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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: October 25th, 2022.
    Director: Tobe Hooper
    Cast: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley, Jim Siedow
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - Movie Review:

    Following up a film that has gone on to be rightfully recognized as a classic is never easy, and often times completely unnecessary, but in 1986 the late, great Cannon Films organization managed to get Tobe Hooper behind the camera for a second shot with Leatherface and company for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. This time around, however, Hooper and his cast and crew did things very, very differently.

    The film starts with a pair of rednecks on their way to a party, enjoying a few beers while on the road and firing their guns at whatever signs they happen to pass. They call in to a radio station that they're listening to and speak to the DJ, a woman named Stretch (Caroline Williams), and harass her. While this is happening, the driver decides to play chicken with an oncoming truck which they run off the road. A little while later night has set in and the two guys are back on the road and they decide to call Stretch for another round. Oddly enough, the truck they ran off the road earlier reappears and chases them. Once they catch up to the car, Leatherface (Bill Johnson) and Chop Top (Bill Mosely) hop out of the back and the two men are killed, their phone call to Stretch broadcast live over the radio.

    The cops show up at the scene of the crime the next morning and Lt. Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper), a former Texas Ranger, soon clues in to what's happening here. His brother was slaughtered by a cannibal family years back and he's made it his life mission to track these guys down and make them pay. It looks to Lefty like they're still around and up to their old tricks again. When Stretch offers him a recording of the phone call to use in his investigation, at first he declines - he's the type that likes to work alone - but soon realizes her evidence could help him. Stretch has an ulterior motive, however, in that she hopes that if she works with Lefty on this case that she'll get the promotion to news reporter that she's been after for some time now.

    Lefty convinces Stretch to play the recording on the air a few times in hopes of luring the maniacs out of the woodwork. Sure enough, Leatherface and Chop Top break into the station and just as Chop Top is about to do her in, Leatherface stops him - it seems he's fallen for the foxy disc jockey. Her technician, L.G. (Lou Perryman), isn't so lucky, however. The two maniacs leave and Stretch follows them back to their lair, a bizarre abandoned underground theme park where she knows Lefty will be waiting for her. Along the way, she falls through a weak spot and plummets down into the heart of the park where the bodies have been piling up for years. As she works her way out of there to try and save her skin, Lefty is trying to work his way in so that he can avenge his brother's death and get on with his life.

    Everything in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is completely over the top, from the acting to the set design to the cinematography to the lighting to the dialogue and back again. The realism and bleak atmosphere of the original is thrown right out the window and this one functions more like a black comedy than a true horror film, despite a couple of good jump scares and a more than a few genuinely creepy moments. Much of this has to do with Dennis Hopper in the lead. No one does 'bat shit crazy' better than Hopper and this role gives him the opportunity to really run with the material. Caroline Williams is a nice balance in that her more restrained performance contrasts Hopper's maniacal turn quite nicely, but once you throw Bill Mosely into the mix there's no turning back - the movie is nuts and the cast really run with it. Throwing Jim Siedow back into his role as The Cook (the only actor to return from the original film) is also a nice touch, and he goes toe to toe with Hopper and Mosely in the crazy department.

    The special effects provided by Tom Savini are strong and the cinematography does a really good job of capturing the weird colors and unconventional lighting that was used to give the movie its unique look, particularly once the action heads underground. Most of the film works really well, though there are spots where the dialogue isn't quite so effective and the story feels a little contrived - Hooper's decision to basically remake the infamous dinner scene from the original feels unnecessary, for example. There are logic gaps to deal with, such as how the family has maintained control over a massive underground lair and gone undetected for so long, but that's not uncommon with horror films and can be easily overlooked when one takes into account the bigger picture here.

    At its heart this is really a twisted revenge story as it focuses quite a bit on Lefty's manic obsession with payback for what happened to his brother but it does make for an interesting twist on the Chainsaw mythos, warts and all. It's a truly weird film but it has its charm and it has its place alongside the other sequels - just don't go in expecting a rehash of the more famous first film. It almost seems like Hooper knew he couldn't out do himself and so instead he opted to go in a completely different direction.

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – UHD Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 to UHD with “newly scanned and restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative.” Framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in HEVC / H.265 2160p with HD10, the picture looks really impressive. Detail, depth and texture definitely exceed the already very nice looking 1080p remaster that came out via Shout! Factory a few years back in 2016 and the colors look brighter and bolder and stronger as well. There are a few moments where things can look a little hot as far as the contrast goes but we get impressive clarity throughout and nice shadow detail as well. Detail is improved not only in close up shots but medium and long distance shots as well. Skin tones generally look good and black levels are nice and solid. The image is very clean, showing proper grain as you’d expect but virtually no print damage, and the picture is free of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifact related issues.

    English audio is presented in DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo with subtitles are provided in English only. No problems to note, the audio is strong, clear and properly balanced. There’s good range evident throughout and some strong channel separation noticeable here as well. Dialogue is always clean and clear and there are no issues to note with any hiss or distortion.

