With the latest installment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre premiering at FrightFest last year, we got the chance to sit down for a quick chat with the directors of the new prequel Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury to discuss their entry into the storied horror franchise. Read our Leatherface directors interview below.
Leatherface directors interview: Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
First off let me say congratulations on the film! It must feel quite special to have been able to premiere ‘Leatherface’ at a festival like FrightFest; what is it about this festival that you think makes it so special for filmmakers and fans alike?
Julien Maury: Honestly, it is the first time we have come to FrightFest. We were just talking with Alan Jones (co-curator of FrightFest) just a second ago. He has screened all of our movies, but we have never come here.
Alexandre Bustillo: (jokingly) Never invited!
Maury: (Laughing) Yeah, well it is quite an important moment for us now to be able to accompany the film here.
Coming from your French cinema background, have you had a close relationship with The Texas Chainsaw franchise over the years?
Bustillo: I think like any horror fan on the planet we love Tobe Hooper’s original movie. Personally, I saw it for the first time when I must’ve been 10 or 11, much too young. To watch! I watched it on VHS and for me, it was a real shock. It’s not like Friday the 13th or any other slasher movie. We grew up with all the movies of the saga. We don’t like all of them of course, but it is an essential saga of not just horror movies but movies in general.
Maury: With these particular movies, you can talk about them with anyone. People who haven’t seen the movie are familiar with the title. It gives chills to anyone. When you ask two people who have seen the original movie but a very long time ago, they all say it’s unbearable, it’s bloody it’s very gory. But when you actually watch it it’s not really that gory. Everything is off-screen, working on the audience’s imagination. This is what is really brilliant about the movie; to give the impression that you have really seen a nightmare when it’s just you and what you conjure in your mind. This is something universal. You mentioned our French background. While geographically it may seem very far away from this pure American myth, we are just talking about horror and it is a universal language.
Were you guys approached to take on ‘Leatherface’, or is it something you very much pursued?
Bustillo: No, we just received the script one day and our agent asked if we interested. Of course, we were interested, with such a title! So we read it, we liked it. The first quality we really got on-board with was how different it was trying to be from the other sequels. I don’t like Texas Chainsaw 3-D but a lot of the saga is good. I like Marcus Nispel’s remake, I like Jonathan Liebesman’s movie (The Beginning). But it is the same structure; a bunch of kids gets lost in the Sawyer’s territory and you know what happens from there. With our movie, it’s a bit different. It is more of a road movie with kids who are coming of age, at that juncture between childhood and adulthood. That is a big reason why we accepted to do the movie. When we accepted we then found out we were in contention with another do to do the movie. So we had to have a pitch with the producer, and we must’ve nailed it.
As you have said, there have been many approaches to the Chainsaw franchise even over the last 10 years. What else was it that made you really think that this is a version worth telling and we want to be the ones to do it?
Maury: As Alex said the first real hook was the different structure. Alex and I are very much in love with bad guys and monsters. When we watch Friday the 13th, we are with Jason, we don’t care about the stupid teenagers getting laid in the cabin, we don’t care about that! We are also big fans of Rob Zombie’s movies, particularly The Devil’s Rejects. What he did there is something really difficult. We are following real psychopaths, real nasty peoples, and it is very hardtop get the audience aligned with them and to get involved in that story. They are killers, they are rapists, the worst scumbags you can find. Yet, at the end, you don’t want them to die. This is something that was very interesting to us, to see if we could get the audience to have empathy for individuals who do terrible things. And focusing on them as teenagers is interesting, as Alex said, it is an important time in anyone’s life. We love stories in which we see people become adults, facing problems in which force them to grow up. We have that, but in an extreme form. All our characters are changing in very different ways.
Throughout the film there are nods, particularly in terms of style, to Hooper’s original and the franchise as a whole. How did you guys tackle that approach, to want to stay true to the roots of the franchise yet make it your own?
Bustillo: During the prep, we very quickly made clear to the producers that we wanted to make something that could almost be read as a film by Sofia Coppola (laughs). They were surprised, but we love the mood of films like The Virgin Suicides. It is very much not a horror movie, but it was very much our first influence, as well as Terrence Malick’s Badlands. This kind of contemplative American cinema is what we liked and we wanted to try and blend our French sensibilities into this pure American project, at the same time respect audience expectations of the saga. I don’t know if we succeeded, we can’t say that, but that was the idea, to bring some poetry, some smooth and beautiful lighting into this saga through our movie.
Something else which captures people’s imaginations when it comes to this particular franchise are the horror stories from the hellish production of the original Chainsaw. Do you have any horror stories from your own set, or was it pretty plain sailing?
Maury: (laughs) No, shooting movies today is not the same as shooting movies in the seventies. We have been very kind with our actors and actresses!
Bustillo: No real meat on set! We asked! The producers very much said no, but you have to ask!
Maury: (laughs) No funny things or anything happened on our set. Alex and I very much grew up on horror cinema from the seventies and eighties so we love practical effects. This is something that does make a difference, when you really splatter actors with ke blood. It is not torturing them but it is a good way to get them in the right mood, so a softened version of the approach from the original!
Leatherface is available to own on DVD from Monday 8th January 2018.