(AMC+/hoopla/Prime/VOD) TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 has a similar reputation to its original as HALLOWEEN 3 has to the first two HALLOWEENs: fans felt betrayed. Both films toy with their hallmark villains (in the case of HALLOWEEN 3, Michael is nowhere to be found), neither film tries to repeat their prior efforts, and both look and feel drastically different from what fans expected. While HALLOWEEN 3 has finally been embraced by horror fans, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (TCM2) is still mostly ignored, which I believe is rather unfair.

TCM2 is unmistakably glossier and poppier — just take a listen to the soundtrack. And yes, it’s far broader than the original. In other words, far closer to the tone of similar 80s horror films, but there’s a reason for that.

Hooper and co-writer L.M. Kit Carson (co-writer of PARIS, TEXAS) are using TCM2 to actively undermine what Hooper created with TCM1, by putting a slapstick, circus-like veneer on the entire film. Texas, as a state, is reduced to a brightly colored carnival (Texas Battle Land, chock full of crass Alamo murals and poorly rendered re-enactments), the Sawyer family become a twisted Three Stooges, and Dennis Hopper is reduced to an short-sighted, idiotic buffoon, often over-compensating for his own weaknesses by taking up not one, but two chainsaws.

Is it puerile? Oh, most definitely — there’s even a scene where Leatherface (who quickly falls for our radio DJ heroine) ejaculates in his pants, then quickly becomes frustrated and tears up the radio station upon discovering this new sensation. New Sawyer family member Chop Top has a disgusting habit of picking the skin from around his skull wound with the hook of a clothes hanger and eating it.

Is it satire? I’m hard-pressed to say, but Hooper’s definitely undermining his original creation and having a lot of fun doing so. If they had replaced Leatherface and recast the Sawyer family and hadn’t sold it as a TCM sequel, I’m sure this film would be better regarded today. However, it’s questionable whether the film would have the same bite that Hooper intended if it weren’t billed as a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, if it hadn’t pulled the rug out from fans’ feet.