“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” is a sequel that stands in a class by itself, well deserving of its own chapter in horror history.
Traditionally, sequels aren’t nearly as good as the original. But The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (released on August 22, 1986) is a rare follow-up film that’s just as memorable and influential as its predecessor.
Unlike the terrifying original, this chapter in the series doesn’t take itself seriously at all. In fact, Tobe Hooper made an interesting decision to make Chainsaw’s sequel an over-the-top campy horror comedy.
According to ScreenRant, TCM 2 was originally meant to be a spoof of the 1980 horror comedy Motel Hell.
ScreenRant also points out that Motel Hell was reportedly a spoof of Hooper’s original Chainsaw movie. The original title of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was Beyond the Valley of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. However, Cannon, the production company, rejected this title. Writer Kit Carson was brought in to rewrite the script.
The film begins in 1986, 13 years after Sally Hardesty Enright was picked up on a road in rural Texas. Though she tried to explain her horrific ordeal, police found no evidence of the attacks, nor did they discover what happened to her brother, Franklin, and their friends. After Sally made her initial report, she slipped into a state of catatonia. But there have been reports of chainsaw killings across Texas in the years since.
The movie begins with Buzz and Rick, two drunk high school seniors on the way to a party, driving down a road in Texas. They use a car phone to call a radio station, KOKLA, to harass the DJ, Stretch (Caroline Williams), before a deadly encounter with a truck and a chainsaw-wielding maniac. Their deaths are caught on tape by Stretch, who was on the line with them when they met their brutal end.
When the police show up to investigate the deaths, Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper) is on the scene.
Another detective arrives and mocks Lefty, who apparently has been trying to bring attention to the chainsaw killings occurring throughout Texas over the past 13 years.
After the detective mocks him for his chainsaw theory, Lefty sarcastically quips that the driver must have cut his own head off with a chainsaw. He then asks the detective if they would contact the press and run a story about the chainsaw killings.
The story does make it to the newspaper. Stretch sees the article and goes to see Lefty with the audio recording of the call with the chainsaw in the background. Stretch insists she’s probably the only one who believes him and offers to have him on her radio show. Lefty tells her not to get in his way and that he doesn’t need anyone to stand with him.
He also tells Stretch that he doesn’t fear these “mad dogs” and that they live on fear. He pushes her out the door.
Stretch and LG cover the Texas/Oklahoma Chili Cookoff. The winner is none other than “Dallas’ favorite caterer,” Drayton Sawyer — for the second year in a row. He says that the secret is the meat and that he’s got a good eye for prime meat; it runs in the family.
Meanwhile, Lefty is at Cut-Rite Chainsaws purchasing some… chainsaws. Afterwards, he visits Stretch at the station and asks her to play the tape on her show. She tells him that she can’t do that because of FCC regulations. Lefty tells her that she needs to bend the rules and play it because the killers are in the area.
She finally agrees, which leads to a terrifying run-in with Sawyer brothers Leatherface and Chop-Top.
Part 2 introduces an iconic character, Chop-Top, Leatherface’s surviving brother, played by Bill Moseley.
Moseley’s manic portrayal of Chop Top is just as unforgettable as Edwin Neal’s Nubbins Sawyer, Leatherface’s other brother, aka The Hitchhiker, who dies at the end of the original.
He cuts an eccentric but disturbing figure, first appearing wearing a Sonny Bono wig, which he scratches at with a bent coat hanger. He heats it with a cigarette lighter, scratches it, then tastes or licks whatever is on the end of it. He is starkly pale with a mouthful of rotted teeth. And he babbles on about Stretch being his “fave” and stating, “Music is my life.”
Moseley is equal parts comic and disturbing.
As Leatherface bursts onto the scene, he accidentally cuts Chop-Top’s Sonny Bono wig through to the metal plate in his head. Chop-Top screams,”Nam flashback,” then whines about his ruined Sonny Bono wig and having to go back to the VA hospital with a dent in his plate. He also makes sure to tell Leatherface to, “Get that bitch!” Then he utters one of the most memorable lines of dialogue in the film, “Dog will hunt.”
