Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2

   It's really saying something when you can safely say this movie is probably one of the weirdest in Cannon's whole library of movies. It's horror-comedy that stands in stark contrast to it's almost cinéma vérité predecessor. It's big, it's loud, it's silly and over-the-top and somehow really really disturbing to boot. Director Tobe Hooper, who also did the first one, had no interest in a straight-faced sequel, and the producers apparently didn't quite get it. They thought they just had a dud of a horror movie on their hands. Something completely un-scary that nobody would ever wanna watch. Well, it is divisive- and I disagree about it being completely un-scary, it has some pretty terrifying scenes towards the end. Still, no matter how you slice (and dice) it, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is weird as hell.

   First of all, the plot is anything but simple. As it goes, two party animals on a road trip call into a radio station's open request line and start pranking around but are promptly set upon by Leatherface and family in a weird car chase type scene. The guys are butchered as the two vehicles speed down the road and the radio DJ, Stretch, gets the whole thing on tape. She ends up approaching Dennis Hopper's character, a former Texas Marshall named 'Lefty', who's out for revenge against these cannibal freaks already.What follows is a surreal descent into a carnival-istic hell. The movie really only has three set pieces, and everything in between is either build-up or filler. I found it all weirdly entertaining though.

  The first set piece was the opening scene on the road, which was insane. Then the cannibal family shows up at the radio station after hours to torment and kill Stretch. Which is a crazy off-the-wall scene unto itself. The next big set piece is the finale, which is so big it actually involves at least a number of scenes. Lefty finally finds the family's hideout and decides to 'bring in the harvest'. It's the downward section of the roller coaster- so even if it does take up well more than a full third of the whole movie, it feels like one big climactic last act. And, speaking of set pieces, the family's hideout is a gigantic hellish labyrinthine playground of subterranean tunnels and rooms.

   The set is a character all itself and is one of the most creepy, creative, extensive, and all around unnerving sets I've ever seen in a horror movie. It's a real treat that we get to spend so much time in it as well. It's even home to a dinner scene that recalls a similar scene from the first movie, both then and now, said scene is horrifying, especially with the twisted dark sense of humor this one has. The difference is, this scene ends differently, and more importantly- unexpectedly. Props to Caroline Williams as Stretch. She does a great job with her character, and goes through so much- and ends up screaming a lot. This role had to be exhausting, I can't imagine any scenario where it wouldn't be.

   Also fun to watch (which is possibly the biggest understatement I've made all month) is Hopper's turn as Lefty. He's crazy. More than a little off his rocker. He's manic, and aloof- and is prone to buying three chainsaws at a time- which is such a great scene in my opinion. He's one of the best things about this movie, and that's saying a lot. He ends up dueling chainsaws with Leatherface himself, and it's kind of glorious. Then again, any movie with a chainsaw vs. chainsaw fight is automatic gold in my book. The crazier the movie got, the more fun I had with it. It's as scary as it is hokey. There's just no denying that having a gigantic psychotic cannibal make you wear your friend's face as he forces you to dance with him is psychologically horrifying on so many levels.

  Yet, it's also ridiculously absurd. Leatherface apparently falls in love with Stretch. It's so silly, but it works within the context of the movie. Unfortunately it also means Leatherface himself isn't scary at all. He's just a big dumb oaf who's sole body-count is the two party-hards in the beginning. So, for horror fans, TCM 2 might be something of a mixed bag. It does have scary bits, but it's really just a weird dark comedy for the most part. Not that I have anything against a bit of 'red humor', but what can you do? I think fans of the Evil Dead franchise will appreciate this one. It's a flawed bit of scary fun, but I really enjoyed it. For nothing if not how utterly batshit crazy it was.

  It's a visually unique, vibrant, bloody and grotesquely funny, if that doesn't sound like your cup of tea- then just move along. I went in with low expectations of actually liking the movie, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. I love insane movies, and this one was no exception. From chainsaw duels, to that creepy dancing moment, to buckets of blood and gore- TCM 2 was a blast as only horror comedies can be.

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