The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 ★★★

After a gap of many years, Tobe Hooper returned with another instalment featuring the family from Texas that knows just how to make their special meat dishes extra special.

A lengthy, narrated opening crawl informs the audience that Leatherface and co. were never found by police after the events of the first movie and that rumours persist of their activities throughout the state. Such rumours lead to the appearance of ‘Lefty’ Enright (Dennis Hopper), a lieutenant who has never stopped searching for his missing nephew, Franklin. The lieutenant gains an ally in the form of a young DJ named ‘Stretch’ (Caroline Williams), who believes that she was on the phone with two young men when they were killed by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. To flush them out, she agrees to replay the phone conversation over the airwaves, putting herself in serious danger in the process. But ‘Lefty’ is going to do his level best to keep her safe and punish the crazy family once and for all, even if he has to buy three new chainsaws to do so. Things could get messy.

The first time I saw this sequel, a few years ago now, I thought it was a terrible film. Dire in almost every respect. It’s amazing how opinions can change over time.

It’s no classic, and nowhere near the greatness of the original, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun in places and certainly raises the bar when it comes to chainsaw-related hijinks.

Where the movie falls down is in the constant use of humour. The first movie certainly had some dark, dark humour here and there but the sequel sees Hooper apparently trying to emulate the goofiness that Sam Raimi was able to get away with. This means that the killer family spend an annoying amount of time just toying with their intended victims and also leads to a few ridiculous scenes in which Leatherface (played this time by Bill Johnson) holds his chainsaw and uses it overtly as a buzzing phallus. Any way in which this might be deemed clever is undone by the unsubtlety of it all.

The second big downfall of the movie comes in the way it recreates a major set-piece from the first movie but just doesn’t do it half as well. It’s not a carbon copy, and fair play to Hooper for twisting the material slightly while repeating himself, but it’s close enough to warrant unflattering comparisons.

The script by L. M. Kit Carson throws in too many quirks and ramblings but also includes some inspired lunacy and a magnificent chainsaw duel that remains a highlight of the series.

As for the acting. Dennis Hopper is great value as a man obsessed with revenge, Caroline Williams makes a very good leading lady to root for, Bill Moseley makes quite an impression as ‘Chop-Top’, Jim Siedow is good fun as Drayton Sawyer and Bill Johnson whirls around his chainsaw with reckless abandon.

Judging by the other movies in Tobe Hooper’s filmography, it may be fair to say that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was as much a matter of luck as it was directorial skill but he does at least try to just go further and get more and more madness onscreen with his second attempt at showing that “the saw is family”.