Upon release in 1974, the low-budget The Texas Chainsaw Massacre entered the pantheon of horror classics. In the mid-80s, Cannon films commissioned director Tobe Hooper to revisit Leatherface and his chainsaw-wielding, depraved family. The result is part horror, part comedy part WTF movie (for lack of a better term) that has become a cult classic. Either way it’s a title that from the launch of Shout Factory’s horror label Scream Factory, seemed ideal for their collector’s edition treatment. Well, the wait is over!
Kicking off with the gruesome deaths of a pair of 1980s yuppies who look like they were torn from the frames of a John Hughes film (not a coincidence given that the one-sheet for this film is a satire on the image used to advertise for The Breakfast Club), the plot involves a spirited radio host named Stretch (played by Caroline Williams) who happens to record the whole affair. Enter Lieutenant “Lefty” Enright (Dennis Hopper), a cowboy whose family were the victims from the first film, and is now seeking vengeance. He convinces Stretch to replay the murder soundtrack on her radio show which lines her up as the next intended victim for the murderous Leatherface (Bill Johnson) and the rest of the deranged (understatement) Sawyer family (Bill Moseley, Jim Siedow and Ken Evert). What follows is an over-the-top sequence of events. There is no way words can do them justice. It’s a film that you have to see for yourself to believe, although granted, it may not be for all tastes.
To discuss The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 without focusing on Dennis Hopper is not doing the film any justice. While the other cast members do an excellent job in their own right, it’s Hopper who ramps up the stakes and adds a crazed gravitas to the picture. 1986 was an interesting year in Hopper’s career with roles in David Lynch’s acclaimed Blue Velvet, and a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award Nomination for Hoosiers, Chainsaw 2 seems completely out-of-place when lined up with those titles. During one of the audio commentaries, one participant mentions how Hopper called his part in this picture an “embarrassment”. However you wouldn’t be able to tell that he considered it beneath him by what shows up on screen. He gives it his all especially in moments like when he goes shopping for a pair of chainsaws, or later in the picture when he rampages through the Sawyer’s lair singing old-time Gospel hymns and yelling things like “Bring it down” at the top of his lungs while chainsaw “sword” fighting with Leatherface. Again, it needs to be seen and experienced to be truly believed. (You can create your own bizarre double feature when Criterion releases their special edition Blu-ray of Easy Rider in early May. All we need now is a Blu-ray of Super Mario Bros.)
Written by L.M. Kit Carson, there are some great – and batty – lines of dialogue that are clever and instantly quotable. Also of note is the production design by Cary White who creates a surreal layer of depravity for the Sawyer family. It’s a dirty grimy environment filled with real human skulls (another element learned from the commentary tracks) and Christmas lights. It’s so deep and immersive it’s too real to be believed that it exists let alone that someone inhabits it, yet stands out as one of the more memorable horror movie locales. It also comes alive in the vibrant 2K Scream Factory transfer of the picture.
Indications that this is a special title for Scream Factory are abundant given the multitude of extras available on this 2-disc set. First we get two prints of the film, a 2016 2K HD Scan from the Interpositive Film Element along with MGM’s Original HD Master with color correction supervision by Director Of Photography Richard Kooris. There are three audio commentaries, the first with Director Of Photography Richard Kooris, Production Designer Cary White, Script Supervisor Laura Kooris And Property Master Michael Sullivan, the second with Director Tobe Hooper and the third with Actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams And Special Effects Makeup Creator Tom Savini. The split between the three makes tonal sense with Hooper’s being the most insightful, and the actor’s being the most entertaining. None of them fall into the category of useless banter, with each providing interesting tidbits and insights into the making-of and the conditions they all endured while making this film. This is even more enhanced with another special feature that provides almost 45 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage shot that includes make-up application, actors clowning around on set, the making of a complicated (although eventually deleted) scene and more. It’s within this footage that you get a sense of what kind of hell it must have been like for actor Caroline Williams, running around dirty in a pair of denim shorts and constantly enduring things like having flesh masks (albeit movie ones) placed on her face, being bound, thrown around and chased on what appears to be an extremely claustrophobic and hot set.
In addition to a wealth of deleted scenes, special interview segments with the editor, the “yuppie” actors that die in the film’s opening and a detailed look at the make-up artists and their work as well as a visit to the picture’s locations in present day, the key extra, It Runs In The Family, is a six part feature-length documentary featuring interviews with screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson, actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, Lou Perryman, special makeup effects Artist Tom Savini. It’s everything you’ve always wanted to know about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and more!
Scream Factory has gone the extra-mile with this release, making it a must-have for any horror film aficionado as well as for fans of their fabulous Blu-ray Disc releases. Casual newcomers to the title may be turned off by the off-the-wall tone, but this is a Cannon film through-and-through, and an ideal midnight movie for anyone looking for something just a little bit different. Ok, so make that a lot different!
Release Date: April 19, 2016
2 Discs; Running Time: 101 minutes; Not Rated
1.85:1; Region: A