Blu-ray Review: 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2' (1986)

I genuinely wish I could know what was going on in the heads of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" fans in '86 when they stepped out of the (few) theaters showing the sequel--or even its backers at B-movie studio Cannon, who footed the bill for "Chainsaw 2." What did they think about how their money was spent? Tobe Hooper's stark update of the Sawney Bean legend by way of Ed Gein had built up an almost legendary reputation for its violence and brutality in spite of a lack of onscreen bloodshed.

And 12 years later, he returned with a followup that's not only a tonal 180 from the original, replacing its almost matter-of-fact, nearly documentary style terror with buckets of gore violence in service of a splattery black comedy. The initial response wasn't kind to the movie so violent, it skipped on a rating, and so odd, the subsequent sequels pretty much pretended it didn't exist.

Set in Austin in pretty much real time following the events of the first film, it sees former Texas Ranger "Lefty" Enright (Dennis Hopper, then in the midst of a "Blue Velvet" career resurgence) hot on the trail of the cannibalistic Sawyer family who've taken their special BBQ recipe out of the backwoods and parlayed it into an award-winning homestyle cooking stand. The Sawyers--Leatherface, Chop Top, and the Cook--are in turn after Stretch (Caroline Williams), a plucky DJ unfortunate enough to record a pair of yuppies being chopped to bits by the murderous clan.

Everything is heightened in "Chainsaw 2," the gore gorier, the performances, broader, the music synth-ier. Leatherface is a sexually confused, hooting monster here, using his chainsaw in lieu of his other presumably defective equipment while "House of 1000 Corpses"/"Devil's Rejects" star Bill Mosely gives a completely unhinged performance as Chop Top. Plus, it's got Dennis Hopper wielding dual chainsaws in a battle to the death with 'Face in the final act along with a grotesque house of pain hideout underneath an amusement park.

In one way, you can read "Chainsaw 2" as a reaction to the increasingly bloody slasher output of the 80's, but in another, it seems like Hooper responding to calls to return to the franchise in the most aggressive way possible: by blowing it the hell up (literally). "You want another 'Chainsaw' movie? I'll give you another 'Chainsaw' movie." And in it, he bundles in everything from sexual dysfunction to a critique of capitalism and maybe even the idea of a franchise itself.

By the end of the movie, there's not a single leftover for any future filmmakers to pick over (although that didn't stop them from trying with two sequels, a remake, a prequel, and a sequel to the remake on the way).

Presentation and Special Features

What a rough-looking disc. The first three-fourths or even two-thirds of the Blu is relatively clean with an acceptable level of grain, but when it gets to the Sawyer's lair, the image is ugly with a lot of digital noise and artifacts. The scene with Stretch in the slaughter room is most emblematic of this issue, and really any time the action heads back indoors.

The DTS-HD 2.0 audio is respectable, and there's a French 1.0 track here as well.

I'm not sure why Fox chose to go with the bland cover art they chose here, especially when there's so much other striking key art for the movie including the memorable "Breakfast Club" homage. In fact, from putting Dennis Hopper's name at the top and just going with the chainsaw/corpse imagery, it's kind of a bait and switch for buyers who might not know how much of a comedy this one is.

Like the other MGM to Fox discs, this one simply ports over the features from earlier DVD releases. That includes two commentary tracks, both lively. The first features director Tobe Hooper discussing the film with horror documentarian David Gregory. On the second track, stars Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, producer Michael Felsher are joined by effects wizard Tom Savini is a raucous discussion about the making of the movie (and you can tell the commentary is old since they refer to Anna Nicole Smith still being alive).

This is an auto-starting disc, so no menu options save for the same function pop-up. "The Cutting Room Floor" is a collection of six deleted scenes (12:33, standard def) which all look like they were taken from second-generation VHS tapes. Each is presented with a caption providing context for the cut footage, some of which includes additional gore which for ratings or pacing reasons didn't make it into the final film.

"It Runs In the Family" is a six-part making of doc (1:27:57) following the production of the film from script to casting and the breakneck process of getting the movie made featuring the cast and creators. Everyone shows up with some fine insights into the making of the film and everyone seems to have a lot of affection for "Chainsaw" in spite of the negative response by audiences.

Yeah, as many conflicting emotions as I have about the movie, I have a similarly mixed reaction about this new disc which is visually inconsistent and doesn't offer the best presentation for its supplemental content.

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" is available on Blu-ray now from MGM and Twentieth Century Fox.