Sunday, October 18, 2009

13 Days: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Now this is a sequel. Don't just remake the first movie (see Pumpkinhead 2). Here they take some of the characters from the first picture (the cook, Leatherface, granpa) and set them in a completely different locale (Dallas instead of South Texas), different time period (The 80s) and give them an opponent who is almost as crazy as they are (Dennis Hopper's "Lefty" Enright). They also manage to introduce a few new characters, Chop Top (a member of the Sawyer clan who was serving in Vietnam during the events of the first film), Stretch (a radio DJ and screamer), and L.G., Stretch's producer. Oh, and they also amp up the black comedy which, while present, wasn't very pronounced in the first picture.

The picture begins during the weekend of the annual Oklahoma/Texas football game, which is a pretty big event down in those parts apparently, a fierce rivalry where players and fans of the opposing teams loathe each other, drink to excess, and raise all kinds of hell. Also, it's the weekend of the world famous Texas Chili cook off. The picture opens with a couple of Oklahoman college boys driving down a stretch of Texan highway, boozing heavily, and shooting up anything "Texas" (we got a "remember the Alamo" sign, mile markers, etc). They call in to a radio station (DJ'd by "Stretch", played by Caroline Williams) annoying the hell out her, holding up the line, berating her, etc. She tells them to "hang up the phone" and finally, they do. Later, these two assholes play chicken with a confederate flag adorned pick up, running it off the road. Hours later, it's night time, and these punks are still going, calling in to the Stretch's show again, when they encounter that same truck. A great scene ensues involving a little more chicken, the world's longest bridge, and a chainsaw wielding psychopath in the back of the pickup, dancing, propping up a dessicated body (hitch hiker from the first film?), and sawing the shit out the Oklahoman car, and also the top off the driver's head as his stunned friend fires his pistol wildly missing the broad side of the proverbial barn. Stretch hears it all, and records it all.

Next day, we see Dennis Hopper investigating the crash. Turns out, he's a former Texas Ranger, and the uncle of Sally (the screamer from the first film) who has not recovered from a state of catatonia induced from the first massacre. So, he's got a bone to pick, has traced the family to the Dallas area, eventually teams up with Stretch, wields some saws of his own, etc.

The poster above gives you some indication that this isn't your father's Chainsaw as it's a clever spoof on The Breakfast Club poster. Yes, it's more gory, but it's also incredibly funny. See, the Sawyers have traveled north to participate in the chili cook off. Apparently, they have a home in those parts. An underground lair decorated with bones and Christmas lights. Jim Siedow, as Drayton Sawyer ("the cook"), is the only recurring actor from the first film and he's pretty hilarious, gets off some great lines such as, when chastising Leatherface, "It's sex or the saw!". Yes, much of the menace has been lost. Bill Johnson portrays my favorite version of Leatherface. He's hitting puberty, wants a girlfriend, and is more than suseptible to being pussy whipped. He wields his chainsaw as if an extension of himself, also as his cock. His first encouter with Stretch (at her radio station) ends with her convincing him to let her go by coming on to him ("you know how to use that thing?"). He spends the rest of the picture covering up her survival to the other members of his clan. Of course, grandpa is back and while he may have once been as "fast as Jesse James" with his braining hammer, that's not really the case these days. Oh, and the hitchhiker's body appears. Even in death, the family embraces his lunacy.

And then there's Chop Top, played over the top bat shit insanely by Bill Mosely. He's become somewhat of an iconic character. During the first film, he was in 'Nam (almost makes you feel sorry for Charlie, not to mention the other poor bastards in his platoon). Top came back with a steel plate in his head, which he covers with his "Sonny Bono wig". Through out the picture, he scratches at the loose skin around the plate with a coat hanger, picks the loose flesh off, and eats it. He also comes with a catch phrase: "Dog will hunt". He frequently adds "dog" or "hog" to various expletives, i.e. "you dog dick" or "you hog bitch". A welcome addition to the "chainsaw" universe.

As is Hopper as "Lefty". Sadistic, broken, insane, etc. He's given up everything in the hopes of avenging the pain that's befallen his family. It's not enough for him to kill the Sawyer clan. It would be easy to load up with some heavy artillery and blow them all away. In one of my favorite scenes, he shows up at a chainsaw store, plops down a pile of $100s, and begins testing them out as the proprietor looks on. He takes a few saws outside and brutally hacks at a log as the owner looks on, first frightened, then licking his lips excitedly, getting off, etc. Oh, and a marching band plays in the background.

Of course, the picture culminates in a showdown in the Sawyer underground lair, a masterpiece of set design. A clever statement on the over indulgences of the 80s, a disease that clearly the Sawyer's weren't immune to. Anyway, the family sits down to dinner, Stretch is brought out (screaming, she does this through most of the last 1/3 of the movie), granpa goes to "work", and Lefty begins hacking and sawing his way through the tunnels, trying to crash the party while singing "bringing in the sheep". Chop Top adds the harmonies. It's all bizarre, sort of frightening, and uncomfortably funny. The picture ends with the tables being completely turned on the original. Tobe Hooper has nothing to worry about. His legacy is firmly secure with this one; also Lifeforce (maybe even The Invaders from Mars remake). Not to mention the original Chainsaw. Yeah, it's been unfairly maligned, misunderstood from the get go by morons who wanted him to just repeat the first picture. This one holds up. It's not only a great sequel, but a great movie in it's own right.


elmo said...

Geez- if only I could keep up! I'm still awaiting the Pit in the mail.

brian said...

Get on the ball Elmo!

Saya said...

Ahh I feel you are a kindred spirit my friend. My best friend and I watch it every year on Texas OU weekend. [I mean what could be better than Corny Dogs from Wienerschnitzel a case of Shiner Bock and watching Dennis Hopper firing up a chainsaw. Classic movie, definitely underrated.

Term Papers said...

The picture opens with a couple of Oklahoman college boys driving down a stretch of Texan highway, boozing heavily, and shooting up anything "Texas",This is nice Beginning.