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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)

by on April 29, 2012
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When it comes to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” anthology, I will forever have a soft place in my heart for the second installment. A sequel unlike any other in the respective series, “Part 2” is notably quirky and more irreverent than any other “TCM” movie.

I would venture to even call it a dark comedy, all the while laced with genuine bits of terrifying goodness throughout. “Part 2” is a drastic departure from its predecessor, a film that depended on minimalism and a lack of gore to create tension. In the sequel, flashy theatrics and over-the-top blood splatter reign supreme. Enlisting the help of gore specialist Tom Savini, the makeup effects are of the utmost ’80s quality — that is to say there’s no CGI to be had here, just your classic latex prosthetics and cornstarch blood techniques.

If that weren’t enough to entice you, the cast is arguably the best of any “TCM” movie.  Lieutenant Enright, aka “Lefty,” is played by the infallible Dennis Hopper.  “Lefty” is uncle to the infamously wheelchair-bound Franklin, who was slain in the original movie. His quest for justice has led him all over the state of Texas, investigating a growing pattern of chainsaw-related murders. Brought to the near brink of insanity, “Lefty” is hellbent on seeking vengeance for his fallen niece and nephew. His venerable sidekick is that of a local shock-rock DJ nicknamed “Stretch.” Together, they are pitted against Leatherface and company. In “Part 2,” the continuation of the incestuous Sawyer/Hewitt family storyline provides a greater depth to their legacy.

One of Leatherface’s many brothers to be introduced in the series (and easily the most memorable) is that of Chop Top, played brilliantly in “Part 2” by Bill Moseley. Chop Top, a Vietnam veteran with a distinctive metal plate protruding from his skull, is the driving comedic force of the film. His multitude of one-liners singlehandedly make this film a cult classic. Included with the continued legacy of the family, Jim Siedow reprises his classic role as Drayton Sawyer, aka “The Cook.”  Also returning from the original is the unnerving figurehead of the family in the form of the catatonic grandfather.

Casting aside, the movie is a genuinely fun, exploitative and gory romp. Director Tobe Hooper should be applauded for not going the conventional route with his second installment. He could have easily made a sequel that mimicked the seminal original — a tired plot rehashing for the sake of a cash grab that’s what horror fans have come to expect as the norm. But “Part 2” is brilliantly refreshing not only in its conception but its stylistic qualities as well. By flipping the script and going down a far more unconventional path, Hooper manages to create a sequel worth revisiting time and time again. I can’t overstate the replay value of this film enough. Having revisited it recently, I can confidently say that it is as refreshing and thrilling as the first time I watched it many many years ago.

In fact, upon closer inspection, the film is divided into two variably different halves. The first half is far and away the more comedic, fun-loving, schlocky part of the film, whereas the second half is noticeably darker and far more akin to what you’d expect given the title of the film. A chainsaw duel, face-peeling scenes and a revisiting of the family-dinner sequence all make up an illustrious second half in “Part 2.”  These two very oppositional halves meld together perfectly to create a unique yet campy final product.

As shocking and brutally horrifying as the original is, “Part 2” stands to be the cornball doppelganger of the bunch. Both are outrageous in polar-opposite ways. “Part 2” is not only a continuation of the Leatherface saga, but it is also a product of its time, providing a satire of popular movie trends of the time (specifically John Hughes movies). Whereas hippies were the victims in the first “TCM,” this second installment takes place 13 years later, thus pitting the chainsaw-wielding family against iconic ’80s yuppies.  I can’t think of a more true, and blue, ’80s horror romp than this film, which deserves its cult-classic status.