Following on from the seminal 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, TCM 2 moves into comedy/horror territory. When DJ Stretch takes a call on air during her radio show she accidentally hears a murder take place. As all the shows are recorded Stretch believes she now has the evidence on tape of a murder which the local police are reluctant to investigate. After being contacted by a former Texas Marshall Lieutenant Lefty Enright who is trying to catch the killers of his niece and nephew Sally and Franklin (from the original TCM) the two team up to try to crack the case. However the killers know Stretch could be the key to tracking them down and set upon breaking into her radio station late at night to make sure she will not talk.
Leatherface, Hillbillies, Red Neck Killers, Chainsaws, Black Comedy.
|L.M. Kit Carson||…||(written by)|
|Tobe Hooper||…||(film “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”)|
|James N. Harrell||…||
L.G. McPeters (as Lou Perry)
It’s hard to believe that Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to his 1974 seminal work Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a film which has always achieved mixed reviews. You only have to look at the user reviews on sites like Amazon for example to see how some people just completely miss the point. In my opinion TCM 2 is innovative, refreshing and hilarious. I mean who wants to see the same film made over and over again? Hooper, challenged to make another installment opted for an entirely new take on the story; this time introducing elements of wry humour and splatstick comedy and some people were just not amused by this at all, expecting a return to form. I however, like many others who now consider this a cult favourite, feel that his decision to take such an obvious change in direction was the right thing to do. I mean who can resist the amazing array of characters TCM 2 brings to the screen, the lighting, the innovative set designs, fantastic one liners and delirious pacing.
Following on 14 years from the original Hooper and his scriptwriter Kit Carson invent a whole new universe in the TCM dimension, here the characters are presented as cartoonised versions and the distinctly gritty and frightening feel of the original film is discarded in favour of gross out and action packed comedy. Our Chainsaw family now reside in an underground labyrinth of caverns, which are decorated in an extreme hoarders: Ed Gein Edition, sort of vibe. Filled with tunnels, this set design is nothing short of a miracle when you look at the budget these guys had to work with. The lighting and camerawork also add to the feel, and you can almost feel the earth on those walls closing in around you when the main action kicks in. The little touches like Franklin’s skeleton sat in his wheelchair, or the dining set constructed from bones bring such an outlandish element to the piece it is a feast for the eyes, add this to some fantastic performances all round and you have a winner for those who love a bit of fun in their horror.
The story follows Stretch ( Caroline Williams) a feisty southern lady, and DJ, who after hearing a live chainsaw death via a phone in to her radio show attracts the unwanted attentions of the Sawyer family. Hooking up with former Texas Marshall Lefty (Dennis Hopper) who is slightly mad and out to avenge the deaths of his missing Niece and Nephew Sally and Franklin, she feels she may be able to help crack the case, but Leatherface and crew have other plans, not wanting anyone to spoil their party. When Stretch’s station gets broken into by these insane bunch of psychos, who want to tie up loose ends, she gets more than she bargained for. The casting choices in this picture are fantastic, everyone really absorbing themselves into their consecutive roles. All the actors interviewed on the extras disc (and the production team such as Tom Savini) talk about making this movie with enthusiasm and great affection and one thing is evident they had a blast making it. Working long hours, on difficult sets, Hooper really got the best out of these stars, and it shows on-screen. Caroline as Stretch comes off as the perfect Final girl, strong-willed, yet scared as well, she manages to convey a feisty attitude and vulnerability all in one. She was really put through her paces as well, being put in some difficult situations such as sat with a chainsaw between her legs in the iconic ‘bonding’ scene with Leatherface, and also having to wear her dying friend’s peeled off face, as well as the physical nature of the role with all the running and screaming she has to do. Lou Perryman as LG brings his sly southern charm to the mix, with his spitting and little one liners, the dynamic between him and his co-star Caroline works really well. It is worth mentioning Perryman was part of the production crew on the 1974 original. Of course the pie making cook played by Jim Siedow is brilliant as head of the family, he just fuels the insane behaviour of the other members and provides a solid cornerstone to their antics. Bill Johnson’s Leatherface is a completely different incarnation to Gunnar Hanson’s and I would imagine those would have been difficult shoes to fill. Johnson manages to construct a Leatherface you could almost feel sorry for, especially in the twisted ‘love’ scenes which play out between him and Stretch he manages to convey he is just as much a victim as the people the family kill. Of course the stand out roles have to go to Bill Moseley as Chop Top and Dennis Hopper as Lefty. Bill, this being only his second feature at the time, incarnates his role effortlessly, bringing into his performance a contagious energy which is difficult to rival. Some of his one liners such as ‘Lick my plate you dog dick!’ have become taglines for the film, and it is clearly a role which Bill feels very proud of (and so he should be). Indeed Bill had to endure some serious hours in makeup for his part here, working 3-4 hours each day Savini and his crew got his plate and strange physical makeup just perfect, but you get the idea that even without all this Bill’s portrayal of Chop Top would have been every bit as amazing given his mentalist approach, the voice and strange little mannerisms. As for Dennis Hopper, well you cannot fault Hopper when it comes to playing a nutcase, and here he provides testament to why he can be considered one of the most outlandish actors of his time ( if you include this alongside his role in Blue Velvet). The genius here is that Lefty, although on the side of the ‘law’ and therefore good, is every bit as insane, if not more, than the central Sawyer family characters. As he marches around set with his set of holstered chainsaws he is a marvel to watch, but you have to question where the hell he summons his motivation from.
