The actress opens up about how it felt to “finally bust out my guns” against Leatherface — and teased her next horror flick, My Best Friend’s Exorcism.
Elsie Fisher is no stranger to horror — after roles in projects including “Castle Rock” and “The Axe Murders of Villisca” — but she’s seriously upped the ante taking on Leatherface in Netflix’s new “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Fisher, 18, stars as Lila in the new flick, a high school shooting survivor who winds up running from a chainsaw-wielding maniac after her sister and their friends attempt to gentrify a Texas ghost town that isn’t as deserted as it appears. Similar to the new “Halloween” movies, this one is a direct sequel to the 1974 original, ignoring all subsequent sequels, prequels and remakes — and also brings back OG survivor Sally Hardesty, this time played by Olwen Fouéré.
Going into filming, Fisher wasn’t exactly a TCM expert.
“So I haven’t really familiarized myself with any of the other ones in the franchise just because I think they kind of hop all over in the timeline and there’s a lot that happens, it’s a lovable mess,” Fisher told TooFab ahead of the movie’s February 18 release. “I watched the original when I was like way too young, I was like 11 or 12 and my dad was like, ‘Hey kid, this looks like a cool movie.’ And it irreparably traumatized me, so it was really beautiful to kind of come full circle and be able to deal with that trauma head on.”
Fisher said it was also “very therapeutic” to enter Scream Queen / Final Girl territory, playing a young woman who bucks the odds while fighting back against the madman terrorizing them.
“I’m usually the total nerd-o loser, so it felt great to finally bust out my guns, figuratively and literally,” she explained. “It’s almost a very beautiful moment … the idea of me getting out there ready to fight. Okay, wow, I’ve had this really long internal journey about my previous trauma and everything that’s happening now, I’ve made peace with myself and I love my sister and I’m gonna fight for her and then it just completely goes wrong. Just tying in the dark comedy elements of the movie. That whole internal journey was very important to me, it was nice to have some peaks.”
That being said, running from crazed killers, filming bloody set pieces and screaming for your life can also be pretty exhausting.
“I love the genre,” said Fisher, “[But] I definitely need to take a really long break from it. I’m so mind and body, it takes a lot out of you.”
“The fake blood is made out of this glycerine stuff, so we had a lot of that. And we had rain machines and when they weren’t running the rain machines, sometimes they put this fake wet in our hair that doesn’t dry out,” she continued. “So it was a lot of crunch and stick, which sounds delicious if it was maybe a Kit Kat or something. Maybe for me being the human Kit Kat, I wasn’t the happiest. A lot of therapeutic showers after though, it was good.”
Mark Burnham takes over the mantle of Leatherface, the imposing cannibal at the center of all the madness. Nearly 50 years after the first movie, the skin-wearing psycho may be eligible for an AARP membership, but he’s still terrifying as ever — even during filming.
“I think it was a little bit shocking because I’d seen the original movie, so I knew what Leatherface looked like, but this is obviously a new incarnation of him, with its little twists,” Fisher said of seeing the character on set for the first time. “I had only seen Mark Burnham, who plays Leatherface in this one, I’d met him on the plane ride over and I think he probably had a lot to deal with internally playing a role like this, so kind of kept to himself.”
“But the first time I saw him on set, I was like, ‘Oooh! It’s a little freaky!’ It really played into my experience,” she added.
And Leatherface really goes on the attack in this one, utilizing a lot more than his most trusted weapon to do serious damage. The kills are brutal and, in one wild set-piece, he starts a bloodbath aboard a bus packed with hipsters hoping to start new lives outside of the big city. According to Fisher, the scene took three days to film and involved a lot of choreography to get just right. But the flying body parts weren’t the only cause for concern.
“Before we even get to the horror stuff, there’s already the kind of Covid scare. We had a very good Covid team who kept everyone safe, I don’t think we had any cases on the set,” Fisher said of the shoot, adding it was more of a psychological roadblock “because I hadn’t been in that close proximity to so many people in so long.”
“But it was really fun. The hardest part for me at least was when I got knocked to the ground and I’m just in that pool of blood, that was a lot,” she continued. “And also, there’s that moment where I’m a little bit reliving my trauma and Lila makes the choice to get up again .. it’s sometimes hard to get in that headspace because everyone is so lovely and they’re like, ‘Are you okay?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m so sorry, I need to be not okay for a moment though.'”
Thanks to its availability on Netflix, the new movie could actually wind up being a franchise entry point for a lot of people — something Fisher thought was “pretty trippy” to think about. She added she’d be “very interested to see how people react to the original if they saw this one first,” effectively turning the OG into a prequel.
And while it remains to be seen whether the franchise will continue at Netflix, Fisher dove straight into another horror flick when TCM wrapped. The actress will next be seen in the film adaptation of Grady Hendrix’s “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” from director Damon Thomas. Fisher will star as Abby, a teen whose BFF Gretchen just may be possessed.
“Filming that was so amazing. We had done some reshoots on this, ‘Texas Chainsaw,’ and then I flew directly from Bulgaria to shoot that, so I was still in the horror mindset,” said Fisher. “It’s a really beautiful movie. I love Damon Thomas the director. He’s done a bunch of stuff for ‘Killing Eve’ and he’s so talented. And Amiah Miller, who plays Gretchen, is so amazing.”
“I think there’s a lot of similarities [between the two films] in that there’s the comedy and horror, but that one is a lot more — I’m hesitant to say coming-of-age because people tend to say that about any movie that has teenagers, ‘Well, it’s a coming-of-age,’ but I don’t know, there’s an exorcism — but it’s very fun and there’s a lot of heart in it,” she added, before joking, “A lot of heart in Texas Chainsaw too … but maybe in different places.”
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” hits Netflix on February 18.