*** Contains spoilers for the first "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" ***
Tobe Hooper returns to pull directorial duties; making the massive shift in tone from the original all the more baffling.
This time the terror element is toned down, while the dark comedy element is ramped way up; not that dark humor was absent from the original, but it was a lot more subtle; also the blood is upped this time (hardly surprising as the always reliable Tom Savini has been brought in for makeup effects) .
More serious than the change in tone, is the change in characterization which plagues the film; once it's in full swing, Bill Johnson is superb as Letherface, although his earlier scenes show an enjoyment to the killing and teasing of his victims which was not present, likewise Jim Siedow returning as Drayton (simply 'the cook' in part 1) now revels in the violence that he previously couldn't bear to be around; it's worth noting however, that in both cases the script, rather than the actor, is at fault.
New to the Sawyer Clan, is genera stalwart Bill Mosley, as Nam Vet 'Crop-top' - an obvious stand in for the hitch-hiker (who also returns (in prop form), as 'nubbins' a corpse that Crop-top carries around with him*)
Finally, Grandpa returns; although he is once again hidden until a dinner scene, which plays far too much like a bad do-over of the one in the first. Of all the scenes to remake in the sequel, why pick the one that has already been done so perfectly?
On the side of good (cannon fodder aside) we have only 2 character of note; local DJ 'Stretch' (Caroline Williams doing her best Laurie Metcalf impression) and 'Lefty' (Dennis Hopper), a Texas ranger, uncle of the victims from the first movie, and only man in law-endorsement who believed in the cannibal family. I have to mention at this point, that seeing Dennis Hopper shopping for filing chainsaws is a thing of beauty.
On the subject of Lefty's ties to the original; Franklyn's skeleton makes an appearance, which is just silly; not only is it still in-tact an in it's chair (surely it would have been broken down for meat), but it's also in the Sawyers new digs (they have moved several times between movies, and currently live in an abandoned theme park) implying that the family take their victims remains with them when they move.
I really do enjoy this movie, probably more than it actually deserves; but as fun as it is, its still a shame to see Leatherface and the Sawyer family reduced to a clan of post-Freddy hero killers... That said, there isn't really much sequel potential if everything had remained unchanged.
Works well as a fun horror movie, but not necessarily as a sequel to TCM...
*untill this viewing, I'd always assumed that Crop-top was the Hitchhiker; the plate being a 'repair' from his meeting with the truck in part one. Watching the two in close succession, I notice that hitch hiker's death in part one was pretty final, and he shares a facial birthmark with Nubbins the corpse.