One night in Austin a few months back I was hanging out in front of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater waiting for my next Fantastic Fest movie to begin, and (as often happens at film festivals) I struck up a conversation with a hardcore handful of horror freaks. I leaned over to introduce myself and one of the guys said "Scott Weinberg? You reviewed my movie!" -- to which I replied "Adam Green? I liked your movie!" Two weeks later, we were married.
Just kidding. Adam and I did, however, become good pals with one very important thing in common: We demand high quality from our horror flicks, whether they're Overpriced PG-13 Studio Remake Part 4 or Tiny Little Horror Indie That Needs Some Love. So with the announcement that Mr. Green's Hatchet will be hitting semi-wide theatrical release (on September 7!) courtesy of Anchor Bay, I figured it was time to nail Green down and demand a few answers from the guy. Here's how our chat went down:
Cinematical: One doesn't write & direct a movie like Hatchet without having some very intensive slasher training early in life. What were the flicks that turned you from a normal New England kiddie into a raving horror fanatic? Did your parents support your twisted habit?
Adam Green: I was lucky enough to have an older brother who shared the splatter flicks with me and I had parents who were cool and involved enough in my life to allow me to see them. I think my folks appreciated that I looked at these movies as a creative outlet ... almost like magic shows if you will. When I would see a knife go through someone, it never scared me as much as it challenged me. "How did they do that?" I was always a good kid and I never really got in trouble or (even worse) became that weird kid who watches horror movies all the time and doesn't talk to anybody. (You know the guy, I'm sure he was in your class, too!) I think if I had ever shown signs of this stuff having a negative impact on me then my parents would have put the kibosh on it. I'm sure now, seeing what is happening with Hatchet, they are glad they supported my horror habit. My earliest memories of horror are Friday the 13th Part 2, John Carpenter's The Thing, Halloween, An American Werewolf in London, and A Nightmare On Elm Street ... and Hatchet is so obviously inspired by those films that I may as well have made it in 1984.
Cine: Although it's a true-blue horror movie, there's a good deal of humor in Hatchet. Were you careful about using a certain type of comedy? Did you actively avoid trying to be a Scream-style parody?
Green: When I wrote Hatchet I knew that I was not re-inventing the wheel. That was never my intention. My goal was to make an '80s-style slasher flick that actually holds up. Basically, I wanted to make the movie that I wanted to see and pay no mind to current trends or conventions. I think that the biggest mistake the sub-genre made in the past is that the characters were never important. It was always just setting them up and knocking them down. My decision to use humor was made in part because I come from a comedy world (doing stand-up, writing comedies) and because I wanted the audience to actually know (and like) these characters before the shit hit the fan and Victor Crowley came calling for them. A movie with nothing but violence is not a good movie. But one that is actually entertaining around the horror is one that people will remember and watch again and again. One thing I know I did right was to keep the comedy and the horror separate. If you start making jokes about your villain or spoofing things you lose any chance at real suspense or fear. This was simply funny, likable characters put through the slasher ringer. You laugh, you feel comfortable, and then the screaming starts.
(Note: The remainder of this interview MAY contain some mildly salty language. Just sayin'.)
Cine: What's your take on the new "torture porn" label? Do you think horror flicks are nastier today than they were 20 years ago?
Green: I find the term "torture porn" to be slightly offensive to the filmmakers who made those films. To classify a horror film as "porn" simply because there is a lot of gratuitous nudity is not fair. Those films are merely giving the fans what they want. If it was showing on-camera penetration and money shots ... fine, throw the porn label on there. But just because a horror movie showed a good amount of tits doesn't make it a "porn." I can tell you when I speak at conventions and I declare that Hatchet has more on-screen violence and female nudity in the first 10 minutes than most of the '90s slashers put together, I get thunderous applause. That's what we want. F*** this PG-13 remake shit already. It's fine for its audience (middle school girls) but why have they forgotten about us? Don't I count for something? Why should I have to watch the American PG-13 Sequel to a Japanese Horror remake when I could be watching Victor Crowley tear a woman's face in half on camera without cutting away? I'm just trying to do my part in bringing it back around again and setting it straight again. I'm just a fan like everyone else.
Cine: Any insights as to why we LIKE watching such horrific material?
