The Sawyer Massacre (2022) – A Bloody Prelude to a Texas Tradition

Back in 2017, someone attempted to write a preamble to the greatest horror film of ALL TIME, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Making prequels is fraught with peril. To begin, the producers must deal with a concrete bookend that starts at the beginning of the original film. Continuity comes at a premium to maintaining favor with the fan base. Most importantly, one risks spoiling the mystique of the original film when answering questions that might be better left to mystery. 2017’s Leatherface ran afoul of many of these challenges, and Malevolent Dark called it the “Prequel that NOBODY asked for.”

In 2022, Malevolent Dark came across a production called The Sawyer Massacre (2022), an unofficial prequel to the events of 1974. Fully aware of the missed opportunity, Malevolent Dark threw into to support the effort in hopes of redeeming the sins of the past. Through their hard work, fundraising and marketing outreach, director Steven Merlo and his team pulled together enough to make this noble effort a reality. We at Malevolent Dark are ecstatic to be in the position to review the full feature release of The Sawyer Massacre prior to its official release.

Remember to SUPPORT INDEPENDENT HORROR! These guys make the movies you want.

The Sawyer Massacre – 1965

The story begins with a band of friends making their way through the dusty plains of Texas to help a their friend deal with the loss of a loved one. It’s June 30th, 1965, nine years prior to the events that befell Sally Hardesty and her friends. A young man name Jimmy (Jordan O’Neal) needs to escape his mundane life in the city in response to a tragedy. Through several encounters, the group meets others stuck in the same dustbowl. Namely, Jimmy meets a girl named Alison (Nika Louw) that might be just the girl to help him break out of his depression.

All of these people have one thing in common, they all descend upon the same non-descript gas station and meet a welcoming man named Rex. According to Rex, everything they need can be found at his Grandpa’s house. You’ll not be surprised, grandpa makes the best Barbecue in the state of Texas. And yeah, grandpa lives in the foreboding old white farmhouse decaying down the road. What they find would go down as one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Sawyer Massacre.

The Sawyer Massacre (2022) - Movie Card
The Sawyer Massacre promotional movie card

The Challenge and the Beauty of Independent Horror

It takes balls the size of Texas tumbleweeds to make a fan film in Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre universe. First of all, these films must be made on the most miniscule of budgets when compared to the studio driven feature films from Hollywood. To put in in perspective, this team created a full-length feature film for less money that Tobe Hooper did in 1974. Granted, some advances in technology make that more possible that it would have been back then, but still, these guys are making magic out of thin air.

Steve Merlo, and the rest of the production team do a fantastic job on this film.

Having reviewed a few fan films, and independents, the techniques by which burgeoning filmmakers user to make their vision a reality fascinate Malevolent Dark. Certainly, going to the till to get top-tier Hollywood acting talent stands out of reach. Also, putting together a special effects extravaganza would prove incredibly challenging. In a brief email exchange with Steve Merlo, he gave a clue to how he would approach these challenges. According to Steve, he strove to assemble a character driven story providing depth in his narrative. In short, he makes his biggest investments in places where he can get the biggest bang for his buck.

No of this says that the production team skimped in other areas. Quite honestly, the opening credit scenes look extremely polished and on par with modern cinematic standards. From the opening frames, the sound department (Solo-X, Merlo, Gory Rory, Benjamin Marchi-Hilton, Denali Parachini, Kiel Hames) harken back to the mysterious sounds of distant sounds of clanging metal and evil ambient air that made the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre so foreboding. With the eruption of a chainsaw Steven Merlo takes no time making the audience fully aware of the brutality to come.

Fantastic Technical Work

Charlie Brady (Director of Photography) does an extremely effective job managing the camera. He conceives and frames the shots extremely well and makes very good use of dynamic camera movement to make sure that things are interesting. One the things we often notice with these independent features is a lack of depth in the frame. He makes artistic use of focal length to appropriately draw the viewers eyes to where he wants them.

Modern digital technology can easily lead to stark and uninteresting backdrops. Charlie Brady seems to understand this and avoids these pitfalls.

Make no mistake, while a character driven affair, The Sawyer Massacre makes significant investments in the red stuff. Leatherface’s masks, especially the one he dons late in the film are graphically unsettling. One of the most brutal kills in the film happens completely off camera. Even off screen, the combination of Leatherface’s movements and the sound effects will make even the most hardened horror fan wince.

