There is a special light switch in the 1974s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which probably no one noticed. It’s only in about four frames, and even though millions of people have seen that horror classic, the likelihood of anyone actually recognizing the switch in question is slim to none. But while combing footage and doing research for Gun Interactive and Sumo Digital’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Senior Producer Ismael Vicens noted. And now, even though it’s such a ridiculously small piece of kit, it’s in the game.
“We go frame by frame [through the movie]said Vicens. “Just a couple of weeks ago, I was going frame by frame through the movie again, and I saw a light switch that you only see in about four frames in the movie. So I sent a message over to our artists and said, ‘Hey, here is a screenshot. You can only see it in four frames of the movie, but that means it’s in the movie. We have to add this light switch.'”
Gun has spent years putting this downright obsessive amount of care into this upcoming asymmetric multiplayer horror game based on the iconic film series. It’s a path the studio has traveled before with its last title, Friday the 13th: The Game, where it is not a tedious process of watching and re-watching the films of the related series to absorb every detail, but a process that the team takes pride in because it makes the game more faithful to the source. When asked if one detail stuck out, Vicens couldn’t pick one; they all have meaning.
“For us, every detail is like [the light switch] cases,” Vicens said. “We pride ourselves on the fact that every detail matters to us.”
Some of the smaller details like the aforementioned switch came from analyzing every square inch of the film, but many others came into play because of the trips Gun took to Texas. Certain studio members visited the Lone Star State seven or eight times over the years, taking thousands of photos in hundreds of towns while traveling far outside the areas covered by the film to create a thorough catalog of reference material. And this of course includes the original house the movie was shot in, but while valuable in its own way, the house is a little different now. Sawyer’s abode has been transformed into an innocent cafe that looks like a place patrons can grab a cup of coffee and not a burger made by drifters and roadkill.
However, Gun was still able to travel back in time. By tracking down the designer and the catalog the house was sourced from, the developer was able to more accurately mimic the materials without having to guess or guesswork. This allowed the studio to step beyond the film and look at the floor plan of the old 1900s Victorian house to get a deeper sense of the building and what it was made of.
But it wasn’t just the type of wood used to construct the site; it was also about the spirit of the house and surrounding atmosphere. This means that the birds chirping in the game are actually birds that would be in that area of Texas at that time of year. Patches of seasonal red Indian paintbrush flowers (seen in the photo above) and bluebonnets — which are also the Texas state flower — that only bloom for a few weeks litter the ground as they would in real life.
Even the sky in the game is drawn from reality. Creative director Ronnie Hobbs recalled seeing a remarkably beautiful sunset one day and taking a photo of it, which he said was one of his favorite photos from his many trips out there. That sunset is now in the game, and while many may have trouble seeing that skybox as specifically Texan, it’s all part of making The Texas Chainsaw Massacre “feel like it was made in Texas” from the dirt (which they also photographed) to the sky.
“I remember that sunset and now it’s in the game and I can tell you, we sat there looking at it in awe and now it’s in the game,” Hobbs said. “So those things are very important to us. When you look up, we want you to feel like you’re in Texas. When you look down, when you hide in the grass, the trees, all those things in a wider scale is very important to us. And of course that goes for the little, tiny details that Ish mentioned, light switches, wood grain, and the rust that you see, that’s actually rust that Ish took a picture of from an old car.”
Getting all these images in the middle of nowhere wasn’t always a smooth process. As is customary running around the boondocks, the studio ran into more than its share of angry wildlife. Vicens recalled how he was the “only idiot” who remembered to bring snake guards, shin guards to protect against snake bites and first had to patrol trails to scout for rattlesnakes. And while they heard about Matthew Szep, head of the fire strategy team, encountering a “massive” ocelot, or mountain lion, they all crossed paths with some scary bulls a few times while completely not trespassing.
“We were taking these amazing pictures and we turned around and all of a sudden this bull was right there like eight feet from us,” Vicens said. “And Ronnie’s been spending more time in Texas. Matt and I are not Texans by any means, and Ronnie said, ‘Don’t touch.'” So we just freeze, and he gently likes to go and close this gate that we stupidly had left open. We thought the land was deserted. We didn’t know there was anything there. It was obvious when we got there. He just gently closes this gate and this bull just relaxes and watches us. And we’re just thinking, ‘Man, we’re probably going to die because this thing was as tall as Ronnie, and Ronnie’s not a short guy.’
Hobbs said the 800-pound beast could have killed them “easily” and recalled another time they jumped a fence to get to the road where Leatherface does his unhinged chainsaw dance, only to be caught off guard by another bull and a set of cows.
All this shows how committed Gun is to securing it The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is built as authentically as possible. It’s impractical to literally hunt down every single aspect that made the movie, especially since director Tobe Hooper is no longer alive. But when team members weren’t able to get a specific detail, they worked to understand the roots of the series and where it came from to make informed decisions and fill in the gaps in ways that fit both the game and the franchise. So while it has deep cuts as a reference to Main cheeseone of the film’s working titles, it is also full of elements that are not from any behind-the-scenes documentary or a specific scene, but those bred from the grounds on which the film was shot and the atmosphere in which it was conceived in.