During its theatrical release, the film grossed $8 million against its $4.7 million budget and became popular on home video. The sequel received a mixed reception from critics and audiences alike; both positives and negatives referred to its emphasis on black comedy and gore, and departing from the first film's utilized minimal gore, low-budget vérité style and atmosphere to build tension and fear. Director Tobe Hooper decided to focus on its black comedy as he believed this was present in the first film, but was unacknowledged by viewers because of its gritty content. Despite the mixed reception, the film eventually gained a cult following.
In 1986, thirteen years after the events of the first film, two high school seniors, Buzz and Rick, race along a desolate stretch of Texas highway, en route to the OU-Texas football game at the Dallas Cotton Bowl. Heavily intoxicated, they use their car phone to call and harass on-air radio DJ Vanita "Stretch" Brock (Caroline Williams). Unable to convince them to hang up, Stretch is forced to keep the line open. While passing a pickup truck, Buzz and Rick are attacked by Leatherface (Bill Johnson), who had emerged from the back of the truck. Leatherface rips up the roof using his chainsaw. After a short struggle, Rick tries shooting Leatherface with his revolver but Leatherface fatally slices off part of the driving Buzz's head, and the car ends up crashing and killing Rick.
The following morning, Lieutenant Baude "Lefty" Enright (Dennis Hopper), former Texas Ranger, and uncle of Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother Franklin, who were victims of Leatherface and his family years earlier, arrives at the scene of the crime to help solve Buzz and Rick's murders. Lefty has spent the last thirteen years investigating his nephew's disappearance while investigating reports of mysterious chainsaw killings across Texas. He is contacted by Stretch, who brings him a copy of the audio tape that recorded the attack. Lefty asks Stretch to play the tape on her nightly radio show so the public, which had previously mocked his case, will have to listen to him.
Leatherface's family arrive at the radio station, prompted by the nightly radio broadcast of the tape. While preparing to leave for the night, Stretch is attacked by Leatherface, while her coworker L.G. (Lou Perryman) is brutally beaten by Chop Top (Bill Moseley). Leatherface corners Stretch and is about to kill her, but she charms him into sparing her. Leatherface returns to Chop Top and leads him to believe that he has killed Stretch. They then take L.G. to their home, followed by Stretch, who is trapped inside the Sawyer home, an abandoned carnival ground decorated with human bones, multi-colored lights, and carnival remnants.
Lefty who has been following their car all along, arrives equipped with chainsaws and trashes the home before he finds Franklin's remains. Meanwhile, Stretch is found by Leatherface, who puts L.G.'s skinned face and hat on her before tying her arms and leaving. Later, L.G. wakes up and frees her before dying. Drayton (Jim Siedow) finds Stretch roaming the grounds and the family capture her. Chop Top scolds Leatherface when he finds out that Stretch is still alive. Lefty eventually finds her being tortured at the dinner table and saves her. A battle between Lefty and the Sawyer family ensues. In the end, Lefty and most of the Sawyer family are killed when a grenade recovered from the hitchhiker's preserved corpse goes off prematurely.
Only Chop Top and Stretch survive the explosion. They escape outside and battle at a rock tower. Despite her injuries, Stretch grabs a chainsaw held by the mummified remains of the family's grandmother in a ritual shrine in the rock tower, gets the upper hand on Chop Top, and attacks him with the chainsaw, causing him to fall off the tower to a presumed death. The final shot shows Stretch shouting and swinging the chainsaw similar to Leatherface in the first film.
Originally, Tobe Hooper was just going to produce the film but he could not find a director the film's budget would afford. According to the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, the production company Cannon Films were expecting a horror film while Tobe Hooper wanted to make a black comedy. When Cannon viewed the film they were unhappy with the final product.
Several scenes were deleted by director Tobe Hooper due to pacing issues as mentioned on the 2000 "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth" documentary. One lengthy scene that was cut from the film involves the Sawyer Clan heading out at night to collect prime meat for their chili by slaughtering movie patrons and a group of rowdy, rioting fans. The deleted slaughtering scene featured several elaborate Tom Savini special effects. Another deleted scene also includes the American film critic Joe Bob Briggs. An alternative plot line involving Lefty Enright as Stretch's father was also scrapped. However, these scenes are present on the 2007 Gruesome Edition DVD special features section.There was however, one scene that was completely missing from any DVD release, where Buzz and Rick fool around more in the car.
The film was released theatrically in the United States by Cannon Films in August 1986. It grossed $8,725,872 at the box office.
