Release Date(s)1986 (November 11, 2013)
Studio(s)Cannon Films/MGM (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
[Editor’s Note: This is a REGION B Blu-ray release.]
In the mid-1980’s, Cannon Films sought 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 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 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, they opted to go in a more satirical direction instead. 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 teenagers on the VHS cover of 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 is 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 makeup 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 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’s certainly not a movie that you can watch repeatedly, but it’s a damn fine ride nonetheless. 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.
For their Limited Edition release of the film, Arrow Video has pulled together quite an amazing package of material. It should be duly noted that Arrow Video’s release of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is Region B locked, meaning you need a native or region free player in order to watch it. The transfer contained therein appears to be from the same source used for MGM’s U.S. Blu-ray release of the film, at least as much as I can tell. Despite the heavy grain levels, the picture appears very organic with plenty of depth to the image, revealing information in both background and foreground elements, and in particular, in close-ups. The color palette is also quite good, especially skin tones. Black levels are quite deep with some nice shadow details, and both brightness and contrast levels are nice and stable. There’s some minor film debris left behind, not much more than a few small black marks here and there, but there are no overt signs of excessive digital noise removal or sharpening after the fact. The only audio option available is an English 2.0 LPCM, and it’s really all you’re going to need. Dialogue is crystal clear, and both score and sound effects have plenty of spatial activity between speakers. It’s also a very clean track, as well. So all in all, this a terrific presentation in all aspects. Subtitles have also been included in English SDH for those who might need them.
Above all, the major draw of this set is the supplemental material, which is massive and extensive. On Disc 1, which also carries the main feature, you’ll find the It Runs in the Family 6-part documentary on the making of the film; an audio commentary with director and co-writer Tobe Hooper, moderated by David Gregory; another audio commentary with actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, and special-effects creator Tom Savini, moderated by Michael Felsher; Still Feelin’ the Buzz, an interview with horror expert and author Stephen Thrower; Cutting Moments with Bob Elmore, an interview with the film’s stunt man; an alternate opening to the film with a different musical score; a set of deleted scenes (sourced from a low-grade VHS workprint); the film’s original theatrical trailer; and an image gallery. On Discs 2 and 3 (Blu-ray and DVD, respectively), you get two early films by Tobe Hooper: The Heisters (1964) and Eggshells (1969-1971), both newly transferred to high definition for the first time. They also feature an English mono LPCM audio track, but with English subtitles on Eggshells only. There’s also an audio commentary on Eggshells with Tobe Hooper and Louis Black; an In Conversation with Tobe Hooper interview; and a trailer reel for many of Tobe Hooper’s films: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eaten Alive, Salem’s Lot, The Funhouse, Poltergeist, Lifeforce, Invaders From Mars, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Spontaneous Combustion, The Mangler, Crocodile, Toolbox Murders, and Mortuary. Completing the set is a 100-page insert booklet entitled “American Freak Illuminations” that is littered with archive stills, as well as articles and information about Tobe Hooper and his films by Brad Stevens, Calum Waddell, Kenneth Muir, and Joel Harley, plus an interview with Hooper by Stefan Jaworzyn. You’ll also find a numbered certificate insert card, as well.
The bottom line here is that if you’re a horror fan and you have the ability to view Region B material, there’s no reason not to import a copy of Arrow Video’s release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Besides the terrific presentation, the extras are stellar, and it’s just a very handsome digipak package overall. It looks great on a shelf, and it should definitely be on yours.
- Tim Salmons