Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Nov 30, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The (4K UHD Review)

Director

Tobe Hooper

Release Date(s)

1986 (November 29, 2022)

Studio(s)

Cannon Releasing/MGM (Vinegar Syndrome)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A+

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (4K Ultra HD)

Buy it Here!

Review

It took hubris to make a sequel to a film as iconic as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, especially when twelve years had already passed since it was originally released, but few producers during the Eighties had more hubris than Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus at Cannon films. They had signed a three-picture deal with Tobe Hooper on the specific condition that one of those projects be a sequel to his horror classic, and Hooper delivered on that promise in his own uniquely maverick fashion. He turned to his friend L.M. Kit Carson to write a script, and they both agreed that the only way to make it work was to take things in a drastically different direction. The story that Carson concocted brought back the surviving members of the Family, now appropriately christened the Sawyers, who have relocated since the events of the first film. The Cook (Jim Siedow, the only returning original cast member) has become even more successful marketing the fruits of their labor to eager consumers, while Leatherface (Bill Johnson) and his brother Chop-Top (Bill Moseley) remain underground, both literally and metaphorically. Yet boys will be boys, and a random encounter with a couple of arrogant yuppies unleashes a chain of events that unites the disc jockey Stretch (Caroline Williams) with the mysterious Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper) in a quest to put an end to their carnivorous empire.

That basic narrative isn’t necessarily too far afield from the one that Hooper and Kim Henkel had created for the first film, but Carson added a markedly different tone, turning the horrific proceedings into an open comedy. There had been plenty of earthy humor in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it tended to be masked by the overwhelmingly oppressive atmosphere. On the other hand, for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the humor is the atmosphere, and that was a bridge too far for many fans. It certainly was a bridge too far for Golan-Globus, who apparently backed the film without paying close enough attention to Carson’s deranged screenplay. They demanded cuts to the script while simultaneously cutting the budget, and a few of Carson’s wackier ideas didn’t survive the process. Still, the end result was a broad, slapstick satire drenched under gallons of fake blood, and that baffled both audiences and critics alike in 1986, as everyone was clearly expecting something completely different. Fortunately, time has been kind since then, and while The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 still isn’t as widely admired as the first film, it now has its own legion of ardent fans and supporters.

Part of that is due to the fact that the satire has aged particularly well, and there’s definite appeal to watching the scourge of yuppie gentrification meeting its match at the hands of the rural family unit. The fact that The Cook is making a comfortable profit by selling the flesh of the bourgeoisie back to members of their own class only adds to the grim satisfaction. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is also infinitely quotable, with many of Chop-Top’s memorable lines having established themselves into pop culture, even being sampled in songs like Jerry Was a Racecar Driver by Primus. There’s also no escaping the fact that makeup effects guru Tom Savini looms large in the legend of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Rather than treating the extreme violence implicitly like the first film did, Hooper and Savini opted to make it as explicit as possible, with the extreme gore mirroring the over-the-top nature of the script. To Cannon’s credit, for all of the changes that they demanded, they understood that the graphic violence was essential to the tone of the final cut. So, they left it intact, and released the film unrated—an unusual move that limited the potential audience, since most mainstream theatres wouldn’t screen unrated films, nor would newspapers allow advertisements for them. That doubtless hampered the box office (and the negative reviews certainly didn’t help), but it’s part of what has kept the film alive in the decades since then. There’s never been another sequel quite like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and that’s probably a good thing. It deserves its own unique position in the history of the horror genre.

