Texas Chainsaw Massacre” cinematographer Ricardo Diaz knew he would pay homage to the original film while working on the 2022 sequel. Teaming with director David Blue Garcia and Mark Burnham, who plays the iconic movie slasher, Diaz took on recreating Leatherface’s famous dance… in one take.

Diaz spoke with Variety about pulling off that feat in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” offering insight into the horror film’s cinematography.

What it was like shooting the iconic Leatherface dance, and how did you execute it in one take?

David Blue Garcia and I have a shorthand because of our years-long friendship — we went to film school together — and he also came up in the business as a cinematographer. We essentially speak the same language both technically and artistically. So, collaborating with him was so effortless. Having both come up in independent film, we were also uniquely able to work quickly and create on our feet, which, with our shortened pre-production schedule, gave us a unique advantage.

Without a doubt, one of the most lasting and haunting images of the original film is Leatherface’s dance. So, it was a forgone conclusion for David and I to pay homage to this classic moment. We talked a lot about how to best keep the blocking and movement of the scene organic. There is something so spontaneous about Gunnar Hansen’s performance in the original that we decided not to overthink it and leave it to the “horror gods” to provide. Mark Burnham, who played Leatherface, had been working on the physicality for a while, and by this point in the shoot, he had gotten under the character’s skin — pun intended. So, on the day, we gave Mark the freedom to cut loose while we improvised around him. David took the B camera for the tighter frame and I operated the A camera in more of a cowboy shot, all handheld.

Ultimately, we got the moment in that first take!

Bringing elements of the classic horror to modern times, how else did you pay homage to the original?

Shooting a “Texas Chainsaw” movie comes with a lot of visual history. Daniel Pearl’s work on this franchise is iconic. The original is a beautiful nightmare that mixes documentary and cinema styles with a haunting effect. The use of color reversal 16mm film gives the film a contrast, saturation and grain that heightens its grindhouse aesthetic. Set against his stylized compositions and dolly shots, he created something truly elevated. This was my mantra for setting the visual language of our film — elevated grindhouse. We made sure that you felt the heat, the sweat and the grain in the photography. Our color palette was saturated and our contrast rich.

I also hoped to add my own voice to the material by giving Leatherface the grand canvas he deserves. To me, that meant shooting with anamorphic lenses. I chose a set of Vantage Hawk V-lite lenses because I wanted the image to have character and not be too clinical. In this case, anamorphic lenses give dimensionality to faces, particularly Leatherface’s. I love that about anamorphic versus spherical, and it felt right for our take.

In terms of lighting, we incorporated a lot of top light, which is a more modern sensibility. For instance, the scene where Leatherface and Jacob Latimore’s character, Dante, duke it out was lit from above, motivated by the fluorescent lights in the space. I particularly love top light, as it enhances mood and increases depth through shadows. I have found that its effectiveness is genre-agnostic too. Many of my influences have mastered this style from Barry Jenkins, Gordon Willis, Bradford Young and Sam Levinson.

How did you create the jump scares?

Modern audiences are so savvy when it comes to horror and slasher films. Fans are constantly searching through your frames to anticipate where the scare will come from. Knowing this, I always tried to linger on the widest shot I possibly could. It really gives the audience time to look at your composition and start playing the game.

Take Dante’s kill scene when he wanders into the kitchen. We show the playing field and really sit in the wide shot. The audience knows what’s coming, so they start to build the scene out in their head. Engaging them is the best way to surprise them. From there, it’s my job to misdirect with perspective and pacing. So, we start to cut into tighter coverage to give the sense that we have something or someone to hide. That builds tension. Then, by switching to Dante’s POV, we key the audience into the character’s anticipation. Finally, we put the big reveal in the unlikeliest of places. In this scene, Leatherface’s hiding spot is exposed in the distorted reflection of a hanging pot.