"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Vern tells you all about the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2: THE GRUESOME EDITION DVD!!!

Boys, boys, boys–

These last couple weeks have been tough on my mental facilities. I reviewed that great new “ULTIMATE” edition of the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, I also revisited parts 3 and 4 in that original series, then on Thursday I reviewed the new prequel to the remake. So by that point I’d studied and written about pretty much every angle to the whole Texas Chainsaw deal. You’d think I’d be done with it by now, but there is one final chapter: the one spinoff of the original movie that achieves its own level of True Greatness. I am talking about Tobe Hooper’s 1986 sequel, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. It’s been available on DVD for a couple years in a bare bones edition (get it, that is a pun because of all the skeletons they have) but Tuesday it comes out in a much deserved special edition with new commentaries, featurettes and deleted scenes.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE is my all time best buds forever horror movie, so it’s lucky for me that part 2 happens to be one of my all time favorite sequels. Mostly hated in its time, it has developed a little bit better of a reputation over the years and if it’s not at bona fide classic status by now I think it will be after this DVD gets around and more people give it serious consideration. Like Mr. Romero’s DEAD pictures Mr. Hooper here made a chainsaw movie to represent the time it was made, an excessive, over-the-top ’80s take on TCSM. While it’s about as unrelenting and in-your-face-crazy as slasher movies come, it’s also way more of a comedy than the original, so I can understand why some people didn’t cotton to it right away. But I think most horror fans who gave it half a chance would fall in love with its deranged brilliance.

A warning: it starts out iffy. The first thing you hear after the credits is the dated 1980s drum machine of a Timbuk3 song. And the first scene is about some obnoxious high school yuppie football fans driving down a Texas highway firing guns and calling the K-OKLA request line, announcing themselves as “Buzz” and “Rick the Prick.” Like in many bad horror movies (especially of that era) these are characters that you will probaly want to see get killed. If so you will get your wish when the two assholes get stalked by an American flag-decked pickup truck that they played chicken with earlier. Leatherface makes his entrance hidden behind “Nubbins,” the new name for the hitchhiker’s rotted corpse, which he uses as a puppet while sawing their Mercedes.

Caroline Williams plays Stretch, the DJ who happens to be on the line when this happens. Soon she will meet Dennis Hopper as Lefty Enright, the revenge-obsessed Texas Ranger and uncle of part 1’s Sally and Franklin. He’s been scouring the state for these cannibals for years and believes they’re operating out of this area. When he selfishly convinces Stretch to play recordings of the snuff phone call repeatedly on the air it draws the attention of Chop Top (Billy Moseley, later Otis in the HOUSE OF ONE THOUSAND CORPSES pictures) and Leatherface (Bill Johnson this time), who Chop calls “my little brother, Bubba.” They show up at the radio station late at night and, from that point on, the movie has you at knifepoint.

We’ve all seen many people menaced in many different movies, but for my money the assault on the radio station here is one of the all time greats. At first you only see Chop Top, this weird hippie guy in a bad wig, mumbling about buying some advertising time, making Stretch uncomfortable by his uninvited presence. He looks bizarre and for some reason he keeps holding the end of a coathanger to his zippo lighter and then digging it into his scalp. You don’t know at first if he’s really trying to scare her or if he’s just socially retarded like his twin brother, the hitchhiker. It turns out he has a big surprise planned where Leatherface jumps out from the record vault with his chainsaw. But the plan doesn’t quite work out correctly because Bubba accidentally hits Chop on the head with the saw, sending sparks everywhere and inspiring the classic line “Leatherface, you bitch hog, look what you did to my Sonny Bono wig!”

At this point the metal plate in Chop Top’s head is visible and he’s using the coat hanger to pick off pieces of dead skin and munch on them like raisins. Leave it to the chainsaw family to come up with a fourth use for coathangers after 1. coathanging 2. illegal abortions and 3. unlocking your car door. If there is another self-cannibal in horror cinema I don’t know who it is, but I bet he doesn’t do it this casual.

