In order to follow up his original masterpiece, Tobe Hooper goes behind the camera once again for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – a drastically different turn from its predecessor. Whereas The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is otherwise known as one of the scariest films to have graced the screen and to this day remains one of the most iconic horror films of all time, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 takes a vastly different route and now becomes a black comedy. And what Tobe Hooper presents is nothing short of entertaining from start to finish, a perfect follow-up to his original masterpiece which straight up goes against the rules, just in the very best sense of the word.
Taking place thirteen years after the events of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, and this time we have a new group of characters who fall victim to Leatherface, the cannibalistic chainsaw-wielding serial killer who had preyed upon more victims in his past. Many of the plot details follow along with the beats of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre film rather smoothly, but where the big difference arrives, however, is in tone. Where the first film had focused upon minimalism in order to induce fear into its viewers so that it could evoke a feeling as if they were trapped in the situation together with the characters whom they are watching, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 does something out of the box.
Obviously, the first notable difference between the original film and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is the fact that instead of being a straight-up horror film, it is actually a dark comedy. Reportedly, Tobe Hooper had seen elements of dark comedy present within the original film, but given the intensity of the content it was depicting, it was almost nowhere to be seen by the general public – so he does something rather different in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 by making everything all the more blatant. It never always works, but on a rather consistent rate, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 manages to find a way to bring laughs out of a source where we would never have imagined seeing it in the past, and that’s where the wonders come in.
In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Tobe Hooper is also working on a much bigger budget in comparison to the predecessor, which was made on a budget of $35,000. Here, we have a budget of $4 million, so Tobe Hooper makes clear he’s under studio influence. Normally, this would come off as a bad thing but knowing what he’s shouting as he’s under there, it’s also what makes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 rather fascinating. Knowing that the first film was given an R rating even though Hooper had done the very best that he could in order to cut everything back to get a PG rating (part of which resulted in the film being able to create a feeling as intense as it had carried), he decides that he will go out of his way to tell the same story but go ahead and have a full-on R rating, exploiting the flaws of the censorship which the first film had suffered. It was slapped with an X rating eventually, but when that came about, it added more towards what Hooper had been getting across, and it’s brilliant.
Where most of the comedy works, however, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 seems to suffer from having rather weak horror backing everything up. It’s disappointing when one knows already what Hooper is capable of, just as the first Texas Chain Saw Massacre film had shown to his viewers, but it seems as if the drastic shift in tone ended up distracting Hooper from creating something that feels more consistent all throughout. It never helps especially when the film’s comedy does not always land, and even the very funniest jokes which the film makes are not particularly hilarious, but worthy of a few chuckles. Hooper’s blend is never as effective as its goal wishes for it to be, but in part it seems to be the fault of its screenplay (another aspect that stuns me, given as it was written by L. M. Kit Carson of Paris, Texas, one of the definitive films of the decade).
Nevertheless, there’s loads of fun to be had with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, for even the moments that can appear so dumb are so evidently aware of where the faults are. The film could have (and should have) been much funnier given what it had intended to go for with its attack on the censorship which the original masterpiece had suffered, but at certain moments the comedy comes off as rather weak and Tobe Hooper’s attempts at horror end up feeling so disjointed from the experience. It’s a nice bite at the system which controls how certain films must play out in order to get the satisfaction of some, as it attacks what is commonly desired to the point that those who want it can find it unbearable when they reflect upon it more – but I just wish it could have been a whole lot more clever with the content. Still, it’s good for what it is, and it truly is a worthy sequel to one of the most iconic of all horror films.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via MGM.
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Screenplay by L. M. Kit Carson
Produced by L. M. Kit Carson, Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan, Tobe Hooper
Starring Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams
Release Year: 1986
Running Time: 101 minutes