Release Date(s)1986 (April 19, 2016)
Studio(s)Cannon Films/MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A+
In the mid-1980’s, Cannon Films set out to do a three picture deal with Tobe Hooper, who had just had some newfound success with Poltergeist. Hooper followed through on the deal, making Invaders From Mars and Lifeforce, but also what the studio wanted from him more than anything, a sequel to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Hooper unleashed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 in 1986, giving audiences a different experience than what they might have been expecting.
The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre today is heralded as one of the most intense and frightening films of its era, holding up better than many of its predecessors because of how well it was shot and directed. At the time of its inception, Hooper and his writing friend L.M. Kit Carson (of Paris, Texas fame) decided that instead of trying to recreate the sheer terror of the original, that they would go in a more satirical direction. It wasn’t a direction that many viewers were behind initially. In fact, much of Chainsaw 2’s success was built out of the home video market. Oddly enough, it reflected what was going on in the movie world at large at the time. Even the film’s original VHS release cover featured the murderous Sawyer family posed much in the same way as the kids from the poster for The Breakfast Club. If you were paying close enough attention at the time, that cover gave you insight as to exactly what kind of film it was.
As for its story, it’s much of the same as the original, but with some new elements coming into play. This time around, the Sawyer family opts out of killing hippies, moving on to yuppies instead. A radio station deejay named Stretch accidentally overhears a pair of these so-called yuppies being murdered, and soon Leatherface and company are out to find her. Hot on the Sawyers’ trail is Lefty (Dennis Hopper), a former Texas police officer who is looking for revenge for his nephew Franklin, who was murdered by the Sawyers in the first film. Things get ugly as Lefty, Leatherface, and the rest of the clan go head to head. Meanwhile, Stretch attempts to escape the Sawyers’ BBQ of horrors with her life while avoiding Leatherface’s advances.
Although the satirical elements are all front and center, Chainsaw 2 is also focused on the unrelenting mania of the situation. It is constantly escalating until the blood-soaked conclusion, leaving its viewer in a state of exhaustion. I actually find the film to be equal to its predecessor because of this. And although the original was less-focused on blood and gore, making it more suggestive and therefore more terrifying to audiences, the sequel brings horror make-up effects maestro Tom Savini in to “flesh” out the death and destruction. This makes sense too, due to the nature of the film being more of a crazy rollercoaster ride than a straight up horror film. The characters and the cast are also very strong, and the production design looks like the film cost millions to make. It may not be as heralded as the original, but it’s a great sequel, and goes in the only direction it could possibly have gone. It’s certainly not a movie that you can watch repeatedly, but it’s a damn fine ride nonetheless.
Right up front, we have three separate releases to compare to when it comes to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. First is the Arrow Video release, which I’ve already covered in detail before. The second is the first disc of this new release, which contains a new 2K HD scan from the original interpositive. The third is the second disc of this set, a port of the original HD master, which was supervised by director of photography Richard Kooris and was used by Arrow Video for their release. This makes things slightly complicated from a purist standpoint, because the transfer approved by Kooris is meant to be the standard, but to my eyes, it isn’t. Both the original HD master found on this release and the Arrow Video release are identical, except that the Arrow Video release is a little darker with a scrutinizingly smaller amount of fine detail. There are also very minor film scratches leftover, as well. For my own personal preference, I found the newly-minted 2K interpositive scan to be the cream of the crop, but only marginally so. Fine detail is more abundant and colors are richer with more naturally appearing skin tones. Black levels, including shadow details, also show improvement. Brightness and contrast are better overall, as well, and film artifacts are almost non-existent. It’s worth noting also that there are no signs of any kind of digital enhancement evident in any of these transfers. You really can’t go wrong with any of these transfers as they only have marginal improvements over each other, but for me, the new 2K transfer trumps them all and is my personal go-to when I want to watch this movie. Yet some may still prefer the original master, so judge for yourself. Both transfers on this release also come with two soundtracks, both English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks. Both are good, and the 5.1 tracks actually have some nice surround activity to them, particularly when it comes to ambience and score. This is a madcap kind of movie, and the sound experience should reflect that, and it certainly does with this track. Dialogue is always clean and clear, of course, but sound effects and score have some nice weight to them. It’s an excellent upgrade, overall. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
In terms of extras, this set rivals its Arrow Video counterpart again with all of the material having to do directly with the film itself, and not just covering Tobe Hooper’s early career (not that doing so isn’t important). On the first disc, you get a new audio commentary with director of photography Richard Kooris, production designer Cary White, script supervisor Laura Kooris, and property master Michael Sullivan; two additional audio commentaries, one with director Tobe Hooper and documentary filmmaker David Gregory, and the other with actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, special effects make-up creator Tom Savini, and moderator Michael Felsher; a set of extended outtakes from the It Runs in the Family documentary found on the second disc; an extensive set of still galleries (black and white stills, behind-the-scenes, the personal collection of Jason Guy, color stills, posters and lobby cards, a special effects gallery); two theatrical trailers; seven TV spots; a new behind-the-scenes footage compilation from Tom Savini’s personal archives; an alternate opening credit sequence; and four deleted scenes sourced from a VHS workprint. On the second disc, you get four new interviews: House of Pain: The Special Make-Up Effects of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 with make-up effects artists Bart Mixon, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale, and John Vulich; Yuppie Meat with actors Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon; Cutting Moments with editor Alain Jakubowicz; and Behind the Mask with stunt man and Leatherface performer Bob Elmore. There’s also a new Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark, which visits many of the filming locations from the movie, and last but not least, the mammoth It Runs in the Family feature-length documentary on the film.
Amazingly enough, a few things still managed to not make it onto this release, specifically from Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release. They include the Still Feelin’ the Buzz interview with horror expert and author Stephen Thrower and the Cutting Moments interview with stunt man Bob Elmore. Oddly enough, on the Scream Factory release, Behind the Mask contains a different interview with Bob Elmore while an interview with the film’s editor is titled Cutting Moments on the Arrow Video release... strange, and a bit confusing. Also not present from the Arrow Video release are the two early films by Tobe Hooper: The Heisters (1964) and Eggshells (1969-1971); an audio commentary on Eggshells with Tobe Hooper and Louis Black; an In Conversation with Tobe Hooper interview; a trailer reel for many of Tobe Hooper’s films (present company excluded); and a 100-page insert booklet entitled “American Freak Illuminations” which contains even more information about Tobe Hooper’s career. Now, if you’re a Tobe Hooper completist, you’ll probably want the Arrow Video release for all of this material, but if not, it’s certainly not missed on the Scream Factory release as it’s satisfyingly stuffed enough as it is.
If you had told me that Scream Factory would have trumped its Arrow Video counterpart with a new release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 stateside, I would not have believed you. Incredibly enough, they have, and more than that, its the definitive version of the movie to own. Terrific transfers and a mountain of extras make this one of their most satisfying releases, bar none. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons