The Film (4/5)
1974's Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most visceral, psychologically terrifying, and just outright disturbing horror films of all time. It is a film that packed an immediate punch, and while it certainly left room open for sequels, it certainly didn't need any. 11 years after the original, Cannon Films convinced Tobe Hooper to step behind the camera to make a direct sequel to his most famous creation. The problem is how to follow up a film like Texas Chainsaw Massacre without watering down what made the original work so well.
Hooper's solution was two-fold. He would make the sequel a dark comedy, rather than the more straightforward horror of the original (Hooper says there are comedic elements in the original, but the outright horror of the film sort of overshadows them). The other thing is he would amplify the gore. It has been said there was enough blood in the first film to fill a test tube, the sequel would show all the gore audiences swear they saw in the original film. To that effect he brought in the most famous and arguably greatest American FX artist of the day Tom Savini to handle the gore for him. The result is Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 would be a delirious cinematic cocktail that would still manage to be disturbing and in ways the original didn't go, with an added layer of fun that makes the film infinitely rewatchable.
The film takes place over a decade after the events of the first film. Sally Hardesty from the first film escaped, managed to tell her story, and then became catatonic. The police went to investigate, and could find new clue to the Sawyer's whereabouts or any clue they were there to begin with. The film starts with a pair of kids driving that I can only describe as what would happen when you mix a redneck and a yuppie sometime in mid-80's Texas. They are going to a college football game in Dallas, when they get the idea of prank calling a DJ named Stretch (Caroline Williams) at the local rock station from their car phone. While they are on the phone the pair run afoul of Leatherface, and end up in a wild chase across a bridge with Leatherface who attacks them from the bed of a pickup truck.
It is not a spoiler to tell you fair reader than Leatherface does succeed at killing the pair. The next morning police are at the scene investigating and into the situation comes Lt. Lefty Enright(Dennis Hopper). Lefty is not assigned to the case, but has flown in from Amarillo as a matter of personal obsession. His nephew and niece were Franklin and Sally from the first film, and he wants revenge for their deaths. The cops want no part of him in the investigation considering him to be crazed. He takes it upon himself to investigate noticing a pattern of deaths in the area for the last few years, and it turns out the DJ Stretch recorded the murders as they occurred over the phone. Lefty convinces Stretch to broadcast the murders over the radio, which brings the Sawyers out of hiding and to her radio station. She manages to survive, and ends up following them back to their hideout in the underground section of an abandoned amusement park. With Lefty's help the pair attempt to put an end to the Sawyer's murderous reign of terror.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a wild wild film. I just have to get that out of the way. As a teenager I hated it. I felt the first film was a horror masterpiece, and the sequels were dreck that could not measure up to the horror that was in the 1974 piece. As I got older I realized that was the whole point. Hooper couldn't do what he did before so he decided to kick things up a whole lot of notches, and make the most wild film he could. The original film could be considered almost cinema verite in it's approach to realism. The sequel has a more garish colorful approach, that is much more cinematic and has a bit of a comic book tone to it. The violence courtesy of Tom Savini is completely over the top, and insane from the opening murders through to the end, there is some crazy, gory, and sickening FX stuff here. The performances are also quite a bit over the top with Bill Moseley at Chop Top playing a maniac stuck in the mind of 60’s pop culture obsessed Vietnam vet, Bill Johnson playing Leatherface almost like an awkward teenager in love, and Dennis Hopper bringing his intensity to his role as Lt. Enright.
There are 2 versions of the film presented by Scream Factory the new version done in house by Scream Factory is a 2k scan of the interpositive that looks absolutely fantastic. It has excellent detail, color, and blacks throughout. There is natural grain present that is not overly prevalent, but is certainly welcome. The other transfer found on the film's 2nd disc was supervised by the film's cinematographer Richard Kooris, and appears to be the same quality transfer used on Arrow Video’s Region B edition of the film. Both transfers looks absolutely fantastic in motion, and it really is hard to pick a preferred version between the two.
The audio is presented with DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 tracks in English. Both tracks are quite solid with dialogue, score, and ambient effects coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues with any of the tracks.
Scream Factory's Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is an absolutely stacked release. Granted, some of the stuff on here has been seen before, but that does not make it any less worthy, since the content is all quite solid. There are 2 commentary tracks accompanying the new transfer on the first disc. The first is new and led by cinematographer Richard Kooris and features production designer Cary White, script supervisor Laura Kooris, and property master Michael Sullivan. The second commentary is with Tobe Hooper, Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, and Tom Savini and has been ported over from prior releases.
The second disc has a majority of the sets special features. There is the It Runs in the Family documentary that has graced most releases of the film. Outside of that there is an absolutely insane amount of featurettes, documentaries, interviews, deleted and alternate scenes and MORE to be found here.
I'm not sure how many copies of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 one person needs on their shelf, but seeing as the movie is amazing violent fun, and the last 2 Blu-ray releases one from Arrow and now this one from Scream Factory are both definitive in their own way, I'm sure fans can find a way to squeeze them both in there somehow. The new transfer from Scream Factory looks quite nice, and all the new extras definitely adds to the experience HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.