Friday, December 4, 2009

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Tobe Hooper, 1986)

An inoperative chainsaw as a metaphor for erectile dysfunction is just one of the many subtle intricacies that populate the astounding The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Tobe Hooper's logically titled, demented follow-up to the highly influential 1974 horror flick about a crazed family of maverick meat packers. The roads of Texas may be unclogged of inquisitive hippies (the year is now 1986), but that doesn't mean there ain't tons of people driving around out there who are unwilling to become the prime ingredient in an award winning bowl of chili. What has always struck me as strange is how chainsaws, human butchery and Texas became intertwined with one another. I mean, the image of clearing brush on your ranch with a chainsaw has since become commonplace (even though I still don't associate the state of Texas with the lumber industry), but chainsaws and slaughterhouses are definitely a weird combination (the chainsaw is meant for wood, not meaty flesh). Nevertheless, it's the instrument of choice of Leatherface and the gang when comes to dispatching the human animal. And am I glad it is, as it is quite the menacing tool when wielded improperly in a non-forested environment. The story basically involves a cowboy hat-wearing Texas Ranger named Lefty (Dennis Hopper) who is obsessed with finding the Sawyer family, the cannibalistic cabal whom he believes killed his brother back in the '70s, and itching to exact some Texas-style revenge on them. Again, I'm not 100% sure if acquiring vengeance via the rumbling splendour that only a large chainsaw can provide is how things are normally hashed out in Texas. But for the sake of this movie, I'm willing to go along with it.
Helping Lefty out in his quest for man-eater blood is Stretch (Caroline Williams), a local DJ who listened while the Sawyer's took out a couple of obnoxious frat boys while making a request on their car phone, and, for some inexplicable reason, she wants to assist the slightly unbalanced lawman.
The opening shot of a head being turned into a broken water fountain assured me that I was in the presence of something special. However, it was the sheer looniness of the radio station confrontation and the extended nut-jobbery of the showdown in the subterranean labyrinth the Sawyer's call home that comforted me the most. It's true, the dinner party sequence pretty much plays out exactly the same way it did in part one; their now 137 year-old grandpa is wheeled out and encouraged to hit a woman in the head with a hammer. But this film had a romantic subplot, chainsaw thrusting, and a ruined Sonny Bono wig.
In a way, I can understand the other two, but a romantic subplot? Yeah, that's right, Leatherface (Bill Johnson) falls in love. Other than the sight of a totally bonkers Dennis Hopper screaming nonsensical gibberish of a biblical nature while sawing support beams, the humanization of Leatherface was the film's strangest turn of events. I get misty just thinking about the scene where Leatherface forces Stretch to wear the freshly cut-off face skin of a deceased co-worker.
If you thought Dennis Hopper's acting execution sounded a little kooky, he ain't got nothing on the stellar crazy turned in by Bill Moseley (Repo! The Genetic Opera) as Bo 'Chop Top' Sawyer, the most excitable member of the Sawyer brood. In a seemingly constant state of extreme agitation, Bill twitches and rants like a raving lunatic ("Dog will hunt. Get that bitch, Leatherface"). Abundantly supplied with quirky eccentricities of an off-putting nature, my absolute favourite had to be his penchant for heating the end of a wire coat hanger with a cigarette lighter and then sticking in his ear. I'm not sure, but I think he did this in order to loosen up his ear wax, so that he could consume it more efficiently (liberated ear wax is easier to eat than subjugated ear wax).
Anyway, I found this bit of oddness to be the insane icing on the top of an already messed up cake/performance.
A screeching angel wailing madly amidst all the chaos, Caroline Williams is gorgeousness personified as Stretch, the leggy DJ who entertains the Dallas area with her nightly rock and roll radio show.
The music heard on her radio show is surprisingly not lame. Check this shit out: Oingo Boingo ("No One Lives Forever"), The Cramps ("Goo Goo Muck"), The Lords of the New Church ("Good to Be Bad", and a couple of songs by Concrete Blonde.
Fans of Skinny Puppy will recognize some of the dialogue uttered in the film, as the band sampled quite heavily from it on their Cleanse, Fold, and Manipulate album. In particular, Stretch's "They live on fear" is used on the song "Shadow Cast."
Getting back to the subject at hand. Her scrumptious lower-half sheathed in a delectable pair of denim short-shorts, her upper-half in a never buttoned denim cowboy shirt (girl, I dig the sparkly touches on the collar), Miss Williams is put through hell in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. In that, from the moment she finds Chop Top lounging in her radio station's lobby, she is under constant threat of being eviscerated by a chainsaw.
Saved only by the glistening sweat on her exquisite gams, the stressed out disc jockey repeatedly uses her sexy legs to sway Leatherface into not murdering her. Yet, when employing her shapely stems is no longer an option, I thought Caroline still did an excellent job of manipulating the lovesick chainsaw enthusiast; even it means wearing a co-worker's recently removed face as a mask.
If you're wondering how Stretch manages to keep her mouth-watering legs looking so taut, you needn't look no further than the stairs that lead up to the radio station she works. Walking up and down stairs is an excellent way to strengthen your leg muscles.
I also liked the inconsistency of her gutsiness. Sometimes she is able to fight back in an effective manner, sometimes she just screamed and hoped for the best. This plucky to non-plucky ratio is summed up perfectly during the film's mountain showdown; an epic struggle that culminates in with of the most satisfying and bold final shots of the era. In other words: This movie fucking rules.

