The Texas Chainsaw Scene That Changed Elsie Fisher Forever

It's all too clear we're in the grip of a reboot/sequel ("requel," if you will) craze, with the latest edition to the canon being "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," the Netflix release directed by David Blue Garcia. Though the 2022 foray into the notorious killer Leatherface's bloodlust is far from the first installment in an arguably already bloated franchise, it is certainly not without appeal. In eschewing the convoluted storylines of previous installments and getting back to basics by being in direct conversation with the 1974 original from the late, great Tobe Hooper, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" focuses on incorporating contemporary struggles of gentrification and towns all but abandoned by broader governmental infrastructure. While the film isn't without its (extremely pronounced) shortcomings, the marker of any horror film worth its salt is its ability to scare even the actors who are well-aware of the guise they are operating within. 

For actor Elsie Fisher, the discordant buzz of a whirring chainsaw never felt entirely safe — a scarring facet of production she shared in a recent interview.

A little bit of Texas Chainsaw background

The ghost town of Harlow, Texas seems to be the perfect place for young entrepreneurs to set up shop. The deserted storefronts and abandoned abodes beg to be transformed into trendy hot spots, such as swanky farm-to-table restaurants and white-walled art galleries. Spearheading this project are Melody (Sarah Yarkin) and Dante (Jacob Latimore), hailing from San Francisco and dragging along their respective younger sister (Elsie Fisher) and girlfriend (Nell Hudson). Unbeknownst to the group, Harlow has a pretty infamous ghoul among its ranks: Leatherface, the chainsaw-wielding product of murderous inbreeding, silently resides in this dusty old town. Clearly, Leatherface is both appalled and excited by the prospect of millennial newcomers moving onto his turf — more bodies mean more bloodshed.

However, the film's insistence on incorporating real-world issues — ranging from gentrification to gun control — is hardly given any sort of honest platform, instead serving as shoddy framework for propping up the horror against any semblance of social critique (writer BJ Colangelo really digs into this messiness). Luckily, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" somewhat delivers in the time-honored tradition of slathering a horror film in guts and gore, and as such it also produced some pretty gnarly chase and kill sequences. In one such scene, Lila (Fisher) becomes Leatherface's target — and the actual shooting of this pursuit engaged the actor's real-life fight-or-flight response.

Just imagine being chased by Leatherface

In a recent interview with Looper, Fisher stated that her character's fateful encounter with Leatherface was particularly spine-chilling for her to film, with much of her terror having to do with the nature of the chainsaw props on set:

"When I'm running away from [Leatherface], the chainsaw that they had on set [may have been] a real chainsaw, or at least had very realistic sounding noises. We had four different chainsaws, I think. There was a plastic one, one with just chains, one with just sounds, and then a real one. That was pretty terrifying."

The terrifying game of musical chainsaws notwithstanding, it's also worth noting that the actor who plays Leatherface, Mark Burnham, was specifically cast due to his large stature and build. In comparison, the five-foot-two, 18-year-old actress would have a lot to be intimidated by, even if the scenario is completely contrived and on-set safety coordinators are abound. This was perfectly clear to Fisher, who never felt unsafe during production, but this didn't mean that the very real call of the chainsaw didn't raise the hairs on the back of her neck.

"Everyone knew exactly what they were doing, thankfully. No one got hurt, and I never felt like I was going to get hurt, but that's instincts kick in. You're like, 'Oh crap. That's a chainsaw.' It was a lot fun."

Personally, any man chasing me with a chainsaw — real or not — is going to take over for my regularly scheduled sleep paralysis demon for the foreseeable future. Particularly with a film that up-stages the original in terms of violent bleakness during its final moments — though let's face it, no one will ever top OG final girl Sally's (Marilyn Burns) manic laughing-sob as Leatherface performs interpretive dance to the sound of his chainsaw — it's no wonder Fisher felt very real fear while filming. Unfortunately, it appears that the film's scariest moments may have happened behind the scenes as opposed to being fully realized on the screen. But hey, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is fully worth it, if only for the murky subplot involving Lila's brush with school shooting gunfire and a subsequent fascination with guns. If this country's abhorrent approach to culling gun violence won't lead to your premature death, it turns out that a now-geriatric serial killer just might do the trick!