How Netflix's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Rewrites the Classic Slasher Film

Netflix's latest horror release takes a chainsaw to the classic slasher film and comes out the other side with a nightmarish story that, while terrifying, sparks an important conversation.

Set in the tumbleweed town of Harlow, TX, the newest edition to the Leatherface franchise, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," takes a page from the original script, showing a standard horror story through the eyes of a newer generation. The story follows Melody (Sarah Yarkin); her sister, Lila (Elsie Fisher); Melody's business partner, Dante (Jacob Latimore); and Dante's girlfriend, Ruth (Nell Hudson), as they step into the tiny town in pursuit of a new business venture. When they inadvertently uproot Leatherface from his home and drive away his only living family member, the chainsaw rips, and no one's limbs are safe from what happens next. Furious Leatherface goes on a rampage through town, summoning Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré), the original film's sole survivor, who's hell-bent on getting revenge for her friends' deaths almost 50 years earlier.

Packed with gory chase scenes and blood-curdling screams, the trailer alone is enough to make us backflip over our sofas, remote in hand, and never return. Chainsaw-wielding serial killer in our living rooms? No, thank you. Still, for horror-lovers, the film — which is directed by "Tejano's" David Blue Garcia — is rife with jump scares and surprising twists that raise the little hairs on the back of our necks in a way that's strangely satisfying.

"Texas Chainsaw Massacre" premieres on Netflix on Feb. 18. Read on to hear from Fisher and Yarkin about what it was like to take Leatherface on, how the film subverts horror movie stereotypes through its portrayal of strong women characters, and how the onscreen sisters felt about that majorly unexpected character death.


POPSUGAR: What are some of your favorite horror films?

Sarah Yarkin: I'm not a big horror-movie person. I'm scared of basically everything, including the dark. So I hadn't seen this movie until I got the role and watched it, but as far as horror movies go — and I think these count — I love "Get Out." I think that's just an iconic, incredibly smart movie. And I also love "Us."

Elsie Fisher: I really love John Carpenter's "The Thing." That's really fun because it mixes man versus nature and psychological horror. I really like a lot of newer stuff that's coming out like "Hereditary" — obviously amazing. I loved "Us," but I also love like "Gravity," which isn't technically classified as a horror, but I find it horrifying.

PS: What attracted you to your respective roles?

SY: What I really liked, once I had talked to the directors and I read the script, was that they were like, "We don't want this to be the classic hot, tall blonde in a mini skirt, running and being naked and screaming in the woods. That's not what we're making. We want this to be a person with career ambitions and love for her sister." And I think that really came through, and I love that it didn't just feel like an overly sexualized woman who's helpless. I feel like Melody has these moments where she's kind of a badass and that the real love in this movie isn't for a guy or sex or anything — it's for her sister.

EF: Connecting survivors of trauma to horror was really important to me because a lot of people in real life who are survivors of trauma find themselves drawn to these darker genres. I really wanted to tackle [Lila's storyline] with as much nuance as possible . . . I felt like I had a lot of freedom to really be able to play someone who has this trauma, but then also is not defined by it and can still be a little assh*le teenager to her sister.


PS: What's your favorite line from your character in the film?

EF: I think my favorite line is right in the beginning when I'm giving Melody the wine opener with the corkscrew chainsaw. I say to her, "Oh, here it is to open all the Champagne you're going to pop later." And it's funny because you so don't open Champagne with a corkscrew.

SY: I actually know this because it wasn't written this way in the script. I was like, "Can I say this instead?" . . . When we're at the gas station and Richter drives in, we have our first confrontation, and my back is to him. The line was supposed to be something like, "Who needs to carry around a gun or whatever in public." And I improvised, 'cause I thought it was funnier, and I said, "Who has such a small d*ck they need to walk around in public with a gun?" And they used it! So that was my little Easter egg for myself.

PS: Did you have a playlist you listened to on set?

SY: I always make playlists based on what I'm working on at the time . . . I love Julia Jacklin. I think she's like one of the best singers of all time. She has this beautiful Australian voice. I would listen to her songs before more emotional scenes because I think they're just heartbreaking. But I remember we were outside at a restaurant one night and they played "Texas Sun" [by Leon Bridges and Khruangbin]. And I remember I was like, "Guys, you guys!" because we were in Bulgaria and heard that. That was so exciting. Anytime I hear that song, I'm like, "Guys! Remember?"

PS: How did you feel when you read about that major character death?

SY: It's funny, because I remember when I had auditioned and I talked to the directors at the time, and they were like, "You're going to be a final girl." I was like, "Whoa, I'm going to live?" I don't know if they did that to throw me off, so when I read it, I just didn't think I was going to die . . . You're reading it and you're like, "Oh, I live." And then suddenly it's literally the last maybe three lines. And I was like, "Wait, what?" And I kept rereading it over and over. Honestly, that's my favorite part of the whole movie. It's shocking.

EF: I wish I could share how it was written in the script because the script is like wrapping up and you get to page 109 of 110 and you're like, "OK, so it's done. It's cool. Awesome. That was a lot, but it's done." And then, I think on page 110, it's just like, "He pulls her out of the car and rips off her head and then holds it and does a dance. The end. Smiley face." It was a little much, but it had to happen. It's the staple of the series.


PS: Lila and Melody are sisters in the film. Did you two bond a lot behind the scenes to form that sibling relationship?

SY: [It was like] a fan fever dream nightmare that we were kind of all stuck in, especially Elsie and I just day after day being like, "OK, time to get covered in crap and cry all day together." There were a series of night shoots where we're running under the rain machine and it was 3 a.m. It was almost Bulgarian winter at that point, and we're freezing and under the rain machine, just crying and running together. We just kept doing this bit over and over to keep each other laughing because I think we were both losing our minds. There's no way it was funny, whatever we were saying, but we were hysterical, just keeping each other afloat.

EF: A lot of the movie eventually was just the two of us on set after everyone else had kind of wrapped their stuff up and left us . . . We were doing night shoots and there were rain machines and we were covered in fake blood and fake crap — and maybe a little real blood and real crap. So, [we kept] each other sane.

PS: Was it exhausting to film those attack scenes?

SY: I did start working out with someone 'cause I was like, "I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this. I need to be doing crawls on the ground." And the reality is, I don't know if that helped at all. I don't think you can really prepare for it until you're in it.

EF: We were able to [film] in the order it happens, which was really helpful as an actor to not have already fully faced the trauma that you're trying to lead up into. We had some really excellent stunt coordinators who helped me with a lot of the big stuff and just a very communicative team.

PS: If there's another film, what do you think is going to happen next?

EF: My hope is, after all this stuff, [Lila] gets into group therapy and starts working on her mental health and does really good, supportive things for the community and reconnects with her parents or whatever. Then you're like, "Oh my god, this is so groundbreaking and beautiful." Then like 60 minutes in, Leatherface just busts through the door. I think that'd be ideal.

SY: With this franchise, there will always be a world for Leatherface to exist in some iteration. It would be cool to see what they do with Lila and Leatherface. I'm sure they can think of a million iterations of what he can do next.