The big turning point in part 1 is when Leatherface suddenly appears in the house, hits Jerry over the head with the sledge, drags his body into the slaughter room and slams the metal door shut. In this one maybe the turning point is when Leatherface jumps out with the saw. But shortly after that, when Chop Top is on the ground hunched over poor L.G., gleefully hammering his head in with a small hammer, is when you really know you’re in the shit. By now everybody besides Michael Bay has figured out that TCSM has hardly any gore in it. But part 2 let’s you fuckin have it. Not happy-fun-time-early-Peter-Jackson gore, more like gruesome-oh-Jesus-did-I-need-to-see-that? gore, courtesy of Tom Savini somewhere around his prime. Some people hate that it doesn’t use the same approach as the original, but I think it’s smart. You gotta mix it up to keep people on their toes.

The movie also makes you extra uncomfortable by giving Leatherface an interest in sex. Stretch has to use her feminine charms (well, actually her crotch) to save her life. For Bubba/Leatherface, pointing his saw at her is like getting to cop his first feel, and he goes all mushy on us. He’s soft enough that he lets her live and pretends to his brother that he killed her, but aggressive enough that he saws apart the entire studio and then wiggles his saw at crotch level before running out the door. This may not be the same type of Leatherface character we saw in the original, but he’s a classic character in his own right. Completely disgusting, but lovable as far as retarded, cannibalistic, graverobbing serial killers go. And this sets up a very different take on the captured girl scenario because instead of trying to kill her for the entire movie, Leatherface spends alot of the time trying to play with her and hide from the family that she’s there, until finally they find out and invite her to dinner to, uh, meet Grandpa.

I think it’s okay to have a little different take on Leatherface, because the whole tone and feel is different. The humor is more overt, and even gets a little cartoony in the early scenes where the one returning actor, Jim Siedow as Drayton “The Cook” Sawyer, collects his trophy at a chili cookoff. “This town loves prime meat!” he says. Not sure what that has to do with anyt– WAIT A MINUTE!

But most of the humor is so sick it only adds to the horror. You can both laugh and be disturbed by Chop Top puppeteering the dead body of his twin brother. Or poor Stretch secretly watching Leatherface cut off her good friend’s skin with an electric knife while Drayton tells him to get going on the eyeball pate. Despite the laughs and chuckles this is a bleak, unrelenting, bash your fuckin head in with a hammer horror movie. By the time Stretch has literally fallen into the Sawyer family’s body-strewn underground amusement park “Texas Battle Land,” the movie has completely given itself over to the family’s deranged mind state. If you thought Robert Burns’ skeletal-creations in the first one were elaborate, just wait until you see their new home. The production designer this time is Cary White (no relation to “Scary Carrie” as far as I know) and he created a labyrinth of moldy underground tunnels filled with what must be hundreds and hundreds of scavenged lamps, chandeliers and Christmas lights to light all kinds of bone furniture, body parts and skeletons that the family poses into humorous scenes (a visit to the beach, Slim Pickens riding the bomb in DR. STRANGELOVE). Apparently their amusement park went out of business, but they have their own attractions going on down here. I don’t want to be an armchair psychiatrist here, but in my opinion these guys are fuckin nuts.

And so is Dennis Hopper’s Lefty. What a brilliant touch to make a protagonist almost as crazy as the killers. There’s a great scene where he goes to a chainsaw store and tries to find some saws that will work for him. You watch the confused store owner watch Lefty as he hefts them around, testing their weight and feel. This guy clearly is not thinking about cutting down trees. Of all the chain saw movies, this is the only one that contains a chain saw duel. I’m not sure what Lefty is planning to do when he first goes down into the Sawyers’ hellhole. But when he kicks through a mural of Daniel Boone and an avalanche of guts pours out it takes him about two seconds to decide to start chainsawing every support beam in sight. “I’m bringing it down!”

