V. Lepistö 🏳️🌈’s review published on Letterboxd:
When a major (yet somewhat underseen) master of cinema dies, it sometimes seems as if it becomes race for cinephiles to hurry and worship them and very easily I feel that we lose line between those who truly appreciate and those who are just jumping into bandwagon - or so it seems. Especially today when we read and see so much; perhaps it is just an impression but still it affects me to the point that I'm just not sure whether I should write or not. But Tobe Hooper is a director to whose work I've developed an honest fascination and it hasn't happened over too long period of time - it has probably been around year or so since I saw the first part of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and then, after enthusiasm from people on the site (shoutout to Josiah Morgan), my path lead me to Salem's Lot. Only after two films I've been asking for months from myself, what makes Tobe Hooper great? It was only this month that I saw third film from him, The Funhouse and fell in love with it and perhaps then it really struck me that Hooper is an artist from whose work the enjoyment, philosophy and achievement can be found on so many levels and seems to the point that I'm honestly just starting (taking baby-steps) to find him. I've been wanting to find The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 for months and as shameful as it is to say, it was only Tobe Hooper's death that launched the need to watch it one way or the other as soon as possible.
It feels as if the whole America is in some kind of conspiracy, to the point that it feels unreal and perhaps this is the reason why everything feels so absurd and nightmarish in the film; the most ordinary scenes too at the first half of the film like when Drayton Sawyer is given cooking trophy or when Stretch tries to take tape to Lefty and faces idiots in the hallway. Crowds in these scenes, as the film advances, seem to become more secretive, even the concept of "normal people" loses its meaning. We come to the point where real and unreal become the same and isn't that when all nightmares start? The American concept of "good folk" somehow loses its meaning as we once again step to the world of this twisted family that represents tight family values that extend to every area of life - even beyond the limits of ethics. Hooper implies that "family sticks together" and approaches it with horror and this time, dark humor. It feels almost like parody of the first film yet survives with merits of its own and still manages to maintain some terrifying tones - ideas, imagination, what ifs.
It isn't only the family that is crazy - Hopper's character and his story-line feels almost like separate piece which highlights his alienation. When Stretch is in trouble, he doesn't seem to bother his thoughts with her - at one point he tries to save her from falling with fragile bone and everybody understands that Tobe has his tongue-in-cheek, especially when Lefty takes his chainsaws and runs to the den shouting on his own, at himself or to some dark power he thinks surrounds it all. When Stretch attempts to escape, Lefty beats everything he can with his chainsaw without really being in his senses, it feels as if he is fighting with himself or in his own realm he has created. Later he cuts Stretch's escape route with his chainsaw and when he finally reaches the maniac family, his only thoughts are with slaughtering them all and acting as some kind of hand of God - vigilante heroism a la America. Stretch is probably our only point of identification - somebody who is drawn to it all accidentally, just like most protagonists in horror cinema. She is being played with, once again we have to witness painful scene with rotting grandpa that ends in strong hit by somebody else. She is toy that can be thrown away and it is important to notice that despite being Leatherface's "love interest", Hooper never emphasizes too much that Leatherface could have human feelings - he resembles more like Frankenstein's monster, somebody who has been built by someone else, capable of having emotions that resemble human but that come out as something that from general view is deprecating; to someone who have never learned what love means, it doesn't differ much from selfishness (even those who basically know what love means, usually mix the two).
"The saw is family" is also interesting and notable expression since both Lefty and Stretch pick chainsaws up at certain points of the film, it also attaches them to this weird conspiracy I mentioned earlier; it is never really about "losing one's soul" since it seems that spirit doesn't really exist and materialism controls this world; the whole world seems to be artificial from the concrete constructed landscapes (that are admittably part of this family's fantasy and later become reflection of Lefty's and Stretch's state of mind) to emotions that feel very strongly physical and products of one or another fantasy. For example to Lefty's fantasy, the victims seem to be nothing but beings that justify his role. Or even Stretch at the end of the film with chainsaw at her hand, standing as a winner on mountaintop, seem to embrace her role as some kind of heroic survivor and yet her movement brings mind frenzied Leatherface at the end of first film. "The saw is family" seems to describe America under the surface or dark secrets that unite groups of people morbidly together.
I honestly don't think that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is lesser film to the first part - they are very different but they seem like one. I think if there is difference, it is comparable (at least on a surface level) to way Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Return are differently comparable, ideas are only taken to different level and the approach is very different. Who would want to stay in one place the rest of their career? I can't say that I've reached anything truly groundbreaking with going into detail to the film but what I've found seems to have bounded me strongly with it and this bound keeps me interested in it and willing to see it again. It's a massive, pulse-beating, hilarious, terrifying, disgusting work of art that demands to be viewed from multiple perspectives - as I wrote earlier: "...Hooper is an artist from whose work the enjoyment, philosophy and achievement can be found on so many levels".