Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The (UK - BD RB)
Marcus becomes the lord of the harvest and starts chainsawing up this review...
13 Years after the events in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre Tobe Hooper returns to mystery attacks that still haunt Texas. Lieutenant "Lefty" Enright (Dennis Hopper) is drawn to the scene of a brutal roadside killing in Red River, Texas. He soon forms an alliance with Stretch (Caroline Williams), a feisty female radio DJ who inadvertently broadcasts the chainsaw murder of two drunken frat boys live on her late-night phone-in request show. The chainsaw massacre seems to be beginning again. It seems to have no end.
I'd seen all the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies in a pretty odd watch order one way or another over the years, that is except this one for some unknown reason. I don't particularly like many of them if I'm honest but the original always stuck with me after first seeing it, so going in to the first true sequel was a very interesting prospect. All the more so after most of the modern guff attempts that just seem to churn out the same film one after the other have totally run out of steam in the recent Texas Chainsaw 3D
Loud, brash and 80s to its very core the opening to this sequel has a real madness to it with school kids racing down Texas roads shooting signs and driving other cars off the road, It's much akin to some elements of Mad Max and the sheer madness of a chainsaw car chase is a bold and in your face opening for a sequel to a film that is considered a much more subtle affair.
From there on in this is a sequel that wants to big up the legend of the original massacre all while trying to generate a new story. This is partially told via Dennis Hopper's character chasing leads like a laid back and soon to be crazy Fox Mulder but I have to say this felt like a much braver approach than the shuffling of the same old elements that the modern Texas Chanisaw Massacre movies always take. Of course the recent Texas Chainsaw 3D showed some balls starting events directly after the events of the original but this soon succumbed to the same old teens and chainsaws mayhem. Man, that was a lousy instalment wasn't it.
Anyway, what this sequel does is attempt to progress the story, rather than just providing meat in a camper van for Leatherface to cut up, TCM2 actually tries to ask the question 'What happens next?' The world has moved on, the characters, or at least some of them are aware of the events thirteen years ago and because it's a secret that's been hidden, those in know are trying to keep it quiet, even though some of them obviously don't want to stay that quiet.
Somewhere along the line the weirdness of the family from the first film is ramped up so much that it all becomes quite humorous. We'll spend time with a kooky family member scratching the metal plate in their head and babbling nonsense rather than stick with Leatherface (a name they repeat over and over to make it stick with the audience) doing his chainsaw thing. This makes for quite a funny set of events that while weird and still dark in tone aren't exactly scary or all that memorable for the reasons the original's events were. There's also much more in the way of gore and brightly lit detail here that removes your imagination filling in the gaps and of course the scares. Instead its more to do with intensity.
Somehow, despite the growing madness, this all works. It's utter insanity and Hooper's ability to pile up the madness with multiple layers until you cant help but go with it works. A great example is the sheer mayhem in the radio station attack. Crazy veterans with a metal plates in their head, coat hangers, hammers, sexual encounters with Leatherface and an ice covered girl in daisy dukes asking "how good are you?" to her attacker, this is all overlapping, loud and in your face and it doesn't really relent. Same can be said for the horrible stuff that plays out in the hidden lair of the family in the film's final act. It both repeats the original film's beats and utterly ridicules their impact, all at the same time.
The first film was good with the sort of scares that just keep coming at you, ramping up tension and events. This sequel ramps it up in the same sort of ways, letting you know Hooper is still behind the wheel but it's not always effective due to the 80s sensibilities and the fact it gets progressively less easy to swallow as the film gets less and less believable. All the craziness and focused attempts to shock the audience with horrid visuals still makes this a ride worth taking but you can see why this one wasn't really a hit or indeed celebrated all that much since.
The HD presentation comes with its fair share of grain but it fits the style well and there's a real sense that age has treated this one pretty well. Edges and a good and sharp and there's a great use of colour. Everything is boosted but to to unnatural levels and this seems to be celebrating the original visuals of the film rather than hiding them away.
Details such as tarmac and grassed covered fields all look pretty good and close ups show off skin textures and stubble in good enough ways to see how impressive the upgrade is here, even if its not going to stand up to modern presentations.
