“After a decade of silence… the buzz is back!”
It’s surprising that it took as long as it did, but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 didn’t arrive in theaters until a good 12 years after the original. At the helm once again was director Tobe Hooper, but this time screenwriting duties went to L.M. Kit Carson whose prior credits included Breathless and Paris, Texas. And because of the fast paced nature of the shoot which went into production almost immediately after being green-lit, Carson was on-set rewriting the entire time, in particular when at the last minute, a million dollars from the budget was cut forcing the filmmakers to implement changes while shooting and to make due with whatever they had.
You wouldn’t be able to tell any production problems with the finished product which at this point only gets better with age. The official sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre resumes about 12 years after the events of the first film and this time migrates the story to Dallas. We’re introduced to local DJ Stretch (the lovely Caroline Williams) and her recording engineer L.G. (Lou Perryman) whom at the top of the movie keep getting crank calls from a pair of douchey, drunken yuppie college kids; driving around town and shooting up mailboxes for fun. On one of their late night follow-up calls, Stretch hears (and records) them having an altercation on the road. It seems the boys pissed off the wrong truck because they’re riding side by side with a maniac with a chainsaw. That’s right, our old friend Leatherface.
Meanwhile, good ol’ Drayton Sawyer (aka the Cook, played by returning actor Jim Siedow) has just won yet another chili contest attributing his secret recipe to being “all in the meat!” In place of the Hitchhiker who perished at the end of the first film (and appears here as a stuffed corpse) is Chop-Top (a killer debut by genre fave Bill Moseley), the Hitchhiker’s twin brother who was fighting in Vietnam a decade prior. He’s got a metal plate in his head from the war that he frequently picks at with a cloths hanger (ewww) while he spouts out some of the films’ most memorable and quotable dialogue.
Lefty (Dennis Hopper) has been hot on the trail of the Sawyers for years but has never been able to capture or confront them. He’s the uncle of Sally & Franklin from the first movie and ever since Franklin (an invalid!) died a horrible death to the saw, Lefty has vowed vengeance. He convinces Stretch to replay the tape of the college boys getting murdered in order to drive out the Sawyer clan so he can follow them back to their hide-out and exact his revenge.
The most radically different aspect of the sequel over its predecessor is the over-the-top bat-shit crazy comedic tone. Now, when I first saw this movie prior to my teens, it terrified me. It scared me shitless. The sheer violence in Chop-Top’s hammering of poor L.G. That super close-up shot of Grandpa’s slobbering face and of course the gore! Gore galore compliments of FX legend Tom Savini whom at this point had already done mind-blowing work in films like Maniac, The Prowler and Friday The 13th Part’s 1 and 4. But I recall having sleepovers with my childhood best friend David, and he insisted on us watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 over and over and over again. From these non-stop marathon viewing sessions, I started to “get” Tobe Hooper’s wild and dark sense of humor. So much so, that when I went back to revisit the first movie after this, I saw the humor there too. (Just look at a scene like “Look what your brother did to the door!”) It dawned on me that Hooper absolutely loves this dysfunctional family and wants us to love them too, despite the fact that they’re murderous cannibals. Hell, why else would he give Leatherface a love interest in Part 2? Yes, you read that right. While Gunnar Hansen originated the role of Leatherface, here he’s played by Bill Johnson who does an amazing job at building upon but not replicating what Hansen started. If in the first movie, Leatherface was still at a young childlike state, then you’d figure a decade later would be his rebellious teenager phase. He’s a lot more frantic than he was previously, he has that weird love/hate relationship with his brother Chop Top whom half the time messes with him relentlessly and the other half encourages him. (“Did ya get her? Did ya get her good?”) And like most teenagers, he’s consumed with these strange “feelings” anytime he’s around the sexy Stretch.
Then there’s Dennis Hopper. Holy crap! Who would’ve thought to pit Dennis Hopper, one of the most unique voices/actors/filmmakers of the 70’s against one of the most iconic and insane clans in horror movie history? Thankfully, Hooper and company thought it and did it! Between his crazy dialogue (all delivered completely straight) and his multiple chainsaws acting as his weapons, Hopper owns this movie as a total bad-ass. Interesting to the original script is the excised B plot that Stretch was actually Lefty’s illegitimate daughter. Lots of little through-lines were cut out both with the budget cuts prior to production and during the editing process in post-production; all of which are fairly well documented on the special edition DVD or Blu-Ray of Chainsaw 2. But also of note is that the film was released unrated, much to the disapproval of the MPAA whom got their revenge when the follow-up Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 appealed several times trying to get an R rating.
This would be the last time that Jim Siedow would appear as the father of the deranged Sawyer clan. The actor passed away in 2003 due to complications from emphysema. Also tragic was the murder of Lou Perryman back in 2009 who played L.G. in this film and also served as Tobe Hooper’s camera assistant on the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Dennis Hopper sadly passed away in 2012 from prostate cancer. But despite key cast members no longer being with us, their performances and contributions to the sequel to one of the most famous horror movies of all time is immeasurable and fans the world over will always celebrate them, their characters and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
Join us Monday as we continue revisiting the Texas Chainsaw movies with Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.
Post Mortem with Mick Garris Guest Starring Texas Chainsaw creator Tobe Hooper
Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Revisiting Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4: The Next Generation
Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 Remake
Revisiting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
FEARnet Movie Review: Texas Chainsaw 3D by Scott Weinberg