The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 ★★★★½

Hopper acts and speaks in his own crybaby cowboy revenge play that makes him seem less an anchor than a clueless madman in a theatre of madness: as a saviour, as a revenger, as a No Country phantom of the Old he's the biggest, weirdest, saddest joke on display. Do not cry, my brother! he yells in tears to the skeleton Franklin, forgotten by most and inexplicably encountered by Lefty on level three of the Sawyers' subterranean theme park. His descent into the Reagan-era heart of the nation is populated by visions domestic and political, at its core inhabited by patriarch Drayton yelling into the air about regulation and taxes threatening his good family business (human meat).

Hooper knew that we had internalised our feelings over witnessing real violence in order to become socially numb twelve years prior, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 scratches at the wound with a steel coat hanger. Its one-note scream is Eaten Alive's grotesque musical as blunt-force farce, blockbuster family entertainment (Spielbergian, or at least The Goonies) lined with bones and guts, familial/political subtext as text. It is a wasteland of individuals, of compulsory greed, and spectacle, and for the first time it feels entirely boundless. There is a tension at play then between the work's political anger and pessimism, as Hooper wants to express something enduringly bleak but also understands that pessimism abets apathy (which legitimises degeneration). Without 'normal' to contextualise the events and people with whom we're stuck, we are beaten with the impression that this is all fairly standard, which calls into question whether the Sawyers are a symptom of large-scale disorder above ground, or whether this is indeed the subterranean theme park hell pumping blood to the rest of the socio-political landscape.

It is tiring, and the drag is real with a first act that is perfect by any standards, that hints at something that roams and doesn't just burrow in on the same idea for an hour. Somehow though this makes it feel bigger. The extent to which it all feels put-on is broadcasted, radicalised by the fact that it feels lived-in, making it the kind of punk rock masterpiece that is both torturous and actively fun to explore. Its frustrated awareness of its limitations are its drive: a burning reaction to its time that exists to still feel vital decades later. It is perplexing and shrilly straightforward, sneering as it advocates hacking the thing down at its foundations whether this will put an end to the horrorshow or not.

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