The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is completely different in tone from its predecessor. Gone is the gruesome realism. In its place, surreal and macabre humor, but the horror remains fully intact.
Director Tobe Hooper didn’t want to make the same movie again. After 12 years (14 within the movie), the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre had already become a seminal horror movie unlike any other. Everyone wanted more of the same, and with over a decade in between the two films, he could have gotten away with it if he wanted.
But he didn’t play it safe. Hooper gave us something totally and tonally unexpected.
Texas Chainsaw 2 is still gruesomely gory and horrific, but it has one of the darkest senses of humor I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s as if the cannibalistic Sawyer family made the movie themselves. This has an adverse effect on me; I become more horrified because of how “off” it is. Consequently, that’s why it works. Hooper is doing this all on purpose.
The macabre humor is in the marketing too. The “family group shot,” seen in the advertisements, posters and video covers, uses the same positioning as the promotional group shot for the movie The Breakfast Club. This unnerves me to no end.
While The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a horror curve ball like no other of the ’80s, it does honor the trend of dislikable victims. The movie opens with two obnoxious college yuppies driving down a Texas highway with a pistol and no respect for history. The passenger shoots historical landmark signs as they call into a radio station and refuse to get off the line.
This trend made it all the more easy to root for the killer. It’s why classic slashers like Michael, Jason, and Freddy were so popular. Leatherface and the Sawyer family are different though.
They aren’t unstoppable supernatural phantoms. They’re real.
This trend is evident in the Texas Chainsaw 2, because immediately you want these two assholes to die, and die in a bad way. This wish is granted quickly, as the two play chicken with the wrong truck.
The truck drives in reverse next to their car, and out pops a corpse that is being controlled like a Guignol puppet by a body hiding behind it. One of the yuppies shoots at the chainsaw maniac knocking the head to the side to reveal the one and only Leatherface. The corpse Leatherface and Chop-Top are carrying around with them (also appearing on the original cover art) is that of the hitchhiker from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
This opening scene all takes place while the two asshole victims are on the radio live as callers with radio host Stretch (Caroline Williams). Lieutenant Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper) is a formal Texas Marshall on the hunt for these murdering cannibals and puts out feelers for anyone who knows anything more about the murders.
The two team-up. Lefty for revenge, and Stretch to advance her career. This leads to Stretch being used as literal bait as Lefty follows the Sawyer family to their underground lair. They reside in an abandoned amusement park called Texas Battle Land that’s shaped like a boneyard above ground, and certainly below.
In the catacombs underneath are the possessions of countless victims. They line the walls, which have been gleefully decorated. Lefty, in his mission to find the Sawyers and kill them with his 3 recently bought chainsaws, also comes across a victim from the original Texas Chainsaw. An eye for an eye or a saw for a saw.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is weird, horrific, humorous and surreal. It’s not as good as its predecessor, but both horrify me in equal ways. It’s certainly the best sequel in the series, and out of any entry, has the most to theorize about.
For instance, (Spoilers for those who haven’t seen or wish to watch), the ending scene shows Stretch waving a chainsaw victoriously on top of the amusement park, in broad daylight, after fighting her way out throughout the night.
As the camera pulls back we see a highway full of traffic behind her.
This conveys that the world is just moving on about its normal business as unspeakable horrors are taking place right next to a major highway. That chills me to the core. (Note: The traffic is seen in the theatrical cut and in some video releases, but not all releases. In some it has been cropped.)
I’ll spare you further intimate details so you can watch for yourself, but by now you can tell The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a unique horror gem. Its tone is something I find more in line with a Halloween viewing than the original, which is why it’s on our 31 Days of Halloween list. Saw through our other must-see Halloween picks here.