Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley, Bill Johnson

The legend goes that 13 years after the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they finally decided to make a sequel. And it sucks. It sucks hard. Do you need more?

Our movie starts with a few seconds of text recounting the legend of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, and thusly reminding us of how good that one was. We then go to an open country road where some dork wearing kooky prism-sunglasses is shooting a gun out the window for no reason. He and his companion call up a sexy radio hostess named Stretch, whose name is clearly ripe for any number of sexual innuendos, and joke around with her while playing chicken with some poor shmuck who was probably just trying to get home and eat lunch or something. Gee, listen to the way that prism-sunglasses kid is laughing…it’s like audible AIDS. He gives off this really shrill, piercing laugh that I actually think is exploding my---

Oh, hey, radio girl is playing The Cramps. That’s much better. Thank you, movie.

Buuuut it’s not long before we switch right back to the two asshole brothers who want to prank-call her again, because they clearly have nothing better to do on their trip to the Texas low country than prank call innocent people and make their lives that much more annoying. Well, movie, I’ve got to give you credit; you’ve already made me want to kill these guys myself! I can’t wait till Leatherface does it later.

And luckily we don’t have to wait that long, as he actually shows up on the road a second later and attacks them after the driver calls him a pig-fucker and tells him to back up – which Leatherface does, right before he gets out his chainsaw and cuts their car to pieces while it’s already moving. For some reason he’s wearing a weird zombie-scarecrow costume or something that covers his face, even though it falls off and you can see it’s him; that’s fucking weird. And the whole thing gets caught on Stretch’s radio tape…

The next morning we get introduced to our main character, played by Dennis Hopper. Yup, Dennis Hopper again; he’s been appearing in almost every god damn movie I’ve watched lately, like he’s fucking haunting me or something. He’s playing a washed up sheriff who has been hunting the Texas Chainsaw Massacre killers ever since the first movie and none of the other cops really take him seriously or believe anything he says. But Stretch comes to talk to him and try to help him, and he refuses…I guess he just doesn’t like publicity that much.

So then we go to a Chili Cook Off where a famous chef is winning for the second year in a row. “It’s the meat,” he says, when asked what his secret is to making it so good, with a twinkle in his eye. Gee, that couldn’t possibly be foreshadowing the fact that he’s probably a bad guy and is using cut-up humans killed by Leatherface to make it, could it? Not that I’ve ever seen this movie. Just a healthy bit of speculation, mmm.

After buying a chainsaw at the World Chainsaw Emporium, Hopper goes to meet with Stretch the radio girl at her house, apparently having changed his mind as he wants her to play the tape of the two morons getting killed on the radio for everyone to hear…he says it’s so that the law will realize that he’s not just a joke, but really, I think it would just get her in huge amounts of trouble and probably even set Hopper back further, but hey, what do I know, I haven’t been chasing the Leatherface family for 14 years. And he introduces himself as Lefty. That’s right; our crime fighting team in this movie is named Stretch and Lefty. Why does that sound more like a bad comic strip you’d find in the Sunday papers or something?

So Stretch plays the horrific murder noises on the air for everyone to hear, and that guy from the Chili competition hears it from someone on the phone while driving a truck that only Kurt Russell from Big Trouble in Little China would drive. Oh, and it doesn’t matter, but he’s actually driving with the chili open and sitting on the Texas-shaped trophy he won sitting next to him in the passenger seat. That’s…really strange. Then that night after Stretch is all alone, she gets ambushed by Bill Moseley, playing one of the Leatherface family. He stumbles around chewing the scenery and acting like a ham until Leatherface pops out of the records room, where he’s apparently been hiding this whole time – gee, how did he even stay put that long? I thought he was like some kind of barbaric savage who couldn’t do those kinds of things to save his life.

I have to admit there are a few good scenes in this whole thing that do invite a few scares and some tension. Like when Leatherface corners Stretch in the room and runs his chainsaw up her leg…but for the most part the silliness of Bill Moseley and the temper tantrums of Leatherface afterward kind of drag it down.