It’s been confirmed that Chop-Top is Nubbins’ twin brother, and Moseley was definitely familiar with Chop-Top’s predecessor. In a 2020 article on Screen Rant, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: 10 Behind the Scenes Facts About the Crazy Sequel,” Tobe Hooper saw Moseley perform his interpretation of Nubbins Sawyer in a short film called The Texas Chainsaw Manicure. Moseley produced the film with his own money and showed it to a screenwriter, who then showed it to Hooper.
Hooper appreciated Moseley’s film and said that he would keep Moseley in mind if he decided to make a Texas Chainsaw sequel. So, years later, as Part 2 was in development, Hooper still had Moseley in the back of his mind.
Moseley, of course, would go on to play another horror icon, the Charles Mansonesque Otis Driftwood, in Rob Zombie’s Firefly trilogy.
While Moseley’s performance certainly stands out, the entire cast is memorable.
Caroline Williams plays the gutsy final girl, Stretch.
How can anyone forget the scene in which Leatherface corners her and points his chainsaw in a very sensitive area? However, Stretch, while terrified, manages to pull herself together and tries some reverse psychology. She attempts to be flirty as a way to appease him as she repeatedly asks, in a suggestive way, “How good are you?” and, “Are you really good?” There’s also the “frustrated girlfriend” conversation that she has in an attempt to distract Leatherface.
He’s chasing her through a tunnel where there are corpses in various poses. Some are posed on lounge chairs and umbrellas as if sunning themselves on a beach. Leatherface finds and begins chasing her again. She stops screaming and tells him that they need to talk, that this isn’t going to work out, and that she can’t do this anymore.
Another unforgettable image is of Stretch doing a sort of victory dance with the chainsaw at the end — a callback to the original film.
According to Screen Rant, Williams went “above and beyond” during the audition.
Gunnar Hansen (who was supposed to reprise his role as Leatherface) and writer, Kit Carson, were sitting in the room at the time. Before she performed her scene, Williams ran into the room screaming, kicked their chairs out from under them, and used the chairs to barricade the door.
Former Texas Ranger, Lefty (Dennis Hopper), is an interesting protagonist, going up against the psychotic Sawyer family.
He’s the uncle of Franklin and TCM final girl Sally Hardesty. It turns out the Sawyer bunch messed with the wrong family.
Sally and Franklin’s bereaved uncle refuses to fade into obscurity, hoping that his niece’s tormentors and nephew’s killer will be caught someday. He’s a vigilante out for blood and determined to face them.
He constantly screams as he enters the Sawyer’s lair, which he calls the Devil’s Playground. When he enters the dining room to face the Sawyers, he’s singing “Bringing in the Sheaves.” Lefty’s confrontation with the Sawyers is unforgettable, as he wields mini chainsaws in a duel with Leatherface.
In the original film, Leatherface comes across as someone who is mentally disabled. According to a documentary, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (2000), Hansen said that he prepared for the role by visiting a mental health facility, observing the patients, and attempting to blend in with them.
However, Hansen didn’t play Leatherface in Chainsaw 2 due to a contract dispute.
Screen Rant reported that Hansen said he was offered a payment of only scale-plus-10-percent, with the 10 percent going to his agent. When Hansen informed producers that he didn’t have an agent, the 10 percent was taken off the table completely. Hansen walked.
Bill Johnson was cast as Leatherface instead. He plays the character like a caricature of Hansen’s Leatherface, which works with the campy atmosphere of the film.
The setting is absolutely perfect for the tone of the movie.
The Sawyer family lives in an abandoned amusement park, which sets up a macabre carnival atmosphere.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is just as influential as its predecessor. The campy and gruesome carnival atmosphere can be felt in Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses. House’s cast even includes Chainsaw 2’s Bill Moseley.
Unlike the first film, which didn’t actually include any gore, this one amps it up.
Recall the scene where Leatherface forces Stretch to wear LG’s bloody face as a mask. Also, a bloody-skinned L.G. (Lou Perry) wakes up and approaches a horrified Stretch with an exposed rib cage and all.