The Sawyer Massacre (2022) - Alternative promotional card
Alternative promotional card for The Sawyer Massacre (2022)

Critical Continuity

Clearly, Steven Merlo intends to forge his own ground in The Sawyer Massacre. However, he also knows that he owes some allegiance to the past. He makes good on that responsibility by making sure that certain bit of continuity line up. We did not expect the broadcast news report on KOKLA radio, the home of none other than Vanita “Stretch” Brock. Considering how many of the sequels/prequels in existence dance around the existence of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2Merlo and team explicitly make a call-out  to Hooper’s awesome follow-up.

The team also makes sure to reference critical characters created by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper. We get a glimpse of an adolescent Hitchhiker (Vitor Parachini credited as “Schizo”) clashing with a younger more vibrant Drayton Sawyer (Bill Housekeeper). “You ain’t the BOSS of ME!!!” Both performances admirably replicate the important aspects of their personalities. Once again nodding to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, a newly introduced character explains the secret, “It’s the meat, he only uses PRIME meat!”.

We think we can say this without spoiling anything, a character named Leatherface makes an appearance (Scotty Parkin). Leatherface’s portrayal possesses all of the behemoth brutishness of past depictions. Parkin excels at portraying the confused chainsaw wielding bull in a china shop. If there were an omission, we felt like the performance would have been bolstered by Gunnar Hansen’s animalistic howls when performing his macabre work.

Serving Up the Barbecue

As far as independent horror films are concerned, The Sawyer Massacre achieves a level of professionalism that should be a model for prospective directors. Taking on a franchise with the gravity of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre requires a conviction not often found. On its own, The Sawyer Massacre is a fine tribute to great legacy… but it also presents an innovative film that charts its own territory. When one considers this accomplishment with its meager budget, its quality boggles the mind.

Fantastic performances by Nika Louw and William Instone (Rex) elevate the film beyond the realm of simple fan fiction.

Make sure you track this one down, We’ll update this post when we have details on where to watch when released on 10/21/22!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – A Definitive Classic

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

The 70’s and 80’s really are the golden age for horror films. As such, we saw a plethora a Hollywood formulas take shape. The horror gods gave us Slashers, Zombies and Demonic Possessions. On the contrary, some of the best films smashed these formulas to pieces. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre does just that. To label this film a slasher would be be lazy. This film broke the mold on how a depraved and insane a horror movie could. Rather than using gore as a crutch, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre takes a descent into psychological horror. To this day, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

There is something about finite resources that makes magic happen. We see blockbuster films fall to earth every year. Some of these films burning hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. It is difficult to explain, money seems to be the antithesis of creativity. The director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper, was able to unlock a masterpiece largely because of his limitations. This results in stark realism that stick with the view long after they left the theater. The late Robert Ebert famously said, “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to make a movie like this, and yet it’s well-made, well-acted, and all too effective.”

The Texas ChaInsaw Massacre (1974) - Title CardThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre – A Cast of Unknowns

Low-budget horror movies enjoy one major advantage. The films simply can’t afford big name actors. If it wasn’t for low-budgets, The Evil Dead’s Ash Williams (Brice Campbell) may have just another Burt Reynolds movie. Ben (Duane Jones) from Night of the Living Dead could have been played by Sidney Poitier. Low-budget directors never get distracted with worrying about the draw at the box office because they simply can’t afford it. Directors like Tobe Hooper must look deep to find actors that will help their vision come to life.

In the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, all of the actors are unknowns. This allows the cast to feel authentic as they run into a literal buzzsaw in Texas. The story begins with young group of friends on trip through Texas. Sally and Franklin Hardesty, Played by Marylin Burns and Paul Partain. They need to check on their grandfathers grave after recent reports of grave robbery. They bring friends friends, Pam (Teri McGinn), Jerry (Allen Danzinger) and Kirk (William Vail) to travel in a van to the cemetery.

Little do they know that they are traveling head-long into a depraved family of former slaughterhouse cast-offs that have resorted to eating human flesh to survive. Edwin Neal plays a crazy hitchhiker that make the first contact with the travelers. The Hitchiker is one of three brothers. Jim Siedow, the eldest brother is referred to only as The Cook. Gunnar Hansen is the gigantic baby brother known only as the infamous Leatherface. Finally, John Dugan plays Grandpa, a debilitated shell of a man that once rules the killing room floor at the slaughterhouse.

