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Overrated by some and wildly underrated by many others, this is director Tobe Hooperís 1986 follow-up to his legendary TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. The present film is to the previous one what EVIL DEAD 2 is to its predecessor: a highly skilled, heavily comedic riff on the earlier film, though also an extremely uneven one.

The Package
     THE TEXAS CHIANSAW MASSACRE 2 was the third of three films Tobe Hooper made for the notorious Cannon Group in the mid-1980s (the others being LIFEFORCE and INVADERS FROM MARS), and likely the best. Of course it canít hold a candle to the original CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but then how many movies can? Itís best to view this CHAINSAW on its own merits.
     Initial viewers were largely denied that chance due to Cannonís typically inept distribution of the film, and the fact that the MPAA inexplicably slapped it with an X-rating. Initially denied a release in England, TCM didnít even make it to Europe until 2001. However, over the years itís amassed a cult following nearly as enthusiastic as that of the original film.

The Story
     Stretch, a leggy radio host operating out of South Texas, is broadcasting one night when a couple asshole yuppies call in. Theyíre engaged in a rampage of wonton destruction but are waylaid by none other than Leatherface, wielding his infamous chainsaw. The two yuppies are massacred and Stretch captures every gruesome sound on air. The following day she take the tape to Lefty, a tough-as-nails local cop, but he blows her off.
     Unfortunately Leatherface and his nutty brother Chop Top--so named because he has a metal plate in his head from a war injury--are very much interested in Stretchís evidence. They turn up unannounced at her station and make lots of trouble. She manages to fight them off, but they abscond with her partner.
     Stretch follows the three into a deserted amusement park, where she falls down a hole that deposits her in Leatherfaceís lair. This is a freaked-out environ decked out with human bones and skin, where Leatherface and Chop Top live together with their equally deranged father and ancient grandpa.
     Stretch is tortured by these freaks--among other outrages, sheís made to wear her partnerís cut-off face over her own--until Lefty shows up, sporting a chainsaw of his own. He and Leatherface engage in a chainsaw duel, giving an increasingly deranged Stretch a chance to escape--with Chop Top in hot pursuit!

The Direction
     This may not be Tobe Hooperís best film, but it is possibly his most stylish. Although his original plans for the film (initially titled BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and involving an entire town full of cannibals) were jettisoned by Cannonís cost-cutting honchos, what emerged is an ambitious and extravagant comedic gorefest that grows downright operatic in the final third. The effect is similar to the original CHAINSAW, though utterly different in most respects. Hooperís original was a raw and raggedy endeavor enlivened by low budget energy, whereas this one is much slicker; TCM 1 often felt like a documentary with its grimy realism, while this heavily stylized film takes the opposite approach.
     The Cannon stench is evident in the cheap photography, but for the most part Hooper manages to avoid the pratfalls of most Cannon productions (overall trashiness being the defining mark of a Cannon Group film). The oft-repetitious nature of the action, Iím guessing, is the fault of Hooper and his editors, although it could well be a Cannon addition. Another complaint I have is with the unsatisfying final scenes, in which it seems Hooper was trying to outdo himself in outrageousness, but the proceedings run out of steam long before the end.
     Of the cast, the eye-catching Caroline Williams is fun as Stretch, and Bill Moseley hysterical (if tiresome) as Chop Top. Thereís also Bill Johnson, who does a credible job replacing TCM 1ís Gunnar Hanson as Leatherface (a role that frankly doesnít require much acting) and a wildly over-the-top Dennis Hopper, who appears to be warming up for BLUE VELVET. The real star, however, is make-up artist Tom Savini, who provides a typically impressive array of spurting blood and flying viscera that helps make this film the enjoyable grue fest it is.

Vital Statistics

The Cannon Group

Director: Tobe Hooper
Producers: Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus
Screenplay: L.M. Kit Carson
Cinematography: Richard Kooris
Editing: Alain Jakubowicz
Cast: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley, Jim Siedow, Bill Johnson, Ken Evert, Harlan Jordan, Kirk Sisco, James N. Harrell, Lou Perryman, Barry Kinyon, Chris Douridas