With the film, producer Carl Mazzocone (Repo! The Genetic Opera, The Tortured), is setting the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series on a new path. No other horror franchise has quite done what this one is doing. Since Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 milestone, the series has spawned three sequels, then a remake and then a prequel to the remake.
Now, with Texas Chainsaw 3D, we’re getting a tale that ignores the Platinum Dunes-produced reboot and prequel as well as the sequels that arrived in ’86, ’90 and ’94. Instead, the new film will pick up where Hooper’s tale left off then jump ahead in time for the story of a young woman (Daddario) who gains an inheritance but does not know that Leatherface comes with the deal.
“When I pursued the rights [to this], I wanted to reboot the franchise off of the original,” Mazzocone tells us under the cover a white tent on the set. This area proves to be a weak reprieve from the omnipresent heat and I’m thinking about all of the horror stories I had read about the making of Hooper’s original Chainsaw and how hot things had apparently been while shooting. Meanwhile, Mazzocone continues, “I thought there was an enormous missed opportunity, mainly for continuity. The first one had a greater consistency for horror and they got campier after that. That’s an interesting idea choice, but I wanted to make a classic monster movie in 3D. I took a page out of a lot of masters [of horror] and put a bit of Frankenstein in here, some Jaws, Hitchcock and King Kong. It’s all mixed in. It seemed cleaner for me to just go off of the original.”
“We have a bit of fudge when it comes to time,” he adds. “The opening of our movie is the close of the original. We pick it up three hours after Sally [Hardesty, survivor of the original] escapes. The police come to arrest Leatherface and that’s the opening of our film. The townspeople have come to kill and burn the monster up.”
Using Hooper’s Chainsaw as a diving board has allowed the production to recreate the original Sawyer house room for room. ShockTillYouDrop.com gets a tour of the location in between takes and we’re utterly awestruck by the detail. At risk of making a tacky analogy, it feels like we’ve hopped in a time machine and traveled back to ’74. Mazzocone informs us that production designer William Elliott visited the original house – which has since moved from its location and been turned into a restaurant – and took room measurements so the recreated house felt authentic.
“I’m really proud of [this house] because it was important to me to respect the fans,” says Mazzocone. “To many, [the original is] the quintessential horror film, so I wanted to do this with a level of respect and attention to detail that people will appreciate. We did, what I would call, almost ‘cinematic forensics’ to go back through the film to do screen grabs to be able to hone the set dressing and location of everything.”
Nostalgia for the original isn’t just inherent the wood and nails that built this Sawyer house, it is present in the cast as well. Among the newcomers, you’ll find Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, John Dugan - stars of the ’74 film – and Bill Moseley who played Chop-Top in Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. (Tobe Hooper himself was supposed to do a cameo, but due to scheduling, he could not make it.)
Here, Moseley slipping into the skin of the aforementioned Drayton Sawyer, formerly played by the late Jim Siedow who shared plenty of screen time with Moseley in Part 2. “It’s weird playing Drayton,” Moseley admits. “I liken it to Moe playing Curly in the remake of the Three Stooges. But it’s fun, thanks to the awesome KNB [EFX] dentures that they gave me and this paunch, which is very hot in Louisiana temperatures. You know, I consider it a real honor to be channeling my buddy Jim Siedow and also to protect his legacy.”
“I was trying to do his voice," continues Moseley, “his mouth, he’s got kind of a crooked smile and a lot of times he talks out of the side of his mouth. He seems to lead with his belly, although he’s not a paunchy guy. He leads with his belly and sometimes kind of rocks back on his heels. He’s got a weird center of gravity. He’s not really kind of an athletic guy. So it’s been fun doing some of the mannerisms, trying to get the physical center of him down.”
“When you make a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, one of the more difficult decisions is the fine line you walk between plagiarism and homage,” says Mazzocone. “For this, I wanted to get back to the Tobe Hooper basics. The decision to bring Bill Moseley back was he was a personal friend of mine and he looks like Drayton Sawyer, so that was a no-brainer. John Dugan who played the original grandfather, he was wearing so much make-up in the original, he could easily reprise his role now and Marilyn Burns, I couldn’t picture a better Verna [Carson], she plays the grandmother. And Gunnar came about from me watching all of the DVD bonus features – he had always talked about being so overlooked and was being offered nothing to come back, I felt bad and said if I ever get this, I will give him the respect he deserves.”
Unfortunately, Hansen isn’t allowed to tell us who he plays in the film or what his involvement is, however, we know he’s a Sawyer family member. He’s just not Leatherface – those duties go to newcomer Sam McKinzie (as young Leatherface) and Dan Yeager (when the film jumps forward in time).
“It was the creepiest feeling looking down the road, down the driveway and seeing the house coming up,” Hansen says, recounting for us his first time on the set. “Then Carl, the producer, took me aside and said, ‘I want you to tell me what’s wrong with this set up so we can fix it before we shoot interiors.’ And I found only one thing that I would have changed. There were points where I was going, ‘Geez, I don’t remember. Was there a lamp in that corner?’ But the one that I spotted is…remember in the scene where Leatherface has killed Jerry the van driver and he runs to the window and he’s looking out the window and as he goes by he slaps the chicken cage? That’s the only thing I suggested they move. The chicken cage wasn’t exactly in the right spot – otherwise, it was just dead on.”
On the topic of Leatherface, Hansen says “there are things about the new Leatherface that are really neat. I would never have thought of them. A lot of times when they create a new Leatherface in these movies it’s like they ignored the original.” Then, in a knock against the Platinum Dunes films, Hansen adds, “So, they’ve got a kid with a skin problem and an attitude - that makes him nothing. But they did some details on the new Leatherface that when I read them I thought, ‘Oh, what is this?’ And then I thought about it and thought they were really nice additions to the personality of Leatherface that were consistent with the Leatherface from 1974, which I like.”
Mazzocone likens Leatherface 2013 (sure, we’ll call him that, why not?) to two animals. “He’s a shark. Leatherface is a land shark with his blade, there is no way to defend yourself. We saw him as a pitbull that, once in a while, gets out wreaks his havoc then comes back like a loyal servant. The combination of those two things informed the script.”
The producer praises his man behind the mask, Dan Yeager, telling us he’s been pushing himself hard. “He’s a big strong country boy who has worked his ass off. He has his own interpretation, his walk is a bit different because he feels, at the end of the first movie, he suffered the chainsaw wound in his thigh. So, he has a limp.”
Before we wrap our time on set and continue to explore, we have to know, what made Luessenhop the go-to guy for the director’s chair? After all, he’s never done a horror film before. “I’ve known John for ten years,” answers Mazzocone, “and we worked together on this script and he has a good sense of the tone we were going for. I wanted to work with friends. I thought Takers had some good action to it. And, he’s telling a story here. This is not a slasher film. This is not a movie that does not have a plot. It’s a plot-driven story and that’s going to be the difference between our movie and 90-percent of the movies made recently. We do have some graphic moments in this movie, will it remain? I’d rather over shoot and then figure it out in editing. It’s been shot but what remains is unknown. I will say this, this is not a movie that needs graphic violence to be a compelling story because the plot is so good. This movie holds its own.”
Fans will find out if that is true when Texas Chainsaw 3D arrives in theaters January 4, 2013.