Plot Summary by John Larroqutte

As read by John Larroquette: “The Film which you are about to see is an accounts of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American History, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Leatherface

The crimes of Leatherface and the family are undoubtedly influenced by the crimes of Ed Gein in Wisconsin in the 1950’s. The being said, the character of Leatherface brings several facets to the table that make his character much more terrifying. This character is not really evil. Leatherface is the product of being mentally disabled and being raised in a family of psychopaths. Leatherface provides for his family by protecting the home and preparing meat. Likewise, it is completely unclear as to whether or not Leatherface knows that his crimes are even wrong.

Leatherface hulks around as a massive juggernaut. His huge stature dwarfs anyone that he comes into contact with. He dispatches two healthy young men as if he crushed ants beneath his massive feet. Moreover, he squeals and grunts as if one of the animals that he slaughters. Attempts to reason with Leatherface are futile as he fails to distinguish human beings from livestock. Finally, he wears the skin of of his victims. Each face brings another personality. During the course of the film, Leatherface wears three distinct human-leather masks. Each of them brings new a new perosonality.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - Leatherface hulks around as a massive juggernaut.
Leatherface

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Power of Suggestion

An often told tale about this film outlines an absolute bloodbath. Likewise, I can remember the first time that I saw this film. Approximately 10 years old, is was stricken by the unbridled brutality of the film. I distinctly remember not fully understanding exactly what I saw. Consequently, I pondered whether I could watch it again the following day.

Gathering my bravery, I watched a second time with a keen eye for gore. To my amazement, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shows almost no explicit gore. Sure, there it sprinkles blood as if a rare and costly seasoning, but does not levy the gore that one would expect of a film of its title. Through unmitigated brutality, both physical and psychological, this film twists one’s perception about what really happened.

Being that this film is light on gore, it triggers the question as to why? Was Tobe Hooper so genius that he would intentionally tamper the gore to create an artistic illusion? Unbelievably, his goal was actually a PG rating. In hind sight, that sounds ridiculous, but apparently that was the goal. Regardless, necessity is the mother of all invention. Hooper’s quest for a PG rating coupled with a shoestring budget likely created a catalyst for horror greatness. Through sheer brutality and suggestion, Hooper created a bloodbath with nary a drop.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre  – Scenes that Define a Classic

Apart from the aforementioned things that make The Texas Chainsaw Massacre what it is, the film contains genuinely innovative scenes that continue to inspire filmmakers. Two men, Daniel Pearl and Robert Burns, deserve to be recognized for their achievements. Again, this exemplifies the power of the low-budget. Low-budget crew share a common trait, they are often young and motivated. These creative souls relish the opportunity to make their visions real and they find a way on limited resources.

The Death of Kirk

Actually a compendium of scenes, the following may be the one of the most quintessential sequences ever filmed in modern horror history. It begins with Kirk and Pam hearing a generator in the distance. Needing gas, Kirk and Pam investigate to see if they can get help. They come upon a farm house hidden in plain sight by itself in the middle of a field. Pam takes a seat on a swing as Kirk approaches the house.

Yelling through the screen door, Kirk hears animal noises inside. Opening the door, and trotting towards a gallery of animal skull and trophies mounted on a blood red wall, he stumbles to his knees. Looking up, he sees a mountain of a man, face clad in human leather, bringing down the full force of the sledgehammer into his skull. Kirk’s body convulses. Leatherface grabs Kirk’s body like a throw pillow and pulls him into doorway. He shuts the huge metal door with a deafening slam.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Looking up, he sees a mountain of a man, face clad in human leather
Leatherface presiding over the the death of Kirk

Pam Approaches the House

Outside, Pam sits quietly on the swing, completely unaware of what transpired. Concerned, she yells for Kirk, but there is no answer. In a camera shot that will live in horror history, cinematographer Daniel Pearl begins a slow tracking shot that slithers under the swing following Pam as she approaches the house. Thus, the house looms larger and more foreboding as closes in on the porch. She climbs the stairs and looks cautiously through the screen door. Calling for Kirk with no answer, she cautiously opens the door to see if he is inside.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Daniel Pearl begins a slow tracking shot that slithers under the swing following Pam as she approaches the house.
Brilliant Cinematography by Daniel Pearl

Window Into Hell

Once inside, she wonders into a curtained room to the left of the hallway. Tripping over the threshold she stumbles into a ghastly chamber of horrors. Robert Burns, the art director, creates a lurid masterpiece of the macabre. The room is littered with totems built of skeletal remains, both human and animal. Lampshades made of human skin and furniture made of bones decorate the room. The camera scans the room for what seems like minutes as Pam’s mind unravels. Each angle reveals more of the cannibal ornamentation. Pam finally panics and scrambles for the hallway.