    Extras old and new are spread across the discs in this set as follows:

    Blu-ray Disc One:

    Extras on the first of two included Blu-ray discs starts off with an audio commentary with film critic Patrick Bromley from F This Movie. He talks about how all movies should open with the Cannon Films logo before introducing himself and then discussing his love for Tobe Hooper. From there, he gives a fairly scene specific breakdown of the movie, going over the opening sequence, the different locations, how the Sawyer family has evolved from their debut in the first movie, the marketing behind the film and the poster art referencing The Breakfast Club, the completely different tone of this first sequel, what makes this "the most Tobe Hooper of all the Tobe Hooper movies," the balance of horror and humor in the movie, Dennis Hopper's contributions to the movie, details on the different cast and crew members that worked on the picture, how Hooper's career went downhill after his Cannon Films weren't a financial success, the portrayal of toxic men in the movie, how the film parallels Hooper's earlier The Funhouse, subplots that were cut from the movie involving Lefty and Stretch and loads more.

    Up next is a commentary track with director Tobe Hooper moderated by David Gregory (who made The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth documentary among many others and who currently runs Severin Films). Gregory keeps Hooper talking throughout as he fires one question after another at him so this turns out to be a pretty packed discussion. Throughout the commentary we hear about the location shooting and how there were problems with some of the sets while the film was in production. He covers some casting issues though doesn't elaborate on why a new actor was brought in to play Leatherface, and he talks about some of the effects work. There are definitely areas where Hooper could have gone into more detail but it's obvious from his tone at times that he doesn't really want to elaborate on a few of the more controversial issues surrounding the movie and so he just doesn't go there. That being said, this is a good track and worth listening to just to get Hooper's perspective on some of the stranger aspects of the movie, working with Dennis Hopper, and to get an idea of his take on the whole thing.

    Another archival commentary track is also included and the participants here include Tom Savini who did the effects work, actors Bill Mosely and Caroline Williams and moderator Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. This track can be a little hard to get your head around at times as the three alumni tend to want to talk about everything and anything so things are slightly chaotic, but there's a good sense of humor behind it all and each of the three key participants has no shortage of things to discuss. Savini or course covers his effects work while the two actors talk about their work in front of the camera and there are a lot of great stories in here about some of their co-stars and about some of the difficulties that they had to deal with while on the set.

    Lastly, as far as the commentary tracks go, we get a talk with director of photography Richard Kooris, production designer Cary White, script supervisor Laura Kooris, and property master Michael Sullivan. This track is well paced and pretty informative though it leans towards technical in spots. Personally, that stuff tends to be pretty interesting to this writer but obviously others may feel differently. Regardless, there's some good discussion here about how and why certain scenes were lit and shot the way they are, some stories about the sets and location used, some talk about the props and the scripting and quite a bit more. This track is active, engaging and well put together.

    Vinegar Syndrome has also provided a selection of new featurettes on this disc, starting with Beneath The Battle Land: Remembering 'The Lair spends twelve minutes going over how the underground lair set was designed and constructed and how cast members Caroline Williams, Barry Kinyon, Bill Johnson and Kirk Sisco felt about the now fairly iconic set.

    The Saw And The Savini is a twenty-one minute interview with Tom Savini wherein he talks about the different people who were on his crew for the production, what it was like being on location in Texas, what went into finishing some of the makeup effects we see in the movie, working with Hooper, and some hiccups that happened during the shoot that they had to deal with. Clips from the movie used in this piece are missing audio for some reason.

    The thirty-one minute Stretch Lives featurette interviews actress Caroline Williams. She talks about how she got into acting, moving to Austin, working with Tobe Hooper and how she got along with him, what it was like on set, the production schedule, getting along with the cast and crew particularly Hopper, and what has happened to her career since making this movie.

    Serving Tom is a twenty minute interview with special makeup effects artist Gabe Bartalos. He speaks quite candidly here about how he broke into doing effects work for the movie, how he landed the gig on the feature, what it was like working with Hooper (who he speaks quite fondly of) and the importance of Tom Savini’s work on his own career. He also talks about working with some of the different cast members on the shoot.

    SFX makeup artist Bart Mixon shows up in the eighteen minute Texas Blood Bath to talk about how he got his start in the business, where his career was at when this movie was made, getting the gig on the movie, relocating to Austin to take the job, getting along with the cast and crew, some of the problems that he and his team ran into during the making of the movie and how he felt about the finished product.

    Actor Bill Johnson shows up in the thirty-seven minute Leatherface Revisited featurette to discuss how he got into acting in Austin, how he landed the part in the movie, what it was like for him, fairly green, to be working with Hooper, what he tried to bring to the character, getting along with the other cast members, memories of the enigmatic Dennis Hopper and what it was like on set.

    The fourteen minute Remember The Alamo which is an interview with actor Kirk Sisco. Here we learn about how he got the role in the movie, his thoughts on the overall vibe of the movie and the production, meeting Hopper, memories of working with Hooper, thoughts on some of the sets and more stories from his time spent working on the film.

    Finishing up disc one is the thirteen minute Die Yuppie Scum is an interview with actor Barry Kinyon who talks about getting into the modelling world, auditioning for his role in the movie and getting his part, going into the production without much in the way at all of actual acting experience, getting along with his co-stars and some of his more memorable experiences from the shoot.

