There’s a particular light switch in 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that 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 that particular switch is slim to none. But while combing through footage doing research for Gun Interactive and Sumo Digital’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Senior Producer Ismael Vicens noticed it. And now, even though it’s such a ridiculously small piece of the set, it’s in the game.
“We go frame by frame [through the movie],” said Vicens. “Just a couple weeks ago, I was once again going frame by frame through the movie and I spotted a light switch that you can only see for about four frames in the movie. And so I shot a message over to our artists and said, ‘Hey, here’s a screenshot. You can only see it in four frames of the movie, but that means it’s in the movie. We need to add this light switch.’”
Gun has spent years putting this downright obsessive amount of care into this upcoming asymmetrical multiplayer horror game based in the iconic film franchise. It’s a road the studio has traveled down before with its last title, Friday the 13th: The Game, where watching and rewatching the films in the related series to suck up every detail is not a tedious process, but one the team takes pride in because it makes the game more true to its source. When prompted if any one detail stuck out, Vicens couldn’t pick one; they all matter.
“For us, every detail like [the light switch] matters,” stated Vicens. “We feel proud about 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 made their way into the game because of the trips Gun took to Texas. Certain studio members visited the Lone Star State seven or eight times over the years and took thousands of photos in hundreds of towns, traveling well outside the areas covered in the film in order to create a thorough catalog of reference material. And, of course, this includes the original house the film was shot in, but, while valuable in its own way, that house is a bit different now. The Sawyer’s residence has been transformed into an innocent cafe that looks like a place patrons can grab a cup of coffee and not a burger made of drifters and roadkill.
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Gun was still able to travel back in time, though. By tracking down the designer and the catalog the house was pulled from, the developer was able to more accurately emulate the materials without just having to just guess or eyeball it. This allowed the studio to step beyond the movie and look at the floor plan of the old 1900s Victorian house in order to get a deeper sense of the building and what it was made of.
But it wasn’t just the type of wood that was used to construct the place; it was also about the house’s spirit and surrounding atmosphere. This means that the birds chirping in the game are actually birds that would be in that area of Texas during that time of year. The patches of seasonal red Indian paintbrush flowers (as seen in the above picture) and the bluebonnets — which is also the Texas state flower — that only bloom for a few weeks litter the ground as they would in real life.
Even the skies in the game are pulled from reality. Creative Director Ronnie Hobbs recalled seeing a remarkably beautiful sunset one day and snapping a picture of it, which he said was one of his favorite pictures from his many trips out there. That sunset is now in the game, and while many might have trouble discerning that that skybox is specifically Texan, it’s all part of making The Texas Chain Saw 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 were sitting there looking at it in awe and now it’s in the game,” said Hobbs. “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 on a broader scale are very important to us. And that obviously also applies to the tiny, tiny details, like Ish mentioned, lights switches, wood grain, and the rust that you see, that’s actual rust that Ish took a photo of off of some old car.”
Getting all of these pictures in the middle of nowhere wasn’t always a smooth process. As is customary for running around in 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 had to patrol paths first to scout for rattlesnakes. And while they heard of Matthew Szep, brand strategy team lead, coming across a “massive” ocelot or mountain lion, they all crossed paths with some intimidating bulls a few times while totally not trespassing.
“We were taking these awesome photos and we turned around and suddenly this bull was just there like eight feet from us,” said Vicens. “And Ronnie has spent more time in Texas. Matt and I are not Texans in any way and Ronnie was like, ‘Don’t move.’ And so we just freeze and he gently like walks over and shuts this gate that we’d stupidly left open. We thought the land was abandoned. We didn’t know there was anything there. It was clear when we got there. He just gently shuts this gate and this bull is just chilling out, watching us. And we’re just thinking like, ‘Man, we are probably about to die because this thing was as tall as Ronnie and Ronnie is not a short dude.’”
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Hobbs said that the 800-pound beast could have killed them “easily” and was reminiscent of another time they hopped a fence to get to the road where Leatherface does his unhinged chainsaw dance only to be caught off guard by another bull and set of cows.
All of this shows how committed Gun is to ensuring that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is being built as authentically as possible. It’s impractical to literally hunt down every single aspect that made the film, 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 in order to make informed decisions and fill in the gaps in ways that fit both the game and franchise. So while it has deep cuts like a reference to Head Cheese, one of the film’s working titles, it’s also full of touches that aren’t from any behind-the-scenes documentary or a specific scene, but ones bred from grounds the film was shot at and the atmosphere it was conceived in.