By Ray Schwetz
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
MGM, $19.95, Trailer
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was a seminal classic that forever changed horror films. Based on the true life story of serial killer Ed Gein (also the basis for Hitchcock's "Psycho"), its near documentary style filmmaking made the horror a gritty reality that was inescapable for the viewer. It was a relentless, hair-raising, gooseflesh inducing nightmare.
However, what I am about to say will probably make you question the validity of any past or future film criticism I have made or will make. I like "Texas Chainsaw 2" better than the original.
I know, I know. The original is a classic. The sequel is really uneven, silly and over the top. I know this. However, the film I keep going back to watch is "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2." In this installment, the last to involve Tobe Hooper, Leatherface and clan are murdering people all over Texas and recycling their victims into award winning chili (!) After being caught on tape, a sexy DJ (Caroline Williams) and an unstable sheriff (Dennis Hopper) set out to stop the cannibalistic sickies once and for all.
Bill Moseley is absolutely hysterical as Leatherface's brother, Choptop. From his comments on "Bubba's girlfriend" to his "Sonny Bono wig," Moseley is a creepy laugh riot. Jim Siedow is a goofy Leatherface, unlike Gunnar Hansen's much more frightening take on the character. Hopper is perfectly cast as Lefty, the unstable sheriff who has a personal stake in the destruction of our favorite cannibal family. Williams is effective and attractive (in an early Marilyn Chambers sort of way) as Stretch, the DJ who sees the opportunity of stopping the clan as a way to further her career.
The problem with the film is the script. Although the one-liners are hysterical, the film veers drastically from comedy to the gross out. There are no scares, other than the cheap shock scares which were commonplace in the horror films of the eighties. There are also continuity problems abound and plot holes you could drive a semi through. It's definitely a rush job. However, Hooper keeps the action moving at a fast pace and there are some very cool setpieces that are sure to satisfy most horror fans. Yes, this film is not high art, folks. Yes, the original is high art. But give me Stretch, Lefty, and Choptop over Franklin any day.
I have very mixed feelings over the quality of this MGM disc. First, the video is very grainy in certain scenes. However, color reproduction and black levels are much improved over all previous laserdisc and VHS versions. Overall, the video is satisfying. The 2.0 surround is very good. There are some neat isolated effects interspersed throughout the soundtrack. Bass levels are okay and the dialogue is clear. Nothing to scream about, but again it's better than all previous editions.
The animated menus are kinda cool. When you make a selection, a chainsaw tears through the screen. The trailer is also included, and it's in decent shape. The omission of the extras found on the Elite laserdisc edition is the biggest thorn in my side. That disc had deleted footage including a cameo by drive in fave Joe Bob Briggs and a massacre of football fans. The footage on the Elite disc was in poor shape, but it was really neat to see. Oh, well.
TCM completists and many horror fans probably will buy (or have bought) this disc. It's definitely worth the price for fans, but the deleted scenes should have been included. Hopefully, most of you continued reading this review, even after my admission to this being my personal favorite TCM film. For those of you who didn't, in the immortal words of Choptop, "Lick my plate!"