Watched via streaming on Hulu.
Horror director Tobe Hooper — who passed away just a few weeks ago — was a tough one to pin down, without an obvious style to claim. His films are eclectic and erratic, from the iconic to the pedestrian.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is one of his best and most memorable, and particularly embued with what ties most, if not all, of his work together.
What Hooper was amazing at was his ability to slowly, convincingly and frighteningly build his stories from the mundane to the absolutely horrific. From many accounts, his was a troubled Earthly soul and, seemingly from that, sprang the most awful of visions.
TCM2 does start out grotesquely, with a preppy high schooler getting his brains chain sawed out, but the film then settles into its benign ordinariness of main characters Lefty (Dennis Hopper) and Stretch (Caroline Williams) figuring out how to hunt down the chainsaw killers.
Lefty is not dissimilar to the Dr. Loomis character in the Halloween franchise — hunting deranged madmen while spouting ludicrous philosophical dialogue. More religous than Loomis, Lefty makes repeated mentions of Hell, which is represented metaphorically by Hooper and screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson by an underground amusement park lair where the maniacal Sawyer clan reside.
The last third of the movie is a completely bat-shit crazy exercise of extreme horror and gore. Between the maddening Sawyer banter, the carving up of a half-dead victim, and the creation of a “Miss Leatherface,” the film seems intent in lulling the audience into a despairing nervous breakdown. We are witnessing the bowels of Hell — a Hell that is other people.