Cinematographer Richard Kooris shot The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 on 35 mm film using Arriflex cameras with spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. The various Blu-ray releases of the film in the past have used different masters, but they were all 2K scans taken from an interpositive. This version is sourced from a brand-new 4K scan of the original camera negative, cleaned up and graded for high dynamic range (only HDR10 is included on the disc). The level of fine detail is definitely improved over all previous versions, within the limitations of the film stocks that were used. The textures of the faces, the costuming, the copious gore effects, and even the grain are better resolved. (There might be a little bit of sharpening involved that adds some noise to the grain, but it’s not too obtrusive.) There’s little to no signs of damage on display. The HDR grade offers well-saturated colors that are slightly more vivid than they are in standard definition. That’s immediately obvious during the opening scene with the yuppie scum, with the yellow sweater of the driver standing out more prominently, and the lenticular glasses worn by the passenger looking truly iridescent. Bright highlights like the kaleidoscopic underground lighting look a bit more dramatic. The contrast range is excellent, with deep black levels, and more shadow detail than a scan from an IP could possibly provide. The only possible criticism is that the flesh tones aren’t always consistent, veering a bit too reddish in some shots, but that’s a minor quibble. This is still unquestionably the definitive home video presentation of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and it probably looks better than the theatrical prints that Cannon Films would have sprung for in 1986.

(Note that some viewers have reported having issues with the HDR layer on this disc, with all of the flesh tones appearing far too red. It may be an encoding issue that doesn’t affect all combinations of players and displays equally. As mentioned above, when viewed via an Oppo UDP-205 feeding a JVC-RS2000 projector, the flesh tones were a little inconsistent, but not dramatically so. They’re far more consistent on the included Blu-ray, so there may indeed still have been some minor encoding issues going on. Your mileage may vary.)

Audio is offered in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH subtitles. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was originally released in Ultra Stereo, so it’s a four-channel mix matrixed encoded into two. (While the Scream Factory Blu-ray did have an alternate 5.1 track, it was essentially just a discrete encoding of the matrixed mix, so the differences between that and this 2.0 track are minimal.) Typically for a low-budget Eighties mix, it’s primarily focused on the front channels, with most of the obvious surround activity confined to the underground sequences—especially as everything starts to collapse around the characters. The low end isn’t the deepest, but some of the musical tracks do provide a little bass extension. It’s not a spectacular mix, but it’s true to the original experience.

Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K Ultra HD release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a three-disc set that includes one UHD and two Blu-rays. The insert is reversible, with new artwork on one side, and the original The Breakfast Club parody poster on the other. There’s also a Limited Edition hard case and slipcover designed by Tony Stella that’s available directly from Vinegar Syndrome, which is limited to the first 10,000 units. The extras are split over all three discs. The UHD includes just the commentary tracks in order to maximize the bit rate available for the video. The first Blu-ray has a 1080p copy of the film and the commentary tracks, as well as a selection of all-new extras. The second Blu-ray collects various archival extras. They included the following:

DISC ONE: FILM (UHD)

  • Audio Commentary with Richard Kooris and Other Crew Members
  • Audio Commentary with Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, and Tom Savini
  • Audio Commentary with Tobe Hooper
  • Audio Commentary with Patrick Bromley

DISC TWO: FILM (BD)

  • Audio Commentary with Richard Kooris and Other Crew Members
  • Audio Commentary with Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, and Tom Savini
  • Audio Commentary with Tobe Hooper
  • Audio Commentary with Patrick Bromley
  • Beneath the Battle Land: Remembering the Lair (HD – 11:37)
  • The Saw and Savini (HD – 20:23)
  • Stretch Lives! (HD – 31:20)
  • Serving Tom (HD – 19:30)
  • Texas Blood Bath (HD – 18:16)
  • Leatherface Revisited (HD – 36:38)
  • Remember the Alamo (HD – 13:56)
  • Die Yuppie Scum (HD – 13:06)

DISC THREE: EXTRAS (BD)

  • Outtakes from Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold History of Cannon Films (HD – 40:03)
  • It Runs in the Family (Upscaled HD – 81:41)
  • Outtakes from It Runs in the Family (Upscaled HD – 29:33)
  • House of Pain (HD – 42:32)
  • Yuppie Meat (HD – 18:46)
  • Cutting Moments (HD – 17:16)
  • Behind the Mask (HD – 13:44)
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (HD – 24:54)
  • Still Feelin’ the Buzz (HD – 28:29)
  • Behind-the-Scenes Video Footage (Upscaled SD – 43:30)
  • Alternate Opening (Upscaled SD – 2:02)
  • Deleted Scenes (Upscaled SD – 10:48, 4 in all)
  • US and Japanese Theatrical Trailers (Upscaled SD – 2 in all – 2:04)
  • TV Spots (Upscaled SD – 7 in all – 4:21)
  • Promotional Still and Image Gallery (HD – 3:06)