Robert Burns - Lampshades made of human skin and furniture made of bones decorate the room.
Window Into Hell – Master Work by Art Director Robert Burns

Seized by a Juggernaut

Struggling to get to her feet, Pam finally regains her equilibrium and dashes for the door. Behind hind her, Leatherface explodes from the metal door and charges Pam like a lion charges a fawn. Pam burst through the screen door to daylight just before being seized by the behemoth. As Leatherface envelopes Pam, the mask of flayed human skin looks curiously like a an ear-to-ear grin. Pam’s feet dangle and kick helplessly in vain. Effortlessly, Leatherface drags her to the kitchen kicking and screaming before firmly planting Pam on a meathook before proceeding to rend Kirk with a chainsaw. Not a drop of blood is spilled, the effect it terrifying.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Leatherface drags her to the kitchen kicking and screaming before firmly planting Pam on a meathook
Siezed by a Juggernaut, Pam is Helpless Against Leatherface

Meet the Family

In another groundbreaking sequence, Sally Hardesty runs for her life. Leatherface closes on her when she dives through a gas station door. She believes she found sanctuary, but what she really found was Leatherface’s older brother, The Cook. He quickly subdues her, throws a burlap sack over her and drags her back to the house. When the bag is removed she finds herself, bound, gagged and tied to the chair. The family moves her into position at the dinner table at a dinner table, dead center in the heart of a cannibal carnival. Conspicuously, the arms of her chair are human.

They, cut, beat and terrorize her until she falls unconscious with fear.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Dead center in the heart of a cannibal carnival
Meet the Family by Tobe Hooper, Robert Burns and Daniel Pearl

When Sally comes to, she erupts into bellowing screams. To the left sits the crazy hitchhiker with his giant blood colored birthmark running the length of his face. Quietly, behind him sits The Cook. He is as crazy as the rest of them, but commands enough respect to manage the others. Grandpa sits at the head of the table, drooling and barely functional. Finally, on the right sits Leatherface, this time wearing the former face of a beautiful woman, cheeks pink with rouge and eyes punctuated with eye shadow. The howling and taunting escalates.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - When Sally comes to, she erupts into bellowing screams.
Sally’s Descent into Madness

In another nod to Daniel Pearl, the camera dives into the bloodshot eyes of Sally as she slides into insanity. Her head rocks and tilts as she screams uncontrollably. It overloads the senses. The shot cuts to each of the family members taunt her mercilessly. This sequence provides the strongest exhibit of what it must be like to tumbling into total insanity. Again, Daniel Pearl delivers an iconic horror scene.

The Legacy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Art lies in the eye of the beholder. This film garners significant controversy because it speaks to foundational fears. It teeters on the ledge of exploitation, but precipitously straddles the line between torture porn and genius. It begins slowly, but methodically gathers momentum until it culminates in a unstoppable force of terror. Mind you, it is not for everyone. You must understand this art to appreciate it.

Unintentionally, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre provides a metaphor for the risk to society when isolated people struggle to survive. It hearkens back to stories of the Russian famine where families resorted to butchering their own children in order to survive. It reminisces of the Donner Party and the twisted depths that they would go to survive. There exist pockets of abandoned degeneracy, inbred and perverse, that exist today in America today.

To this day The Texas Chainsaw Massacre continues to top horror movie rankings. Always in the top 5, usually at number 1, this film is considered by fans of to be the classic exemplar of the genre.

In 1986, Tobe Hooper would get around to directing a sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Knowing that the original could never be topped, he created a much different experience in the sequel. This has proven to be a shrewd move. The sequel pales in comparison to the original, but has become a cult-classic in its own right, albeit for much different reasons.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre stands at the top of a mountain of quality horror films, and serves as my all-time personal favorite.

