The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2 Blu-ray Review
Written by Joel Harley
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by L.M Kit Carson and Tobe Hooper
1986, Region B, 96 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 11th November 2013
Dennis Hopper as Lieutenant 'Lefty' Enright
Caroline Williams as Vanita 'Stretch' Brock
Jim Siedow as Cook
Bill Moseley as 'Chop Top' Sawyer
Bill Johnson as Leatherface
Ken Evert as Grandpa
Warning: this review may come across as little biased, from a certain angle. Not only am I biased in it being a sequel to my favourite film of all time, but I also happen to have contributed a little something to its release myself. Yes, included in the book which accompanies this lovely little box set is an article written by yours truly – The Saw is Family: The Futher Adventures of Leatherface and Co. - being an overview of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise on the whole, with particular kudos given to Dennis Hopper and his impressive set of chainsaws.
Even if I hadn't contributed to it, Arrow Video's Blu-ray Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 set would be among my favourite releases of this year. Only From Beyond and Tarantino XX (okay, I bought it this year) come close. Hooper's sequel to the Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an incredibly underrated piece, even actively despised in some circles, due to it being so vastly different from its predecessor. Visually, tonally and stylistically, it's a completely different beast. Where the first film was a boundary-busting exercise in (almost arthouse) insanity, this sequel is almost conventional, as far as horror movies go.
Years after the original massacre, the Sawyer family is on the run, hiding in an abandoned funhouse. While father figure Drayton tours the state selling his chilli of dubious meats, Leatherface and brother Chop-Top (a hyperactive Bill Moseley in his career-defining role) persist in causing the Cook numerous headaches. When their most recent escapade is captured on radio by late-night DJ 'Stretch' Brock, the race is on to destroy the evidence (and poor Stretch) before it's too late. But nobody foresaw the presence of the crazed Lieutenant Lefty Enright (an impressive Dennis Mister Hopper) looking to avenge the death of his nephew and carve himself up some cannibals. Dog will hunt...
There's a lot going on here, including a set of characters even more crazed than those of the original Chain Saw Massacre. It's a loud, screeching ADHD pill of a film, with Moseley, Hopper, Caroline Williams and Jim Siedow all trying to out-scream one another. If you thought that Edwin Neal's Hitchhiker was bad, just wait until you've seen Chop-Top picking at his scabby war wound with a heated coathanger. Moseley's frantic, kinetic performance is a serious contender for one of the most annoying horror characters of all time... Just as Dennis Hopper's makes him a good nominee for one of the most awesome horror heroes ever created. A scene in which a crazed Hopper hacks an innocent tree to pieces with a chainsaw is up there (right next to shark vs zombie in Zombie Flesh Eaters) as one of the greatest things I've ever seen in a film. Likewise, his chainsaw duel with Leatherface at the end of the movie is simply fantastic. That the recent Texas Chainsaw 3D would render it all non-canonical just goes to show how misguided that semi-reboot was.
Some may be turned off by the tonal shift to a more obvious form of humour, but I loved it. Too many horror sequels are content to coast along, almost remaking that which has gone before; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 tries to be different, and for that it deserves your respect. There's the sexual awakening of Leatherface (transforming his chainsaw into an enormous phallic symbol), the heartbreakingheart-breaking niceness of lovely L.G, Dennis Hopper wearing a stetson, and Dennis Hopper shopping for chainsaws. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2 is one of the finest horror sequels ever made to one of the finest horror films ever made. And I'd be saying that even if my name wasn't on the back of the box.
Video and Audio:
The main feature is brought to us in glorious High Definition 1080p. Truth be told, it doesn't look all that much more special than the standard DVD release, although you can see the bags under Dennis Hopper's eyes a bit better. The more sensitive should watch it with the volume turned down, since it remains as loud and screechy as ever. The short films on discs 2 and 3 come in both 1080p and standard DVD definition. Available as such for the first time, they really benefit from the upgrade.
Even by Arrow Video's standards, the amount of special features packed across the three discs is extensive and impressive special features. Beyond the numerous commentary tracks are a number of documentaries, featurettes and trailers. It Runs in the Family is a six-part documentary exploring the creation and appeal of the film. Still Feel the Buzz is an interview with Stephen Thrower, TCM fan and author of Nightmare USA. Disc 2 and 3 brings you restored versions of Hooper's early films The Heisters and Eggshells. Also included is a 100-page commemorative book which includes an article written by my good self. Five stars out of five, obviously.