After it was submitted to the MPAA in the United States, the film received an "X" rating, prompting the filmmakers to release it as unrated. However, TV previews, theatrical trailers and even posters for the film displayed the written statement: "Due to the nature of this film, no-one under 17 will be admitted".
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 currently holds a 44% approval rating on film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 24 reviews. Roger Ebert wrote, "Part 2 has a lot of blood and disembowelment, to be sure, but it doesn't have the terror of the original, the desire to be taken seriously. It's a geek show." AllMovie's review was favorable, writing, "much-hated at the time of its release, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has aged remarkably well, now playing as a strangely effective if none-too-subtle satire of several facets of '80s excess."
It has since become a cult film.
The film was released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment the same year. When initially released on home video and LaserDisc, it still had no rating. When reissued on home video and on DVD in 2000, it was given an "R" rating by the MPAA.
In a similar way to its predecessor, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 has had a checkered past in regard to its relationship with censors in various countries. As a result, the film was banned in Germany and Singapore, however the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft in Germany has given it an 18 rating for the uncut version as of 2017, and Singapore giving it an R21 (Resticted to under 21) rating after an appeal. When the film was submitted in the United Kingdom to the BBFC for a certificate, the BBFC notified Cannon, the distributor, that at least 20 to 25 minutes of footage would have to be trimmed in order for the film to be given an 18 rating. Cannon then aborted its plans for a possible UK release in 1990. The uncut version of the film was eventually given an 18 rating in 2001.
The film was banned in Australia for 20 years. An uncut version was released on VHS by Warner Bros. Home Video in New Zealand in 1987, but could also be found (illegally, as the box proudly stated) in some Australian video stores at the time. The New Zealand VHS cassette has become very rare. In 2000, an unofficial VHS release was issued to retailers throughout Australia. This was done so illegally by a duplicating house, and without the knowledge of the OFLC. When news of the illegal copies leaked, a number of retailers were raided for possessing infringing copies. The duplicating house was similarly raided by Federal Customs. The film was finally passed for official release in Australia on 30 November 2006. The Uncut "Gruesome Edition" DVD was released on 24 January the next year.
The theatrical release poster for the film also resembled the poster for the film The Breakfast Club.
- The Lords of the New Church: "Good to Be Bad" – 4:42
- The Cramps: "Goo Goo Muck" – 3:02
- Concrete Blonde: "Haunted Head" – 2:48
- Timbuk3: "Life Is Hard" – 4:06
- Torch Song: "White Night" – 3:42
- Stewart Copeland: "Strange Things Happen" – 2:58
- Concrete Blonde: "Over Your Shoulder" – 3:20
- Timbuk3: "Shame on You" – 4:48
- The Lords of the New Church: "Mind Warp" – 3:42
- Oingo Boingo: "No One Lives Forever" – 4:08
"Crazy Crazy Mama" by Roky Erickson was used in the film but not included on the soundtrack album.
On 1 August 2000, the film was released in a bare bones region 1 DVD by MGM. However, on 10 October 2006, the film received a second DVD treatment from MGM, entitled "The Gruesome Edition", which featured an audio commentary by director Tobe Hooper and David Gregory, director of Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth, as well as an audio commentary by actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and special effects makeup creator Tom Savini. The special features also included deleted scenes, a feature-length documentary entitled It Runs in the Family, six still galleries and a trailer. A Blu-ray edition of the film was released on September 11, 2012 which featured all of the special features from the "Gruesome Edition" DVD.
A special edition has been released on video. This edition adds some footage originally shot for the movie but not included in the theatrical version. This rough footage has dialogue but no music or sound effects and the video quality is atrocious.
The new scenes include: Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper) strapping two chainsaws to himself with leather belts just outside the Sawyer family's hideout. He then sees the family's truck arriving and entering the underground cave.
A group of rioting football fans smash some cars in an underground parking lot. The chainsaw family arrives and proceeds to make mincemeat of all of them. Highlights include Leatherface slicing a guy's head in half and cutting off the hand of another (the severed hand then falls to the ground and gives Leatherface the finger!)
A guy (Joe Bob Briggs) descending a staircase to the garage together with two women and talking about splatter movie special effects. After he opens a door, Leatherface barges in and slaughters him (off-screen).
An alternative take of the scene where Stretch is hiding in the meat room and Leatherface comes in to butcher L.G. and remove his face.
Scream Factory released its Collectors Edition on Blu-Ray on April 12, 2016.