Check out this review at thatwasabitmental.com

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - A Definitive Classic - Malevolent Dark
texas chainsaw massacre poster e1624551796348

Director: Tobe Hooper

Date Created: 1974-01-01 00:00

Editor's Rating:
5

Haters Hate The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

4.5 out of 5 stars

There is no bar higher than the one set by the 1974 classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM). This film continues to blow the minds of horror fans despite the fact that is nearly 50 years old. Likewise, one would be hard pressed to find a credible Top-10 list that didn’t have this film. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre takes the viewer on an express train into a twisted world of backwoods insanity and inbred country mayhem.

Incredibly, on a shoestring budget, Tobe Hooper captured a rare combination of screenplay, cinematography and artistic design that set the bar for hundreds of movies to follow. It would be 12 long, painful Do I need years before Hooper would unleash the sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, on the world.

Somehow, the world seems to wipe its feet on this sequel. In fact, it has been jettisoned to sequel limbo through several retcons and ill-advised sequels. Some even say this this movie is horrible because they simply can’t handle its juxtaposition with the brutally raw original. We’ll have you know, they are all lying to you. This sequel is not only fantastic, its the best of the maligned franchise apart from the original.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - The Sawyer Family
Nubbins, Leatherface, Drayton and Chop-Top

Rarely are sequels better than the original and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (TCM2) is no exception. TCM2 fails to meet the bar set by the original. Regardless, it undeservedly gets a bad rap. The fact is, TCM2 proves to be extremely entertaining when not judged in the shadow of its predecessor. Given a sense of humor and a tolerance for B++ grade horror movies, TCM2 delivers on serious fun for horror fans.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – In the Shadow of a Legend

Directed by Tobe Hooper, the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre painted a bleak and terrifying landscape. Using a minimalist formula, Tobe Hooper created a masterpiece cannibal-country horror. Relying more on shock and psychological terror, it is relatively light on visual gore.

It demonstrates that sheer brutality can go a long way without the red stuff. TCM can never be replicated, and it can never be topped. Tobe Hooper was well aware of this. In response, Tobe Hooper believed that any chance of success would require a sequel to go in another direction. As a result, Tobe Hooper chose a mixture ultra-gore cut with heavy dose of dark comedy. Historically, Hooper lamented the fact that the dark comedy in TCM went unappreciated. the truth is, TCM had comedy, but the comedy was so sparse and so dark that it was unalienable from the insanity.

In contrast, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 goes right for the comedic jugular. The jokes are in your face, but flow seamlessly in the dialog. The comedy sometimes comes at the expense of terror, but the final product is very balanced and entertaining.

The Last Roundup

The movie takes place several years after the events of the first film. The Sawyers, the newly revealed name of the cannibal troop, has been committing murders across Texas. They are now hiding in the Dallas area. Detective Lefty Enright, the uncle of Sally and Franklin Hardesty, is in hot pursuit of the family and is closing in. His plan is revenge.

Radio DJ Vanita “Stretch” Brock, witnesses and records the audio of the most recent murders. In a total jerk move, Lefty uses her as bait so that he can exact his revenge. The action leads to  the  Sawyer family’s underground lair for the final showdown between good and evil. As far as plots go, it is just enough circumstance to get the chainsaws spinning.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - Chop-Top
Bill Moseley’s Chop-Top

Tobe Hooper and His Cast of Cannibals

Tobe Hooper’s credit, the cast is ultimately what makes it all work. Jim Siedow reprises the role of the Cook, Drayton Sawyer. that fact that the character is named Drayton is a new revelation. Since the events of the first film, Drayton has transitioned his BBQ business from the gas station to the road with the “Last Roundup” rolling grill. Siedow has a knack for off-the-cuff dark comedy in the original TCM. He gets much more screen in TCM2 to expand on this. Siedow take full advantage of the opportunity.

There is a new character named Chop-Top. Chop-Top is the twin brother of the crazy Hitchhiker from TCM. Chop-Top’s absence in the first film is explained by his service in Vietnam where his plated head wound was a gift from a “lucky gook with a machete”. The character is a woven tapestry of post-traumatic stress, drug-fueled Manson-esq hippy culture and backwoods inbred psychopathy.

The role of Chop-Top is nailed by then little know actor Bill Mosely. Mosley’s comedy is a bit more in your face, but it’s so psycho and unsettling that it provides both comic relief and terror at the same time. This role paved the way for Bill Mosley’s later success as Otis Driftwood in House of 1000 Corpses.