So then Stretch decides to follow them. While she’s driving, apparently the sound guy for the movie was so bored that he decided to put in goofy, over the top music that has nothing to do with the TCM franchise. And why the hell is she following them? What, she couldn’t just alert the law enforcement? I know they didn’t believe anything had really happened, but come on, lady, YOU COULD HAVE SHOWN THEM YOUR WRECKED UP RADIO STATION. That’s veritable proof right there! You don’t have to go after them alone, you frigging idiot!

She gets chased by a car that is driven by Hopper, imagine that, and she ends up standing right in the very spot where there’s a trap-door to cave in the ground on her. Hopper gets out his chainsaw and starts screaming his head off as he goes to attack the Leatherface family madhouse, which is full of things like giant statues of hands holding knives, twisty slides like you’d find on a playground and walls that are full of fresh human entrails – weird family decoration, but I’ll go with it. But man, Hopper is a terrible cop. Does he just go in screaming and shouting every time he wants to apprehend a suspect? Imagine how that would have worked in Silence of the Lambs. He would have been dead in two seconds. He really doesn’t think this is going to, uh, alert anyone of his presence and possibly get him killed? Well, again, I guess I’m not the expert here. He probably knows best.

Hey, kids, let’s play PLOT ROULETTE! This is a game where we spin the great wheel of movie sequel plots and see what we’re going to have to deal with. Today’s plot wheel winner is…the sympathetic serial killer! Yes, Leatherface actually falls in love with Stretch, and tries to hide her from his crazy family by putting the face of her dead best friend over hers and also putting his hat on her head, too, and then tying her up so she doesn’t get away. It turns out he’s still alive, though, even though his face was skinned off…and actually, what follows is a really touching scene that’s also equally hard to watch and brutal, as he stumbles around, having been beaten within an inch of his life and had his face cut off. He manages to untie her and even talk a little, but he falls over and dies. This scene is actually really sad, and one of the only moments in this damn movie that actually evokes some kind of emotion.

But ugh…then we have to go back to watching Bill Moseley and that Chili cook guy who is apparently the head of the family. These two characters are so damn annoying and grating to the ears that they had me hoping that Dennis Hopper would show back up again. Hell, even Stretch herself is hardly sympathetic anymore. All she does is scream and she’s the one who got herself into this whole thing in the first place, so what the hell should I feel sorry for her for? Luckily Hopper does show up – although any protagonist whose choice of attack is a chainsaw to the other guy’s ass as he runs away is kind of questionable, but I’ll overlook that if we can get this movie done with faster.

I think one of the funnier parts is how Dennis Hopper has this armory of chainsaws, all of different sizes, tucked into his uniform like guns or knives or something – I’m not sure they’re supposed to be used like that, dude. And FINALLY Stretch kills Bill Moseley and puts the audience out of their misery of his horrible performance. In a startlingly cartoonish climax, the old grandpa throws a hammer at Dennis Hopper, who ducks, so it hits Leatherface, who falls over and knocks the floor in on the Chili cook guy, who loses control of the bomb he was about to explode.

Wow. Did we just enter the fucking Looney Tunes?

But no, the movie isn’t done torturing us yet, so Bill Moseley comes back and fights with Stretch some more until she finally knocks him down the mountain and into a pipe like he’s a golf ball at a mini golf course. Phew.

This just sucks. It’s got a few redeeming factors and a couple scenes that were okay, but for the most part, it just sucks. It completely eschews the tension and atmosphere of the first movie by putting in a bunch of annoying fuckholes screaming and cackling all the time and it gets rid of the cool Texas outback setting in favor of a carnival funhouse that just isn’t nearly as impressive. There’s just nothing about this that works or creates any kind of fear. The acting is over the top and annoying, the plot is just boring and…well, that’s all I need to tell you why this sucks. I guess in between the first one and this one, director Tobe Hooper lost his marbles or just stopped giving a shit, because this just isn't any good at all. If you see a copy of this, spit on it. That's all, folks!