The screenplay for this one is by L.M. Kit Carson, better known for writing PARIS, TEXAS, which is a pretty different movie from this one, in my opinion. I’m sure he deserves most of the credit for the satire and the heavily quotable dialogue. Another thing this movie has that you don’t get in a whole lot of horror movies is an incredible cast of characters. Chop Top would have to be my favorite, he’s even crazier than the hitchhiker and he has most of the best lines (“Lick my plate, you dog dick!”) One of my favorite Chop Top moments is after dinner when the family suddenly hears the trespassing Lefty somewhere in their lair storming around with a saw singing “Bringing In the Sheep.” The whole family goes silent, surprised at the sound of this intruder. And then, suddenly, Chop Top starts singing along happily.

Of course, you could also argue that Drayton, the Cook, has the best lines. His character is way more broad than in the first one but he’s hilarious and gets to carry most of the satire. His response to Lefty is not to sing along but to ask, “Is that the American way of entering a man’s home, singing like that?” He’s always complaining about property taxes and the plight of the small business man. When confronted by Lefty he doesn’t realize this is about the murder spree, he thinks he was sent by one of their competitors in the food industry, so he tries to pay him off.

And don’t forget Grandpa, “137 years old and still fast as Jesse James.” Since Tom Savini did the makeup in this one he’s much creepier looking. He seems to have no idea where or who he is most of the time, but he gets in a good hammer toss.

But of course, the rock star of the bunch is Leatherface. Watching this again I had forgotten how god damn funny he is in this one. He falls for Stretch and tries to keep her as a pet. His way of courting her is to put L.G.’s freshly skinned face over hers and dance with her. I crack up every time he tries to hide that he didn’t kill her back at the radio station – he’s not a very good liar. When the cook comes in while he’s playing he hides her by turning around and holding the face up proudly. Creating a distraction. I mean, obviously Gunnar Hansen is the definitive Leatherface, but I just get a kick out of this Bill Johnson guy’s more lovable version. His poor fitting suit and tie, the funny way he wiggles the saw back and forth above his head before an attack. You thought Prince made his guitar phallic you should see what this perv does with his saw. I blame the Cook for Leatherface’s sexual repression. He says that “Sex is, well… nobody knows. But the saw… the saw is family.”

So you got this hilarious and bizarre cannibal family with such great chemistry, but somehow the good guys are still good enough characters that you root for them. Lefty, the nutbag Texas ranger with holsters for his chainsaws. L.G., the loogie spittin’ good ol’ boy sidekick who gets a long, sad death, but gets to say “Ah, shit” just before he finally passes. And Stretch, the toughest and most pro-active of the final girls. She’s not Linda Hamilton, she does all kinds of screaming and struggling. But she’s not somebody who just happens to get trapped by the family, she traps THEM and follows them home to find out where they live. At the end she just tears into Chop Top, biting his wrist, jumping on his back, biting his ear, beating him down to the ground! I’d like to see Jessica Biel bite a guy’s ear. I DARE Jessica Biel to bite a guy’s ear. With or without belly button exposed.

And I love the way Hooper and Carson tie this sequel to the excesses of the Reagan years. The Sawyers are the backwoods (actually, subterranean) AMERICAN PSYCHO. Their piece of the American dream is not a bigger house with skeletons, but a whole underground lair with skeletons. There is an amazing shot pulling back from the dinner table to show just how much more the family has amassed since the first time we saw them sit down for dinner. Hooper explains on his commentary track that “they got more affluent with their barbecue business” during the ’80s. Chop Top, like Rambo in part 2, is still obsessed with going back and winning the Vietnam War. Well, I guess he doesn’t care so much about winning. But Drayton concerns himself with business and family. He talks about old fashioned values while using the bodies of the innocent as decorations. And their meat to sell to football fans.