Bill Johnson takes over for Gunnar Hanson as Leatherface. No longer a feral menace, Leatherface bumbles clumsily as he mistakes his chainsaw for an erection. Hooper’s decision to alter the model for Leatherface is a bit hard to handle for die-hard fans of the original, but there was a method to his madness. When considering the whole crew of Chop-Top, Drayton and Leatherface, it is hard not to see the cannibalistic Three Stooges. This is exactly what Hooper was gunning for. The natural interplay of these personalities allows this humor to flow naturally without feeling forced.

On the Menu

On the protagonist side, Caroline Williams plays the role of “Stretch”.  Stretch has personality, and she provides a more capable heroine than Sally Hardesty. Caroline is worth of the title scream queen as she can easily peel paint when she belts it out. And its not just volume that she achieves. She possesses a massive compendium of screams, moans and shrieks for any holiday occasion.

Dennis Hopper takes the role of Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright. Hopper is a legend, and no stranger to horror movies. I was slightly disappointed that his role wasn’t a bit more exuberant. In Hopper’s defense, the character was a bit corny and Hopper’s scripted lines didn’t really do him any favors. It’s hard to take a character like Lefty seriously when they carry a pair of chainsaws on a gun-belt like a couple of Colt revolvers.

Finally. former TCM crewman Lou Perryman take on the role of gentle giant L.G. In his short screen-time, L.G. becomes one of the most likeable of all the cast members. This makes it so much more chilling when he is on the receiving end of the most brutal killings ever displayed on screen.

Texaschainsaw Massacre 2 - Tom Savini Yuppie Head Chop
This one probably should have made the cutting room floor

Blood and Guts

The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre had almost no gore. Many viewers believe that they saw a bloodbath, what they really witnessed is the power of suggestion. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is not that kind of party. The body count isn’t high, but the kills have it where is counts.

Let’s take L.G. for an example. Chop-Top murders LG with a marathon barrage of hammer blows to the head. But wait, there’s more. He lives long enough to be skinned alive. L.G. watches as Leatherface forces Stretch to wear his freshly filleted face. The hammer attack is cringe-worthy as I cry in my head, “please, for the love of god, don’t hit him again”.

To open the film, a yuppie jerk takes a chainsaw to the head. From the front, half-sawed head floats above the actor in a well done special effect by Tom Savini. Inexplicably, the shot changes to the back and the head prosthesis has been replaced by an open fountain of blood. The human actor has been replaced with a fidgety robot and ridiculous spurts of blood fly from multiple tubes.  The result is a gory, yet comical in the worst way. I am unable to fathom why they didn’t fix this in the editing room.

In other technical snafus, Lefty kicks a hole in the wall revealing a cascade of fresh guts spilling on the floor. A watchful eye notices that this snippet is loops a few times to make it seem like more guts were falling. The intent was more gore, but the result was cheap and comical.

Inside the Sawyer’s Lair

A review of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 would not be complete without mention of the of some set pieces. Having moved from the farm, the Sawyer family now resides underground below a vacant amusement park called Texas Battle Land. This location provides a visually stunning backdrop for building a macabre wonderland of death and murder.

This home is where the Sawyer’s heart is. It shifts from the simple confines of the old farm house to a sprawling labyrinth of death totems. There is a great chase scene through a murder theme park style tunnel. Stretch runs for what seems like a quarter mile of dead bodies in Norman Rockwell-esq horror show. It’s Disney’s “It’s a Small World” done with fully articulated skeletons, Christmas lights and decomposing flesh.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – Final Thoughts

The bottom line is this, if you were expecting something in the form factor of the original TCM you will sorely disappointed. If you were looking for something that takes something you love and turns into something fresh and new, this is the sequel for you. Chop-Top brings a fresh coat of paint to The Hitchhiker from the first film. While it’s a tough pill to swallow to see Leatherface become a bumbling moron, but if you can forgive that sin, the movie works.

The truth is, TCM2 is entertaining and has may be be even more re-watchable than the first. Again, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is the best sequel in the franchise. In conclusion, when evaluated as a stand-alone work, TCM2 has everything required to send the audience both chuckling and disturbed. This movie for anyone that watches horror movies for fun. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is fun.