Recognizing that it’s more than likely an unpopular opinion, I need to come clean and confess that I prefer Tobe Hooper’s 1986 sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, to its predecessor, which I’m also quick to point out is an unparalleled masterpiece of the genre. This has everything to do with personal taste. Tobe Hooper is one of my favorite filmmakers of all-time, and while I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen his 1974 classic, I probably revisit Part 2 every year. It’s one of my very favorite horror movies.

The third film in a trilogy Hooper made for Cannon Films in the 1980s (the other two being the brilliantly bonkers Lifeforce and Hooper’s remake of Invaders From Mars, released just a couple of months before TCM2 in ’86), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 was the movie the director had to promise to make as part of his three-picture deal. When all of those films underperformed at the box office (only TCM2 really made any money) and were torn apart by critics and fans alike, Hooper’s career as a director of theatrical features was more or less finished. But the years have been kind to his three Cannon films, none more so than TCM2, a movie that is understood and received better now than it was 30 years ago. Maybe it’s because audiences are more receptive to the sophisticated tonal shifts Hooper orchestrates or can understand the film’s satire more readily. Or maybe it’s just because they’ve finally had three decades to process a movie that’s completely batshit in the best way possible.

Between the level of gore and the cartoonishly comedic tone, it's easy to understand why The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 was so disliked upon its release in 1986. But it's precisely those differences that make it brilliant. The first film is a classic. Was anyone really going to improve on that? The best Hooper and company could have hoped for was "almost as good", and that wasn't going to work. So they went nuts and created a nightmarish mix of horror and comedy, satirizing ’80s horror conventions and Reagan-era politics. Holding them up against one another is like comparing Night of the Living Dead with Dawn of the Dead. The movies are different because they have different goals, but each is successful on its own terms.

Thirteen years after the events of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, former Texas Ranger “Lefty” Enright (Dennis Hopper) is still investigating the disappearance of his niece and nephew, Sally and Franklin (characters from the first movie). He crosses paths with Texas DJ "Stretch" Brock (Caroline Williams, one of the all-time great final girls), who is broadcasting one night when two obnoxious college students call in and appear to be murdered on air by someone wielding a chainsaw. Yes, Leatherface and his family are up to their old tricks—and by "tricks", I mean brutally killing people, cutting them up, and eventually turning them into award-winning chili. To cover their tracks, Leatherface and his brother Chop-Top (Bill Moseley in the role that made him a genre star) show up at the radio station and terrorize Stretch, leading to an underground confrontation between the Sawyer family, Stretch, and Lefty, who is still hell-bent on vengeance.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is unlike any other horror sequel ever made. Hooper's original is a sweaty, claustrophobic masterpiece that’s terrifying specifically because of its documentary-like immediacy. It doesn't feel so much like a movie as it does some horrible thing that someone accidentally caught on camera, a quality that gives it a sense of danger. The sequel, also directed by Hooper and written by L.M. Kit Carson (screenwriter of Paris, Texas), goes off in a very different direction. It's more black comedy than horror. As a product of the ’80s, the movie really cranks up the gore (for all the claims about how violent the first movie is, there is very little on-screen bloodshed).

In fact, the sequel is so violent that it had to be released as “unrated" or be slapped with the stigma of an X rating. Seen today, it's not any more gory than most contemporary horror films with an R rating. It's just that the tone of the movie makes the violence that much more uncomfortable. The film’s sickness feels uncomfortable, and the reaction to that is what makes it seem so much worse than it is.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 really is like a nightmare, even when it's being funny. As the movie descends into the Sawyer’s underground lair—an impressively designed set that quite literally feels like going to Hell—and the wheels really come off, it never stops being twisted and comedic. That's part of why it's such an uncomfortable experience, and also why it spent many years as an underappreciated movie, only now starting to get the reputation it deserves. The comedy exists in the same moments as the horror. Most movies, even horror comedy hybrids like The Return of the Living Dead, switch between one and the other. Not TCM2. This is a movie in which a character is skinned on camera while another one sits in the background saying really sick and funny stuff. You don't get to choose between laughing and being repulsed. Both are happening simultaneously. That’s the movie's special genius.

Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray marks the sixth time I’ve owned The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 on home video: once on LaserDisc, twice on DVD (the standard edition and MGM’s special “Gruesome Edition”), the MGM Blu-ray, and Arrow’s Blu-ray. The real draw of the Scream Factory edition is a new 2K transfer that corrects the mistakes of some previously questionable HD scans: the colors are better (and this is a colorful movie), the black levels more consistent and fine detail more evident. The original HD transfer is included on the second disc with its own collection of extras, for anyone who prefers the way that version looked.

The new Blu-ray contains all of the extras ported over from the "Gruesome Edition" DVD and Blu-ray, plus several new bonus features. There are three commentaries, the first of which is a new track with members of the technical crew, including production designer Cary White, cinematographer Richard Kooris, script supervisor Laura Kooris, and prop master Michael Sullivan. The other two commentary tracks are carried over from previous releases, one featuring director Hooper and moderator David Gregory, and a second that features cast members Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley, and FX guru Tom Savini, who supplied the film's makeup and gore.

Disc 1 also contains an alternate opening title sequence, multiple still galleries, trailers, and TV spots, plus about 45 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. There's also a collection of deleted scenes of pretty rough quality that appeared on previous releases, providing a fascinating glimpse into just how tricky it was to establish the tone of the movie. Some of the cut sequences involve a lot more violence (there's a parking garage slaughter and a movie theater murder scene featuring a cameo by Joe Bob Briggs), and gorehounds might be disappointed these were tossed out, but including them would have slanted the finished film too much in one direction.

While it’s a carryover from previous versions, the best extra is still Disc 2’s epic, nearly 90-minute “It Runs in the Family” retrospective documentary featuring comments from nearly all of the movie's main participants, save for Hooper and Jim Siedow, who passed away in 2003. The documentary, which first appeared on MGM’s “Gruesome Edition” DVD, is almost as enjoyable as the movie itself, and goes a long way towards trying to explain and contextualize why The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is such a crazy and unique experience. New outtakes from the doc are included on the first disc, which include more stories about the making of the movie.

Disc 2 contains several new bonus features, too, including a lengthy featurette on the movie’s special effects, a new interview with actors Barry Kinyon and Chris Douridas (who play the wildly obnoxious teen victims in the opening sequence), interviews with editor Alain Jakubowicz and stuntman Bob Elmore, plus another edition of Sean Clark’s Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, in which he visits locations from the shoot.

The story goes that when Tobe Hooper made the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974, he thought he was making a funny movie, but instead of a comedy, everyone reacted to it as the scariest film they’d ever seen. When the time came to do the inevitable sequel, Hooper decided to make damn sure no one missed the black comedy the second time around. I liken his approach to the two films to the difference between Alien and Aliens: yes, both movies exist in the same universe, but the approach is wildly different. As long as you don't go into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 expecting a remake of the first movie, you'll find the sequel has a lot to offer horror fans tired of the same slasher formula and is an absolute worthy follow-up to the original. Scream Factory’s new transfer is the real reason to upgrade here, with the new bonus features only sweetening the deal. Besides, you can never own too many copies of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. I should know.

Movie Score: 4.5/5,  Disc Score: 4.5/5

  • Patrick Bromley
    About the Author - Patrick Bromley

    Patrick lives in Chicago, where he has been writing about film since 2004. A member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society, Patrick's writing also appears on, and, the site he runs and hosts a weekly podcast.

    He has been an obsessive fan of horror and genre films his entire life, watching, re-watching and studying everything from the Universal Monsters of the '30s and '40s to the modern explosion of indie horror. Some of his favorites include Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931), Dawn of the Dead (1978), John Carpenter's The Thing and The Funhouse. He is a lover of Tobe Hooper and his favorite Halloween film is part 4. He knows how you feel about that. He has a great wife and two cool kids, who he hopes to raise as horror nerds.