The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 ★★½

The Outdated Reviews/Ratings Club
(Reviews/Ratings I disavow):
An American Werewolf in London, The Beyond, Bride of Frankenstein, The Brood, Burial Ground, Christine, Curtains, Day of the Dead, Evil Dead II, The Fly (1986), The Funhouse, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009), In the Mouth of Madness, Lisa and the Devil, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Prom Night, Re-Animator, Session 9, The Shining, Silver Bullet, Slumber Party Massacre II, Tenebre, Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 2, Texas Chainsaw "3D", The Thing 1, The Thing 2, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

Well... it actually seemed to have a clear direction for the first half hour or so. This is important because, you'll notice almost immediately, this is just not the original film. It's got a completely different look and music is used a lot differently as well. This is why I found myself so disappointed when it decided to climb off the rails of structure and sanity and just throw everything at the wall, hoping something would stick. Why might that not work for a sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Probably because there was no interest from anyone with money to do another film in that "documentary" style of the original. But money still wants the same themes and structure of events: attractive 20-something white woman kidapped, forced to sit and scream at dinner table, held over bucket while hammered over the back of the head. The only novelty here is that these same things you've already seen are happening on a real budget. Which really shouldn't leave me the only one feeling uncomfortable with the concept of this film.

I could try making up excuses for why it took me so long to get to see this movie - I ordered the DVD on Amazon.com on the 15th of this month - but, truthfully, I avoided it because what I expected was pretty much what this was. More or less. I expected an identity-confused stream of chainsaw-vs-chainsaw fights, unmolded social "commentary," and Bill Moseley bouncing around, playing with corpses like they were lifesized My Buddy dolls. So, no, I haven't had the same history with this as I've had with the original film (which I saw back in 2000, renting the VHS from Blockbuster). But you know a film I actually grew up with? Also a genuine rip-off of Hooper's films in general (especially this sequel and The Funhouse)? Dan Aykroyd's directorial debut, Nothing but Trouble. And I gotta tell you- this movie badly needed a people-eating roller coaster. Which is to say that movie kind of had better ideas (especially the local law enforcement all being in cahoots with the Judge the entire time) but lacked an artistic eye for them.

This movie is superior to all that have ripped it off (including, quite possibly, House II), proving that it definitely has some influential elements. But it sincerely disappoints me to say: not by much. There's some art here but it feels more like Hooper grappling with himself as a filmmaker: "am I an artist or a schlockmeister?" The result of that Q&A session, this film, is split pretty much right down the middle. Many of the images onscreen suggest there's a history within the film and a fascinating one but the story, dialogue, and characters fail to cross the line over into any kind of meaning. Not only is this not in any way a gut-grabbing horror film, it's disappointingly incidental as a commentary on anything. It's gratuitous. And I'm actually referring to bits like the Chili Cooking Contest which just sit there. Pretty much so we can see a professional establishment give a guy a trophy with brown slop dripping from the cup. Oh, Texas. You rebels you.

It's not exactly a mess. Everything fits. Where it should fit. But it definitely feels the pressure to live-up to the original. And, with all the time that passed, this just is no Gremlins 2. Especially when paired with the consistent failing of the film to actually shoot the long-winded scenes of characters babbling with an energy that actually works for the style of cinematography they chose (which utterly flattens everything Jim Siedow is trying to do), there's just something incredibly wrong with approaching this as a comedy from minute 1. Not only does it rob the first film of something, considering that it's from a director who knows as well as everyone else does that he'll never be able to dance on that edge of cinematic glory again, the fact Hooper has a bit of a problem with audiences for not seeing the original as a comedy as he does leads him to entirely underestimate our ability to process something thoughtful and contemplative. At best, this movie is an 80's metalhead van art rendering of the original.

More disappointing than anything is buying a DVD which makes a bit of a big deal about being uncut and what you wind up seeing feels like a mild-R. I of course bought the 2006 20th Anniversary MGM "Gruesome" Edition (being an Amurrican and all) and I can't tell if the old MGM disc with Dennis Hopper on the cover was uncut. Despite all the gory films I see where the gore is the only decent thing in it leading me to become very "I don't care anymore" when someone tries to sell me on the latest Hatchet, I am a bit of a gorehound at heart. I still get excited at the prospect of finding something glorious from the 80's that I've never seen before. And, yet, for all the reputation this has for being ultra-gory (I think it was Nicotero or Savini who are at fault for this claim)... it doesn't show. This was the thing that really intrigued me at the end of the day. Enough to say: "$7? You've got a deal." After that one guy head-sawed at the beginning of the film, you've pretty much seen it all.

After all the retrospective horizon-expanding I've done in the past year with cult 70's and 80's horror, I have to be fair and say in the time since Hooper's original, Motel Hell was a better sequel than this in almost every way (that one death in the first 15 minutes being the sole exception). This film should have been a sequel to Gary Sherman's lousy Raw Meat. Then we'd be cooking. This might still be better than the copies of it, but the lack of great ideas thing does cripple this movie. Goofy-ass comedy or not, this is still a follow-up to one of the most allegorically loaded films ever made. This sequel is a flirt under the neon green grass of Dennis Hopper and Caroline Williams' daytime scenes and that underground amusement park on training wheels. A flirt that really needed a people-eating rollercoaster. (Or just any expansion on the idea of tourist-trapping exhibits. One of my followers mentioned The Goonies, I'd refer them to Pee Wee's Big Adventure instead.)

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