Tobe Hooper's Cannon-produced sequel THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 hits Blu-ray again, but this time in a two-disc Scream Factory special edition slathered with extras.
In the aftermath of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, the Texas authorities found no evidence to the missing teenagers or the atrocities described by sole survivor Sally Hardesty before she slipped into catatonia. Over the next thirteen years, reports of grisly chainsaw murders all over Texas have persisted but the authorities have been unwilling to connect them; that is, with the exception of Lieutenant "Lefty" Enright (Dennis Hopper, BLUE VELVET), uncle of Sally and Franklin, who has been tracking the killers throughout the state. The cannibalistic Sawyer family – chef Drayton (Jim Siedow, HOTWIRE) and his brothers Chop-Top (Bill Moseley, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD '90), Bubba aka Leatherface (Bill Johnson, FAST MONEY), and what's left of brother Nubbins – have gone commercial and are operating "The Last Round-up Rolling Grill" ("No secret. It's the meat. Don't skimp on the meat") during the Texas/OU weekend, but Lefty does not get a lead until K-OKLA radio DJ Stretch (Caroline Williams, DAYS OF THUNDER) records a call-in from obnoxious road trippers (SHELTER ISLAND's Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon) who find themselves on the wrong end of a chainsaw while playing chicken with a mysterious van. Lefty requests that she play the recording over the air, promising an interview that Stretch sees as her chance "to stop playing head-banging music and do something real." Stretch's special request playback brings Chop-Top and Leatherface to the station, but the big chainsaw-wielding lug experiences love at first sight over Stretch and leaves her unharmed (physically) while he and Chop-Top make off with "bonus body" in Stretch's producer L.G. (Lou Perryman, POLTERGEIST). Stretch pursues them back to their lair and winds up sliding right into the Sawyer's meat locker. Meanwhile, Lefty has been lurking in the shadows and, armed with a trio of chainsaws, plans to send the "Devil's Playground" back to hell.
Hooper's sequel – the last in a three picture deal Hooper had with Cannon Films after the higher-budgeted INVADERS FROM MARS and LIFEFORCE – was late in coming to the screen but THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was still fresh in the minds of fans due to an early eighties theatrical reissue by New Line Cinema (who purchased the rights from Bryanston) and its video releases (first by Charles Band's Wizard Video and then by Media Home Entertainment). Greenlighted by Golan-Globus in three minutes according to the extras, the film went into production in late February slated for an August release with Hooper and screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson (PARIS, TEXAS) writing and re-writing during the shooting. Taking the original film's black humor over the top, the sequel trades hippies for yuppies and football mad hoosiers but never approaches the intensity of the original but manages a sense of unease. The phallic nature of infantile Leatherface's chainsaw is thrust into the foreground with Stretch forced to use her feminine wiles to fend off the saw. Williams is a first class screamer and gets quite the physical workout here, but the threat never reaches the visceral level of the original. The film demands comparison because its climax recreates the dinner scene with eighties music video lighting, moody synth accompaniment, and slicker camera moves that run counter to the teaming hysteria. Hopper seems to be in another movie throughout much of the running time, particularly running amuck with a chainsaw through the Sawyer's lair in a manner that almost mirrors Leatherface's destructive tantrums, both achieving nothing while Williams' Stretch scratches, kicks, claws, and punches furiously before taking up the saw. Perryman and Siedow turn in fun supporting performances but Moseley's Chop Top is the standout. The score by Hooper and Jerry Lambert (WARBIRDS) – backed by an I.R.S. Records compilation score featuring the likes of Oingo Boingo, Concrete Blonde, Timbuk 3, Steward Copeland, and The Cramps – lacks the jangling feel of the processed sounds score of the original (co-composer Wayne Bell serves as production sound mixer here). The production design of Cary White (GETTYSBURG) is impressive given the budget and prep time, but Hooper treats the Sawyer's amusement park lair as a funhouse and races through it with little time to appreciate White's more elaborate takes on Robert Burns' designs for the first film. The prosthetic mayhem of Tom Savini (DAWN OF THE DEAD) is shown to good effect, with the then-tireless artist and his crew – including many future KNB and MMI techs – rising to the occasion splitting heads, flaying skin, and delivering some brutal saw-toothed gut-punches with the best of his seventies and eighties output.
