The original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 1974 is a classic and required viewing to horror street cred. Leatherface and his equally leathery family created the foundation to the slasher icon that would later produce Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger, and Jason Voorhees. While Leatherface may not have always received the same level of clout that the other baddies did over the years, there's no means for messing with the granddaddy of slashing. Twelve years after the release of the original, 1986 brought The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 with director Tobe Hooper back at his original Texas road trip series. While the original film focuses on the horror of the situation that Sally and her friends experience, Hooper added moments of satiricial humor to bring a stronger narrative. With his sequel, Hooper drove the horror out of the door and brought humor to the forefront. While the departure from horror is jarring, this sequel to the iconic original holds many moments of unique joy.
Stretch (Caroline Williams) is a local Texas radio DJ that is struggling to be more than just a commentator on chili cook-offs. One night she receives an obnoxious on-air phone call from two preppies driving the back roads of the countryside on their way to a party. While on air with Stretch, the college kids are attacked by a roving truck fitted with a seemingly mummified chainsaw weilding maniac. Once the boys are murdered and the police investigate their demise, Lieutenant "Lefty" Enright (Dennis Hopper) enters the scene to find the chainsaw killers. His niece Sally (from the original film) had been committed to a mental hospital after her run in with a similar chainsaw killer. Stretch offers her support to Lefty in order to further her career and find a true story to report on.
The big problems with this sequel lie in the logic of the Leatherface family. When the original film ended, there seemed to be no feasable way for the family to get away with their years of cannibalistic murders. However, they apparently managed to get away and grew a brand new family member in the form of Chop-Top (Bill Moseley). The histrionics of the Sawyer clan bloom and grow into a mess that makes the sequel feel unimportant and forced. When it comes to the perfomances, Moseley and Hopper are the stand outs. They both bring an electric energy to the film and deliver most of the intrigue that is seen. Moments where Moseley hams up his insanity make him seem literally crazy which is a fun experience. While the comedy in the movie isn't exactly strong, the quirky performances from Hopper bring a campy approach to an otherwise unneccessary film. The way this film comes off is in the same vein as Evil Dead 2 or even more like Army of Darkness. When a film like the original Texas Chainsaw truly exempliies pure horror, a strong path to create from it would be satirical horror and comedy. There is one strong moment of horror (which was welcomed) as Leatherface pops out of the film vault at Stretch.
The great part about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is that Tobe Hooper was behind the production. While it feels like a departure from his original work, he did something different and fun that most sequels don't turn into in the end. It may not be the strongest film in the franchise, or even hold a candle to the other iconic horror films of all time, but it has a campy charm that will satisfy any Texas Chainsaw fan that wants a little more fan fiction than the average viewer.