By: Kayla Caldwell
The TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE franchise is back with a new film set to release on Netflix on February 18, 2022. Ahead of that release, director David Garcia, writer and producer Fede Alvarez, and actors Elsie Fisher, Sarah Yarkin, and Nell Hudson joined a Clubhouse discussion of the film. We joined in for the fun, and to pull out the soundbites you do not want to miss. To learn more about the inspiration for this film’s plot, the return of an OG character, and if anyone actually got scared on set, read on below.
This iteration of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE follows idealistic entrepreneurs Melody (Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore) as they travel to the desolate town of Harlow, Texas with their sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) and fianceé Ruth (Nell Hudson), respectively. Their plan is to bring along investors so they can repopulate the ghost town with their own dream community. Turns out, that was actually inspired by a famous restauranteur from Alvarez’s hometown, who went on to build a restaurant in the middle of a ghost town as a sort of testament to how good he was, that people would travel anywhere to get to his establishment.
“That was kind of the eureka moment," Alvarez said, adding, “We’re going to have a group of kids that just want to gentrify a town, with great intentions, with really good intentions, and with values that everyone understands…” He said he wanted the bloodshed to come from something simple and believable, rather than the old trope of kids just running into Leatherface on their way to somewhere else.
As far as the visuals for this iteration, since it is a sequel to the original film, Garcia said he wanted to stick to what people remembered, which is “warm, Texas landscapes, and big, blue skies.” However, that’s just how TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE begins. Then, Garcia said, “we start to squeeze and get tighter and tighter and more claustrophobic as the film goes on, until we’re in the bus, which is where we completely turn the look on its head.”
The bus is full of bright, neon lights, and hipsters in clothes Leatherface would likely not recognize, as he was probably living a life similar to the one he was living in 1974. Then you add in everyone on the bus holding up their cell phones to record Leatherface, and therein lies what Garcia said was the “visual clash that I wanted the movie to build to, to really bring Leatherface into our time.”
Yarkin and Fisher both said they were drawn to their characters Melody and Lila because they were so different from the traditional final girls. Yarkin noted that Melody wasn’t “some hot, tall blonde in a miniskirt, running around, getting naked.” Fisher pointed out that final girls typically have an innocence about them, that is kind of destroyed as the movie goes on. However, “that kind of just wasn’t the case for Lila.”
Garcia asked if anyone in the cast actually got scared during production of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, because he was the director, and even he’d get spooked seeing Leatherface (Mark Burnham) with the mask on… until he’d see the diet Coke in his hand. Yarkin said it wasn’t so much that she was afraid of Leatherface, because she knew it was Burnham playing him. However, what was scary for her was being in a physically and emotionally draining state day after day for three months. She likened it to being in a “fever dream, where you kind of can’t stop crying?”
Hudson jumped in to share her thoughts on being scared on a set like this. “The word instinct has come up a lot, and your bodily reaction. I think that’s… the fear comes from your body rather than your mind, because your mind knows, ‘I’m playing a character. This isn’t real. There’s a camera there.’ But your body is in fear, is in adrenaline…” It’s a good point, because, Fisher also talked about how despite knowing the script, she couldn’t help but find herself jumping at the very real sound of that chainsaw.
Alvarez said that when it comes to films, suspense is his favorite emotion. He said he considers himself grateful when “a movie can put me in that place when I’m on the edge of my seat, and I realize I haven’t been breathing for the last few seconds, and I just cannot wait to see what the outcome of that sequence… Man, that’s such a great feeling.” And he wanted to make sure that feeling was in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE - and that the movie was “not f***ing around.” He wanted the film to be scary, because “those set pieces of suspense… I think they really get you to lean in and achieve what a movie should achieve, which is to make you forget that the world exists, apart from what’s on the screen at that point.”
That’s not to say the film is just about the brutal kills. There’s also a sweet and fragile relationship between sisters Melody and Lila, which Fisher thinks is really important. “For horror to really work, you need people to be invested in the characters. Otherwise, sometimes, you’re, like, rooting for them to die,” she said. And Yarkin found that relationship to be one of the driving forces for her character, Melody.
“Melody, being the older sister, and feeling this responsibility for her younger sister, and having not been there for her in the past, during something super traumatic and horrible, and feeling like this time, she’s gotta make it better… She makes one fatal mistake, and everything spirals from there. And she’s just trying to make it right, and trying to save her sister,” Yarkin said.
Lastly, Alvarez, Garcia, and the cast talked about returning character Sally Hardesty from the 1974 film, this time around played by Olwen Fouéré. They agreed that bringing Sally back helps to “bridge the gap" between the original film and this one in 2022. Garcia also made sure to note that despite comparisons he’s heard to Halloween (2018), TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is not quite what you’re thinking, which he hopes audiences find refreshing.
“The way she [Sally] comes in, and you know, she’s dealing with her own survivor’s guilt, and her own trauma from what happened to her friends and Leatherface in the past. She’s sort of like a parallel character to some of our characters in this new film,” Garcia said. “There’s kind of a literal passing of the torch, if you will, between the old and new characters.”
Find out what he means by that when TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE debuts on Netflix, on February 18.