Style wise this one is a lot more neon than you'd expect from a TCM flick, even if the starkness and the dustiness of the first film is retained, well at least in the first act. Once Hopper finds the families lair we may as well be in a 80s Pop video (there's also a striking resemblance to the lair in Ron Howard's The Grinch). Out comes the blue and red lighting and the smoke and the twinkling lights and the original film's realism is a thing of the past.
Beginning with a distinctly 80s soundtrack that just doesn't quit until someone dies, this sequel feels as much 80s and the original felt 70s, which is good because most of the TCM remakes just seem happy to live in 70s styles. The music choices are strong and clear (and synthy) and immediately make the film feel fresh and new. Dialogue is clean and central and the chainsaw buzz that doesn't take long to arrive sits naturally within the track rather than going down the overpowering route like the modern remakes love doing so much.
Screams are strong, layers of menace and buzzsaws overlap one another well and the squelches and cracks of Leatherface's victims all sound realistically grimy. The track maybe isn't as technically sure of itself as a modern TCM attack on the senses can be but it still does its job and its strongest buzzing can still rock a sound system.
'It Runs In The Family' (87 mins HD) talk about the impact of the original TCM and the road to the sequel. There's a lot of talk about the origins of the sequel and the documentary paints a clear picture of how the sequel became the oddity that it ended up being. Reasons for the change of style, budget cuts and the stress of the shoot including the production companies shock that the film was funny are all covered. There's a lot of cast and crew participation and this adds up to a really great in depth making of that I wish there were more like.
The 'Directors Commentary' is a 2006 Tobe Hooper with the laid back filmmaker answering questions and expanding on the film's production.
The 'Actors Commentary' has Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and Tom Savini in a fun, upbeat track that was full of great stories.
'Still Feelin' The Buzz' (28:31 HD) has a horror expert talking about how the hell you follow the original TCM. The similarities and differences between the two films are discussed and how the grotesque nature of the story is enhanced and how the comedy elements came out of the film's evolution into a brand rather than a film. This is a great, thoughtful overview of the film's content and approaches the film with a level head both celebrating it and highlighting its silliness.
'Cutting Moments with Bob Elmore' (14:41 HD) talks to the Leatherface stunt performer and his career and experiences with the TCM and then we're on to an 'Alternative Opening Sequence' (01:56 SD), a batch of VHS quality Deleted Scenes (10:37 SD), the 'Original Trailer' and an 'Image Gallery'.
Moving on to Disc 2: Tobe Hooper Early Works, this Blu-ray offers up even more Tobe Hooper goodies.
The short film The Heisters (10:27 HD)and the feature Eggshells (89:00 HD) are both restored in pretty great HD presentations. Eggshells also comes with a commentary with restoration participant Lewis Black and Tobe Hooper.
The 'Trailer Reel' (24:47) features looks at Hooper's other films such a Eaten Alive, Salem's Lot and Poltergeist. Then the interview with Tobe Hooper (28:23 HD) is the last great piece of this already great set. His influences, his thoughts on the Vietnam era in America and more details about the movies he's made are covered and its a nice wrap up to things.
Disc 3 in this pretty set is the DVD copy but I didn't get sent that to confirm what's on it - sorry about that.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is an odd beast. In many ways it works like a logical sequel and expands the story into new places without repeating itself but in other ways the slowly decaying style of the film into 80s slasher territory and the utterly severe ramp up in madness after the midway point really kills it as anything more than a romp. It feels like those horrors that homage the original Massacre but miss the mark but even with that said somehow in here the darkness still plays in amongst the odd humour making for a pretty gnarly Texas Chainsaw Massacre outing and one crazy ass Dennis Hopper performance.
The three disc set is packed with amazing stuff. The making of alone would make this a set worth picking up but with all the additionally stuff as well this is a real no-brainer for TCM die hard fans or even those who just have a passing interest in the horror classic's legacy and where it went next. Arrow have really treated this one in special ways and you'll come out the other end of this one knowing a whole lot more about a classic horror's sequel than you'd ever expect.
Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release 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.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 11th November 2013
Disc Type: HD DVD Hybrid
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Commentaries, Documentaries, Interviews, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, Image Gallery, Tobe Hooper Early Works : Eggshells, The Heisters, DVD COpy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow
Genre: Drama and Horror
Length: 100 minutes
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