It’s almost pointless to review these 2K masters anymore, because they’re always the best version you’ve ever seen of whatever old splatter movie is being discussed. But fuck it, I’m going to anyway. I’ll talk about the film itself after I ramble about the disk for a minute:
Video – The color saturation is beautiful, almost glowing, especially in the “lair” scenes late in the movie when the viewer gets a chance to experience the cinematography as intended. There’s a bit of grain, as you’d expect in a low-budget film from 1986, but overall the transfer shows good depth and clarity. In a few dimly lit shots, the contrast is flattened by graininess, but this adds up to about 15 – 20 seconds of the 101-minute film. Furthermore, one or two shots suffer from fuzzy focus, though that may be the fault of the source material. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 has simply never looked good enough for me to notice before now.
Let’s put it this way: the worst moments on this 2K transfer are still better than the best moments in any previous version, including the theatrical release.
Audio – Fuck if I know. I’m half deaf. The screaming was loud and clear, that’s for sure.
Extras – If some asshole is seriously going to complain about 3 commentaries, a feature-length documentary, outtakes, set footage, and interviews from a 30-year-old flop of a B-movie, he needs the phrase “first-world problem” explained in no uncertain terms.
The Movie – OK, a lot of people dislike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (certainly the audience I saw it with in 1986, based on the shouts of “This sucks!” hurled at the screen throughout the showing). True, it lacks the pure, visceral power of the original. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the greatest horror films of all time, after all. Tobe Hooper, while boasting a pretty strong horror resume, was never quite able to capture that lightning-in-a-bottle thing again. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the drive-in movie that transcends drive-in movies.
I didn’t like Part 2 all that much when I saw it those many years ago, either, and the film so disturbed one member of my small horror crew that she wouldn’t watch movies with us anymore, taking her boyfriend with her. Which left me.
Before you go trashing her, it was 30 years ago. We’re all good now.
So anyway, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 has grown on me considerably over the years, and I began to truly embrace it upon experiencing a recent epiphany: The relationship between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is exactly as that between Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. That is, the originals are the seminal, raw, visceral horror films of their respective decades, and both sequels are essentially comedic remakes beneath all the gore.
So why does everyone love Evil Dead 2 while dismissing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, when in fact Hooper came up with the approach first? I’d go as far as to say TCM2 is a more substantial cinematic achievement. Stop grumbling and let me explain!
Evil Dead 2, which I love by the way, is a loopy, slapstick romp. It’s great that Sam Raimi made a comic send up of his own film. But it does not satirize the genre the way that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 did a year earlier. Just as an example: We can agree that Tobe Hooper invented, in Leatherface, the first slasher-movie icon. This is four years before Michael Myers, eight before Jason Voorhees proper, and ten before Freddy. How clever, then, that the murderous family of terrifying backwoods cannibals in the first TCM had become local celebrities by the events of the second, as if their trajectory in off-screen life followed that of their cinematic horror brethren’s on-screen rise.
The two Chainsaw films, in a sense, are the bookends for an entire phase of independent horror cinema in which raw, high-energy violence was the signature attribute. By 1986, animatronic (and puppeteered) creature effects were becoming the selling point of horror films, no longer violent gore. Peruse the Fangoria covers of the age and see what I mean.
Whether he knew it or not, Tobe Hooper was putting a cap on the “chainsaw” era with violence that was so ridiculous it became ironic. TCM2 is certainly more self-aware and self-parodying than any other horror film of the time that purports to “play it straight.”
So. Yeah. Buy the damn movie. It’s good. And tell ’em Grandma sent you.