A few months after our visit to the sweltering set of Texas Chainsaw 3D, ShockTillYouDrop.com was given the opportunity to have a one-on-one chat with director John Luessenhop (Takers). Inside, he talks about tackling his first horror film, the “massacre” he has orchestrated, the various guises of Leatherface and more.
The new film stars Alexandra Daddario, Tania Raymonde, Sue Rock, Scott Eastwood, Bill Moseley, Gunnar Hansen, Trey Songz, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, Shaun Sipos, Thom Barry, Paul Rae and Richard Riehle. Look for it in theaters on January 4, 2013.
Shock Till You Drop: You’ve done four features, but this is your first horror film – how would you sum up the experience?
John Luessenhop: No movie’s a breeze. To me, I was not totally versed in the horror world so it was a great world and a great journey. I actually learned a lot. I watched different tapes of horror directors talking about movies. I watched a lot of films from what you would call the pantheon of horror and embraced it. I listened to a lot of what people have done before, so I was not imitating them, but I also wanted to bring my own fresh take to it and I think that’s how the film ends up, too.
Shock: In your research, what was the most valuable information you took away that you ultimately applied to Texas Chainsaw and are offering fans of the series who are looking for something
Luessenhop: I’m actually happy you phrased it that way. When coming to do Texas Chainsaw, I was a huge fan of the original by Tobe [Hooper]. In stepping into one of these, it’s intimidating because there are there are so many people who know these films inside and out and all of the unique things that go with the movies. When I saw the original, I listed 10 or 15 things I really loved about it. Little things: The freezer, the armadillo and stuff like that. Things that – in my own way – I can sprinkle throughout the script so there was some familiarity, some homage, but I didn’t want to imitate. What I took away from Tobe’s picture was that it was straight in-your-face kind of horror, but it had a lot of poetry. The photography is pretty remarkable. So, I wanted to tell my story like a movie but keep all of the horror and shock parts, the scares that come with the genre, but film it in the way my own sensibilities drive me. The directors in the horror world all have a take on life that feeds its way into their picture. For me, I wanted to tell a real story and keep the fun and the scares, but in the end have a story that meant something.
Shock: That said, there are those who look to these films for escapism and relish the massacre itself…
Shock: They want to see interesting and creative kill scenes, what can you tell us about the murders. Are they all by chainsaw?
Luessenhop: No, in fact, as you’ll see, every kill is different. Not just how it happens, but the lead up. Whether it’s a build up or something you’re not prepared for and I’m actually very proud that the kills are all unique, they’re not repetative and yet, at the same time, we deliver for the fan the things they want to see with the ruggedness with which they do want to see it.
Shock: The teaser poster for this film shows off the various guises of Leatherface. How many do you ultimately wind up using?
Luessenhop: I think there’s as many as four. And possibly one other depending on how you do your counting. But yes, we looked back at the masks and worked with Greg Nicotero [of KNB EFX] on designing the masks. It was a huge part of the whole prep process and trying to make them interesting and new – still scary but still have a reference to those from the original.
Shock: You brought back some of the original cast members, can you talk about working with them and, also, did you get a chance to talk to Tobe Hooper at all during production?
Luessenhop: I’ve never spoken to Tobe. I’ve spoken to Kim Henkel, one of the original writers. With the original actors, each one was an interesting experience. The day we filmed at the farmhouse, a replica of the original film’s farmhouse that Gunnar Hansen had worked in as Leatherface, when he got out of the car after stopping in the driveway, I saw a grown man stop in his tracks. His eyes glossed up and he couldn’t move for a second. He was like, “It’s all coming back…” It was remarkable, just the raw emotion going through him. I think what those guys went through making the movie in the early ’70s, they had no idea. They were just making a film with their buddy, they had no idea it would become this big of deal. As for Marilyn Burns, she was just incredible. She was a real pro and had all of the enthusiasm that made it fun for her to come back into this franchise.
Shock: Finally, makes this franchise still relevant today? What keeps the audience coming back?
Luessenhop: Honestly, I think it’s just the word “chainsaw.”
Shock: That is a hell of a word, isn’t it?
Luessenhop: [laughs] You say “chainsaw” and people immediately think of a tool that’s scary. The series has such a history. You had the first one, to me, which is strictly horror. The others got kitschy and I think people like that, too. This current we have has all of the horror but it has a bit of a wink to it so it’s not taking itself 100% seriously. It’s been a mis-managed franchise in terms of where it was going and it was irregular in terms of when each movie came out. The takes have been a bit different. Our movie has a little be of Tobe’s and a little bit of me on there.