When you’ve made a film frequently described as one of the most terrifying ever made, at one time banned outright here, a movie reviled as ‘grubby’ and exploitative but equally praised as a work of art and one of the greatest ever horror films, then the question of how to do a follow up becomes a real challenge. Do you try and repeat the formula of the original, risking diluting what makes it special? If you’re Tobe Hooper you go in a completely different direction. So, some 12-plus years after the first The Texas Chain Saw Massacre we get a brave second part that trades building terror and doom-laden atmosphere for black comedy, plentiful gore and power-tool subtle satire and commentary.
The tale of a borderline psychotic Dennis Hopper (of course) tracking down those who killed his nephew Franklin all those years before and encountering the Sawyer clan, now living below an amusement park, is something to behold. It’s amazing the difference three decades can make in a film’s reputation. Although it wasn’t exactly warmly received, time has been kind to this sequel and it’s a valid reassessment. It might not have met expectations at the time but it’s an entertaining expansion of the Leatherface story, an ambitious blackly comic fable of parody, horror and excess that deserves attention.
There’s a lot going on here, none of it pleasant, and plenty of meat to digest (if you will). Hooper and his team should be commended for trying something genuinely different. It’s not perfect and it won’t appeal to everyone, indeed some might find the almost constant pitch of hysteria (as opposed to the first film’s sustained menace) off-putting. Despite this, it’s interesting (take that as a compliment) and considering its place in the franchise and horror history itself has much to recommend.
This new Arrow release comes with a solid HD print that shows off the great funhouse set and art direction throughout and is stuffed with extras to compliment the film. Chief among them is 6-part feature length documentary ‘It Runs in the Family’ which covers pretty much everything about the making of the film. A further welcome addition of context comes from the great Stephen Thrower in his interview Still Feelin’ the Buzz. If that’s not enough for you there’s two commentaries, one with Hooper, the other with cast members and special effects superstar Tom Savini. Substantially, all of this extra information proves necessary, as the sequel is quite something to get to grips with, dense as it is with ideas and dark humour. For those who are fans already or those new to it, it’s a great package, and a worthy purchase.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: TOBE HOOPER / SCREENPLAY: L. M. KIT CARSON / STARRING: DENNIS HOPPER, CAROLINE WILLIAMS, BILL JOHNSON, BILL MOSELEY / RELEASE DATE: 21ST AUGUST