The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
A movie so famous it doesn’t need much of an introduction. From its gory, shocking kills to its more quiet, suspenseful moments, it managed to keep us on edge. It’s a movie that spawned a genre and a legacy, along with a few questionable remakes. Not just the remakes, however. It also got a widely despised sequel that has, unfortunately, faded into obscurity for a variety of reasons. My opinion is that the biggest of these is its complete inability to escape from the shadow of its predecessor.
This is, in my honest opinion, one of the biggest tragedies in horror culture. Now, I know that to this day the movie is still reviled, and I understand why. I really do. The purpose of this article, though, isn’t to discuss the shortcomings of the film but rather to celebrate it. With this article I hope to convince you of why I think this movie is secretly genius, and at the very least, get you to give it just one more chance.
Now, I’ll be honest. I watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 when I was a teenager. I hated it. Gone is the suspense, gone is the camerawork, and gone is the atmosphere. However, just recently I watched it again (and maybe one more time for this article), and I fell in love with it.
I found that what I thought made it terrible actually made it incredible. To understand part of its genius, we have to look at other 80s slasher films. Unlikable and unrealistic characters getting chased by an equally unrealistic but incredibly more likable villain. It was also typical to explore concepts like puberty and adulthood in these movies. In fact, in a lot of ways, they could be seen as coming of age stories.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 turns that all on its head, or otherwise takes it to the extreme. It deals with unrealistic characters breaching absurd extremes, and we get to witness not the victims, but Leatherface himself going through puberty in his own little way. Let me give you some examples:
There’s a scene early on when Dennis Hopper decides he plans on taking the killers head on. His solution to how is simple- he pulls up to a small chainsaw store, tosses his cigarette, and heads inside. Immediately he slaps money on the table and goes to the back, picking up chainsaws and swinging them to test the weight and heft of them. He ends up settling with a large chainsaw and two smaller ones (which he, *SPOILER ALERT*, later uses to fight Leatherface akimbo style) and is offered a place to test them out by the old store owner. He goes out back and immediately begins putting the work in on the testing log, swinging this way and that, much to the confusion and potential shock of the storekeeper. To this day I think this is one of my favorite scenes in any film.
Not much later in the film, there comes a scene when Leatherface himself comes charging our hero, Stretch, from the record vault of the radio station she’s employed at. He ends up cornering her in a room with no possible way to escape on her own. She ends up falling in an ice cooler trying to back up from him, and to her surprise the sight of a woman’s glistening body has an effect on Leatherface. He begins seductively caressing her legs and crotch with his chainsaw, and ends up deciding to let her live due to her feminine charms. His apparent development of hormones becomes a recurring thing in the later parts of the movie.
The best part is that these are only two scenes from a 90 or so minute movie, and these are two of the least absurd scenes in the film. It’s absolutely jammed full of dark humor and borderline surreal absurdity. If you allow this movie to escape the shadow of its prequel, it’s an absolutely hilarious watch, and one that will go excellently with a few beers and friends.