    Blu-ray Disc Two:

    Disc two is also loaded with extras, mostly archival, starting with, forty minutes of outtakes from The Electric Boogaloo documentary from 2014 on the history of Cannon Films. Tobe Hooper and co-producer Cynthia Hargrave are interviewed here about their experiences working with Golan and Globus and what it was like making movies for them.

    Up next is the feature length ninety-minute documentary on the film entitled It Runs In The Family. You can watch this in one ninety-minute chunk or select one of the six chapter - Texas Screenplay Massacre; The Art Of Mayhem; Cast Of Characters; Prime Meat; Father Of The Saw; Requiem For A Sequel - individually. The titles of the chapters give you a rough idea of what is covered but the interviews here with screenwriter Kit Carson, actors Bill Mosley, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson and Lou Perry, effects guys Tom Savini and Michael Sullivan cover pretty much everything you could hope to learn about the making of this film. There are a lot of fun stories in here about some of the key scenes in the film and about Tobe Hooper himself and the whole thing is edited together nicely with film clips and photos from the film.

    We also get roughly half an hour's worth of extended outtakes from the feature length It Runs in The Family featurette that feature L.M. Kit Carson and Lou Perryman. While you can see why the filmmakers might have chosen to remove this material from the finished version of the documentary, it's great to see it included here, particularly as both men have passed away since the documentary was put together. Perryman in particular is a really interesting interviewee and anytime you get the chance to take in more footage of him talking about his life and career you should take it!

    Up next is forty-three minutes of Behind The Scenes footage that was shot by none other than Tom Savini while he was working on the movie. As you'd guess, most of the footage here is related to the effects work that Savini and a few other talented SFX artists were tasked with creating for the picture but in addition to that, this footage provides a very candid glimpse at what it was like on set and what some of the cast and crew went through on this shoot.

    From there, dig into the forty-two minute featurette called House Of Pain that is a collection of interviews with make-up effects artists Bart Mixon, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale, and John Vulich. The interviewees detail their work on the feature and there's some pretty cool behind the scenes material and stories in here. If you're into the effects side of horror movie history, this is pretty much gold.

    In the nineteen minute Yuppie Meat we get all new interviews with actors Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon, the guys who played the two victims that call into Stretch before Leatherface kills them. Here they discuss how they came to appear in the film, what it was like working on the project and what they've been up to since getting the acting gigs they got for this feature.

    The seventeen minute long Cutting Moments gets editor Alain Jakubowicz in front of the camera to talk about cutting the film for Hooper and Cannon Films. He talks not just about working with Hooper on this feature but also the director's Invaders From Mars. He also talks about a few other films he cut for Cannon Films (he worked on quite a few of them, including the mighty Delta Force!).

    Behind the Mask spends fourteen minutes with stuntman Bob Elmore who wound up playing Leatherface in the film in the scenes that were deemed too dangerous for Bill Johnson. This is pretty interesting stuff because apparently Johnson had a lot of difficulty actually wielding the massive chainsaw that Leatherface uses in the feature, which lead to Elmore getting a lot more screen time than he would have originally. He talks about his experiences doing this, working with Hooper and some of the more intense sequences that Leatherface appears in during the span of the film.

    Fans of the Horror's Hallowed Grounds location visits that have popped up on various DVD releases over the years will appreciate seeing Sean Clark show up here to revisit the locations used for the movie shoot. This twenty-five minute long piece sees Clark visiting Austin and the surrounding areas used for most of the key scenes in the film. He also checks out the amusement park set. Sadly, most of what was there in the eighties is long gone or completely transformed by this point, but this is still an interesting look at what's left.

    Still Feeling the Buzz is a twenty-eight minute interview with film historian Stephen Thrower that goes into detail about what Tobe Hooper was up against personally and professionally when he decided to make a sequel to the original film. As is the norm with Thrower’s interviews, it’s interesting and insightful.

    Also carried over from previous releases are the highly touted forty-three minutes of behind the scenes footage shot on a camcorder during the making of the movie by Tom Savini. There’s some interesting footage in here that gives us a look at the sets being worked on and the cast and crew all doing their thing as well as some interesting makeup footage. Closing out the extras on the second Blu-ray disc is a selection of two minutes' worth of alternate opening titles, eleven minutes of deleted scenes (including Joe Bob Briggs’ cameo), an American teaser trailer and a Japanese teaser trailer, four minutes of TV spots and a still gallery.

    Reversible cover sleeve art is also provided and the first 10,000 copies purchased through Vinegar Syndrome's website will come packaged with come with an exclusive limited edition spot varnish hard case that holds an embossed slipcover inside, designed by Tony Stella. It’s very nice packaging and definitely gives the release a premium feel.

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - The Final Word:

    While this second film is a very different beast than the classic that came before it, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is still a really well made movie that mixes humor and horror quite effectively. The berserk atmosphere of the movie coupled with Hopper's over the top performance makes it completely worthwhile. Vinegar Syndrome’s UHD/Blu-ray release is stacked with extras old and new and it presents the film in a really strong 4k presentation.

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