Cult Movies

Cult Movie Essentials: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 picks up a dozen years after audiences last saw Leatherface, dancing with his chainsaw. Whatever they were expecting, it surely wasn’t the sideshow freak-out that Tobe Hooper had come up with. Chainsaw 2 has the goofy middle-finger vibe of other punk horror comedies like Return of the Living Dead or Repo Man, and the soundtrack to match.

Just like Texas itself, everything is bigger in this sequel from the gore lovingly provided by cult legend Tom Savini to the endless references to the cannibals’ home state to the scenery-chewing performances. Let’s be honest storyline wise nothing much happens in the first movie, but it seems even less happens in the second. A radio DJ nicknamed Stretch (Caroline Williams) and a former Texas Ranger who goes by Lefty (Dennis Hopper) work together to lure the family out of hiding so Lefty can finally get revenge on the monsters who butchered his relatives in the original.

 

As it turns out, at least one of the family members is enjoying the spotlight. Cook (Jim Siedow) is actually named Drayton Sawyer, and he’s got a successful barbecue business; the trick to his award-winning chili is, of course, quality meat. He’s aided and abetted by his brothers Leatherface (played here by Bill Johnson, not Gunnar Hansen) and Chop-Top (Bill Moseley), who turns in an unforgettable performance as a war vet with an exposed metal plate in his head.

Leatherface goes through his own transformation. In the first film, he seemed flustered, as if he were just going about his normal business when these annoying kids showed up. He’s supposed to cook and clean and take care of things around the house; it’s just that those supposedly menial duties refer to wildly different things in this household. He even puts on a frilly cook’s apron and what looks like a special mask with makeup on it for the family dinner.  Leatherface falls for Stretch, a tough-talking’ Texas broad if there ever was one, and he expresses it in the only way he knows how: with his chainsaw. Despite her terror, she takes a chance that he’s human underneath all that dead person skin and coos at him like he’s a puppy. Stretch tries to appeal to his humanity and somehow it works. That’s what makes Leatherface a much more interesting villain than Freddy or Jason; he has more in common with Lennie in Of Mice and Men than an inhuman killing machine. No matter what Drayton tries to tell Leatherface, Stretch isn’t just another “piece of tail” and the saw isn’t his only family.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is infamous for its final scenes with Marilyn Burns screaming her damn head off; you can see how broken she is by the wild rolling of her eyes as she manages to escape in a passing truck. Stretch, on the other hand, grabs that saw for herself and does her own dance, just like a good Texan gal should.

TCM II was made for the American horror fan. I mean come on, duelling chainsaw battles between Dennis Hopper and Leatherface? This is the stuff dreams are made of.

 

The extras on the DVD are great. The 90 minute interview segments with the actors/filmmakers are great. Bill Johnson (Leatherface), Bill Mosely (Chop-Top), and Caroline Williams (Stretch) recall their fond memories and share great stories on this wonderful flick. The great Tom Savini also shares his memories of working on the film and creating the gore! You just have to see it!

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