This is a sequel, and yet it’s a great movie. Maybe that’s why I go so crazy when writing about the remake and the prequel. This is a “franchise” that started with two very different films that I believe are both genuine works of art and classics of American cinema. So to turn it into a dumb make-teens-jump-and-scream commerical endeavor offends me. If you’re gonna follow up on it you better make sure you know what you’re doing. You can’t ALIEN VS. PREDATOR this shit. Is that the American way to remake a movie? Wait, don’t answer that.

This GRUESOME EDITION is another double-dutcher for me. I never figured anybody gave a shit besides me so I wasn’t expecting a special edition like this to ever come along. But it was worth re-buying.

The classiest extra is “IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY,” a six-part featurette deal interviewing some of the main people involved. Unfortunately Tobe Hooper’s not on here for some reason, and not surprisingly Dennis Hopper is missing, and Jim Siedow had already died when they made it. But they have L.M. Kit Carson (writer), Richard Kooris (director of photography), Cary White (production designer), Tom Savini (Tom Savini), Bill Moseley (Chop Top), Caroline Williams (Stretch), Lou Perryman (L.G. – also assistant cameraman on part 1) and Bill Johnson (Leatherface).

I think the interview with Carson is the most interesting. He gives alot of information about different drafts of the script and his experiences rewriting on the set and how the whole thing evolved. Despite some problems with Cannon Films and the removal of some of the stuff he wanted in the movie he seems happy and proud of the final product. I also liked Kooris and White’s stories about the set and how they lit it with actual lamps and chandeliers so they could do a long tracking shot chase without having to hide their lights.

Johnson is also an interesting interview because, like Gunnar Hansen, he’s a surprisingly gentle guy. His voice is elegant and the others describe him as “soulful.” It’s not mentioned in the interview, but on the actor’s commentary track Williams says that he had a stuntman do some of the murder scenes because he was so opposed to violence.

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY also has some on-the-set and in-the-makeup-department video footage courtesy of Savini. I wish they had included some longer sections as a separate extra (Savini says on the commentary that he has video of the entire L.G. de-facing scene with Hooper telling Leatherface what to do) but oh well. This featurette (and all the extras) were made by the same people who made the FLESH WOUNDS documentary on the TCSM Ultimate Edition. So they are much better than your average throw-on-some-talking-heads type behind-the-scenes featurettes.

There are two commentary tracks. One is Tobe Hooper (interviewed by David Gregory, director of THE SHOCKING TRUTH). This one is not jam-packed with insights, but since info on this movie is much more scarce than on the original I was glad to hear what he had to say. He explains alot of things the less-obsessed might not know because they don’t really come across in the movie, like that Chop Top is hitchhiker’s twin brother, and that Nubbins (the corpse they carry around and use as a puppet for most of the movie) is supposed to be hitchhiker. He talks about some of the plot threads that were cut out (Lefty is Stretch’s illegitimate father!?), how he didn’t want to direct the sequel but couldn’t get anybody else to do it, etc. I do wish he would have said a little more. For example, there’s a scene outside the Cut-Rite Chain Saw Shop with a marching band going by in the background. You’d think Hooper would explain why he had a marching band going by but he sits silent through the whole scene. (There aren’t any Rudy Ray Moore type gaps, though.)

The actor commentary is a little more fun, it has Bill Moseley and Caroline Williams with Tom Savini. They all seem very proud of the movie, though Savini doesn’t seem to remember it very well and they keep having to explain things to him. Moseley is full of trivia and points out alot of little details. They clearly love the movie but I don’t think they’re overly self-congratulatory like some commentaries. They laugh about a few things like the small bridge that seems a hundred miles long when Leatherface terrorizes the yuppies on it at the beginning.

In the old days when I had to watch this movie on VHS, I thought the last shot of the movie was the most brilliant touch. Stretch has defeated the family and climbed to the top of the amusement park’s Matterhorn, and she waves the saw around in a savage victory dance. The camera pulls out and along the bottom of the frame, at the very last second, you see a semi drive by. So all this crazy fuckin mayhem has been going on right next to the highway, with people driving back and forth the whole time having no idea what was going on underground!

