One of the more recent horror films I have watched lately is the newly released 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, having enjoyed the first film (a remake of the Hershel Gordon Lewis 1964 original 2000 maniacs) so much. With its un-pc and almost “Troma”-esque like humorous bad taste, I was pretty geared up for the aforementioned sequel and since it stared cult movie actor Bill Mosley it felt assured. So with bated breath and almost fanatical like devotion to the genre I ran into the supermarket found the film and proceeded to beat my way through the queue, to finally claim my purchase. My fist held high with my prize I then suddenly ran into the slowly setting sunset. A trail of bloodied remains laying in my crazed wake, for any poor souls who were unlucky enough to deny me quicker access to my flat and in turn my hour and thirty minutes of bloody comedy horror fun.
At least that was the more fun alterative because after watching Field of Screams (and quickly after turning the film on realising so) this was an utter waste of talent and everything the first was built up to be. I am also inclined to think that John Landis has been consuming copious amounts of crack due to its morish qualities, because his “headlining quote” seems a little like the ravings of a hungry junkie. So after the running time had passed and I lay staring at the TV screen, depressed and let down my expectations ripped from my beating heart similar to what an evil ex would do. I lay on the bed waiting for despair to take hold of my comedy horror heart…..but then suddenly like a bolt of electricity shooting through my memory synapses a thought occurred to me, all was not lost. For I knew to get me out of such a filmic slump the film would itself have to be both funny, un-pc, depraved and the right side of comically gory. And after mere milliseconds of searching my mind catalogue, the answer became clearer then the blinding light which shines through a non-curtained window. That answer was “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” and as I began to place said DVD into its designated slot, I heard the disapproving and unified tut of several fellow horror fans.
My first viewing of this now (at least in my own eyes) cult classic was late night on the channel Bravo, back when they screened at least semi good tele-visual programming and good “bad” films. I was young and intrigued at the prospect of a sequel to what I thought was one of the greatest horror films ever made, so out of curiosity I sat and allowed my still young mind absorb this kitsch feast. After watching I felt split, I knew I enjoyed it but felt a little dirty and almost like I was tarnishing the memory of the original but admitting to that fact. But slowly over the years it has grown to become a firm cult favourite and an indulgent guilty pleasure.
Now let me set something straight this film does indeed fail miserably as both a sequel and as a way of keeping the spirit of the originals minimalistic style and low budget feel alive. But when one distances this film from its predecessor and sees it as a single entry or at the very least a darkly comic take on similar characters, this film becomes a great campy comedy horror. TCM2 also has another connection that made me select it and it concerns Bill Mosley again; since this was his first feature film (after staring in a spoof TCM called The Texas Chainsaw Manicure) where he turns in a performance that is equal parts fantastic and annoying at the same time. His character of Chop-Top the brother of the Hitchhiker from the first film is utterly barking and contains some of the best horror quotes this side of Evil Dead 2. Including quasi-classic ditties such as: “lick my plate, you dog dick” / “Leatherface you bitch, look what you did to my Sonny Bono wig” and the still reining champ of quality horror one liners: “Get that bitch leatherface, get that bitch….doooog will hunt!”
Besides the more prominent emphasises on a comical approach to both the style and script, it contains yet another ace in the hole, in the form of the late great Dennis Hopper. This is yet another crazed performance but with added bonus, “The Hopper” wielding duel chainsaws which he uses to unleash the pain against the Sawyer Clan; while preaching to the heavens as he brings down “The Devils Playground” with his trusty chainsaws and cries of “I’m bringing it down…..down to hell!”. It certainly is an interesting performance but it does not put you in any doubt that Hopper was the ultimate man, I mean he even attacks a tree truck with a chainsaw. That is something only a real man would do before breakfast!
Ok I suppose Tobe Hooper was possibly having a slight seizure when he thought it would be a good idea to give Leatherface libido, it does produce the odd titter here and there but it usually from a nervous disposition. I mean all good Cinephiles know that in a horror film (particularly slasher films) sex and violence go hand in bloodied hand, but there is something oddly uncomfortable about watching Leatherface get himself off by slamming his chainsaw into a bucket of ice and seriously close to our protagonist’s lady parts. It also makes him an over sexualised buffoon closer to a hormonal teenager then that of a chainsaw wielding maniac.
The thing about this film in retrospect is that ignoring the fact that it is not as good, or in anyway comes close to the use of tension and sensual overload the original had within it, it is still a bloody good laugh with a few horror comedy aficionados. The cult status is highly deserved and needs to grow somewhat as it is a witty, gory and comically violent good southern time. On top of which it is still better the previously mentioned Bill Mosley film sequel. So if you want a crazed almost surreal comedy horror experience TCM 2 is that very odd beast and surely anything that contains “The Hopper” rampaging around a subterranean home for murderous cannibals, all in the name of vengeance. Truly has to be worth at least one watch it might even grow on you.