Released theatrically by Cannon and then on home video by Media Home Entertainment in a so-so transfer, the film was re-released on VHS by MGM in an improved transfer of the unrated version despite the R-rating on the back cover. MGM released a barebones DVD with non-anamorphic letterboxed and fullscreen versions in 2000 followed by their 2006 "Gruesome Edition" with an anamorphic transfer, two commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and the feature-length documentary "It Runs in the Family". MGM bumped up this edition to Blu-ray in 2012 minus a main menu (audio options, scene selections, and extras were selected via the pop-up menu). Arrow Video in the UK virtually reproduced the contents of the MGM Blu-ray in a 10,000 piece limited edition three-disc set that included a second Blu-ray (and DVD copy) featuring Hooper's feature debut EGGSHELLS, an early short, a new interview with Hooper, and a hundred-page book on Hooper's career, his Cannon films, and the Chainsaw franchise.
Scream Factory's two-disc edition features a brand new 2K HD scan from the film's interpositive on the first disc and MGM's earlier HD master (color-corrected by DP Richard Kooris) on the second. The new transfer is slightly brighter with red gels veering minutely towards the pink, while the reduced contrast does rob a couple scenes of their edge, and Savini's effects looking a bit more rubbery (LG's exposed ribs look like a side of ribs glued to his chest). The older master is somewhat darker with redder skintones, an overcast look to the exteriors, and a tinge of waxiness in the close-ups. Either way, the film still looks like a low budget 1980s film compared to the gritty original due largely to the first half of the film's predominately fluorescent- and neon-lit settings (for the real locations, the cinematographer only relamped the fluorescents to match the film's color temperature) until the latter half of the film which looks much more interesting cinematographically. I lean towards the older transfer but it's nice to have two alternatives in the same package. Both transfers offer the Ultra Stereo track in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo and a 5.1 upmix that gives a bit more depth to a mix that was always rather flat apart from the source rock music. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.
The extras are also split over the two discs. The 2016 remaster is accompanied by three audio commentary tracks: the first with co-writer/co-producer/director Tobe Hooper and Severin Films' David Gregory (director of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE SHOCKING TRUTH feature-length documentary present on the Dark Sky release of the first film) and second with actor Bill Moseley, actress Caroline Williams, special makeup effects artist Tom Savini, and DVD producer Michael Felsher carried over from the MGM DVD and Blu-ray, as well as a new track with director of photography Richard Kooris, production designer White, script supervisor Laura Kooris, and property master Michael Sullivan. The soft-spoken Hooper discusses his partnership with Carson, the first film's understated black humor, the context of the sequel (whose poster mimics THE BREAKFAST CLUB), how Hopper got involved in the film, and his and Savini's attempts to come up with effects gags never seen before. Most interesting is his revelation that Perryman's mannerisms (including the spitting) were given heavy emphasis so that the audience would recognize him without skin during the climax. On the second track, the participants highlight the sexualized and masturbatory nature of Leatherface's chainsaw pumping, reveal that the film's manic violence and Stretch's hysteria were exaggerated in some scenes by speeding up the framerate, points out some of the easily missed production design and effects work during the climax, and Williams demonstrates her genre knowledge by referring to her acting choices during one suspense scene as an "Amy Steel moment." The third track finds Richard and Linda Kooris filling out the film's history, having operated the local Austin production company that provided services for the film, and making some remarks about Cannon's "financial chicanery." All four of the commentators speak glowingly of Williams and her performance as well as Hooper's seeming lack of empathy for her, although they do respect the director's recognition of their respective talents. Ultimately, the Hooper commentary is the most informative, the Moseley/Williams/Savini one the most engaging, and the new track filling in some of the blanks and a bit more up to date.