But when the movie finally came out on DVD it was letterboxed, and the truck was cropped off. Which made me wonder if we were ever even supposed to see that truck. The old DVD includes a full-frame transfer, but you still don’t see the truck. So maybe it was a mistake in the VHS transfer. Well, this DVD doesn’t shed any light on that but Moseley brings up the brilliance of the truck and is sad that you can’t see it anymore. So it proves I’m not crazy. It’s society that’s crazy.

The most enlightening extra is the five deleted scenes. Some of you might’ve seen these on an old VHS special edition that I think Anchor Bay put out. They were supposed to be after the movie but, on my copy at least, they weren’t. Well, here they are now, they are transferred from a poor quality VHS tape but I assume that’s all that’s left. They’re roughly edited and missing sound effects. But these are the legendary scenes you always read about like the massacre of rioting football players in an underground parking garage and the Joe Bob Briggs cameo (he praises Leatherface’s performance as he gets sawed). The parking garage scene would’ve made some people happy by giving the movie a much more respectable body count, but I’m glad these scenes were cut. They’re fun but much sillier than most of the movie, more in line with the chili cook-off scene. I don’t think we need to see a dead hand doing the hook ’em horns and then flipping the bird. There have been legends that these scenes made the movie more satirical, but I say they make it more of a parody. I’m glad they’re here to see, in a deleted scenes gallery, where they belong.

I can’t tell if the transfer is any different, but it’s anamorphic if that means anything to you. I also couldn’t tell if the cut itself was different. It might be, because the listed running time is one minute longer and it goes with the original unrated label (the old edition claimed to be rated-R).

My only serious complaint about this DVD is the lame packaging. It doesn’t have to be magnetic like the TCSM ULTIMATE EDITION but the cover ought to reflect the actual movie. Instead of using the old BREAKFAST CLUB movie poster parody, one of the Leatherface-cutting-through-a-wall movie posters or even the Dennis-Hopper-with-chainsaws still that was on the previous edition, they are trying to make ‘SAW 2 look like SAW 2. They have a bloody saw in front of a nu-horror-dirty white background. (Inside the slipcase they add a couple severed limbs to the picture.) I don’t know, maybe the let’s-trick-people-with-poor-eyesight-into-renting-the-wrong-movie approach to movie packaging works, but it’s too bad for the people who want to buy the DVD because they love the actual movie contained inside.

And as long as we’re nitpicking, isn’t THE GRUESOME EDITION kind of a weak handle? They have all these special editions lately with cutesy names that come from the movie (“Bueller Bueller Edition,” “Double Secret Probation Edition,” “Dread Pirate Edition,” “Everything’s Duckie Edition,” “Whatever Edition,” “Sexist, Egotistical, Lying Hypocritical Bigot Edition,” etc.) Well I’m usually against that but I would make an exception for TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2: LICK MY PLATE YOU DOG DICK EDITION. Or at least BITCH HOG EDITION.

Otherwise though this is a good one. If you love this movie and you have a few extra bucks beyond the basic necessities of modern living, I say it’s worth buying again. And if you’ve never seen it you really ought to rent it. As Moseley says in IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY, they were making “the sequel to the greatest horror movie ever made,” and I think they actually lived up to their responsibility.

And with that, I end my two weeks of non-stop chainsaws, skinned faces, cannibal dinners, body parts on meat hooks, giggling self-mutilation and tied-up, screaming kidnap victims. For the rest of the month I think I’m just gonna watch GILMORE GIRLS or some shit like that.

thanks,

Vern

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/30347

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 10th, 2006 at 3:46 am and is filed under AICN, Comedy/Laffs, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

13 Responses to “Vern tells you all about the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2: THE GRUESOME EDITION DVD!!!”

