Lukas Ettlin has been exploring the darkest aspects of humanity, and the darkest aspects of cinematography.
“We were kind of on the edge of what was technically acceptable,” he says of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” which just hit theaters. “We got a lot of calls from the post house saying, ‘You guys are going too dark!’ And we were like, ‘That’s what we want!’ ”
The Swiss-born, NYU-educated, 31-year-old d.p. has shot several standout horror pictures — “Chainsaw” this year, remake “The Grudge” in 2004 and the 2005 short “Rings,” a kind of prequel to “Ring Two” that was directed by Jonathan Liebesman (with whom Ettlin began his career on the short “Genesis and Catastrophe”). But he doesn’t want to — and isn’t — limiting himself.
“I try not to get typecast,” he says, echoing every cinematographer’s concern. “As you know, this town likes to do that. I enjoy shooting horror, though — it’s a very visual genre, and you create a lot of the storytelling through imagery. I definitely think there’s been a lot of great work done in horror.”
But he knows the value of diversity. Ettlin has wrapped 2007 releases “Fanboys” for the Weinstein Co. and “The Take,” a caper film starring John Leguizamo and Tyrese Gibson.
“We went everywhere we weren’t supposed to go,” Ettlin says of “The Take.” “It was total guerrilla-style shooting. Someone even got maced by a security guard. It was true, true independent filmmaking.”
Regarding remakes, Ettlin says he’s not averse to drawing on the original. “On ‘Chainsaw,’ our intention was to tie into the remake Marcus Nispel did in 2003,” he says. “They remade the original, and we tied into the same world. Daniel Pearl shot that one and did a phenomenal job. So he established a look that we built on. I didn’t want to duplicate it, but I was definitely inspired by it.”
Favorite tools: Swing and tilt lenses, a hand-crank camera, flare and portrait lenses.
Film or digital: Both — Kodak 5205 (daylight) or 5218 (fast) for the former; Genesis (Panavision HD) for the latter.
Inspirations: Laszlo Kovacs, John Schwartzman, Michael Bay (producer of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”)
What’s next: “Revenge of the Nerds” for Fox Searchlight
Rep: Mirisch Agency