Today’s feature is the disappointing follow-up to one of the most lauded horror films of all time: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.”
The writing credit for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” is given to L.M. Kit Carson, who also wrote the films “Breathless” and “Paris, Texas,” with a story credit given to director Tobe Hooper.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” was directed by Tobe Hooper, who was behind the creation of the original horror classic. He has also created such films as “The Mangler,” “Poltergeist,” and “Night Terrors” over his career.
The cinematography for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” was done by Richard Kooris, who later shot the necrophilia-themed crime comedy “Drop Dead Sexy,” starring Crispin Glover and Jason Lee.
The editor for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” was Alain Jakubowicz, who also cut such acclaimed films as “Simon Sez,” “America 3000,” and “The Apple.”
The makeup effects for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” was provided by a team that included experienced effects workers Tom Savini (“Friday the 13th,” “Maniac,” “Dawn of the Dead”) and Bart Mixon (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Midnight Meat Train,” “Killer Klowns From Outer Space”).
The special effects team for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” included Gabe Bartalos (“Dolls,” “From Beyond,” “Leprechaun 4”), Ray Beetz (“City Slickers II”), Gino Crognale (“Frankenhooker,” “976-EVIL,” “From Beyond,” “Troll”), Mitch Devane (“The Pit and The Pendulum,” “Captain America”), Josh Hakian (“The Wizard,” “Jonah Hex”), Shawn McEnroe (“Humanoids from the Deep,” “The Howling”), Joe Quinlivan (“Face/Off,” “House of Yes,” “Ninja III: The Domination”), Ken Sher (“Blade”), Eddie Surkin (“Single White Female,” “Escape From New York”), and John Vulich (“King of the Ants,” “Castle Freak,” “Dolls,” “Dr. Alien”).
The music for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” was provided by the combination of Tobe Hooper and Jerry Lambert, the latter of whom has worked on soundtracks for films such as “Jason X” and “The Omega Code.”
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” was produced by the Cannon Films duo of Golan and Globus, who I have mentioned before when covering “Enter The Ninja,” “Revenge of the Ninja,” and “Ninja III: The Domination.” Basically, they were low-budget exploitation kings of the 1980s, and picking up a sequel to such an acclaimed and high-grossing low-cost flick must have sounded like a slot machine jackpot to the pair.
The production designer for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” was Cary White, who later worked on movies like “The Faculty,” “Spy Kids,” and “Mean Girls” as an art director.
The cast for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” is led by Dennis Hopper (“Blue Velvet,” “Space Truckers”), Caroline Williams (“Leprechaun 3,” “Days of Thunder”), Bill Moseley (“Repo! The Genetic Opera,” “Old 37,” “Army of Darkness”), and Jim Siedow (“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”).
The story of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” takes place many years after the events of the first film, and follows one of the victims’ father on a crusade to find out what happened to the missing teens. Meanwhile, the cannibalistic family has taken up becoming renowned barbeque experts in north Texas, using human victims for the meat. After the family kills a couple of teens during a live radio call-in, the DJ becomes alarmed and contacts the vengeance-seeking father.
The poster most widely used for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” confusingly parodies the popular format of “The Breakfast Club,” featuring the members of the cannibal family in similar poses. While that may have been evident at the time, it just looks strange outside of that context.
Unsurprisingly, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” initially released unrated due to receiving an “X” rating from the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board, which is typically a death sentence for theatrical distribution. While the film made it into theaters in the U.S., it ran into much bigger difficulties with censors in other countries, such as Australia and West Germany.
The story of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” takes place during the weekend of the University of Texas – University of Oklahoma football game, which is known as the “Red River Showdown,” a nickname that is mentioned multiple times throughout the film.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” wasn’t met with a particularly warm reception, earning Rotten Tomatoes scores of 42% (critics) and 44% (audience), along with an IMDb rating of 5.5.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” isn’t nearly as distinctive or suspenseful as the first film, and is packed with bizarre moments of humor and the constant presence of the cartoonish cannibal family. It is as if Hooper either didn’t understand what made the original impress upon so many people, or he was deliberately denying the audience what they wanted. I dug up a couple of quotes from an A.V. Club interview that seems to indicate the latter:
I was just going to produce it and I couldn’t find a director. Literally, I couldn’t find anyone my budget would afford, a director whose work I knew, so I ended up running out of time and directing it myself. In doing so, I amplified the comedy and, I think, gave the general audience exactly what they did not want.
It’s crazy as hell. It’s a film that’s just loony. But at least I got a chance to make a comedy—a very grim comedy—that is receiving an acknowledgement for its stylization.
The fact that Hooper was reluctant to make the movie in the first place certainly doesn’t surprise me, and might account for why it took so long to happen. The interview also makes it clear that Hooper was more interested in doing something different and challenging than doing something that people would like, and that was certainly his prerogative as the creator. However, he couldn’t be shocked when people didn’t ultimately like it at the time.
The A.V. Club has an interesting positive retrospective about “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” that makes one very good point:
Stretch tries to appeal to his humanity, the parts inside almost all of us that want love and affection and sex, and it works. That’s what makes Leatherface a much more interesting villain than Freddy or Jason; he has more in common with Lennie in Of Mice And Men than an inhuman killing machine.
Leatherface is certainly treated like more of an actual character in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,” which can be looked at either positively or negatively. Personally, while I think the growth for the character was an interesting touch, I didn’t think the performance was anywhere near as impressive, chilling, or human as the way Gunnar Hansen portrayed him. A lot of that comes down, I think, to the way he used body language to portray the character, which seems totally lacking in this sequel. There is also an argument to be made that Leatherface doesn’t need to be developed all that much past being a chainsaw wielder, but I actually am a bigger fan of horror threats having real human faces on them (ha), which is something that Jason, Michael Myers, etc. tend to lack.
The climax of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” shows off a chainsaw duel between Leatherface and Dennis Hopper’s character, which is as entertaining as the movie ever gets. The proper finale of the movie is pretty lackluster in my opinion, which the surviving lead character mindlessly swinging a chainsaw around and screaming, channeling their very best Leatherface for no reason in particular.
Overall, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” wasn’t as bad as I expected, and is a solid few rungs above “The Next Generation” in conventional quality. That said, I liked that flick a little better as a good-bad watch, primarily because of McConaughey’s performance, which doesn’t have a parallel in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.” The closest thing is Bill Moseley, who just came off as obnoxious and annoying to me, but there are plenty who disagree.
If you are looking for an entertainingly awful horror watch, there are a lot of better choices in the major horror franchises than this. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” is mostly just disappointing and slow, a result of Tobe Hooper choosing a humorous direction for the franchise without the acting or writing capabilities to pull it off. It is also definitely one of the least entertaining Cannon movies I’ve seen overall, which was a bit of a surprise.