Friday, 8 November 2013

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)

Most people would agree that THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is an all-time gruelling cult horror classic. Some would argue (quite reasonably) that its director Tobe Hooper hasn’t made anything comparable since. In the mid-1980s Hooper was offered a three picture deal by Cannon. Instead of running as fast as possible in the opposite direction (this is the company which, we must remember, made RUNAWAY TRAIN as well as BREAKDANCE 2 ELECTRIC BOOGALOO) he embraced his new financiers with gusto and set about creating three crazy movies, at least two of which turned out to be quite unique examples of the film-maker’s art (I’ve yet to watch INVADERS FROM MARS, but LIFEFORCE certainly qualifies as both unique and crazy).
But the question on everyone’s lips, and probably Hooper’s himself was, if he was to honour his contract and make a sequel to TEXAS CHAINSAW, how was he going to go about it? The resultant movie is probably the best anyone could have hoped for. Instead of grim and gruelling (although there’s certainly some of that in evidence) Hooper opted for hysterically over the top craziness, piling on the gags, encouraging his performers to overact, and setting half the film in an abandoned amusement park that wouldn’t be out of place in a gore-drenched episode of SCOOBY DOO.
The film didn’t sit well with everyone, unfortunately, and not least many fans of the original. Even they, however, couldn't have complained too much at the movie’s opening. A couple of unlikeable yuppies find more than they bargained for as their car crosses a bridge on which a pickup truck is lurking. The image of Leatherface, holding the mummified body of Edwin Neal’s hitchhiker character from part one, and not just standing but dancing, is a fantastic start to the film and a fine way to reintroduce such an iconic character. The two victims are taking part in a radio phone-in show at the time the mayhem begins and so DJ Stretch (Caroline Williams) ends up witnessing their murder over the airwaves. Along with Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper) a man on a mission of vengeance for the murder of two of his relatives from the first film, Stretch gets drawn into the hideous and completely crackers world of the Sawyer family, who are now winning prizes for their chilli. “It’s the meat!” cackles Jim Siedow in one of the least understated performances in horror cinema. 
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is a crazy film, but it’s good crazy, and even though some of the acting is a bit too much over the top, their are fine turns from both Caroline Williams and the remarkable Bill Moseley as Chop Top, who delivers a truly disturbing performance that effectively steals the film. TCM 2 is one to be approached with caution, both by fans of the original and those new to the franchise. You may well love it, but the mixture of outrageous gore and even more outrageous silliness might not sit well with those expecting something far darker.

Once again, Arrow have pulled out all the stops in an attempt to produce the ultimate collector’s edition of a cult film. As well as a Tobe Hooper commentary from 2006 (moderated by David Gregory) there’s an ‘actor’s commentary’ as well. This one’s moderated by Michael Felsher and features Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley and Tom Savini having what sounds like a party in the recording studio. It Runs in the Family is a ninety minute documentary broken up into six parts and featuring interviews with the cast and crew. In Still Feeling The Buzz Stephen Thrower talks for a good half an hour about the making of the movie and its importance as a piece of popular culture. Cutting Moments gives us a short interview with Bob Elmore, who was the stuntman for Leatherface on the picture. There’s also an alternate opening title sequence, some deleted scenes and a trailer. A second disc is a treasure trove of Hooper bits and pieces. First off is THE HEISTERS, which is a whacky ten minute romp, followed by EGGSHELLS, Hooper’s early feature length movie about hippies. This one’s for the true Hooper obsessives only, but at least it’s there if you want it. Rounding out the second disc is an exhaustive trailer reel for Tobe Hooper’s film projects, some of which I had never heard of and will probably get round to seeing eventually, especially as one of them features what looks like a giant CGI crocodile.

Arrow Films will be releasing Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 on a three disc DVD and Blu-ray set on 11th November 2013

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