The new commentary track for this set is with Patrick Bromley, who is the editor-in-chief of the website F This Movie!, and who also hosts the related podcast. He describes himself as a crazy, crazy Tobe Hooper fan, and says that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is one of his absolutely favorite films. (He admits that he’s going to spend much of the commentary sounding like The Chris Farley Show, constantly saying how awesome it is.) He discusses the satirical bent of the film, both in terms of how it looks at Reagan’s America, and also in the way that it satirizes sequels in general. He says that it’s a true Tobe Hooper film because the humor and the horror are both full-tilt at the same time—they co-exist, instead of one being used to offset the other. It’s a cinema of excess, in every possible sense. Bromley does offer some interesting production details, but he’s far more focused in examining the themes and the style of the film, as well as its cultural impact (or lack thereof). That makes it a nice complement to the other three archival commentaries. (Bromley also gets points for bringing up Carol Clover’s seminal Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, which should be mandatory reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in the genre.)

The archival commentary with Richard Kooris, production designer Cary White, script supervisor Laura Kooris, and property master Michael Sullivan was recorded for the 2016 Shout! Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release. It’s a freewheeling collection of reminiscences, peppered with gaps, some of them fairly lengthy. They’re clearly having a great time together, and they do tell some good stories, but they could have used a moderator to keep things on track. Speaking of which, that’s not a problem with the other two archival commentaries, both of which were originally included for the 2006 MGM Gruesome Edition DVD. The late Tobe Hooper’s track was moderated by David Gregory, and while Hooper definitely needed the prodding, it’s an invaluable record of his own thoughts about the film. The final track with Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, and the great Tom Savini was moderated by Michael Felsher, and if anything, he has the opposite problem—they talk over each other non-stop, so he could have even dialed them back. It’s not necessarily the most informative of the four commentary tracks on the disc, but it’s certainly the most entertaining.

The new extras were mostly produced in-house at Vinegar Syndrome, with one being done by Red Shirt Pictures instead. Beneath the Battle Land features actors Caroline Williams, Barry Kinyon, Bill Johnson, and Kirk Sisco, all of whom give their memories of the massive set for the underground lair—Williams says that it was a wonderland. The Saw and Savini headlines the maestro of gore, who explains how the effects were produced, and also offers some thoughts about the film. It includes behind-the-scenes footage that his crew shot during the production. Stretch Lives! is an interview with the irrepressible Caroline Williams, who gives an overview of her career, including how she ended up working on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. She also tells plenty of wild stories about the production. Williams has long been a popular staple of the convention circuit, and it’s easy to see why. Serving Tom and Texas Bloodbath are interviews with makeup artists Gabe Bartalos and Bart Mixon, both of whom give their own personal backgrounds before explaining their perspectives on creating the effects. Mixon admits that he was initially disappointed in the film, and Bartalos says that he would like his crew jacket back from Lionel Ritchie. (Long story.) Leatherface Revisited, Remember the Alamo, and Die Yuppie Scum are interviews with actors Bill Johnson, Kirk Sisco, and Barry Kinyon. Johnson is pretty blunt in his assessment of Cannon Films, and he also explains his own approach to the Leatherface character. Sisco says that it was one of the happiest experiences that he ever had, and he talks about working opposite Dennis Hopper. Kinyon describes what it was like to shoot the bridge sequence—twice, as it turns out, because the original footage was unusable.

The archival extras combine ones that were produced for the 2006 MGM DVD with the ones that were added for the 2016 Shout! Factory Blu-ray, most of them produced by Red Shirt Pictures. It Runs in the Family is a feature-length documentary about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 that was directed by Michael Felsher. Divided into six parts, it covers the entire history of the production from conception to release, including the film’s legacy. It features interviews with Carson, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, Bill Moseley, Lou Perryman, Tom Savini, production designer Cary White, and property master Michael Sullivan. (No sign of Tobe Hooper, unfortunately.) Felsher originally created it for the 2006 DVD, and ten years later, he added the Outtakes to the Shout! Blu-ray. Both Carson and Perryman had passed on by that point, so he compiled an extended series of interview segments with them that hadn’t been included in the documentary.

