Q: I appreciate you taking the time to do the interview for www.buried.com
No, it's totally fine.
Q: This is a question I've had for years... What is your fascination with mini-monsters?
Q: Nobody else does this...
Q: I was always curious as to the reasoning behind it...
Well, most of what I do really isn't for a reason, it's more of a vibe I get or just something I would enjoy watching myself. I make films with very limited means. How do you work a story, make something different that's not like everything else? You try to be clever. Obviously, it starts with the concept and the script and hopefully work your way to a wonderful score. Luckily, there's a lot of talented people here (LA) who haven't "made it" yet, haven't broken through. You can hopefully get lucky and find someone who will write a beautiful script for a couple thousand bucks. I've worked with writers who have become big writers, whose same script would be worth a couple of million dollars.
Q: Peter David (Benjamin Carr) wrote some scripts for you, right?
A whole slew of people. But it's the same hundred pages of paper. When it comes to a theme I've never been into "Slasher" films. There's some exceptions that are wonderful but that's so the real world right now that it's not appealing so I do fantasy-horror. And somehow, even as a little kid I was fascinated with movies that had creatures and dolls and puppets that come alive and start doing nasty things. And of course, there's TRILOGY OF TERROR with Karen Black, so it's been with me and I keep finding new themes. I just finished a movie called DANGEROUS WORRY DOLLS. They are actually called Guatamalan Worry Dolls and a lot of kids there know about them, it's this big Latin American thing. It's a little toolbox sized container that has these five tiny, tiny half inch tall hand-made characters in them. The legend goes that if you put these worry dolls under your pillow at night they'll take your worries away. And I thought, there's a horror movie right there... the wrong dolls, the wrong pillow. The movie gets a little demented. So forget the twelve or sixteen inch dolls-these guys are a half inch tall!
Q: So the Worry Dolls are actually causing the worry...
It's a revenge story in an all-women's prison. So this chick that really gets pushed around, they crawl in her ear and take over her body and she gets revenge. As the story progresses she gets this horrible pimple in the middle of her head, like a third eye, and by the end of act one the pimple pops and the Worry Doll is right there, poking its head out, riding her. So, there you go. A strange idea that I don't think has been done before. It's always fun to find something that people go, "I really haven't seen that before," in a genre that's so crowded.
Q: So, is the horror filmmaking gene hereditary?
My Dad was a wonderful guy, who passed away a few years ago. He made movies in all genres, even in the 60's and 70's they were never horror films. He made Spaghetti Westerns and epics with Steve Reeves. He made some classic, cool horror films back in the 50's. He only made two and they were both made in the late 50's, I BURY THE LIVING and FACE OF FIRE.
Q: I recently watched I BURY THE LIVING a little while ago (see my review) and that was a cool, creepy movie, especially for its time period.
Stephen King, in his DANSE MACABRE book, says it's one of the scariest movies of that time. For people who have seen the film, my father wanted to end the movie, because the character messes up with the pins in the graveyard, he wanted to have the corpses come out of the graves but they wouldn't let him do that. It became more of a psychological ending instead.
Q: I didn't quite like that ending. It would have been much better with the zombies...
Today it would be just a blood feast...
Q: I was looking at your credits as listed on www.imdb.com and its says that you've produced 236 movies. Is that some kind of record?
I produced them, I directed a bunch of them. Back in the day, when video was exploding, it was all about the box cover and the title so you really wanted to start with something that was compelling and then work backwards. In most cases there the title and idea or thread of movie was mine and I would just sheppard the movie through. Right now, the last few years, I've exclusively been directing the shows, gotten back to what I really want to do. I didn't really want to be a weird b-movie studio guy, I wanted to just make movies. Then I got caught up in the Empire years, with great talent like Stuart Gordon, and then later on all the Full Moon films such as SUBSPECIES, with Ted Nicholau. Now I'm back to directing.
Q: Going back, you were the producer on three of my favorite horror movies-MANSION OF THE DOOMED, TOURIST TRAP and LASERBLAST. Any anecdotes about those films?
Now you're taking me back-
Q: I love MANSION OF THE DOOMED. That's just a messed up story... very disturbing.
That was my first movie. That's so far back I usually don't even think about it, I can't even acknowledge I was alive back in the 70's, almost feels like it couldn't be me because I'm in complete denial. But that was my first film. I think we shot it in '74. The original title was THE EYES OF DR. CHANEY and Chaney was played by Richard Baseheart. When we were getting ready to come out, the distributor, on top of being someone who never gave me a penny, changed the title to MANSION OF THE DOOMED and that's as low-brow as you can get. Because the movie was kind of cool.
