E. John Parker’s review published on Letterboxd:
"You have one choice, boy: sex or the saw. Sex is, well... nobody knows. But the saw... the saw is family."
Over a decade after the events of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the infamous, secretive cannibal family begins to prey on a local radio DJ after she notifies the public of their crimes, that up to that point, were mainly just speculation. Fighting for survival, DJ: Vanita Brock (Caroline Williams), and former Texas Marshall: Lieutenant 'Lefty' Enright (Dennis Hopper) take the fight to them.
I had somewhat high hopes going into this sequel that many people have really warmed up to after its initial release. I am an avid fan of the original, classic film, and seeing the same director: the late, legendary Tobe Hooper return meant a recipe for success in my eyes; obviously, that's not how it turned out.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (which will be further referred as Texas Chainsaw 2 from now on) is a major disappointment in nearly every way. All of the nuance and actual horror of the original film is completely stripped away for painfully unfunny comedy sequences, all subtlety from before is ripped away for a blatant, dime-a-dozen gorefest, and any potential for the returning characters to have any decent developments are scrapped for everyone to be bumbling doofuses that would be found in a very low-tier Hanna-Barbera cartoon. All of this being said, I knew that going into this film that the tone was going to be dramatically different than the first one; I knew that instead of a slower-paced horror film, it would ramp itself up a bit and go into a more comedic route, but I feel that the execution of this tone switch is just blatantly terrible.
Funny enough, even with this tone change, the overall plot is rather similar to the first film: a small patch of people are being picked off by a chainsaw wielding maniac and his just as crazy family, until we get down to our typical "final girl" that escapes the horrid situation; f course there are small changes to the formula in Texas Chainsaw 2, but the general formula sticks. The ting is, is I have felt this general slasher formula to work for the most part, but in almost all cases in my numerous negative reviews for slasher movies, it's how the outer details of this general premise that ruin these types of movies, and frankly, Texas Chainsaw 2 is one of these dramatic failures. I can attribute the failure to this film (at least in the plot department) primarily on the characters, and the set design of the second half of the movie. As I stated before, almost every character in this movie is an absolute pain to deal with; over-exaggerations of blatant serial killer tropes that are played out to obnoxious degrees make up a large majority of our cast, and the people opposing our antagonists are severely underdeveloped to even care about them for a second. Caroline Williams' character get's just enough screen time to really be considered a full on character, but her overall involvement in the plot is just to act as an audience surrogate to react to the over-the-top set design, and Dennis Hopper's character doesn't get nearly enough screen time for me to care whatsoever about the final duel at the end of the movie; why should I care about Hopper's character? He does next to nothing throughout the entire film, only being fed exposition and then regurgitating it, himself, only to then disappear for large chunks of the movie, and come back wielding chainsaws to become the hero of the story way too late into the film.
When I speak ill of the set design, it's almost entirely from the last act of the movie. This underground lair that our antagonists hide in is the stupid thing I have seen in a very long time. When watching it all play out on screen, I feel like I'm going through an overblown amusement park ride, rather than going into a creepy tunnel system that leads to a sinister home; it's way too campy, beyond over the top, and it just looks like the art director and set designer threw up colored lights and stupid trinkets all over the set and called it good. Also, what the hell is with that shrine at the end of the movie? You're telling me that a group of cannibals cared so much about some dead relative, that they built this stairway up to this glorified shrine for a dead relative, and then managed to decorate it ala Dia Los Muertos style with a hillbilly overcoat over it? Again, it's totally unbelievable, nor is it played up in a way that would make it funny; it sits in this pit of abject strangeness that doesn't fit no matter where the tone shifts to.
Those are all my major criticisms of the movie, but there are still some positive and negative things left to discuss.
I really like the costume design/makeup/VFX in the movie. Like many other slasher films of the era, there's a lot of interesting work and real fine details put into many of the effects and costumes, and that work is beyond commendable. While the gore-factor of this film is greatly increased from the surprisingly tame amount from the first film, there still isn't a smorgasbord of gore this time around, but there's still a great deal of it. The detail that is put into the gore effects look really good, and even 30 years later, the missing bits of meat and skin that are showed off from a still conscious character in the third act is really unsettling to look at, so major props, there.
I find the soundtrack for the film to be rather decent, but nothing too great nor bad to make any major remarks on; overall serviceable, but not frankly bad.
Most of the actual performances in the movie were rather decent, too, but with the previously mentioned story issues, and just the overall way that these characters were written, there are serious issues with the characters, even if most of the performances are okay. When speaking about bad performances, I seriously cannot stand Jim Siedow's performance as Drayton Sawyer. Understandably, everyone in the film is very over the top for the comedic nature of the film, but there's a fine line of overacting for comedic effect, and just blatant, terrible overacting, and Siedow reaches far past that line.
The last thing I'm going to bring up is this common complaint I have towards all of these psycho killer movies that have chainsaws as weapons in them: I have grown up with my father being an arborist, so I grew up seeing chainsaws everywhere, and being used quite a lot. If there's one basic rule of a chainsaw, it's that they are only meant to cut through easy to cut through materials. There is no way in hell that a chainsaw can cut through metal, nor would it stay in a single piece when attempted to cut through such materials. In real world land, if a chainsaw was to even skid across a metal surface, the chain would break off, probably even shatter, and damage the saw, the chain (obviously), the person wielding the saw, and anyone around him/her. I get it that chainsaws are very menacing in appearance, so they're a go-to for horror movie weapons, but my prejudices when growing up around them just make me roll my eyes whenever I see them being used in a film like they are in Texas Chainsaw 2.
As a whole, Texas Chainsaw 2 is a major letdown, and I honestly can't recommend it despite the warmer reception everyone else has been giving this film over the past little bit. I'm glad if you're somebody who can get real enjoyment out of this movie, but I am certainly not one of them.
Sexual Content/Nudity: 4/10
Drug/Tobacco/Alcohol Use/References: 2/10
Intense/Horrifying Content: 8/10
Personal Recommended Age: 16+
Original rating: Not Rated