As well as the exquisitely macabre cavern of a set and strong performances, this film is action packed. There is hardly a minute to catch breath in its 96 minutes running time as the pacing speeds along building up into a craze fuelled climax of an ending. Of course there are also Tom Savini’s inspirational effects to help things along too being every bit as innovative as the set which accompanies them. Tom’s work here includes some great gore scenes and set pieces and while the tone of the film is light, the visuals are every bit in contrast to this; on offer we have a split head, skin peeling, fresh skin masks, chainsaw through the body as stand out pieces, as well as the make-up effects worn by Bill Mosely, Leatherface’s mask and Ken Evert as Grandpa. There was clearly some serious creative energy flowing on set when they made this. Production was every bit as highly charged as the film’s plot, with the script being rewritten as they went along, effects being devised ad hoc, as the crew worked long hours to get things done. Yet despite this gruelling schedule it seems to have worked in their favour, bringing out the best in the cast and crew.
This Arrow edition gives great value for money if you check out the extras below, and with a fantastic HD rendering of the film, new artwork, and a third limited edition disc including restorations of two of Hoopers early works, all the rest is the icing on the cake. I particularly enjoyed the six part documentary It Runs in the Family in which cast and crew reminisce about making TCM 2, giving personal insights, and providing some interesting behind the scenes stills and footage.
Being limited edition (10,000) this is one release that should be in every TCM2 fan’s collection, or for newcomers alike it provides a fantastic introduction being the most definitive version to date. TCM2 in my mind has always been one of the better sequels, and very much in the same way as people miss the point with Halloween 3 Season of the Witch, it was never intended to follow on from the original piece (being an entirely stand alone piece, with a different tone from the original). For those people who dismiss it as not being ‘true’ to the original I say you are doing yourself out of an experience, you need to take it out of the context of the Leatherface ‘brand’ and just enjoy it for what it is, some crazy, silly and great 80’s goredrenched comedy horror.
Arrow Limited Edition Extras.
3-DISC LIMITED EDITION SET FEATURES :
- High Definition digital transfers of three Tobe Hooper films
- Original uncompressed audio tracks for all films
- Limited Edition Packaging, newly illustrated by Justin Erickson
- Individually Numbered #/10,000 Certificate
- Exclusive Limited Edition Extras
DISC 1 THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a digital transfer supervised by Director of Photography Richard Kooris
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with director and co-writer Tobe Hooper, moderated by David Gregory
- Audio commentary with stars Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and special-effects legend Tom Savini, moderated by Michael Felsher
- It Runs in the Family A 6 part documentary looking at the genesis, making-of and enduring appeal of Hooper s film. With interviews including star Bill Johnson, co-writer L. M. Kit Carson, Richard Kooris, Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Tom Savini, Production Designer Cary White and more!
- Alternate Opening sequence with different musical score
- Deleted scenes
- Still Feelin’ the Buzz – Interview with horror expert Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA
- Original Trailer
DISC 2 [BLU-RAY] & DISC 3 [DVD] TOBE HOOPER S EARLY WORKS LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition (DVD) presentation of two of Tobe Hooper s early works, available on home video for the first time in the world
- The Heisters (1964) Tobe Hooper s early short film restored in HD from original elements [10 mins]
- Eggshells (1969) Tobe Hooper s debut feature restored in HD from original elements [90 mins]
- Audio Commentary on Eggshells by Tobe Hooper
- In Conversation with Tobe Hooper – the legendary horror director speaks about his career from Eggshells to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
- Trailer Reel of all the major works by Tobe Hooper.