  1. But, did you LIKE it?

  2. Saw this today. I’ve not seen the original movie (saw the beginning and lost interest before it all kicks off, but I’m not big on straight up horror most of the time, unless it’s zombies or something with an actiony vibe to it) but I really enjoyed this for its sheer lunacy and humour and I really like how balls out Hopper goes with his performance. Drayton’s “small business man” schtick is pretty funny too and I like when he asks Lefty who sent him:
    “I’m The Lord of the Harvest”
    “Is that one of them new health food places?”
    Also the first two victims are probably the most death worthy victim characters I’ve ever seen in a movie. Not knowing much about the plot I was watching those two and hoping to God they weren’t the protagonists.

  3. YES! The DVD label, that also successfully fought to get part 1 (and MARK OF THE DEVIL) unbanned in Germany, also managed to do the same with part 2! Seems like my country will soon get its first official home video release of it soon.

  4. So many conflicting feelings and philosophical questions coming out of this one. On one hand (as someone who’s never really been a fan of the original TCM and thought the remake was actually pretty well-made and reasonably tense), I have to politely question Vern’s hatred of the remake as a slick Hollywood betrayal of all things TCM, when Part 2 is pretty much the biggest betrayal you can get – a jokey, almost Airplane!-esque parody of the first one that is basically its antithesis in all ways – the tone, acting, cinematography, and music are not just different but opposite; it’s hard to believe this is the same director. So it makes me wonder – if it didn’t have Tobe Hooper’s name on the credits, would Vern or anyone be ok with what this movie does to the first one? This is the followup to my previous argument that nobody would be cutting Prometheus any slack if it was the same movie directed by say, Paul W.S. Anderson and not Ridley Scott.

    And the followup to THAT argument is: is it the artist’s right to destroy his own work as Hooper does here? Would we be ok if Evil Dead 2 (and especially Army of Darkness) was made by anyone other than Sam Raimi? Are there angry dudes on the internet who hate Evil Dead 2 as a “betrayal” of Evil Dead 1? (And are they the same people who probably hate the Evil Dead Remake for being more like 1 and less like 2?)

    Anyways, I hope Vern doesn’t think I’m insulting him or calling him a hypocrite or anything, (Lord knows I have my share of contradictory thoughts when it come to movies). We can definitely agree on one thing – TCM2 is awesome. It’s no Evil Dead 2 for sure, but it’s hilarious and surprising, Leatherface’s subplot is great, Chop Top is an all-timer and Stretch is immensely likable and appealing- she’s probably one of the Top 5 Final Girls if not higher. (Btw, is she really a “Final Girl” when there’s only one other victim besides those two clowns from the beginning?) I love how this movie also got a jump on the remakequel trend by basically redoing the entire dinner scene and the hilarious chainsaw-dance callback. There’s so much good stuff here that I’m bummed that the only disappointment here is Hopper – he doesn’t go as deliriously over-the-top as you figure he would, and I kinda hate how he spends almost the entire second half of the movie chainsawing support beams offscreen for some reason. Anyways, who knows how we would feel if TCM2 wasn’t Tobe Hooper’s. All I know is it’s a hilarious, entertaining movie and I’m glad it exists.

  5. Tonal shift was worthy. I think the last tine I saw this was in the 90s and I have never seen a woman look that broken and demented on film since.

  6. Well ok I did see THE BABADOOK and that one comes close but it really took THAT long.

  7. “Are there angry dudes on the internet who hate Evil Dead 2 as a “betrayal” of Evil Dead 1?”

    Actually yeah. I’ve heard several times how people only love part 1 (And the premaquel), because they are “serious” and dismiss parts 2, 3 and the TV show as silly comedy crap.

    (But honestly, most of them just seem like contrarian assholes)

  8. The first ED actually is my favorite because I appreciate all the elbow grease and insanity and strife that went into making such an ambitious film on such a low budget. Every frame of that movie has an interesting story behind it, and I’ve made it my mission in life to hear as many of them as I can. That doesn’t take anything away from the greatness of the second one, which is objectively the superior film.

