I’m not one for modern horror. Barring REC and REC.2, there are very few releases of the recent horror films that either interest or excite me. Have recently watched 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, I found little to change my mind. The oldies really are the goldies, it’s a shame really as I had high hopes for this as it starred a particular favourite cult actor of mine; Bill Mosley. After watching just over 60 minutes of Field of Screams it became clear that this was an utter waste of time.
I lay staring at the TV screen depressed and let down my expectations ripped from my beating heart similar to what an evil ex would do. I lay on the bed waiting for filmic despair to take hold of my horror heart. But then suddenly like a bolt of electricity shooting through my memory synapses a thought occurred to me, all was not lost.
For I knew to get me out of such a filmic slump the film would itself have to be both funny, un-pc, depraved and the right side of comically gory. And after mere milliseconds of searching my mind catalogue, the answer became clearer then the blinding light that shines through a non-curtained window. That answer was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and as I began to place said DVD into its designated slot, I heard the disapproving and unified tut of several fellow horror fans. But wait it stars a young Bill Mosley and is still (in the most humblest opinions) a lost cult film gem. A far cry from the tense and atmospheric original, yes, but still a darkly comic and camp take on the original.
My first viewing of this now (at least in my own eyes) cult classic was late night on the channel Bravo, back when they screened at least semi good tele-visual programming and good “bad” films. I was young and intrigued at the prospect of a sequel to what I thought was one of the greatest horror films ever made, so out of curiosity I sat and allowed my still young mind absorb this kitsch feast. After watching I felt split, I knew I enjoyed it but felt a little dirty and almost like I was tarnishing the memory of the original but admitting to that fact. But slowly over the years it has grown to become a firm cult favourite and an indulgent guilty pleasure.
Now let me set something straight this film does indeed fail miserably as both a sequel and as a way of keeping the spirit of the originals minimalistic style and low budget feel alive. But when one distances this film from its predecessor and sees it as a single entry or at the very least a darkly comic take on similar characters, this film becomes a great campy comedy horror.
The character of Chop-Top (the brother of the Hitchhiker from the first film) is utterly barking and contains some of the best horror quotes this side of Evil Dead 2 (stop the boo’s and hisses). They include quasi-classic ditties such as: “lick my plate, you dog dick” / “Leatherface you bitch, look what you did to my Sonny Bono wig” and the still reining champ of quality horror one liners: “Get that bitch leatherface, get that bitch….doooog will hunt!”. Any film that has its dialogue sampled in a Primus song has surely reached cult status.
Besides the more prominent emphasises on a comical approach to both the style and script, it contains yet another ace in the hole, in the form of the late great Dennis Hopper. This is yet another crazed performance but with added bonus, “The Hopper” wielding duel chainsaws which he uses to unleash the pain against the Sawyer Clan; while preaching to the heavens as he brings down “The Devils Playground” with his trusty chainsaws and cries of “I’m bringing it down…..down to hell!”. It certainly is an interesting performance but it does not put you in any doubt that Hopper was the ultimate man, I mean he even attacks a tree truck with a chainsaw. That is something only a real man would do before breakfast!
One thing that can be agreed on is that giving Leatherface a libido was an embarrassing idea. Tobe Hooper was possibly having a slight seizure when he thought it would be a good idea. I mean all good Cinephiles know that in a horror film (particularly those that are slasher films) sex and violence go hand in bloodied hand. But there is something understandably uncomfortable about watching Leatherface get himself off by slamming his chainsaw into a bucket of ice seriously close to our protagonist’s lady parts. It also makes him an over sexualised buffoon closer to a hormonal teenager then that of a chainsaw wielding maniac.
The thing about this film in retrospect is that ignoring the fact that it is not as good, or in anyway comes close to the use of tension and sensual overload the original had within it, it is still a bloody good laugh with a few horror comedy aficionados. The cult status is highly deserved and needs to grow somewhat as it is a witty, gory and comically violent good southern time. On top of which it is still better the previously mentioned Bill Mosley film sequel.
If you want a crazed almost surreal comedy horror experience, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is that very odd beast and surely anything that contains the deranged Dennis Hopper (the late great I might add) rampaging around a subterranean home for murderous cannibals, all in the name of vengeance. Truly it has to be worth at least one watch, it even goes particularly well with Evil Dead 2. Trust me, I’m a cult film fan.
Dennis Hopper … Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright
Caroline Williams … Vanita ‘Stretch’ Brock
Jim Siedow … Drayton Sawyer, the Cook
Bill Moseley … ‘Chop-Top’ Sawyer
Bill Johnson … Leatherface ‘Bubba’ Sawyer
Ken Evert … Grandpa Sawyer
Directed By … Tobe Hooper
The “family group shot,” as seen in the advertisements, posters and video covers, uses the same positioning as the promotional group shot for the movie The Breakfast Club.
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