Thursday, March 31, 2016

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory

Release Date: April 19th 2016 
Region Code: A
Duration: 101 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: Bill Johnson, Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Dennis Hopper, Jim Siedow, Ken Evert, Lou Perryman, Chris Douridas

A decade after the original terror-classic hit the cinema director Tobe Hooper resurrected the Sawyer cannibal-clan with an offbeat sequel infused with pitch black humor and outrageous gore gags, and it didn't land well with audiences at the time. Catching up with the Sawyer clan some thirteen years after the events of the first movie we find the Texans have traded in the nightmare farmhouse for a spacious labyrinthine underground maze located beneath an abandoned amusement park. They've also gone from hacking up hippies to eviscerating '80s yuppies. Madman patriarch Drayton Sawyer is now touring Texas in a lunch truck winning chili competitions along the way. Drayton's secret to winning is simple, "don't skimp on the meat. I've got a real good eye for prime meat.".

The movie begins with a pair of douche-nozzle yuppies driving to Dallas for a wild weekend of debauchery when a pickup truck pulls out in front of them on a stretch of bridge, they're stunned when Leatherface wielding a chainsaw appears in the bed of the truck and attacks the car with his trusty chainsaw while also puppeteering a desiccated corpse, presumably that of the Hitchhiker from the first movie. We're only a few minutes in and the movie is off to a phenomenal start, setting the tone and pace with black humor and terrific gore gags with the driver losing half his head to the blade of the chainsaw. 

As it turns out the yuppies were live on-air with a local radio DJ named Stretch (Caroline Williams) during the entire scream filled encounter with the Sawyers and the horrifying incident was caught on audio tape. A former Texas Ranger named Lefty (Dennis Hopper, Mad Dog Morgan) arrives on scene to investigate the bizarre accident/deaths. You see, Lefty is the uncle of Sally and Franklin from the original movie and he won't stop until he has avenged their deaths, he's been on the trail of the Sawyers for a decade. When the audio recording comes to his attention he doesn't so much team-up with Stretch as use her as live bait to attract the attention of the sadistic cannibals, which he does by having her replay the broadcast live on air on a loop. Fearing the tape will lead to their discovery Leatherface and his 'Nam obsessed brother Chop Top (Bill Moseley, The Devil's Rejects) arrive at the radio station and terrorize the DJ who's clearly in over her head with this mess. 

Leatherface's dead-skin mask this time around is my favorite incarnation of the chainsaw wielding maniac, it looks great with the actors mouth salivating wildly beneath it, flicking his tongue along his crooked toothed mouth. Mosely as Chop Top is one of my favorite characters of any horror movie, a bizarre and skittish nut job who picks away at his mangled scalp with bent wire coat hanger, eating the tasty bits of flesh he can scratch away. He's one of the most quotable characters in any horror film, even his iconic portrayal of Otis from The Devil's Rejects is only a close second, this is definitely his signature performance in my book. Also, you cannot watch this movie and not appreciate the demented performance of Jim Siedow as Drayton Sawyer, the cantankerous and eccentric patriarch of the Sawyer family, his dialogue and delivery are creepily side-splitting, he perfectly embodies the tone and spirit of the demented production, he's the dark heart of the movie.

At the radio station Leatherface and Chop Top terrorize Stretch, this is the stuff of nightmares, the way the scene is eerily lit with deep shadows takes it to the next level. When her producer L.G. (Lou Perryman) returns to the station from a coffee-run he gets a hammer to the skull after he finds Chop Top raiding the vinyl archives of the station. Somehow Stretch is able to use her charm to coerce the seemingly love-struck Leatherface into letting her live, Chop Top believes she's dead and the gruesome duo leave with L.G.'s corpse in their pickup. Lefty arrives a short time later and he and Stretch follow them to their underground lair beneath a condemned amusement park, where they find a nightmare carnival of macabre weirdness buried in the tunnels below. 

Dennis Hopper was fresh off David Lynch's Blue Velvet when he came onto this one and his character is nearly as as unhinged as Frank, though it is possible that during this period of drugs and excess in the '80s that the coked-up Hopper was just a nut. He would next go on to appear in River's Edge, and these three movie are probably my favorite of his. Obsessed with revenging the death of his nephew Lefty enters the underground lair with an armament of chainsaws , so you had best prepare yourself for the glory of dueling chainsaws! Hats off to the production designers for the surreal atmosphere and lighting of the underground sets, it definitely creates a surreal and nightmarish tone which is appropriate for this demented sequel, a movie that only Tobe Hopper and Cannon Films could have made together. 

