Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2, The (1986)

Directed by:
Tobe Hooper

I might be stretching it a bit giving this critically blasted sequel a mild thumbs up, but it deserves it for sheer audacity and entertainment value, not to mention some priceless performances, remarkable set design and amazingly gruesome Tom Savini make-up effects. The latter were even strong enough to deny this an R rating when first released. Dennis Hopper (who was in BLUE VELVET the same year!) turns camp king as Ex-Texas Ranger Lt. Lefty, brother of the Sally and Franklin characters from the original. He's out for revenge against the cannibal clan for what they did to his family, while feisty radio DJ Stretch (well played by the spunky and engaging Caroline Williams) simply tries to survive after she airs a radio broadcast that pisses them off and they come after her. Jim Siedow (great fun) is back as the father, who makes award-winning chili out of human flesh, Leatherface (played by Bill Johnson this time) is still swingin' the saw around in phallic ways and even the 100+ year old grandpa is hanging in there, though the hitchhiker character played by Ed Neal in the first film has been refashioned a bit for the sequel. Now he's Chop Top (amusingly played by Bill Moseley), who has a metal plate in his head, suffers from 'Nam flashbacks and does some disgusting things with a clothes hanger and a cigarette lighter.

The cannibal clan hideout, which is hidden underground beneath an amusement park this time, is a marvel of skeletal decor, hooks, cobwebs, tunnels and blood oozing walls. Everything about this movie is taken to insanely outrageous proportions, and it drops the straight horror and sly black humor of the original for more blatant shocks and in-your-face comedy, which explains the critical hatred. Regardless, it's fairly well made, the acting is spirited and it never fails to entertain. John Bloom (aka Joe Bob Briggs) had a small role in the film, but his part was deleted even though he remains in the credits. The next sequel, which was another step down in quality, was LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III (1989).


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