“You have one choice, boy: sex or the saw. Sex is, well…nobody knows. But the saw…the saw is family.” – Drayton Sawyer, the Cook.
In the early 2000s some friends and I started a band named The Saw Is Family. I handled the vocals, with JF on bass, Nicky Suds on guitar and Nick Tombs on drums. Tombs’ neighbors were well versed with the daily noise pollution emanating from his mom’s garage. That was where our band and his 30 other projects rehearsed in those early years. The Saw Is Family played a blend of influences but the clear cut answer to what genre was death metal. When it was all said and done I think we had a total of three songs completed. There is a cassette or two hidden away somewhere with those crudely recorded songs on them. It’s probably best for all parties if those songs never surface.
Names are important to me, whether it is the names of my children or characters in my novels, and I was most excited about our band name until we found out it was already used by some other shitty band. Side note, My son’s name is Gunnar, and though he is not necessarily named after Hansen, it was an article about the original Leatherface that piqued my interest in the name.
Having an affinity for horror films I liked the reference attached to the band’s name, and majority of my literary output is peppered with movie and music references, but personally I thought the name just sounded cool. If you knew what it meant or where it came from, well, then that was a bonus.
When I packed my bags and moved into my mother’s future second husband’s house I was pretty unhappy about the situation. My father and I were evicted from our apartment and there was no other place for me to go but to my mother, though I preferred to live anywhere else, maybe even beneath an abandoned amusement park in Texas with a family of cannibals.
Often the adults left me home alone on weekends while they tried to hit it big in Atlantic City, a place I vehemently detest. I was used to be being on my own, which was fine by me, I enjoy solitude but now it was in a stranger’s house. I didn’t feel very welcome there and neither of us, myself or my stepfather made the transition easy.
The upside of the whole union was my step brother, he was older and already out of the house and despite his feelings for my mother which were probably no worse than my opinion of his father, he always showed my little sister and me love. A motorcycle riding, bass guitar slapping, ass kicking, long haired metal head, and a talented artist to Doc Martin boot.
One of those nights alone in the strange house, I found my stepbrother’s copy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 alongside the VCR, hiding inside a boxy brown plastic cover. I hadn’t seen the movie before, or at least I couldn’t recall an earlier viewing, but I could vividly remember the Breakfast Club mock up on the cover, from back when it was normal to spend hours perusing the aisles of video rental stores admiring the cover art. Now a lost art. A thumbnail does not hold the same weight.
Initially I found the 1986 Tobe Hooper flop turned cult classic frightening, very disturbing and admittedly, I was freaked out watching it by myself as an adolescent. Critics like Ebert called it “nauseating” and the BBC said, “it lacked the subversive qualities of the original” and would leave admirers of the 1974 classic disappointed. I think we all missed the point on the first go.
Tobe Hooper didn’t care to make this film.
In 1974, Tobe Hooper directed and co-wrote The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Kim Henkel and made a stark horror masterpiece. He had no intention on making a sequel.
It should also be noted, Leatherface and the sawyers, share a common progenitor with Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter, They are all based loosely on the Plainfield Ghoul, the Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. The Slayer classic Dead Skin Mask is also about Mr. Gein. This is all common knowledge for avid metal heads and horror fans, but just in case you didn’t know, now you do.
When the prospect of returning to Chainsaw over a decade later Tobe was attached to produce, Cannon was immediately on board until they heard the whole pitch. Tobe Hooper wanted to spoof a film, Motel Hell, that was a spoof of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The studio wasn’t feeling that. He ultimately spoofed his own film anyway.
He brought in L. M. Kit Carson to write the screenplay and after endless rewrites and budget cuts, Tobe figured they wouldn’t be able to pay anyone else to direct so he directed it himself with an unending cigar hanging from his mouth and a Dr. Pepper in his hand.
Hooper had said that people missed the dark humor of the original and he was not going to make the same film twice, so part 2 would be a full on comedy. Throwing caution to the wind, with little regard for his reputation and legacy, they went in, completely bald Britney on this one.
Maybe it was the sign of the times which led to the original being bleak and gritty and Part 2 being boisterous and excessive. It is very eighties. If the original was subtle, the sequel was quite obvious, especially in terms of gore. FX wizard Tom Savini and crew came in and sawed and skinned away in awesome bloody fashion. The thing that makes this insane film work is the commitment by the crew. The underground lair was completely built piecemeal inside of an old building, but you would never know by watching the film. They made it work out of necessity.
All of the performances by the major players are tangible. Each actor completely embodies the character they’re portraying. Caroline Williams, who earned her place by running into her audition screaming at the top of her lungs, is Stretch and I couldn’t imagine anyone else being so. I wish they explored the illegitimate child storyline but nevertheless her twisted pseudo love affair with Bill Johnson’s Leatherface is bonkers and perverse. Leatherface is a child in mind and witnessing his sexual awakening is no less awkward than our own except maybe we didn’t use a chainsaw to masturbate. It is strange but in this film it makes sense. Leatherface discovering girls and being at the mercy of his hormones is pure genius.
The Cook, played by Jim Siedow is always spot on and has some the best lines in the film. Bill Moseley is epic as Chop-Top, the Hitchhiker’s twin brother who is back from ‘Nam with a plate in his head, you dog dick. My favorite character portrayed by Moseley is Otis Driftwood from House Of 1000 Corpses with Chop-Top in close second. Moseley is a scene stealer.
1986 was a good year for the New York Mets and Dennis Hopper. Hopper released six films in that years, three being: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, Blue Velvet and Hoosiers. I love Blue Velvet. I feel like his portrayals of Frank and Lefty are not too far from reality. Hopper was a lunatic in real life. I would have loved a whole film centered on Lefty, dual saws and the hunt for the mass murderers haunting the back roads of Texas. It is said that Hopper was very professional on set, but sadly, he did say that this was the worst film he was ever in, that’s saying a lot considering he was King Koopa in the Super Mario Bros movie. Hopper turned 50 during filming and he cut the birthday cake with a chainsaw. What else would you use?
The Texas Chainsaw Part 2 is a fun descent into madness. It is outrageous but that was the intent. The OG film is tough to watch, even now, but I respect it and revisit occasionally where as the first two sequels I rewatch fairly often.
The funny thing is the Sawyers with their proclivity for mass murder and cannibalism still seemed like more of a family unit than my own. Family can be a complicated word. I have family I regard as nothing more than strangers and friends that I consider family. Now I have a family of my own, I understand that the Sawyers valued their family over everything and to protect their own anyone could get the saw.