The film has received criticism for straying a bit  far from the original in terms of tone and pitch, but I have always loved this damned movie to death. It's straight-up demented from start to finish, my favorite sequence being the assault on the radio station, with Chop Top and Leatherface tormenting poor Stretch. You wanna see strange, how about Leatherface mock-fucking her with his chainsaw spraying a slurry of shaved ice and Big Red soda over her face, a surreal nightmare of sexual innuendo. Caroline Williams (Contracted) screams her head off throughout, in my opinion this is one of the most memorable scream queen performances of them all, hear piercing screams always shred my nerves. Another nice touch is the reenactment the infamous dinner scene from the first movie, a nightmare scenario that comes off even creepier than the original, that grotesque makeup f/x work on Grandpa Sawyer is a thing of disgusting beauty. 

While the original is a notoriously bloodless shocker the sequel is throws the gore right in your face, dripping with grue thanks to the talents of gore f/x genius Tom Savini (The Burning) and his crew, which included Bart Mixon (Killer Klowns from Outer Space), John Carl Buechler (From Beyond), Gabe Bartalos (The Thing), Gino Crognale (The Hidden) and John Vulich (TerrorVision). When L.G. is brought back to the Sawyer kitchen they flay the skin from his legs and chest with an electric carving knife before peeling off his face and placing the dead-skin mask onto the face of an increasingly hysterical Stretch. It's an over-the-top sequel that just layers on the excess and over-acting and I love it for it.

Audio/Video: Scream Factory have gone above and beyond for this gore-drizzled sequel with not one, but two HD presentations of the movie. We have the original HD master found on the MGM Blu-ray which was supervised by cinematographer Richard Kooris, plus a brand new 2K scan of the interpositive film elements. The new transfer is nothing short of superb, the candy colored colors are vibrant with excellent contrast and deep blacks with very nice shadow detail, which is improved over the original HD master. There's also a fine layer of film grain with some very nice clarity and depth to the image, this is a wonderful new HD transfer. 

Audio chores are handled by a very capable English DTS-HD MA 5.1 option, there's also a more authentic stereo track for the audio purists. The surround mix sounds great with some nice atmospheric use of the surrounds to great affect. Both audio tracks sports excellent fidelity with a clean, crisp presentation that has some nice depth to it, plus the sweet '80s soundtrack featuring The Cramps, Timbuk 3 and The Lords of the New Church, among others, comes through clean and strong. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras on disc one we have a great blend of new and old stuff, this release is packed to the hilt with goodies. Those familiar with the 'Gruesome Edition' from MGM will recognize the selection of deleted scenes, image galleries, trailers and TV spots ported over for the new edition, plus both of the audio commentaries from the MGM Blu-ray with actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and special effects makeup creator Tom Savini moderated by Michael Felsher, and a second with director Tobe Hooper moderated by David Gregory of Severin Films. 

Now onto the tasty new stuff on disc one, we have a new audio commentary to go along with the new trasnfer from director of photography Richard Kooris, production designer Cary White, script supervisor Laura Kooris and property master Michael Sullivan. The track is a good listen, a bit technical and not on par with the original commentaries in my opinion, but these commentaries do provide a wealth of information about the making of the movie. There's also thirty-minutes of Extended Outtakes from the 'It Runs in the Family' doc featuring never before seen interview footage with the late screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson and actor Lou Perryman. The actual 'It Runs in the Family' disc can be found on disc two. There is also a 44-minute Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation from Tom Savini’s personal video archives, we get to see some candid footage of the special effects being performed for film.  

Onto disc two of the set we have more new stuff and an old favorite, the old comes by way of the aforementioned 'It Runs in the Family' doc produced by Michael felsher and red shirt Pictures, the six part feature-length documentary featuring interviews with screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson, actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, Lou Perryman, and special makeup effects artist Tom Savini, which is still a great watch, this is the definitive making-of doc for the movie. The new stuff begins with the House of Pain doc, a 43-minute collection of interviews with make-up effects artists Bart Mixon, John Carl Buechler, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale and John Vulich, and for horror fans these behind-the-scenes peeks at the making of gore classics are always a blast, tales of creating the iconic gore gags, who worked on what, behind-the-scenes tom foolery and problems bringing these effects to film, with clips from the movie, behind-the-scenes images and video footage. 

