The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 ★★

Alright, so I know this has a reputation for being an unconventional sequel and you really aren't meant to compare it to the original, but man, this is really not where I pictured the story going.

To be honest, I wish it didn't go anywhere, because any attempt to elaborate on the the random savagery of the first film would likely undo the sense of crazed ambiguity that was already achieved. But, here we are.

There's no group of teenagers in this one. Just a radio DJ, her friend and a man (Dennis Hopper) bent on avenging his son (who was killed in the first Massacre film). Leatherface & Co. have been busy since we last saw them, committing a number of gruesome murders across (East?) Texas. They also appear to have moved from the humble (and disturbingly normal-looking) farmhouse to a vast underground sprawl resembling some kind of macabre carny hell made up of twisting tunnels and rickety furniture. The specifics of the plot aren't worth describing - all you need to know is that everyone converges at some point and general mayhem ensues.

This is a strange film in a couple ways. Tobe Hooper returns to direct, but you wouldn't know it if the credits hadn't said so. Narratively and stylistically it feels like a major departure and in some aspects, it has the air of a pseudo-remake. The film is gorier, the world and the action within it is expanded and the killers are made into more bombastically, cartoonishly crazy villains. The vague mythos of Leatherface and his family is partially dismantled, as the chainsaw wielding star is turned into a slightly sympathetic, almost Frankenstein-like character with sexual angst and the intentions of his brother, Drayton, are boiled down to weak family-business-oriented rationale.

There's also a more explicit lean towards wacky dark comedy that threw me for a loop. Everyone (and I mean everyone) is playing their role way over the top and I just found it a lot more irritating than humorous. It's got a whiff of satire as well, but only a whiff - not enough to materialize into something solidly clever. In all of this, the tension is mostly lost. The horror is gone (with the exception of one really good jump scare), but the film didn't seem all that interested in that element (unless the filmmakers considered dreadfully drawn-out instances of blunt force trauma and awkward teases at violence to be "horrific").

I have to give big ups to the set designers for imagining a fantastically grungy setting, but everything else is mostly lost on me.

If I had to sum up the experience in a word, I'd say it was unpleasant. I thought that something more heightened in its depraved, bad-taste ambitions might be a good look for this group of characters, but in this case, the humor and terror made for an ill-fitting, unstoppably grating mix.

A bizarre, wholly unnecessary sequel caught between self-parody and thrill-fest that gleefully undermines rather than supports what came before.

Boonmee liked this review