Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Sarah Yarkin Discusses BTS, Deleted Scenes, Leatherface & More (Interview)
Warning: The interview below contains minor spoilers for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022, streaming on Netflix February 18.
In 2022 Chainsaw Massacre, Melody (Sarah Yarkin) learns how bad things can get when you and your friends disrupt Leatherface’s life. Following the events of Tobe Hooper’s iconic 1974 film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the latest entry in the gory franchise shows an aged but no less murderous Leatherface ruling Harlow, Texas. In the words of the 2022 film’s director, David Blue Garcia, “In 50 years the world has changed a lot, but Leatherface hasn’t.” When Melody and her sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) accidentally set off a series of events that harm Leatherface, it doesn’t take long for him to get his old chainsaw spinning.
During an exclusive interview with CBR, Chainsaw Massacre star Sarah Yarkin (Happy Death Day 2U) reveled in the experience of joining one of the most beloved horror movie franchises as a scream queen. Yarkin also delved into the tricky (and very tacky) stunts the film demanded and teased Mark Burnham’s truly terrifying take on Leatherface.
CBR: As the new Scream Queen of this generation, what did you want to bring to that legacy and to the role of Melody?
Sarah Yarkin: Yeah, it was a lot of pressure, of course, on myself, like, “Who do I want to be here? How am I going to pull this off?” What I found really refreshing about this storyline, unlike a lot of horror movies, was that it wasn’t tied to the cliché of that tall, hot blonde in a miniskirt, running around and being overly sexualized. She’s not sexualized at all. There’s nothing about her with a man or even in a romantic relationship at all. The only love is for his sister. So I wanted to incorporate that and just focus on the fact that she was a real person and not focus on these other iconic performances, but rather, “How do I ground this in reality and make a real person whose people care so much that when she runs under any circumstance, you don’t want her to die?”
Melody’s bond with her sister Lila, for me, was the heart of the film. When you were developing that relationship on set, what were the things you wanted to make sure you got across about your bond?
Well, it was a pretty insane shooting schedule under — and you’ve seen the movie, so you know — under a lot of blood, and under all the elements all the time. The last three quarters of the movie, Elsie and I were just covered in blood and water, sweat, poo and everything. There were a lot of long night shoots, and we were freezing, and Elsie and I were there together, keeping us sane but also mad together. That was the central link of this, like, “We’re in this together.” I think she’s the only person who would ever understand these experiences I’ve had now, and the memories I have of those crazy three months.
The practical effects of Chainsaw Massacre are awesome. There’s a ton of gore in this movie, which I know people are going to love seeing. But as an actor, I’m sure the set got very slippery and sticky. Is there a specific memory of working with that set where you’re like, “It’s etched in my brain forever now – for better and for worse.”
Yeah, there’s a lot of choice [laughs]. Hmm, maybe the crudest thing was that there was this whole crawlspace footage where I fall under the house. I’m in this crawl space and they built it into the soundstage. They built this huge contraption and filled it with tons of dirt and dust. I climbed a ladder to get in and was stuck in it all day. So it was like three days. By this point in the movie, I’m soaked, bleeding, sweaty – so it was glycerin – and now I’m crawling through the dirt that’s stuck to me, in my nose, my hair and everything. At the end of this scene, the sewer pipe explodes on me and I’m covered in poop.
We shot this towards the end of filming where I just got fucked. I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” It was already like winter in Bulgaria that day. It was just crazy. Doing this takes a couple of times and getting soaked and it was fake snow that they had dyed brown. I have pictures that the makeup artist took of me in the shower, and I looked like a wet dog crying. [laughs] I can’t look at the pictures because I can still smell the snow.
For Chainsaw Massacrestunts, Dessy Slavova was your stunt double. There are so many close scenes that I imagine it must have been hard to film and trade during the scenes. What was it like building that relationship with Dessy on set?
I did not know her [at first], because I didn’t meet her before the shoot. And then I’m on set one day, and I see someone’s back with my hair. My hair is exactly what my hair always is – short, curly hair. You don’t see people everywhere with that. The way he looked was so surreal. They had three wigs and then one day, like the makeup artists and us, we all put them on and danced around to look like [me], like Sarah. I said to myself: “Are we a little alike?” But then I saw her once without a wig, and I was like, “Oh, we don’t look alike at all.”
On set, watching her and then she was able to help me with some of the stunts that I was able to do and learn from her, I feel so honored. I feel so honored to have been able to work with people who were so talented. And, what a badass! They cut some of that part, but there was that shot when [my character] was on the stairs and I look up and Leatherface is right there, and they got this picture of her falling back, literally from the stairs on her back like 20 feet. She did the stunt and we were all like, “Is she okay?” A few seconds passed and she was fine. I’m like, “How does she do that? These people are amazing!”
What was it like the first time you saw Leatherface on set? What thought went through your head?
I can’t remember the first time I saw the mask. I had been around him during rehearsals and all that and during test shoots. I was like, “Oh, cool.” So I wouldn’t say I was afraid of the mask. But there was one day, it was towards the end of filming, and I won’t say which scene. But Elsie and I were rehearsing the scene, and I didn’t yet know that Mark Burnham had been called on set. I turn around and he was just standing there, and I screamed. I was horrified. It was terrifying. And so I thought, “Oh my God, that’s how this character feels every day.”
People love Leatherface – which is still so funny to me – and see him as this big teddy bear. Why do you think that is and why does his legacy live on?
The original film is so iconic. It’s so psychologically insane and fucked up. It really sticks with you, and it’s so disturbing. I think Leatherface, in there, there’s something really – obviously, he’s a serial killer – but there’s something in the curiosity about it, like “What’s going on with Him? Is he okay? Especially in this movie, he does everything he does because he loves his mom. You feel a little bad for this huge, hulking serial killer. Yeah, the scene where he puts on makeup because he loves his mom and misses her. He wears her face because he misses her? That doesn’t make it good, but there’s a deep sadness there and you feel a little bad.
What would you like people to ask you – whether it’s about this movie or anywhere else in your life – that you’d like to share?
Oh wow! I’ve never been asked that… Everyone asks me: “What are my favorite horror movies?” I don’t like horror movies because I’m scared of everything. I love hiking. I like to be in nature. So I think that’s why I don’t like these horror movies because if I’m alone in nature I don’t want to be scared. So I’m a big outdoor enthusiast. I’m super involved in a coalition against plastic pollution to reduce single-use plastic, and on sets too. We are trying to work with SAG and reduce the use of plastic on set. So it’s also a big part of my life that doesn’t play.
Look at how bad of an idea it is to get on Leatherface’s bad side in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre of 2022, streaming February 18 on Netflix.
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