Yuppie Meat is an 18-minute interview with actors Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon who played the yuppies from the bridge massacre scene at the start of the film, they speak about how they came to appear in the movie and life post TCM2. I didn't realize that Douridas who played Gunner, the yuppie with the novelty glasses, was the host of KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic, a L.A. radio show I first heard back in '93 when Geffen records sent out a promotional cassette of Beck's performance on the show to promote the album 'Mellow Gold', which has nothing to do with the movie, but I thought that was neat. If you're a Beck fan you can stream that early performance which features a few choice rarities right here:

Up next is Cutting Moments, a 17-minute interview with editor Alain Jakubowicz who tells of how he sort of saved Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars in the editing room. The director worked on quite a few Canon Films during their '80s heyday, including work on Hooper's TCM2. 

Behind the Mask is an 14-minute interview with stunt man and Leatherface performer Bob Elmore who doubled for Leatherface actor Bill Johnson, appearing in many of the memorable scenes. He speaks about how Johnson couldn't lift the heavy chainsaw used in the movie and how he had to take on a larger role in the movie, admitting he is not an actor, and that Hooper yelled at him a lot to get the performances out of him.  

The last of the new extras is a new episode of Horror's Hallowed Ground with host Sean Clark, revisiting many of the locations used in the movie, most of which have been torn down and renovated beyond recognition. Honestly this was somewhat of a let down, but Clark is a witty guy and I love these location pilgrimages he does. Obviously Austin has gone through a lot of changes in the past thirty years, and it doesn't make for the best location visits but Clark and the crew do their do diligence, even heading out to Bastrop, Texas to the scene of the bridge scene and the long-gone site of the Texas Battle Land amusement park.

Separate from the disc extras we have a reversible sleeve of artwork featuring the very cool illustration fro Joel Robinson and the original one-sheet movie poster which was a send up of The Breakfast Club. Robinson's new artwork is also featured on cardboard slipcover for the standard blu keep case. 

Disc 1: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part Two (Brand New HD Transfer)

- NEW 2016 2K HD scan of the inter-positive film element
- NEW Audio Commentary with director of photography Richard Kooris, production designer Cary White, script supervisor Laura Kooris and property master Michael Sullivan
- Audio Commentary with director Tobe Hooper moderated by David Gregory of Severin Films 
- Audio Commentary with actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and special effects makeup creator Tom Savini moderated by Michael Felsher 
- NEW Extended Outtakes from It Runs in the Family featuring L.M. Kit Carson and Lou Perryman (30 Mins)
- NEW Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation from Tom Savini’s archives (44 Mins)
- Alternate Opening Credit Sequence (2 Mins) 
- Deleted Scenes (11 Mins) 
- Still Galleries – posters and lobby cards, behind-the-scenes photos, stills and collector’s gallery (60 Images) HD 
- Theatrical Trailers (2 Mins) HD 
- TV Spots (3 Mins) HD 

Disc 2: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part Two (Original HD Transfer)

- MGM’s original HD Master with color correction supervision by director of photography Richard Kooris
- NEW House of Pain – a interview with make-up effects artists Bart Mixon, John Carl Buechler, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale and John Vulich (43 Mins) HD 
- NEW Yuppie Meat – a interview with actors Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon (19 Mins) HD
- NEW Cutting Moments – a interview with editor Alain Jakubowicz (17 Mins) HD 
- NEW Behind the Mask – a interview with stunt man and Leatherface performer Bob Elmore (14 Mins) HD
- NEW HORROR’S HALLOWED GROUNDS – revisiting the locations of the film – hosted by Sean Clark plus a special guest (25 Mins) HD 
- It Runs in the Family – a six part feature-length documentary featuring interviews with screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson, actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, Lou Perryman, special makeup effects artist Tom Savini and more (84 Mins) HD 

I love TCM2, it is a gruesome and black veined terror-comedy, a full-on demented slice of weirdness and my favorite entry in the entire TCM series. It's hard to deny the horror-genius of this movie which was once panned across the board, I am pleased to see that the public opinion on this one has turned towards the positive these past few years, this is a straight-up classic. The new Blu-ray from Scream Factory is one of my favorite releases of the year so far, this is a must-own edition with a sweet new 2K HD scan and loads of awesome extras, well worth the upgrade.