  9. I agree, before the TV show started I re-watched all three movies (was going to watch the remake and just didn’t get to it due to lack of trying) and was surprised that modern-me prefers the original as well. It’s such a grimy messy little nasty film and I feel that the ultra low budget and “amateurish” nature of it’s production help sells the ‘reality’ of it even more. I shouldn’t have been, but I was really taken aback at how effective the movie still is.*

    I’m sure at the time there were a bunch of fanboys bitching about how they sullied the original with the silliness of EVIL DEAD II. Unfortunately for them there was no Internet for them bitch about it on so it was regulated to their friends who’ve long since learned to let such bitching go in one ear and out the other. As a result EVIL DEAD II seems to have been granted auto-cult-classic status (a glowing review from Roger Ebert and thus validation probably helped a whole lot as well). Somehow it took decades for the audience to catch up and realize that TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2 is also a masterpiece in it’s own right. I’m legit surprised when I come across a horror fan who still feels TCM2 is blasphemous horse-shit as it seems to have finally and rightfully been accepted.

    *I remember going to a midnight screening of ARMY OF DARKNESS years ago where some fedora-wearing film school snob motherfucker was telling his friends/strangers/? that the ONLY reason to watch the original is to see how bad it was. I hope he finally got to make that masterclass of film-making his first feature was/is destined to become.

  10. I am overdue to re-watch TCM2. I know I’ve seen it once, but it was quite possibly 20-some-odd years ago. This one has been on my list.

    I think Neal raises an interesting question about whether Hooper has right to destroy (radically deconstruct or re-interpret) his own film. We could go further and ask whether the studio has the right to let another filmmaker do that: Cameron has always been super down ALIEN3, as have many others.

    In the most obvious sense, of course they have that right to do that. “You own the rights, you have the right.” – Johnnie Cochran (apocryphal).

    I would also say that a filmmaker should be encouraged to follow their creative vision where it leads them. To do bold stuff. As long as you are in it to win it and really have a vision of a story to tell, and there’s a modicum of quality, innovation, or daring boldly, then why the hell not do something weird and take some bold risks? The results will vary substantially, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, I say.

    For instance, I really enjoyed ALIEN:COVENANT, thought PROMETHEUS was just meh, but I’m good with those movies existing, even if they don’t measure up to my counterfactual ideal. I’m varying degrees of meh on ALIEN3, RESURRECTION, AND AVP. PSYCHO is an all-time favorite, and I think all the sequels are shit (re-watched them this past year), and BATES MOTEL tv show lost me at the end of Season 3. But none of that hurts the original, and I appreciate the impulse to re-explore, plus, there were some little things that worked (Norman bashing his other mother with the shovel is a classic scene). I just treat them as non-canon or little alternate universes.

    I feel the same way about STAR WARS, which is an interesting test case, because it includes the original filmmaker returning to the series to do controversial stuff, as well as other filmmakers then stepping into the director’s chair to do their own films in the same continuity. I enjoyed both ROGUE ONE and TFA and stand firm in my prequel hatred (even though that is paradoxically a minority position in this little counter-fanboy-cultural nook). That said, I don’t begrudge a filmmaker, especially Lucas, trying to tell some new stories and push some technological boundaries. It didn’t work for me at all, but I’m glad he went for it, I and I think good things have come out of it.

