Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is the very definition of a cult film: it was hated by critics on its 1986 release, made little money at box-office and has been forgotten by most horror film aficionados. It is a sequel to the 1974 original but it holds up really well. Its bigger, better and gorier. Forget all the pointless remakes and sequels; this and the first film are the ones to see. The film is worth watching due to its pretty disgusting violence and repugnant villains but also as an exploration of the forces of determined good versus remorseless evil. The film follows two major characters: Lefty (a male sheriff out for revenge) and Stretch (a female disc-jockey who finds out about the cannibalistic family). Like in the first film, we follow the cannibalistic exploits of the Swayer family. They are a bunch of freaks on a chainsaw rampage and cooking frenzy across North America.
While I’m not a big fan of gory horror films, this film doesn’t feel like an exercise in nihilism, a trait many horror films have. The presence of a hero hangs over the story. Lefty is a force of good who will hopefully rid the world of their evil (not to say he doesn’t fail a couple of times). This concept of good versus evil is left unexplored in most slasher films, the films excuses to show murder and torture without the presence of soma hero. The presence of ruthless Good in the film makes the horror a lot more bearable (even though there is great deal of cannibalism, torture and disembowelment.)
Lefty is just as obsessive and mad as the villains he is hunting. His memorable showpiece is a deranged finale in which he faces off against the main villain in a chainsaw showdown. In one memorable scene he walks into a shop, a variation of the gun store scene in many films, and buys a bunch of chainsaws. This cool scene reveals Lefty’s psyche; he doesn’t want to give the villains an easy death – he wants to carry out a form of divine punishment by using their own weapons against them.
All this horror culminates in an abandoned carnival where the Swayers have been hiding. The carnival is falling apart and described by Lefty as, ‘the devil’s playground.’ It is a very apt description that adds to the sideshow horror of the film. The family is basically a freak-show at a carnival gone mad. They are made up of the cook, the metal-plated son and leather-face. Leatherface is probably the most iconic character of the bunch: he is bulky, has a stitched-together face and wields a massive chainsaw. The exploration of his character in this film is both fascinating and perverse. He finds himself falling in love with the female character in a perverse variation of Beauty and the Beast. She isn’t too pleased about this and it adds a whole new meaning to the giant chainsaw he carries around. The film therefore explores the perverse link between violence and sexuality. The director Tobe Hooper fleshes this theme out, literally and metaphorically, which is often the subtext of many slasher films. The chainsaw is used as an outlet and expression of Leatherface’s sexual frustration. This theme is overtly conveyed in a scene where he tries to kill Stretch in her mini-studio. There is no ambiguity as to what the chainsaw means then.
Look let’s face it, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a sick little film that’s pretty unhealthy for anyone to watch but its fun, gory and has a moral compass. So grab a chicken-leg and dig in.