'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2' Review: Traitor for a Piece of Tail
Like a rube I decided that my evening sustenance intake would be as good a time as any to watch my assigned horror film for the week. That was a bad call, not because of any particularly realistic or convincing gore or violence, but a bowl of chili quickly becomes less appealing when the opening narration is talking about chairs made of human bones and barbecued long pig. I managed to eat the chili of course, because I'm not a punk, but still, it's a little unsettling to stare at a bowl of ground beef covered in tomato sauce while a disembodied voice is explaining the intricacies of mass murder. The film is called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 from 1986.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, from here on in referred to as TCM2, stars Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley, and Bill Johnson. It was originally written as a film about a town full of cannibals, but that got changed to the far less ambitious movie that was finally released. TCM2 is about the father of a victim from the first movie, Hopper, trying to catch the chainsaw murderers as they terrorize a young radio host, played by Williams. Meanwhile the murderers are harvesting human corpses to replace otherwise costly meats required for their barbecue restaurant. It is a terrible film in the best way. A man gets the top of his head chainsawed off in the first ten minutes of the film, accompanied by three separate sprays of blood. The lead villain uses human meat to make chili for cook offs. The two main sympathetic characters are named Lefty and Stretch. The villains wear human flesh or are extremely disfigured, and they tend to be relatively incompetent. One scene involves Leatherface repeatedly ramming his chainsaw in to a tub of ice that Williams is straddling, followed by what can only be described as the most unsettling sex scene ever filmed, one that could certainly be the topic of entire essays.
However, the film suffers from the same drawbacks as any other B-grade horror flick, showcasing a predictable plot and often terrible dialogue. The main problem though is the pacing of the movie. There are plenty of great jokes, but many of them are given so much screen time to fill that they lose power. One scene where the cook tries to bribe Lefty because he thinks Lefty is in the employ of competing food vendors is a hilarious bit, but it drags on for longer then necessary and suddenly becomes a detractor. A call back to the original film is given so much screen time that Bill Moseley is forced to say the same line of dialogue roughly thirty times to fill the audio gap. A climactic chase scene up a long flight of stairs has three separate rotations of the same set of camera angles.
The performances manage to be well worth mentioning. Caroline Williams plays one of the more effective scream queens of old school horror. Bill Moseley's "Chop-Top" Sawyer is remarkably creepy and classically over exaggerated at the same time, especially during his scenes in the radio station where Williams works. However, Dennis Hopper would have been far better suited to playing a villain in the film as opposed to the police detective they cast him in. In this feature he looked a bit discolored and sickly. It also probably doesn't help that he's specifically stated that TCM2 the worst film he's ever been in, so perhaps he didn't really give it his all to begin with. Jim Siedow also gives a notable performance as the cook, a psychotic Hank Hill from The Music Man.
All in all TCM2 an excellent example of the old school horror flick, so gruesome for its time that it was banned in multiple foreign countries unless it had an additional 25 minutes cut from it. It maintains that same level of absurd macabre even in today's standards, with the female lead having to wear her co-worker's face for ten minutes and other such examples of gruesome violence. It's a great B horror film, though it does have some pacing issues, and I still don't get why Dennis Hopper is in it at all.
Final Say: Watch It
(Side note: I'd love to see a sequel where Chop-Top actually makes the Nam-Land theme park.)