Ironically, a few years later, Carpenter was involved with THE EYES OF LAURA MARS, so it wasn't so bad for him. Anyway, we made the movie.
My editor on that movie, working under a non-deplume, was John Carpenter. My director of photography was Andrew Davis, who went on to a big career doing THE FUGITIVE, et cetera. My special effects guy was Stan Winston.
Q: Ah, this was before he did GARGOYLES?
It's before Stan Winston was Stan Winston. It had a wonderful cast and it was Lance Henriksen's first film. So, it was quite a crew back in the day. It was a three week shoot and definitely a strange film for that time.
Q: What about TOURIST TRAP?
Now, TOURIST TRAP was the first film I did with a director named David Schmoeller, who went on to direct my first PUPPETMASTER film. He did four or five films for me. It was Tanya Robert's first film. Working with Chuck Connors was crazy because he was truly a strange fellow. He indulged in all sorts of stuff. He was a wonderful actor but a force to be reckoned with on the set.
TOURIST TRAP was fun and it's one of the movies that when I go to a convention, people come up to me and say, "Oh my God, I loved TOURIST TRAP". People still remember it.
Q: I'm surprised, with all the remakes of classic horror films happening now that if any movie is going to be done again, TOURIST TRAP should be one of them.
Yeah, that's true. I'll tell you a TOURIST TRAP story. I still know John Carpenter and back in the day Carpenter and I would get together from time to time. He edited some of my movies under a different name. Back in those days he was doing a movie on weekends called DARK STAR. And we wound up, by coincidence, being distributed by the same distributor, a guy named Irwin Yablans and Compass. And so we ended up shooting our movies at the same time. I was doing TOURIST TRAP and he was doing HALLOWEEN. He would call and say, "I know we have a smaller movie, you have Chuck Connors and we have all these unknowns, but we should visit each other's set". Because there were a few days where we were shooting right down the street from each other. So I was kidding around with him about our bigger budget movie and better treatment. I think ours was $400,000 ad his was $300,000. Then there was a day when we did an exchange. I walked over to his set, because we were literally on the same street, and watched him shoot some stuff and he came over to mine. And of course, the irony is that even though TOURIST TRAP did live on as being a well-recognized film, his little film, with no cast, became an institution.
Q: Yeah, HALLOWEEN did start the whole Slasher Genre...
Then LASERBLAST is just a fun, bizarre little sci-fi movie with these wonderful stop motion puppets.
Q: That stop motion with those lizard aliens is very cool.
It was the first collaboration with Dave Allen and he wound up doing a bunch of other stuff for me.
Q: Whatever happened to THE PRIMEVALS?
(Sigh) Well, I produced it and funded it and shot it, it was our most ambitious project and there were about 350 effect shots and the majority of those were stop-motion animation We got through about half of them and this was when our resources began to dwindle as the video world turned in the 90's and halfway through Dave passed away. And now, there's a protégé he has, "The Gatekeeper" and at some point when we have more money to put into something that's definitely unique, we'll find a way to get all those shots finished. Imagine, the whole movie is shot, all that money was spend and half the effect shots are done.
Q: I've been waiting for that movie.
Q: You are really good at finding talent, like actress Robin Sydney. That adds so much to a production. So what goes into your process?
Finding talent... When I started you didn't have any of this. Not that you couldn't make a low-budget movie, but there were things you couldn't invent or get for free. You had to buy raw stock, you had a lot of equipment, post-production was not a digital world, it was reels and machines and slaves. The process was expensive and not easy. Today, any kid can go out and get a digital camera and make a full movie. Then, it boils down to talent. I see so many movies coming through here, and we're going to start releasing some of them on another label . Unfortunately, a lot of it is pretty awful. Not that technically it's bad, but what they lack is working with actors. It's the script that makes sense, characters that are well-defined. And if you have to look at people for ninety minutes on a screen they have to be appealing. So, I guess the long and short of it is I've enjoyed, even with meager means, shooting movies with 6-8 day schedules, trying to find the stories that are a little different and not a film someone's seen a thousand times over. And then you just have to find a wonderful cast. And the talent is there. Maybe I'm just lucky and I have a "good eye" for it. I grew up on a movie set and I've sat in on thousands of casting sessions as a kid, with my dad, but you have to look beyond.
