Disclaimer: Do NOT try to remove your hemorrhoids with a chainsaw. It will NOT save you a trip to the hospital.
(spoilers) OK, let me tell you why the Texas Chainsaw sequels don't work. The original film is slightly exempt from this, but when you have someone who is screaming and wiggling so much that you wish she would just get killed so she'll shut the hell up, you have lost your ability to scare. Doesn't matter how good the sets or costumes or actors are, if the audience is holding their ears, you have a problem.
The first sequel in the Texas Chainsaw series is meant to be nothing other than a bigger version of the original, this time fictionalized, and beefed up with the star power of Dennis Hopper. Not that the original was non-fiction. As you know, it was really based, very loosely, as it were, on the inhuman antics of Ed Gein in the 1950s, the same demented nutcase that inspired Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs. Sounds like a fun guy.
Unfortunately, as is all too often the case with horror movies, this one comes off more as a sick comedy than a scary movie. Granted, there are horror movies that purposely come out like that, such as most of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a movie that caught people off guard because of its simplicity, its unknown cast, and its rough, documentary feel. In Texas Chainsaw 2, every single little bit of that is lost.
The set, once we eventually get underground, looks like they rented the Indiana Jones set, festooned it with randomly placed naked light bulbs, furniture made out of human bones, and meat hooks, and had Leatherface run around swinging a chainsaw. The atmosphere of the movie has completely lost the claustrophobic feel of the original by vastly expanding the size of the set, much of which looks like a Christmas tree crossed with an esophagus, and there is just too much hooting and hollering for it to be scary. The only thing more irritating than the killers is their victim, 'Stretch.'
The movie starts off with a couple of high school caricatures zooming down a desert highway, screaming at each other at the tops of their lungs about the sheer magnitude of the party that they are on their way to. They decide to swing into oncoming traffic to play chicken with someone driving a pickup truck, instantly making me eager to see them get killed. Doesn't matter that Leatherface is in that truck, anyone who plays chicken with a random driver because they're driving around drunk deserves to get killed. And if it takes place in a movie, they deserve to get killed with a chainsaw.
So not only do we have to endure the hooting and hollering of these two jerks, but they call a radio station and we are asked to believe that this station's phones get completely tied up if someone calling in refuses to hang up. Sure, this is rural Texas and 1986, but are we to believe that even out there and back then, there were radio stations with a single phone line and without the ability to cut off the callers? At one point the clueless tech guy is frantically pushing buttons and pulling levers, trying to figure out how to clear the line. Given something so stupid, however, you know it was there for a reason, so that they could record the phone call as the kids get chainsawed on the other end.
Speaking of which, the same kid that swerved into oncoming traffic at full speed finds himself stopped on a bridge as that same pickup truck sits blocking both lanes, and he frantically screams 'Are you crazy?!?' out the windshield while his idiot friend in the passenger seat offers such heroic tips as 'Just keep driving!' and 'Get outta here!' Good thinking'! Speaking of driving, not only can they not outrun a pickup truck traveling in reverse while supposedly holding the pedal to the floor in their Mercedes, but in the shots that show Leatherface standing and swinging his chainsaw, they are literally traveling all of 5mph.
Dennis Hopper plays the uncle of the kids who were killed in the original movie, sort of a rogue detective out of his jurisdiction and showing up at the scene of the two kids' murder. The police refuse to jump to conclusions, but Lefty (Hopper) is sure that it's the same people who killed his nieces and nephews. Hopper makes a GREAT redneck. I generally am truly disappointed when actors take on fake accents, but Hopper does this one so well that you would swear he's lived in the south his entire life, it's just too bad that he's saddled with this idiot character.
At one point, Stretch, the radio station DJ, shows up at his apartment, which, needless to say, is flooded with drunken rednecks wandering the halls with their arms around each other, and tells him that she has an audiotape of the murder because the kids called in just before they were attacked, and he sends her away! What the hell is that? Later he has a change of heart, but only wants to hear it if she'll play it on the air. The logic of the characters' actions in this movie is not starting off on the right foot. Then later, as Stretch hangs in a pit about to fall into the demons' lair, you might say, he tries to save her with a brittle, dried out arm bone. Clever.
There is a lengthy horror scene inside the radio station, which looks like it doesn't know if it's supposed to be a radio station or a horror movie set, so better just be a little bit of both. It's got its vast storage of records stored safely behind an open door, with a heavy steel door guarding the cleaning supplies. A burglar's dream, you might say. We get a scene where Leatherface is assigned to kill Stretch, but when he finally gets through that steel door, he starts chainsawing a tub of soda cans sitting in ice, which have no reason for being there or for being chainsawed, until finally Stretch screams, 'Are you mad at me??' and my eyes glaze over for the remainder of the film.
There's an effective scene where Leatherface puts Stretch's friend's freshly removed face over hers, supposedly to help her escape, but for the most part the underground portion of the film is a tired rehash of the original. Sure, it's bigger, there are more Christmas lights and more chainsaws, but essentially it's exactly the same thing, just without the surprise. They even replay exactly the same dinner scene from the end of the last movie, the most unpleasant scene in the entire movie.
Lefty decides that he is so intent on delivering swift poetic justice that, rather than stock up on as many guns as he can carry, he buys three huge chainsaws and straps them to his body, and then runs screaming into the house, yelling and cutting down wooden supports as the family tortures Stretch. In Commando Arnold bulldozes into a weapons store and loads up on boatloads of guns and knives and explosives. In The Terminator he does the same thing, with the added bonus of killing off the proprietor before leaving. Lefty could have paid homage to both of those films, establishing Lefty as a good guy since he actually paid for his. But why saws and not guns?
The grandparents, as is to be expected, are a hideous, hideous spectacle. Grandpa's 137 years old and still likes to hammer young girls on the head, and grandma spends her time in a wheelchair upstairs with a chainsaw on her lap. We are treated to a finale atop a huge rock outcropping that is so fake that it almost turns the movie into a comedy all by itself. There is at least one or two shots where the underlying chicken wire is nakedly visible.
We get some sort of variation on the ending of the original, since the conclusion is almost a mirror image, in that the girl becomes the chainsaw wielding maniac rather than looking at him out the back window of a passing motorist, but I'm not sure what line of discussion led to the conclusion that this would be a cool way to end the film. Is this supposed to be the setup for a sequel? The family's dead, but now there's this girl who has caught chainsaw fever and will now carry on the legacy?