Monday, July 2, 2012

The SAW is Family!

With Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3-D coming out in 2013, and with me recently scoring some sick TCM 2 art at a sci-fi/horror garage sale, I figured it was a good time to revisit the infamous sequel during these hot summer days.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 came nearly a decade after the initial outing shocked the world and resembled almost an entirely different story and feel than the first.  The sequel is more focused on maintaining a kind of “Tales from the Crypt” sense of fun, where the Sawyer family has more jokey lines and black comedy bits.  Hooper has said many times that most of the comedy in the original is not recognized or overshadowed by the darker elements of the movie, and while it’s apparent that this film had a less serious feel and he really wanted the comedy bits to shine, I’m not sure anybody really “got” the comedy this time around either.   It does make for a different mood, but in the end all the cannibalistic and scary elements that made TCM such a spine-tingler are still there, it’s just all more over the top and tongue in cheek.  It’s more disturbing and twisted than laugh out loud.  It feels like a pulpy comic book by Creepy or Eerie and less like the gritty realistic documentary feel of the original.

Bubba Sawyer wants a girlfriend in this one.  There’s the Freudian allusion of the chainsaw as the penis, a tool of power, seeking to penetrate the flesh of the young nubile chick.  At one point Bubba presses the chainsaw against the heroine’s crotch, drooling and randy for sex and violence.  She tries to placate the maniac by telling him how “good” he is with his tool, but the inbred takes another wild mood swing, and pulls the starter rope on the saw like a teenager frantically flogging the pope.  When he gets it started he dances around with the saw with a kind of sexual frustration, and rampages through the scenery, destroying everything in sight at the radio station like a mad dog, then lets his brother Chop Top believe that he killed the young woman.  It is assumable that he let his brother believe Stretch to be deceased because he was embarrassed by feeling attracted to her, like a young kid who’s trying to hide something shameful from his parents.  Bubba felt sexually attracted to Stretch, and thus he let her live, not once, but twice.  Leatherface struggles between his physical needs and personal desire to fit in with the family.    

His older brother, the cook Drayton, sees the potential danger in this.  They can’t be attracted to the “meat”.  He seems disgusted with Bubba, he tells him “the saw is family”, and it’s the only one he would ever need.  He can’t trust women, but he can always trust the saw.  It makes me wonder if there has ever been a female influence in the life of the Sawyer clan as it is.  It seems like the only semblance of a maternal, motherly influence they have is the desiccated body of their old grandma, a shrine of sorts that they keep in reverence to their elders.   I think that one of the messages that could be bled from the series is that there can be problems with removing the feminine influence from a family, without a motherly figure an all male family quickly devolves into dysfunction.  Bubba kind of fills the shoes of the matriarch, but his desires conflict the role he’s forced to play, and thus the cook sees it as an issue that needs to be addressed to maintain order.  Women just muck things up for him.

I think it’s interesting to note that only the “female” roles in the Sawyer family wield the chainsaw; at no point do Chop Top or Drayton use the saw.  It seems exclusively Bubba’s.  When Stretch disturbs the Sawyer grandmother shrine she is able to pull a working, gassed up saw from her mummified death grip, suggesting that she had a particular attachment to the power tool, and probably served the same role that Leatherface now fills in the family; as the caretaker and matriarch.   At the end Stretch steals the power of the saw and is able to defeat her pursuer Chop Top.  I think Tobe Hooper probably just found it funny that the women in the Sawyer clan, or the acting women, are the most fearsome and dangerous of the lot, but the men still kind of boss them around.  Leatherface is certainly at the mercy of his older brothers.  In the original he gets scolded whenever he leaves the kitchen by Drayton, like an old man grilling his wife about when dinner is going to be done.     

I liked the scene were Stretch falls through the ground down into the abandoned funhouse that the Sawyers have turned into a psychopath’s play pen, with interior decorations that would make Ed Gein swell up with pride.  It reminded me of Alice falling deep down the rabbit hole.  Like Alice, Stretch falls into a fantasy world where the rules of her civilized domain simply don’t apply.  It’s confusing, chaotic, and a perpetual neon lit night in the wonderland the Sawyer’s built, populated with the corpses of the victims they’ve claimed or deterred from their final resting place.  However unlike Alice, Stretch’s trip into this ghastly underworld will most likely cost her, her sanity and then some.