There was a stretch, some years ago when I was involved with some erotic movies. Soft erotic, sci-fi erotic like FEMALIAN and THE EROTIC HOUSE OF WAX. There was a market for this ten-fifteen years ago. And so I'd sit with this producer and when a woman walked in, obviously we're looking for sexy women who could act, when a woman walked in and was big-breasted and had the right body he'd say "that's the one". And I'd say "She has a great body but her face isn't so great and she can't act". And at the end of the day, the screen forgive a lot, but it's all about the face. Not that we were looking for Oscar caliber actors, but you still have to have somebody who is charming and fun and has nothing to do with someone's butt. For the most part it's just looking at someone and going "this person has some magic". And hey, I've made mistakes. I'm always told that there were people who came back in the 80's. Apparently Brad Pitt auditioned for me but I don't remember that because I made so many movies in the 80's. Helen Hunt, when she came in, had already done work and she was amazing. Demi Moore was absolutely a first time actress.
Q: Ah, she was in PARASITE.
We did PARASITE and she was great. I say this was thirty-plus years experience that Robin Sydney has got the magic. She's done a handful of small movies, she was wonderful in each one. I don't know if you saw her in MASTERS OF HORROR, the RIGHT TO DIE episode. Aside from the fact that she's beautiful, sexy and all that good stuff, there's a magic she has that, when she finally gets the right role, something she can really sink her teeth into, she's going to become a big star. I've not said that about anyone except Demi Moore. The only other actress who I think "had it" and has had a good career but never became a superstar, is Megan Ward.
Q: Yes, she's a good actress.
Her first movie with me was CRASH AND BURN, ARCADE and then she went on to do TV (DARK SKIES). I thought Megan had something extra special. But, literally, those two exceptions, I believe Robin will be someone who works a lot and does important movies. I don't know what it is, exactly.
Q: They just have "that thing".
It's talent and something that comes from within.
Q: And also, how the camera reacts to them. Some people look great in person, come across well, but on camera it doesn't translate. And some people, you put that camera on them and it's great.
The camera always changes things. I've met actors in person and what really shocks you is when they are short. They are usually very well proportioned and you'd never know it unless you walked up to them. And in many cases they look very different. And sometimes, sometimes in my eyes they look more attractive in person than on the screen. For the most part it's the other way around, something happens to their face as it goes through the lens and out to your TV. I don't know, it's an alchemy that I don't think anyone can figure out.
Q: Also, you started up a horror convention last October (2007). But why did you have it in Arkansas?
For the last two years I did a road show, twenty cities in thirty days, had a lot of stops. For a small roads how it was quite successful. It was a lot of fun, met a lot of people, and the Arkansas stop was one of the more successful stops and I met some great people there, who said "hey, come back and shoot a movie here". They sort of wanted to be partners in all this. So I did end up shooting a movie there, called DECADENT EVIL 2, and the experience was good. Here in L.A., as much as I love this town, people are really jaded. They've been there, done that. No one is happy if your little film crew is shooting on their street. They can't wait for you to get the hell out of there because they've been shooting here for a hundred years. In Little Rock, people were stoked that we were there. It was fun making the movie and that time James Schneider, who is the fellow who organized all this, he said, "Why don't we do a festival, make it bigger, bring in actors". It was just two weeks ago and it went pretty well, typical for a first time convention. We had a thousand people show up. Stuart Gordon, Jeffrey Combs, Ted Nicholeau, people I've been involved with for years. But I also had Johnny Smith, Linda Blair-certainly, they've never been to Little Rock before. You try to find little ways to let people know, in a cost efficient manner, what you're doing. They movies are small and you can't spend money on TV or Radio advertising, so the Road Show made a lot of sense because I went around the country.
Q: What about GINGERDEAD MAN 2? That has to be the best title-GINGERDEAD MAN 2: THE PASSION OF THE CRUST. I'll see the movie for that alone.
We'll see where the poster ends up. We have to have an alternate campaign...
Q: That poster, with him on the cross, is hilarious.
Thank you. I'm really happy with what's shaping up to be a great piece of art for WORRY DOLLS.
Q: How can people find out about you and Full Moon?
People can go to www.fullmoondirect.com and find the movies and the action figures and related merchandise. One of the problems, because the video business has changed, is the biggest complaint we get is that people can't find our movies anymore. If you go to the middle of the country they think we disappeared. If they don't know to go to the site, that's one problem.
Back in the day, when video was exploding, there were so many little video stores. And we had a couple thousand stores that literally had Full Moon sections. But there's no inventory in these stores anymore, people can't find our old titles. The whole digital world isn't there yet-
Q: I think in the next five years that's how everyone will be watching movies.
There's no question. Because they'll access them as easy as I Tunes, so we're heading there but we're not there yet.
Q: It's definitely a transitional time.
And it hurts small filmmakers because there was a stretch where we were doing well enough, the budgets were bigger. Now it's a big shake up time. It's been tough. It seems everyone is making a movie but then you have to find distribution and it becomes very difficult.
To not end on a sour note, the horror genre is always vibrant. Mainstream is making a lot of big budget films.