(1986) dir. Tobe Hooper
Thirteen years after the original, Tobe Hooper did what most people should never do: messed with a classic. Even if it was his classic.
I recall seeing this film on video, probably not long after its initial release. I remembered that it wasn’t very good. Apparently, I remembered correctly.
This film seems to be a response to the midnight movie culture that grew up around the original. All the characters are more hyperbolic, more purely comical, reinterpreted, if you will. Things seem to be played much more for laughs. In fact, it struck me that the cannibal family began to resemble the Marx Brothers, with the mute Harpo-like Leatherface, the manic Zeppo-like “Chop Top”, the mile-a-minute verbalizer and ringmaster “Cook” is almost Groucho-like. Of course, with a lot of gruesome perversity thrown in.
The film is shot mostly on sets, very unlike the original which used its rural Texas landscape to add an amount of “realism” to its happenings. The detachment from any natural, recognizable location suggests that this film is far more pure fantasy than the first, another significant departure in intent.
There is also much more explicit gore and “special effects”, which the original didn’t rely on as much.
Though there are many departures from the original, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 drifts into a similar narrative finale, a culminating “dinner” scene, which seems more an homage to the original than anything.
Dennis Hopper shows up as a ranting “hero”, clearly as crazy as the cannibals that he hopes to slaughter, toting his own set of chainsaws in holsters like a wild west sheriff. This film was interestingly released in 1986, the same year that Hopper appeared in Blue Velvet and The River’s Edge, which were both a part of a big resurgence for his career, I believe.
Tobe Hooper never has regained the “magic” of his original film, though he did produce a few other interesting films such as Poltergeist (1982) and Lifeforce (1985), though Poltergeist is far more a Steven Spielberg film than a Tobe Hooper film, one might say.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is not a good film, especially when compared with its predecessor. But it is not totally lacking in entertainment value. It’s probably best watched as a black comedy.