31 DAYS OF HORROR# 17: Josh Stifter on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986)

Josh Stifter – director of recent FrightFest favourite Greywood’s Plot – returns to Texas for one of the most gonzo sequels ever committed to celluloid…

I remember the first time I watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

I wish I could say it was some grand moment in my childhood, as I watched Leatherface chainsaw a man’s head while driving 90 miles per hour down the road and true terror struck me. Or a seminal moment in teenage years, finding my love of fun, campy horror as I sat engrossed in front of the TV.

No. Instead I put it on in the background while animating on one of my short films. Animation is tedious work and sometimes I put on movies or television shows while I work to keep myself at least slightly entertained during the monotony of drawing close to the same pictures over and over. For some reason on this specific day, I chose TCM2. I was a fan of the original film, and love Tobe Hooper’s movies, but never gave this one the time. At that moment, I was barely giving it the time it deserved either.

It was deserving of more attention… and earned it. By the time the first scene had passed, I was barely able to draw a single frame because my eyes were drawn to the movie. As Dennis Hopper bought his chainsaws and tested them out in front of the store, I had completely shifted myself in a way that made it impossible to actually draw anymore. And as Bill Moseley is revealed, dawning his hippy apparel and terrible wig, stammering about buying radio time and itching himself with a coat hanger — well, I had a beer in my hand, the movie playing on my big screen TV, and my feet up. I hadn’t had this much fun watching a movie in years.

The horror genre in general often has a lot to say. So much so that we often forget how entertaining it can be to watch madness embodied right in front of you. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 goes a completely different direction, barely allowing you to forget that you’re watching a movie. I was rarely not smiling ear to ear from the pure insanity of every scene. Popcorn Horror is hard to come by, but TCM2 has it in spades. 

My favorite films are the type that equally entertain me, shock me, and make me jealous that I didn’t think of it first. For a movie that was 30 years old at the time I saw it, I couldn’t believe how magically TCM2 captures all these elements: performances I was jealous I didn’t film; visual effects that made me want to get outside with a camera and fake blood and start shooting; lighting and camera work that have had me pausing and analyzing since the first time I saw it. Everything about this movie is exactly why I fell in love with film in the first place, and reignited my love of the craft.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the second outing of the Sawyer family since that first time a few years back. 30? 40? I plan to watch it again tonight on my brand new projection screen. It’s become an unusual comfort. I find solace in knowing that one can make fun, nasty, irreverent movies like this and get away with it. I hope to do the same.

Josh Stifter

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