When I first saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I thought it was perfect. It wasn’t perfect in the sense that it was flawless. It was a perfect assembly that worked in thanks to, if not in spire, of its flaws, in its film’s deterioration, the amateur acting and the effects. It didn’t scare me, but it creeped me out.
When the film ended, I thought it was genius. Cutting to black, after Marilyn Burns’ Sally, drenched in blood and hysteria, as she screams and laughs in the back of a flatbed truck driving away from the pursuing Leatherface, leaving the monster to swing the growling saw screaming as it whirled about was amazing. There was no resolution, no solution, just the reality that Leatherface and his clan remained out there. It was a great horror film. It might have been the best.
That final scene remains one of my favorites, though in a recent viewing I caught sight of Leatherface pirouetted, diminishing the idea that the scene was pure rage that the saw was denied a victim but almost a graceful dance. In that first viewing, I saw the creature as more beast than human and that brief spin seems a bit staged, breaking the illusion. Still, killer end to the movie.
I’ve avoided the sequels because I didn’t think the first movie needed any. Everything that might come after that 1974 movie would have been superfluous. But, people got to get paid, I suppose. And the horror genre is never quite comfortable with leaving well enough alone.
So. Twelve years later, a sequel was made.
Immediately, one of the endearing qualities of the first movie is absent. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 looks good, whereas the cruddy, home-movie version of the first movie lent a dirty reality and a visual aesthetic. We’re knee-deep into 1980’s horror filmmaking here, where all the lighting is the same (much like how all movies have a similar texture-lighting these days.)
Right away, it’s clear that this will be a different movie from the original. Instead of a grainy documentary, this movie is a clear film production (which showcases the difference of shooting on film compared to video/digital.) While it doesn’t hold the grindhouse grit of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the movie is visually entertaining in its own right.
Though the scrolling narration at the start of the film is, on its face value, an attempt to pass off what will see as real, the illusion isn’t held up.