Green: Cause it's pure escapism on every level. If you go watch a romantic comedy you're gonna ultimately walk out reflecting on your own life. If you go watch someone run for their lives from a belt sander-wielding monster in the swamp ... you're gonna forget about real life for a while and that's the whole point. Let's also not forget that we live in a world where people we know are being shipped off to war, journalists are being beheaded on the news, planes are flying into buildings, bombs are taking out scores of civilians, and the world is very much angry with us. These dark movies ain't so dark when you really think about it.
Cine: In today's horror world, how important is it to use the internet to hawk your wares?
Green: I think that Snakes on a Plane proved that internet hype does not translate into box office dollars. THANK GOD. I may be the only one to admit it, but most of the other horror directors I hang with were very relieved when Snakes did not perform. I mean, hell, I feel badly for the people who worked on it. You never want to see a movie fail. But can you imagine the shit-ass world we'd be living in if it HAD done well? Like it's not hard enough trying to get your passion project green-lit and sift through the heaps of shit that they send you. If Snakes had done what they were hoping -- every movie for the next two years would have been a stupid campy romp. And all because people sarcastically paid to go see it because it would be "funny to go see it." When I was reading the hype online and people were all jazzed about it, I was like "are you kidding me?" What if these people actually show up and buy tickets opening weekend just to be "funny"? I'd be directing Bees in the Outhouse next year and wanting to skin my own ass all the while. Once we saw the mid-day numbers and knew it wasn't going to be a smash ... we broke down and went to see it. At that point it was like voting Republican in California anyway. It wasn't going to make a difference.
Cine: Hatchet's made some noise at a handful of film festivals, some big and some small. What's been your favorite part of the festival ride?
Green: Frightfest in London was by far the highlight for me so far. That festival is truly amazing because it's so f***ing real. The audience sits there all day and night watching movie after movie and they even have the same seats each year -- so they all know each other by this point. The other festivals had far more hoopla (for instance Tribeca and Sitges were a hoot) but Frightfest is ONLY horror and it's only hardcore horror fans that go. There were no "tourists" who were there simply because Variety said "Hatchet is a hit" and they wanted to see what the big deal was. It was precisely the audience it was made for. It was also my first time out of the country, everyone there treated me like I was family, and the line-up of films was something that I was genuinely proud to be a part of. At the same time, I had a blast at Fantastic Fest in Austin because I met such great new people there. I stood outside talking to people until almost 5 in the morning after Hatchet played. I don't travel all the way to these festivals to actually watch my own movie. I've seen it before. I'm there to meet the horror fans. And Texas was great for that.
Cine: Let's talk casting: Joel Moore. Funny, likable actor, but not exactly what you'd call a protoypical hero character. Why this guy?
Green: I swear that Joel David Moore came in on accident. He was totally not what we had in mind. At the time I hadn't seen Dodgeball and was completely unfamiliar with his work. So he walks in and does the scene and leaves. And from that point on -- it messed with all of us. Every traditional-looking jocular guy that came in seemed like a joke compared to Joel. Not only did he bring a level of likability to the character -- but he's a f***ng great actor as well. There were literally meetings called just to debate the "Joel David Moore" factor. I must have watched his audition a million times. Months dragged on while I started convincing the powers that be that not only is Joel David Moore a leading man ... but he is THE leading man for this film.
Cine: Deon Richmond. Probably still best-known for playing little "Bud" on The Cosby Show, but actually a really funny performer. How'd he get involved?
Green: Believe it or not, we didn't even cast for the role of Marcus. I went straight to Deon and that was it. I think one other actor may have come in and read before Deon's deal closed just so that we'd have an option if it didn't -- but I always knew I wanted Deon. As small as his part may have seemed in Not Another Teen Movie, I was a huge fan of his after I saw it. Mainly because I had read the script before I saw the movie and thought that the part of "Token Black Guy" was all wrong. But then I saw how naturally Deon played it and I was like "Shit, this guy is good." So we met and talked about the script and he just "got it".
Cine: Tamara Feldman. Did a bunch of TV before Hatchet -- and is very gorgeous. What made her the leading lady of choice?