The feature-length documentary "It Runs in the Family" is included on the second disc, but the first disc features extended outtakes from the documentary (29:37) highlighting the participation Carson (who died in 2014) and Perryman (who was murdered in 2009). Carson reveals how he met Hooper and seeing (with a pre-TAXI DRIVER Paul Schrader) THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE via a Los Angeles screening the director set up for him, the lightning fast greenlighting of the sequel, and his role in the casting and recruiting of the crew (with Hooper having the final say), and how Williams beat out Isabella Rosselini in BLUE VELVET for the best actress prize at the Sitges festival. Perryman describes his experience on the first film, basically making shots work in front of the camera, and shipping off the film and sound rolls for processing (in boxes he got from 7-Eleven), and confesses to being one the naysayers about the likelihood of the film being completed or seen (especially after they discovered that a week of filming was unusable). The disc also includes six still galleries – black and white stills, behind-the-scenes, stills from the personal collection of fan Jason Guy, color stills, posters & lobby cards, and special effects – along with U.S. and Japanese theatrical trailers (2:04) that are virtually identical apart from subtitles for the narration, six US TV spots and one Japanese one (3:29), the alternate opening credits sequence (1:56) which has a different music cue and the moon as a background, and four deleted scenes (10:57) – including the deleted parking garage massacre sequence and a cameo by Joe Bob Briggs – and a behind-the-scenes footage compilation (43:35) highlighting the extensive make-up of skinned LG and grandpa, as well as the shooting of their scenes.
Besides the older MGM HD master, disc two carries over "It Runs in the Family" (81:41) from the MGM DVD and Blu-ray (this version runs shorter because the MGM version broke up the sections into separate featurettes with their own sets of credits). Topics covered include the origins of the project with comments by Carson, Kooris, White, and Sullivan on the rushed pre-production, Williams, Perryman, Moseley, and Johnson on the shoot, the characters, and working with Hooper (who does not appear in the documentary), Savini on the effects and his dissatisfaction with the editing of the film's first effect (which failed to show off the leaking brains made up of red-dyed Styrofoam shipping peanuts), and the film's post-production and reception at the time of release. As with the new commentary track, the new extras fill in the gaps of an already original comprehensive extras package. In "House Of Pain" (42:32), effects artists Bart Mixon (SCALPS), Gabe Bartalos (LEPRECHAUN), Gino Crognale (LEVIATHAN), and John Vulich (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) discuss their excitement at the opportunity not only to work on the sequel to Hooper's film but with the effects artist behind DAWN OF THE DEAD (Vulich had worked on DAY OF THE DEAD), how the effects work was parsed out among the crew – including Mitch Devane (THE EXORCIST III) who worked on Leatherface's mask – the laid-back atmosphere Savini fostered in the workshop as well as how he insulated them from the film's production problems and financial issues. Savini's behind the scenes video accompanies their descriptions of how certain effects were created and executed onscreen.
In "Yuppie Meat" (18:59), actor turned DJ and film music supervisor Douridas and model turned realtor Kinyon discuss their beginnings, how they became involved in the production and were paired up in the auditions, and how the bridge scene had to be reshot. They both recall that they mainly received direction and dialogue from Carson – who provided Douridas with his distinctive glasses – and mainly interacted with Hooper through the assistant director. In "Cutting Moments" (17:19), editor Alain Jakubowicz (SALSA) describes how he became one of Israel's top editors after working on the first LEMON POPSICLE film (remade by Cannon as THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN) and ended up working for Golan on THE DELTA FORCE. He was brought on to work on INVADERS FROM MARS after three previous editors failed to make it work. Hooper was impressed with his work and demanded that he work on TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (which he describes as being an easier editing job). In "Behind the Mask" (13:48), stunt man Bob Elmore (THE MONSTER SQUAD) recalls moving on from working in a wild west show to movie stuntwork, the 160 degree heat of the studio, and doubling for Johnson even in some masked close-ups (it was him sawing up the radio station and doing the chainsaw thrusting).
Finally, in another episode of "Horror's Hallowed Grounds" (24:33), Sean Clark revisits the film's Austin locations… or what's left of them. The Cut-Rite Chainsaw shop is now The Mean-Eyed Cat Bar but virtually all of the other locations are gone including the radio station, the position of which Clark approximates by using some still standing buildings along the background skyline (Clark even calls up Williams to confirm the location from screenshots he sent her). The printing building used for the studio sets and workshop is now a parking lot while the Texas Battle Land grounds are now an empty amusement park avenue (which looks like it would make a good horror movie setting in its current state). Casual horror who own the MGM Blu-ray may not want to upgrade but hardcore fans will for the new extras and the two transfers. For anyone else who does not have either release should probably spend the extra money to grab the Scream Factory disc anyway (it is twenty dollars more at SRP but currently just about ten dollars more than the MGM Blu at Amazon). (Eric Cotenas)
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