House of Pain is an interview with makeup experts John Vulich, Bart Mixon, Gabe Bartalos, and Gino Crognale, providing a more extended look at the creation of the effects. It includes a nice collection of behind-the-scenes video and photographs, some of which aren’t seen elsewhere in the set. Yuppie Meat offers interviews with actors Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon, who played the infamous yuppie scum who accidentally get the whole chainsaw ball rolling. Cutting Moments features editor Alain Jakubowicz, who is proud of his work on the film, though he also admits that he’s proud of all of his work. He had an extensive career in Israel long before he came to Hollywood to work for Cannon, so he’s got a lot of experience to share. Behind the Mask is a conversation with stuntperson Bob Elmore, who doubled for Bill Johnson as Leatherface for the dangerous scenes in the film. He says that Hooper was under a lot of pressure during the shoot, and he put the cast and crew under the same pressure. Horror’s Hallowed Grounds is the 2016 episode of Sean Clark’s web series that tracks down the original locations for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. While standing on the bridge where the yuppies meet their fate, he makes the interesting point that neither Johnson nor Elmore played Leatherface in that scene. Instead, it was stuntperson Tom Morga, who also played “Jason” in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, as well as Michael Myers in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Still Feelin’ the Buzz is an analysis of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 by author Stephen Thrower, who examines its themes as well as its unusual tone. He sees it as a satirical critique of Eighties consumerism that may not improve on the original, but it’s an inventive variation on it.

The Behind-the-Scenes Video Footage is a loosely organized collection of on-set footage shot during the production of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. It shows the makeup artists at work, as well as Hooper directing key scenes from the film. (It’s the source of many of the clips that are included in the other extras.) The Alternate Opening uses different background elements and score than the opening that was featured in the final cut. The Deleted Scenes include four that weren’t included in the final cut: Leaving for Work, Die Yuppie Scum!, The Gonzo Moviegoer, and Clothes off His Back. Die Yuppie Scum! is the most notorious of the bunch, an extended sequence of chainsaw slaughter that originally followed the death of the two yuppies on the bridge. (Outtakes from that are included in the Behind-the-Scenes Video Footage.) The Gonzo Moviegoer originally followed that scene, featuring a cameo by none other than Joe Bob Briggs, who offers a unique assessment of what’s going on.

The only extra on Disc Two that wasn’t included on any previous release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is Outtakes from Electric Boogaloo, which are extended interviews with Tobe Hooper and Cynthia Hargrave that were conducted by director Mark Hartley for his 2014 documentary about Cannon Films. (While she later became a successful producer on films like Bottle Rocket and Perfume, Hargrave was serving as an assistant to L.M. Kit Carson in 1986.) It’s a random collection of their thoughts about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but they do tell some unique stories here.

For those who are keeping score at home, that’s just shy of 16 hours of total bonus content, topping even Severin’s massive UHD for Out of the Blue from earlier this year. It includes nearly everything from all previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. The only thing directly related to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 that isn’t offered here is the commentary track with Dr. Mark Benecke and Dr. Matthias Scheffzek that was on the 2018 German Blu-ray from Turbine. The 2013 Limited Edition UK Blu-ray from Arrow Video did include separate discs (Blu-ray and DVD) with Tobe Hooper’s first film Eggshells, as well as some associated extras like a commentary track with Hooper, an interview with him, and a trailer reel for thirteen of his other films. (Arrow’s 2017 standard edition re-release didn’t include the extra discs.) The 2016 Shout! Factory Blu-ray did provide two different 1080p transfers of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and while this new 4K master easily trumps both, you may want to hang onto it for the sake of completeness. Otherwise, you can safely let this new Vinegar Syndrome release take the prime position in your collection. The 4K presentation looks nearly pristine, and the extras will keep you underground for a long, long time. Oh, my achin’ banana, indeed.

- Stephen Bjork

(You can follow Stephen on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook.)

 

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