Green: With Tamara we all knew right away. We had seen countless "Marybeths" by that point. All very talented, all very pretty, some of which were actually decent sized "name" actresses. So Tamara comes walking in all rocked out, right off a plane, hadn't had much time with the sides, red streaks in her hair ... and just LAUGHS her way through the whole audition. I mean, seriously -- she tanked it. She had to tell the legend of "Victor Crowley" and while every other girl is coming in and crying and acting all dramatic...Tamara just kept laughing because she couldn't get the words right. And every time she smiled, I sort of melted. It's the performance and your charisma that land you a part -- not your ability to recite lines. Tamara Feldman just had that something else. If you're another director reading this and you are looking for your leading lady ... HIRE TAMARA FELDMAN.
Cine: Kane Hodder, Robert Englund and Tony Todd in cameo roles. How important was it for you to get some horror icons to take part in Hatchet?
Green: It was definitely important to me to have some recognizable horror names in Hatchet so that it would be looked at as a "real" movie amongst my fellow fans. But I never would have imagined I'd have three of the BIGGEST names in horror all step forward to be involved. Having them trust in me that I could deliver really helped make the general horror fans out there take interest in the project and trust in me as well. I'd be kidding myself if I tried to say that the movie would be just as well hyped if they weren't in it. The whole reason people started talking about Hatchet to begin with was because of their involvement. I never thought it would really work out that way, it was not contrived ... but holy shit am I the luckiest guy on earth that I got to work with them all on this film. They are amazing and they are still the kings of the genre. I owe them each so much. It's so fitting that in a movie that is so clearly derived from the '80s slasher films -- that three of the top slasher character actors all make an appearance. I do want to stress, however, that though Robert and Tony may be considered cameos (in THIS one) Kane is certainly a main character. Victor Crowley IS Hatchet.
Cine: Horror Remakes! Which ones do you like -- and why are most of 'em so freakin' terrible?
Green: I admit that I dug the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead and the Hills Have Eyes remakes. There's parts of all of them that are cool and for me it's really all about the novelty of getting to see something old get revamped in perfect picture and sound. But for the love of God -- Hollywood needs to sack up and take some chances on some original concepts and visions soon. They're all about "pre-packaged titles" because if they issue a film that people already know the name of, they think that people will go see it. And here we are, 5 years later, where 90% of the studio horror offerings are remakes. And yes, most of them are horrible because the originals were made with heart and passion of true fans. You can't bottle up what was in the original Last House on the Left with a 10 million dollar studio-guided effort that reeks of suits. It's just not the same.
At the same time I'm getting fed up with horror fans bitching about how much the remakes suck. If you want them to stop -- stop buying tickets to go see them! If you run one of the horror websites -- stop covering them! Remember, it's not an artistic choice on behalf of the studios to remake these films. They keep churning them out because people keep paying to go see them. You want to make them open their eyes? Skip Black Christmas and show them that you won't just go see anything labeled "horror." Where were you for the original shit that's been coming out? Go see Grindhouse, go see Behind the Mask, go see Pan's Labyrinth, go see Hatchet. The fans are just as much to blame for the remake craze as the studios are.
(Watch, I'm totally gonna do a sequel to a remake next. Mark my words.)
Cine: "The Splat Pack" is apparently the collective name for guys like Eli Roth, Neil Marshall, Alex Aja and the Saw dudes. If you were a member of "The Splat Pack Part 2," who would you want as co-members?
Green: Well, I would never bill myself as part of a sequel to someone else -- so we'd have to come up with a new name for ourselves. Like maybe "Sons of Slaughter"? (Sh*t, hold on- let me write that down. It's a cool name for my next album.) But I'd include the other directors I actually like to hang out with anyway. Like Ryan Schifrin (Abominable), Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2), Mike Mendez (The Gravedancers), Scott Glosserman (Behind the Mask), and Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs) just to name a few. I'd also extend an honorary membership to Wayne Brady because I like it when he sings. I'd also try and beg James Gunn to join so that we'd have someone in our group who's actually successful and who could perhaps pay for things like T-shirts and field trips and beer.
Apparently, Alan Jones (the UK critic who coined the phrase and listed the members of the Splat Pack) has now included me as part of it. I was just interviewed for an upcoming "Splat Pack Documentary" and I was like, "OK, do you want me to talk about those guys?" and the interviewer said "No. We're here to talk about you. You're in the Splat Pack now." I was like "No sh*t?" It's certainly flattering to be mentioned in the same breath as such successful directors as those guys (Neil Marshall is one of my favorites) but it's weird to be saying "um...I think I'm actually part of that now...or something?" It would be better coming from Alan himself.
