Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" Gets an HD Facelift


What would the horror world do without a company like Scream Factory always looking out for their best entertainment interests? I shudder thinking about it in terror. The wonderful folks over at Shout Factory’s fright-filled division brings us a new 2K HD upgrade in the form of the definitive “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” Collector’s Edition.

Chainsaw-wielding maniac Leatherface (Bill Johnson) is up to his cannibalistic ways once again, along with the rest of his twisted clan, including the equally disturbed Chop-Top (Bill Moseley). This time, the masked killer has set his sights on pretty disc jockey Vanita "Stretch" Brock (Caroline Williams), who teams up with Texas lawman Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper) to battle the psychopath and his family deep within their lair, a macabre abandoned amusement park, in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2".

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” holds a special place in my heart as a horror fan. As a teen, I would go to my father's during the summer. I used this time visit him and the rest of my family in the area. During my downtime, I would catch up on movies I wasn't allowed to watch living with my mother. Many of the these were, of course, in the horror genre.

One of my favorite memories was watching a double feature one night with my father in the summer of 1987. We went to the local video store and rented "Psycho 2" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2." A funny side-note is that I had never seen either one of the original films. "Chainsaw 2" had a profound impact on me, as it was the first truly graphic and gory movie I had seen. It also had a far sicker sense of humor than what I had witnessed in other horror / comedies like "Fright Night" and the likes.

Revisiting "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" in its new 2K digital transfer was an interesting experience. The movie still holds up over all these years. There's nothing quite like seeing Dennis Hopper battle Leatherface in an epic chainsaw duel. Imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader brandishing chainsaws instead of lightsabers and you get the idea.

Caroline Williams' screams rival those of Fay Wray's in "King Kong." I can't think of any way she could have improved her performance, from her Texan accent to the epic Chainsaw dance at the end of the movie. She is quite the trooper and deserves all the credit she gets as a scream queen being covered in bloody goo and dirt for much of the film.

Dennis Hopper comes alive as a police officer looking to avenge the deaths of his family and end the chainsaw massacre once and for all. He quotes the Bible and sings church hymns while destroying the lair of Leatherface and company, adding to the dark zaniness of the movie. He plays the role relatively straight where many other actors would have hammed it up.

My only complaint about the digital upgrade of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" is its polished clarity. Some movies just look better grainy and natural. Although Tobe Hooper's sequel wasn't trying to imitate the documentary-style of the original, it still had a certain rawness that it loses when scrubbed clean. As ridiculous as this may sound, it makes you long for the days when you watched it on VHS or in the theater.

I was very surprised upon re-watching "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" that there's no nudity. There's suggestive material throughout the movie. However, there's no sexual situations or topless women to be seen. That's a big surprise to anyone who grew up watching horror movies in the 1980s. I think there might be a pinup picture in the background of a couple shots. Granny Sawyer's decomposing dead body is shown sans clothing, but there's no detail in the body parts.

The Collector’s Edition of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” has two discs stuffed full of bonus material including two different masters of the film. Disc One includes a new 2K HD scan from the interpositive film element. New audio commentary with Director Of Photography Richard Kooris, Production Designer Cary White, Script Supervisor Laura Kooris, and Property Master Michael Sullivan is provided.

Two separate audio commentaries with Director Tobe Hooper and Actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, and Special Effects Makeup Creator Tom Savini are found. New extended outtakes from the documentary "It Runs In The Family" features Writer L.M. Kit Carson and Actor Lou Perryman. We also get a new behind-the-scenes footage compilation from Tom Savini's archives. An alternate opening credit sequence, deleted scenes, Still Galleries, theatrical trailers, and TV spots round out the special features for the first disc.

Disc Two contains MGM's original HD master with color correction supervision By Director Of Photography Richard Kooris. New interviews and featurettes include Makeup Effects Artists Bart Mixon, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale And John Vulich, Actors Chris Douridas And Barry Kinyon, Editor Alain Jakubowicz, and Stunt Man and Leatherface performer Bob Elmore. A new "Horror's Hallowed Grounds" revisits the locations of the film hosted By Sean Clark and a special guest. The six part feature-length documentary "It Runs In The Family" is made up of interviews with Screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson, Actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, and Lou Perryman, and Special Makeup Effects Artist Tom Savini as well as others.

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" still ranks as my favorite sequel to the original. Its combination of tension and wild violence with over-the-top black humor still stands as the blueprint for most of the gore fests we get today from folks like Rob Zombie and countless others. Thanks to great practical effects, on-location shooting, and Tom Savini's masterful makeup and prosthetics, the film stands the test of time and is a great example of a well-executed sequel.

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" is available now on Blu-ray.

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