video uploaded by The Tobe Hooper Fan Page


  1. Excellent as always Yum Yum!

    i have purposely not watched this movie in about 9 years because i didn't want to play it out. i had a room mate who would throw it on everytime there was nothing to watch on TV. and we didn't have cable so we watched it quite a bit.

    i think Chop burned the hanger on his head (where the skin on his head was growing back) a few times too. it always reminded of me of a kid in school who picked his nose and ate it. equally creepy and equally gross.

  2. Thanks, wiec?

    Yeah, you're right. There's definitely a scene where Chop Top can be seen picking at his scalp with his trusty hanger.

    I don't think I ever ate boogers on purpose.

  3. Hey there. How are you today? Thanks for your recent comment on my blog. I did have a great birthday. I hope you've been enjoying the weekend. Take care. Have a great week ahead. Cheers!

  4. I heard Kim Mitchell and Aldo Nova today and thought of you. :) (I was listening to the CanCon station, of course.)

    And then I heard the Crash Test Dummies' cover of Peter Pumpkinhead and I felt like my ears had been violated.

    Speaking of my ears...

    I have problems with my ears and wax buildup--last month, I was in a horrible amount of pain due to that pesky problem. Instead of ear drops, maybe I should try Chop Top's method?

  5. Keith: I'm glad to hear had a great B-Day. :)

    Karim Amir: I can't remember what the CTD's cover of "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" sounded like. And I guess in your mind that's a good thing.

    I saw Kim Mitchell on TV recently. He had a shaved head! It was weird seeing him without his trademark scraggly hair popping out of the back of an O.P.P. (Ontario Provincial Police) baseball hat.

    Speaking of double P's,

    I haven't seen 24HPP on many '00 movie lists yet (besides yours of course).

    Ear wax buildup blows, man.

    My ears get really itchy every now and then. So believe me, Chop Top's coat hanger method, while off-putting visually, seemed like a reasonable remedy.

  6. Hopper has bad-mouthed this film and his performance in it over the years but I think he's being a bit too harsh. I thought his turn as a gonzo Ranger was pretty inspired. Maybe not quite up to the lofty lunacy of Frank Booth in BLUE VELVET but special nonetheless.

  7. Best out of all the TCM films. Dennis Hopper had movie after movie in the 80's.

  8. There are so many great lines from both "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974) and this movie that you almost forget about the element of shock and gore that are included as well.

    To me, Bill Mosely is the glue that holds "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" together. I can't imagine anyone else who could've played "Chop - Top" with as much enthusiasm for the character as Mosely did.

  9. LOL, this review is amazing. I'm currently working on a way overdue review of it myself. Kudos to you, and also good to point out the effect stair climbing has on calfs.

    On leg day, stairs are the enemy.