Cine: There's been rumblings that Hatchet may be Anchor Bay's very first theatrical release. Give us an update on when and where we can check the flick out.
Green: It won't be Anchor Bay's first theatrical attempt, but it is certainly expected to be their biggest. After our premiere at Tribeca we started getting a lot of offers. In the end it boiled down to one of the "big boys" and Anchor Bay. They were even neck and neck on the price tag they were willing to pay. But thankfully our investors chose Anchor Bay. Mark Ward (acquisitions at AB) really gets this movie and saw it as nothing less than the next horror franchise. They committed a guarantee to a theatrical and they really made me (the filmmaker) feel like they had serious intentions with the film. The other places, though more well-known for their theatrical films -- were not guaranteeing that kind of treatment. Not to say that they wouldn't have necessarily done the same thing at the end of the day -- but they didn't make any promises because they claimed they didn't have to. I didn't want to risk getting shelved or dumped to DVD with 10 other generic titles that month. Who knows what will really happen with Anchor Bay? But I'm an underdog and I'd rather be with an underdog. Perhaps movies like Behind the Mask and Hatchet will help define Anchor Bay as a contender amongst the big boys? I'd be proud to be on the ground level of something like that. Even if it means more unknowns in getting the movie out. Besides, there's something pretty f'n cool about Hatchet eventually living on the Anchor Bay shelves between Halloween and Hellraiser.
The movie opens on September 7th. From what I understand it will be in most every major city and it will be playing in the best theaters within those cities. They aren't only going to "arthouse" theaters like they've done with other films in the past. However, with how R-rated horror has been under-performing at the box office, they are going to proceed with caution and see what happens with that initial release first before they blow it out everywhere in the country. If our per screen average is solid and the fans really rally -- Hatchet will be everywhere. But Anchor Bay isn't the sort of company to go gambling 20 million dollars on a marketing campaign and 2,500 screens right off the bat. This is more of a marathon than a sprint. They can't afford to buy the "number one movie in America" slot for our opening weekend -- so instead they are doing surgical strikes. I just hope the fans understand how important this is.
Everyone in Hollywood is watching Hatchet to see what it does. The suits are all floored that this little movie actually has NO real marketing dollars behind it -- yet everyone knows about it. They're all scratching their heads and trying to figure out how we have so much buzz- with no money to buy that buzz. But at the end of the day, the industry doesn't have faith in the fans and they don't believe that they will actually show up and rally behind the film. If the fans DO? It will be the biggest middle finger to the Hollywood system. They'll be in their Monday morning meetings looking at their slate of 10 million dollar PG-13 remakes and 30 million dollar marketing campaigns and saying "oh sh*t." They've declared R-rated original horror dead. Maybe we'll show them differently? At this point I can't beat myself up over what happens. We've already won. We went from tiny indie to destroying festivals worldwide, winning "best Picture" awards, making TOP 10 FILMS OF THE YEAR lists, selling out shows, packing kids into conventions, and getting a bona-fide theatrical release...the movie has already made money for the people that made it so it's already a success. Whatever happens now is just what happens. On 9/7 I am just gonna f***ing celebrate ... finally!
Cine: Any active plans to mount a Hatchet Part 2?
Green: There is already a lot of talk about a Hatchet 2 -- between the original investors who made the first one and Anchor Bay. Kane is down, Tony Todd is down, and I am down. I purposely left some things unanswered in Hatchet as I always had every intention of making more. For instance -- what's the deal with Victor Crowley? Is he a ghost? Is he still alive? Where did he come from? My schedule is pretty packed next year, but you can bet anything that if the fans provide a reason for there to be a Hatchet 2 ... we will make it happen. Kane and I were discussing the deaths in Hatchet 2 just before Christmas and he was howling on the phone. We are chomping at the bit and the carnage I have planned WILL top the first one. I promise.
Cine: Beyond that, give us some scoop on what your next/newest projects might be?
Green: The drama that I co-directed with Joel David Moore (Spiral) was recently completed and is playing the festival circuit. My romantic comedy (God Only Knows) is trying to get shooting before the end of the year if scheduling will allow for it. I'm also attached to direct the big screen adaptation of the graphic novel Dead West though I have still not heard a time frame for production from the producers yet. I'm also planning on taking a vacation sometime in 2012.
So there you have it. Once more, Hatchet hits theaters on September 7, and if you're a serious horror freak, I strongly recommend you buy a few tickets.