The majority of horror sequels tend to not only be sub-par, but near carbon copies of the original entry in a given series. Sure, there are some exceptions – and even some of those near copies are as good (if not better than) that original film – but few take as big risks as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 does. Tobe Hooper came back to Texas more than a decade after the groundbreaking and potent The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a huge gap in time that most franchises don’t see – let alone between the first two entries – and that amount of time was utterly necessary. And with that 10+ years of time, Hooper did the unthinkable: he made a film that’s better than the first one.
I know that I lost a few people there, but I will defend that stance forever. And I do love TCM1. A lot. But what Hooper does with the sequel is take everything successful about the first film and not only ramp it up to gratuitous, hilarious extremes but he contorts it in a way that transcends genre. TCM2 is a lot of things, but it is far from being the flat out horror film that TCM1 is. This is comedy at its blackest, character work at its most sincere – seriously, Chop Top outshines any character in TCM1 – and it also manages to be one of the better American satires of the 80s.
Though Hooper is the maestro behind TCM2, there are other major figures that make it work as well. The first, and most prominent, is Dennis Hopper. No other actor in 1986 has as great a batch of films as he does with this, Blue Velvet and River’s Edge. Each one featuring a performance from Hopper that appears to exist only to out-excess the one that came before. His work here is on par with what he does in the other two films too; he’s manic, jubilant and absolutely out of control. It’s some of his best work, and the only work he has where he dual wields chainsaws. The other major player is Cannon Films. Who need no introduction and worked with Hooper on other 80s films as well. I’m not sure that any other company would have let him make this film the way that it turned out. He needed a long leash and they gave him it.
This is the rare sequel that not only improves upon the original but pushes it into new territory altogether. Preferring it to the original is likely a controversial opinion that few will share, but I wholeheartedly believe it to be the case. It never manages to match the dread of the original, but it doesn’t try to or need to. It’s a pitch dark comedy filled with enough grue and excess to delight the more hardened genre fans but it also manages to be a potent satire on 1980s America. And it just so happens to be Hooper’s best film.
Scream Factory have brought TCM2 back to Blu-ray in the US – MGM put out a decent disc a few years back – and the results are rather astounding. The first disc houses a brand new 2K scan and it looks the best it has on home video so far (and I can’t imagine it looking better). The appearance is impressively filmic, with a nice grain structure throughout, deep blacks and a color palette that seems more organic that previous transfers. This is leaps and bounds ahead of what MGM put out years back as well as what Arrow included in their lavish release from 2013. However, those who do prefer the previous transfer will be happy to see it also included here on the second disc. Which means that purists can hold on to just one release for once! The 2.0 and 5.1 DTS HD tracks keep the presentation going well, with bombastic tracks that feature plenty of loud chainsaw effects and screams. I’ll always stand by the 2.0 track inclusion for films made before 5.1 and I’m happy to see it included here as per usual with SF. Great, great stuff here and arguably one of the best presentation packages yet for SF.
If the transfer wasn’t enough incentive to go get this one, SF have included pretty much everything you’ve ever wanted in regards to TCM2. This is as exhaustive as it gets. Disc 1 starts with three audio commentaries. The sole new one being with DP Richard Kooris, Production Designer Cary White, Script Supervisor Laura Kooris and Property Master Michael Sullivan. This is the track to listen to if you want production information. It gets pretty technical and could be considered dry by anyone looking for fun anecdotes, but the amount and quality of the information included here is hard to ignore. The other two tracks are holdovers from previous releases, the first of which is a great track by Tobe Hooper and the other being with actors Bill Moseley and Caroline Williams who are joined by Tom Savini. Each of the three tracks here carry their own wealth of content and are equally rewarding listens.
Following the commentary tracks, disc 1 also contains 30 minutes of excised footage from the feature length “It Runs In the Family” doc which is on disc 2, a 43 minute assemblage of rough behind the scenes footage, a slew of stills galleries and trailers, 11 minutes of deleted scenes and an alternate opening. All of this content is great, and some of it has been on other releases before but here it all is in the same place for the first time. Of most interest will be the excised “It Runs in the Family” footage which is great and only adds to what is already a great stand alone doc.
On to disc 2 we start with the really fantastic, aforementioned “It Runs In the Family” which runs over eighty minutes and is a fascinating watch. It’s been available before, but having it here only makes this release more compete. Anyone who has yet to see it is in for a real treat. Following that is the brand new “House of Pain” which is a 42 minute feature about the special effects and make-up of the film. After that we get some new interviews: “Yuppie Meat” a 18 minute talk with actors Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon and “Cutting Moments”, a 17 minute talk with Alain Jakubowicz. All are great and fill in some gaps from “It Runs in the Family”, with Jakubowicz offering some of the most interesting comments, mostly regarding working with Hooper and Cannon. After that we get two more video features with “Behind the Mask” a 13 minute talk with Stuntman Bob Elmore and a 24 minute entry into “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” which takes us back to the film locations many years later. It doesn’t get more stacked than this!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 isn’t just a great sequel, it’s a great film in its own right. Scream Factory have given us the definitive release with a brand new transfer and two discs worth of supplements. This is as good as it gets. Highly Recommended.