    One other facet of Neal’s query that merits discussion is audience expectations. Does the sequel/prequel viewer have a right to certain expectations, and does the filmmaker (here, Hooper) have any implicit obligation to meet those expectations. A sequel in some ways is an implicit contract with the viewers of the original: “You liked that, this is part 2 of that, so, you should watch this, too, because you will like this, too, because it has many of the same characters and other things to offer and will further the storyline.” In general, I think it is fair for the sequel (prequel, universe) filmgoer to expect a certain degree of stylistic, genre, and tonal continuity with original, along with some innovation. A film like TCM2 or PHANTOM MENACE really strains the degree of continuity near to the breaking point. So, if you are going to both (a) bill your film as a sequel (trading on the associated expectations and reserve of good will) and (b) turn around and do something really bonkers that is counter to the very expectations that sequels exploit, then you better deliver the goods. It should be a quality film that expresses a unique vision.

    I can certainly imagine someone walking out of TCM2 doing a “WTF!?!” Is that a reasonable response? I think so. But that’s the fun and weird thing about film as a personal and cultural experience. Every film you watch is a risk and an opportunity, and it’s an ongoing process of reflection and dialogue (and, in some cases, re-appraisal) as you try to come to terms with the gap between what you expected or hoped the film would do and what it actually did. Caveat emptor!

  11. Great review Vern. I just finished re-watching this for the first time in at least 15 years, since it’s on Amazon Prime and leaving at the end of the month. Maybe the last 15 years of horror movies has changed my expectations, but I didn’t find the tonal shift very jarring this latest watch. It’s definitely a bold and polarizing different direction with the material than the original, but there’s a lot to like…even though I still am not sure what Dennis Hopper is doing besides being crazy.

    At the very end, I swear it seems like you can see a shot of Grandma rising up behind the mad chainsaw wielding Stretch. Am I crazy? I thought it must’ve just been from a camera moving and the background lighting or something, but I rewound it a couple times and it definitely looked that way. Anybody else notice this?

  12. Well, I watched this one for the first time tonight and, I have to say, really enjoyed it an awful lot. The original had made such an impression on me as a kid that I’ve only seen it once and hadn’t really felt the need to pursue the series any further than that (the sledgehammer hit is still lodged in my brain, like that hammer is still lodged in the dude’s brain).

    Really it reminded me of RE-ANIMATOR, in that it’s an absolutely gonzo horror/comedy that absolutely doesn’t skimp on the horror, gore, or comedy. They’re both packed with great performances, too, but in thinking about it just now as it’s settling in, I might have to say it’s a better ‘80s gonzo horror comedy than RE-ANIMATOR, because it does have this vague, hard-to-quantify element of feeling like it’s somehow *about* something, if that makes sense. That it still holds up as a relevant piece of art about American culture, something the cook’s rants about taxes and the little guy getting screwed while literally eating his fellow Americans really drives home. I dunno, it’s 2am and I just finished watching TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE 2, so my brain is fried.

    A couple other thoughts

    – sincerely loved the way Stretch successfully escapes death by asking Leatherface “are you mad at me?” and then later sobbingly tells him that it’s not anybody’s fault their relationship isn’t working out.

    -her sadly taking off LG’s face and putting it back on his head after he died like Aragorn giving dead Boromir his sword was probably my biggest laugh of the movie

    -absolutely unbelievable that Bill Moseley is a very normal looking man in real life

    – as the review points out, Leatherface really is a hilariously terrible liar.

    -this viewing has also made me profoundly embarrassed for Rob Zombie and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, which is a movie I actually like but is in retrospect here very clearly an inferior version of this much wilder, more interesting, more entertaining, funnier, scarier movie.

  13. Alright one last thought, since this movie has me buzzing so much I can’t sleep, but that was also one of the most cathartic horror endings I can remember seeing in a long time. The moments before she goes for the saw and Chop Top is trying to freak her out and she just stares him down and, for the first time in the whole movie he’s thrown off his game. You realize that Dennis Hopper was right, they feed on fear- but after all the insane, brutal shit she just went through, she finally, truly has no fear left. That’s why it really feels like when she does the screaming chainsaw dance of triumph, she really earned it! It doesn’t matter if she goes crazy there or the cops come, or whatever else happens after in the world of the film, it’s the perfect place to cut the story off. She fucking WON.

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