Despite the promise of its name, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is an oddly subtle film. Considering the implement and the title, the violence is actually quite muted compared to gorefests today. Its violence is most shocking for how brief and sudden it is. What’s really unsettling about the film is the constant air of dread; the suspicion that we have stepped into some terrible realm of evil and immorality and there may be no way out.
So, yes, subtle is a word one could use to describe the original.
But subtlety – or any variation thereof – is not a word one would ever use in relation to the sequel.
This is a film which gives ‘gauche’ a bad name. It is loud, brash, going for gross out humour more than horror, and so unfettered from the normal rules of plot and character as to feel like absurdist theatre. After the muted tones of the first film, this is like a fever dream.
(Full disclosure, I watched this while ill, which may have added to its hallucinatory quality for me.)
Two dreadful young men are murdered on the road by Leatherface and his family. They’re on the radio with a local DJ at the time, and their death leads her into contact with a Texas law-man – Dennis Hopper – who lost family members in the original Texas chainsaw massacre and who has sworn revenge. That’s the set up of the plot, but it is also basically the plot. As beyond that, there’s just screaming and running around and chainsaw duels as the whole descends into a terrible mess.
Did I like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2? I honestly find it hard to say yes to that question. I watched the whole thing (although as I say, I was ill, and finding it hard to move), but it was with a horrible fascination of where on earth it was going to next. I was repulsed by it at points, but never amused when it wanted me to be. Nor was I overly bothered by the fate of the characters, even though I really like Dennis Hopper as an actor. Here though he’s sleep-walking, his off-beat sensibility seemingly switched off. Any bland actor could play that part in exactly the bland way he’s playing it.
Beyond upping the meat-eating satire of the original, it’s hard to see the point of the film. Indeed, it feels like a director who has no real ideas for a sequel but suddenly has money for a sequel, screaming at his audience: “You want a follow-up to my most famous film? HERE’S a follow-up to my most famous film!”. And then turning everything up to a neon-drenched hundred and eleven and seeing what happens.
My parents didn’t actually like the first TEXAS CHAINSAW. They thought all that running around with a chainsaw was like something from a MONTY PYTHON sketch. But no, Mater and Pater, this is the film that feels like a MONTY PYTHON sketch gone awry. And if Graham Chapman had walked out in his army uniform at any point in the last hour and stopped the film for being too silly, I wouldn’t have been surprised, in fact I’d have been relieved.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!.