Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 / Cert: 18 / Director: Tobe Hooper / Screenplay: L.M. Kit Carson / Starring: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley / Release Date: November 11th
Congrats, you've made one of the most shocking and notorious horror films of all time. Now what are you going to do for a sequel? You have to feel for Tobe Hooper, getting stuck with a question like that, even if you don't wholeheartedly endorse his answer: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), which takes something that seemed all too believable in its flyblown realism and inflates it into a sustained exercise in blackly comedic Grand Guignol.
This second instalment pits big-hatted Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Hopper), uncle of one of the original dead kids, against the Sawyer clan, now with the addition of crazy, metal-pated 'Nam vet Chop-Top (Moseley). Caught in the middle is leggy disc jockey Stretch (Williams), who winds up trapped in the cannibals' lair, playing Esmeralda to Leatherface's Quasimodo.
It's a film that comes nowhere near to matching the palpable menace of its predecessor, and nor does it try. Instead it takes a sly satisfaction in subverting its iconic villains and turning them into a gabbling dysfunctional family. All the same, it has some truly startling set-pieces, including a brilliant opening sequence in which Leatherface gives a fratboy in a Mercedes a haircut, and an extended showdown which sees Lefty going into battle armed with twin chainsaws in holsters. Some of the dialogue winks too hard at the audience – Chop-Top and Cook are so over-garrulous, you'll probably end up wishing they would eat their own tongues – but you can always tune it out and gape at the awesome set designs.
The HD transfer is somewhat soft and grainy, but the more lurid scenes punch through very well – the moment where Stretch first meets Chop-Top, for instance, and the bit where she finds herself unwillingly sitting down at the Sawyer's dinner table. The close-up of Grandpa's latex makeup also looks fantastic. Besides, any disappointment in this area is made up for by an as-much-as-you-can-eat buffet of extras. These look at the genesis of the script (screenwriter Kit Carson explains why he thought it was a good idea to make Chainsaw 2 as a comedy); the need to do rewrites after $1 million was cut from the budget; the construction and dressing of the main set in an old printing works (they scoured central Texas for bones); and much more. Plus critic Stephen Thrower offers a thoughtful dissection of the movie's themes and motifs. On the bonus DVD, you get a 20-minute interview with Hooper and two of his early films – The Heisters, a rather silly 10-minute short, and Eggshells, a feature-length experimental, free-form, hippyish documentary-type thing. Both are for completists only, but it's nice to have them.
Extras: It Runs in the Family / Audio commentaries / Director interview / 2 featurettes / 2 early films by the director / Galleries / Trailers