantages. Fine details are sharper, especially in the busier backgrounds (note that you can see the teeth on each chainsaw in the background of the second screen-cap) and the edges feature less enhancement noise (compare the seventh cap from each release). Colour timing is similar between the transfers (which is important, considering Kooris’ input) with the 2K image skewing slightly warmer for dark sequences and slightly cooler for brighter sequences. The small differences are magnified during the darkest scenes towards the end of the movie, where foggy atmosphere and soft lighting create a purposefully murky look. In many cases, the 2K image comes out on top due to the increase in detail and more subtle gradations, but, sometimes, the higher contrast of the original scan does a better job punching up the highlights. In addition, while the older transfer can seem overly grainy, its overall grain levels appear more accurate to my eyes. The 2K transfer is suspiciously smooth, which makes me think that a little too much DNR was applied.

 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition
 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: MGM Blu-ray

Audio


Scream Factory has included a new 5.1 remix of the original Ultra Stereo soundtrack. Both the remix and original 2.0 tracks are presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio. The 5.1 processing is unnecessary, as most multi-channel remixes are, but it was developed from the already surround-ready 2.0 mix, rather than culled awkwardly from a single channel source. Basically, the two tracks sound the same with the remix coming out ahead slightly, due to the discrete nature of the center speaker’s dialogue and incidental effects. The new track is also a little bit louder overall, though not enough to deter purists from the original stereo. The climatic chainsaw duel is still quite bombastic, no matter which track you choose. The mostly keyboard-based score is credited to Hooper and Jerry Lampert. It certainly fits the ‘80s feel of the movie, but it’s very memorable and has a thin quality that doesn’t jibe with the otherwise slick, (comparatively) big-budget footage. The soundtrack is augmented with some pretty great pop songs from the era, including Oingo Boingo’s “No One Lives Forever,” The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck,” and Concrete Blonde’s “Over the Shoulder.”

 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition
 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: MGM Blu-ray

Extras


Disc 1 (2K Scan):
  • Commentary with director of photography Richard Kooris, production designer Cary White, script supervisor Laura Kooris, and property master Michael Sullivan – The collection’s only exclusive commentary has some overlap with the older tracks, but still offers a new perspective on the production and is a generally fun time.
  • Archive commentary with director Tobe Hooper.
  • Archive commentary with actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, and special effects makeup creator Tom Savini.
  • Extended outtakes from Michael Felsher’s retrospective documentary It Runs in the Family (29:40, HD) – These never-before-seen interviews with co-writer L.M. Kit Carson and actor Lou Perryman (who plays L.G. McPeters) offer two new points of view on the behind-the-scenes process. Carson’s was with the production from the very beginning, so his input is valuable in a broader sense, while Perryman offers a more subjective experience. The documentary itself is relegated to the second disc.
  • Behind-the-scenes footage from Tom Savini’s archives (43:40, HD) – Loads of fly-on-the-wall video without the context of any narration to pare it down. This feature is almost too demanding to sit through, but it’s inclusion is still valuable.
  • Alternate opening credit sequence (2:00, SD)
  • Deleted scenes reel (11:00, SD) – Like the alternate titles above, all of this excised footage is from the over-duped VHS-quality bootlegs of the rough cut, so the quality isn’t great. Each scene is preceded by an introductory title card, just like it was on the earlier DVD versions (I believe it actually originated from a Laserdisc).
  • Still galleries – Black & white stills, behind-the-scenes, personal collection of Jason Guy, colour stills, poster & lobby cards, and special effects gallery.
  • Theatrical trailers and TV spots


 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition
 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: MGM Blu-ray
Disc 2 (Original HD Master:
  • House of Pain (42:30, HD) – The first of the exclusive interviews features make-up effects artists Bart Mixon, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale, and John Vulich. With effects department head Tom Savini already participating with It Runs in the Family documentary, it’s nice to hear from the ‘grunts’ of the crew, all of whom were the young, up-and-comers of the later ‘80s and early ‘90s. This featurette includes some of the stills and raw set footage seen on the first disc.
  • Yuppie Meat (19:00, HD) – The second new interview is with actors Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon, who appear as the douchebags that wreak havoc on the highway before being mangled by Leatherface’s chainsaw. Interestingly, they claim that Kit Carson was the one directing their action, while Hooper prepped technical elements.
  • Cutting Moments (17:20, HD) – The next new interview features editor Alain Jakubowicz discussing his long career, developing a working relationship with Hooper while ‘fixing’ Invaders From Mars for Globus & Golan, and the particular challenges of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
  • Behind the Mask (13:50, HD) – The last of the exclusive interviews is with stuntman and Leatherface performer Bob Elmore, a one-time Knott’s Berry Farm employee, who recalls the pressure and overbearing heat of his Chainsaw Massacre 2 experience. Apparently, he wasn’t meant to appear in as many scenes as he did, but actor Bill Johnson couldn’t lift the giant prop chainsaw over his head.
  • Horror's Hallowed Grounds (24:30, HD) – Host Sean Clark and special guest Caroline Williams (via facetime) visit some of the original locations from the film in an episode of the ongoing series.
  • It Runs in the Family (1:21:40, HD) – Felsher’s aforementioned six-part, feature-length documentary was originally part of MGM’s Gruesome Edition DVD and was included on their Blu-ray.


 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition
 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: MGM Blu-ray

Overall


Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is not a personal favourite (at least not anymore – I loved this movie as a teenager) or even an objectively good movie, but it’s still a very ambitious film. Its initial weaknesses have grown into its greatest strengths and its unique qualities set it apart as a worthy film to the ‘cult’ title. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray collection outdoes the previously extensive MGM Blu-ray with a new, slightly improved 2K transfer and exclusive extras alongside the older transfer and features.

 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition
 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: MGM Blu-ray

 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition
 Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: MGM Blu-ray
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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