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  Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The The Saw Is Family
Year: 1986
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow, Bill Moseley, Bill Johnson, Ken Evert, Kirk Sisco, Kinky Friedman, Joe Bob Briggs
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 4 votes)
Review: Texas DJ Stretch (Caroline Williams) is broadcasting her show, a mixture of phone-ins and music, and she likes to take requests but is now having trouble with a couple of rowdies calling in on their carphone who refuse to get off the line. Later on at night they call in again, but see the tables turned when one truck pulls up alongside them and the driver and passenger begin to terrorise them. Hearing this extravagant murder committed during the phone-in Stretch at least has evidence: the tape of the broadcast...

If you watched The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and wondered where all the gore was, why, here it was in the sequel. Director Tobe Hooper, working from a script by L.M. Kit Carson, returned to the movie that made him famous, after a couple of flops courtesy of a doomed three picture deal with Cannon Films, hoping that lightning would strike twice, although as it turned out even here the results did not translate into big bucks, and a mere cult following emerged. That in spite of an actual star in the shape of Dennis Hopper, oddly fitting right into the over the top stylings, yet fatally underused.

The black comedy, undeniably present in the intense original, was now more blatant, and more money meant lots of gory effects by Tom Savini. But the scares had gone as everything was played as broadly as possible with all the subtlety of, well, a chainsaw to the guts. There was a misguided attempt to humanise the classic bogeyman Leatherface, making out that his sex drive is in fact channelled into his chainsaw, and he even falls in "love" with Stretch (Williams was evidently instructed to scream as much as Sally had in the first instalment, even when it seemed out of character) as the one member of the cannibal family she tries to appeal to when push comes to shove. You wouldn't have found this nonsense before.

Despite an inspired scene where Stretch is in the embarrassing position of wearing her friend's face, the film was largely a succession of rehashes of the original's best features mixed in with rather banal aims for the gag reflex. The most subversive part was that the family (now called the Sawyers - do you see?) had found a useful place in society as suppliers of meat products. But the half-hearted satire on capitalism doesn't sit well with all the clowning around, and was quickly forgotten about for the all too predictable runaround: enthusiastic, sure, but unforgivably dumb when its source spoke to so much that was primal in horror movies, and didn't sell itself short in the process.

Considering he's the star, Hopper was only in the film for about half an hour all told as the lawman brother of wheelchair-using Franklin from the original. A nice bit with him wordlessly sizing up chainsaws in a hardware store apart, he could really play a nutter like Lefty in his sleep, and to see him spend most of his screen time sawing up pieces of wood may have had the novelty value of watching a chainsaw used for the purpose it was intended for, but after a while you'd be pondering if he wanted revenge on the family, why doesn't he just get an easier-to-use gun, instead? And why wasn't anyone on the trail of the family before? There was a survivor at the end of the first film, after all. Basically, Texas 2 is to the original what, say, the first Halloween 2 is to Halloween: perfectly watchable, but nothing special, though granted it's more resourceful than the 2004 remake. Lifeforce is more fun than this. Music by Hooper and Jerry Lambert.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Tobe Hooper  (1943 - )

American horror director who has spent his whole career trying to live up to his electrifying The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. After the similar but not as good Eaten Alive, he directed the miniseries of Salem's Lot, slasher The Funhouse, and blockbuster Poltergeist (despite rumours of producer Steven Spielberg's hands-on involvement).

Then a string of under-achievers: vampire sci-fi Lifeforce, sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and remake Invaders from Mars led to mostly straight to video or television work: Spontaneous Combustion, Night Terrors, The Mangler and Crocodile. In TV he has directed episodes of Dark Skies and Taken. A remake of The Toolbox Murders went some way to restoring his reputation with horror fans.

 
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