The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 ★★★★

Though a little clumsy and inconsistent at times, Tobe Hooper's vision, paired with his incredibly insightful usage of iconography makes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 one of the most interesting sequels to any horror movie I've ever seen.

The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is seen as one of the pillars of the horror genre, a movie so evocative and effective in its portrayal of the Sawyers- the inverse of the idyllic, John Wayne western-frontier family- it has forever shaped the slasher and influenced countless numbers of films, and a countless number of films to come. TCM 2, however, is not an influential text- on the contrary, my appreciation of it stems from the ways in which the film is a response, or perhaps a reflection of the Sawyers' foothold in pop culture's stream of consciousness.

No longer are the Sawyers living in seclusion, waiting for the opportune moment when five teenagers stumble upon their house of pain. Oh no no no- this is the 80s! Drayton Sawyer is now a Reagan-era capitalist, always on the alert for the threat competition might bring to his famous chili business, and never afraid to complain about property taxes while frying a body. Chop-top is a radio-obsessed hippie, who, while he's not beating a man to death, is stealing a Beatles record and wearing a Sonny Bono wig! Indeed, the entire sequence in which Chop Top and Leatherface attack DJ Stretch is full of symbolic weight. The Sawyers are done waiting around- they're prepared to take the fight straight to the radio station- the symbolic hub of mass cultural communication.

So much of the friction found in the first movie comes from the relation between the murderous Sawyers and the symbolic frontier upon which they sit on. The decor and furniture, made out of skin and bones, that comprised their house in the first film was incredibly evocative of the various "prizes" and trinkets American soldiers reaped from the bodies of dead Native Americans after massacres like the one at Sandcreek. Fingers, scalps, and even genitalia were removed from bodies- all of them, spoils of war, sometimes repurposed into everyday items, such as pouches (I'm sure you can imagine). By reimagining their home in the amusement park "Texas Battle Land," Hooper amplifies the very same tension that worked so well in the first movie, incorporating caricatures of Alamo 'heroes' that break away to reveal a stream of blood and guts hidden behind them. The seemingly endless battle, or massacre, uncovered.

The ending is also superb. In order to 'destroy' the Sawyers, which have come to embody a living, breathing, murdering representation of the aforementioned unclosed historical wound, the protagonists must 'sink' to their level. Stretch and Lefty resort to biting flesh, wielding chainsaws, and giving in to a greater cosmic bloodlust (the very same one that took their friends and family) to become victorious. The very last shot of the film is of Stretch wildly swaying and swinging her chainsaw-- the very same performance as Leatherface at the end of the original film. Although the Sawyers are dead, the cycle continues.

Fantastic film.

nickarroyo liked this review