All right, horror fiends! Today’s suggestion for a double feature will feature two of the best sequels in horror movie history. You may ask why not recommend the first movies in these series. Well, you almost certainly will either have seen them or already have plans to see those movies already; they are classics. But I will champion the opinion that these two sequels are better than the original films. I’m talking about Evil Dead 2, directed by Sam Raimi, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, directed by Tobe Hooper.
These two films are great because it’s the same directors returning to ideas they created and perfecting them to such an extent they excel past the original film. Both Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are landmarks of cinema and horror.
Evil Dead is such a raw-looking film with so much force and talent on screen and one of the most memorable scenes involving an assault by nature on a person anyone is ever going to remember. The concept was original, with a cabin in the woods setting and a small group of friends under attack from demons. The rushing camera with ominous sound is groundbreaking in and of itself. But when Raimi decided to make Evil Dead 2, he rebooted the original film with more tension, a lone hero to root for, and some of the best comedic horror moments ever committed to film.
From the start of Evil Dead 2, Raimi establishes mythology with a quick explanation of what had transpired before it started. It then cuts to Ash and his girlfriend, Linda arriving at the cabin that is the setting for the rest of the film. By eliminating the other two characters from the original movie, Raimi amps up the tension sooner when Ash has left alone with evil forces stalking him. Once Linda returns as one of the evil dead, the flick takes a comedic turn with both the dead dance sequence and the laughing cabin scene. There is a madness here that is so understandable that you can’t help but think you would react the same in these scenarios. Once the other characters arrive, you get more of the comedy and some great gore. The effects are pretty primitive by today’s standards, but like watching a horror classic filmed on a sound stage, it’s part of the film’s charm.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre has its force in the fact it’s shot and marketed as a true story. The stark realism and sheer intensity on-screen make one feel like watching a docudrama and not a fictional story. Its power is such that many claim to have seen a lot more gore on-screen than the film ever actually shows. And that intensity is intentional. The famous dinner scene was shot over 27 hours in 110-degree heat with stage lights that made the food on the table spoil. The food began to smell, and under these conditions, the actors started to feel their sanity slipping. The film was made during a pretty turbulent time in America, which may explain a lot of that tone.
And then Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 comes along and changes the sadistic madmen into zany killers and wins us over with humor and enough gore to satisfy anyone. Even the poster art was a comedic send-up of the iconic film poster for The Breakfast Club. The opening scene of the two yuppie scumbags who are harassing Slim over the phone, who then get pursued by Leatherface and his brother, who attack them from a truck with a chainsaw, is more hilarious and satisfying than terrifying. Maybe we should feel for them, but they are a pretty strong representation of 80s bro culture, and when a sadistic weirdo with a chainsaw murders them, it’s too much fun to hate. And Bill Moseley as Chop-Top just takes killer weirdo to a new level. Whoever came up with the idea that he picks at the ever-expanding wound on his head above the metal plate with a metal coat hanger and then eat the pick off was a move of comic horror genius. It’s so bizarre and funny and grotesque all at the same time. Dennis Hopper and Jim Siedow are also both over the top in the most entertaining ways.
I think one of the reasons I like these sequels so much more than the original films is how much fun they are to watch. They make for excellent group watches, and it’s an even better experience for anyone who has never seen the films. You can expect a few WTFs, but they will more than likely cause you to laugh harder at what’s happening on screen. I may have a bias towards humor and absurdity, but it’s also hard to fight that these are just fun movies to watch. Evil Dead 2 is streaming on Hulu, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is on Amazon Prime, and both are available for purchase and rent on the usual services.