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E.L. Katz
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: What is your background? How did you get involved with making horror films?

When I was very young I published a punk/hardcore zine... this was before the heady days of blogs and stuff, back when people actually used to send each-other mix tapes in the mail. My zine led me to contributing to several music magazines. I burned out on that scene, and eventually started working on articles and reviews for the original incarnation of www.dreadcentral.com, back when Johnny Butane and Ryan Rotten were there. I did that all through most of film school, and it was really fun...

After graduating from Full Sail in Orlando, I ended up crashing on the couch of my class-mate Adam Wingard. At that point I had no idea what actual skills I possessed when it came to film-making, and had no idea what the hell I was supposed to do at that point. The only thing that was clear to me was my love of horror, and that we just needed to get off our ass and make something!

We spent the next six months working on Home Sick - and I continued to work in the genre... six years or so after we finished.

Q: What would you say are your top three favorite horror movies and why?

This truly is a cruel question - because, I shuffle these in my head all the time. At this very moment, I'd have to say The Day Of The Beast, Return of the Living Dead, and Dellamorte Dellamore. What's weird is that as much as I LOVE those films, they all do have a comic element to them... something that I usually can't stand when it comes to most modern horror films.

Like lately, I've really enjoyed the grim-as-hell French horror flicks (Martyrs being a prime example), realistic serial killer films, or very moody character driven ghost stories. I feel like comedy in horror was just done better back in the day... for whatever reason the new horror comedies can't seem to get the tone right, or just lay the homages on too thick. I realize that Home Sick has its very share of ridiculous moments... but my head (and director Adam Wingard's) is definitely in a different place now.

Q: You write a lot of the movies you've produced. Is this primarily to make sure the movie gets made and more control over the production, rather than someone else producing one of your scripts?

Well, I only wrote and produced Pop Skull and Home Sick... mostly because they are low-budgets, and when I'm working with Adam, we have to make the film ourselves. Nobody else is going to do it for us. I definitely enjoy the writing aspect quite a bit... and when you write/produce you have more of an illusion of control over the final product. A sweet illusion for sure.

Q: I liked HOME SICK, very weird idea with the guy with the suitcase filled with razor blades. How did the idea for that come about?

Home Sick went through various mutations on the way to the screen... and even during the production. We knew that we wanted to make a slasher film that was very southern... gory as fuck, and definitely weird. I couldn't tell you really where I got the idea for Mr. Suitcase.... I'm sure there's a little bit of Chop Top in there for certain. I've always LOVED Texas Chainsaw 2. I guess I've always found something disturbing about somebody who's violently attacking themselves... because it's threatening, but it also doesn't make sense.

I think the kids themselves were sort of amalgams of River's Edge type characters... or Greg Araki, David Lynch types. Instead of the typical Slasher movie stereotypes I think we were interested in seeing what happened if our slasher film was populated by a bunch of Martians... a bunch of REALLY weird kids, that don't act in any sort of responsible... or predictable way. We were also sick of seeing these horror films that seemed to pretend that their characters were likable, or making smart decisions when they were in danger... when they were just these retarded stereotypes. We thought it would be funny if we really pushed it... make our characters completely unlikable, out of their mind... just really damaged. Also, make them make every wrong decision possible.

Q: How did you get Bill Moseley and Tom Towles and Tiffany Shepis cast?

I'd met Bill Moseley at the San Diego comic con a long time ago - told him I was a huge fan, and that I'd love to put him in a horror movie one day. He said.... "sure".

When I wrote Mr. Suitcase I really only had one actor in mind... if he had said no, I'm not sure what would have happened. We contacted him, he read the script... dug it, and referred us to his manager. The production had to become Union at that point... which we did.

He then brought Tom Towles on board, which was a blessing, since me and Adam were huge fans of Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer.

I'd always loved Tiffany's work... Ted Bundy, and the Troma stuff, and just thought she was a gorgeous girl... and she seemed really down to earth in her interviews. We contacted her online; she got back to us, and was a total pleasure to work with.

I can't recommend those three actors enough...

Q: How difficult was it getting HOME SICK finished and distributed? It sounds like it was a long haul before SYNAPSE stepped in...

Finishing Home Sick was a truly Sisyphean task... for years we really thought that we would never be able to hold the shiny DVD that now exists. Basically, the shoot lasted almost more then six months... we never had enough money or time, and we constantly had to rewrite scenes because people or locations would flake out. We had a crew that could barely get more then six shots done a day (which is an insanely low number) - and once we got into post-production, most of our audio was unusable, and all of our footage had to be severely color corrected. It really did take several years before the film was even ready to be put on a DVD. Synapse got involved relatively early, which was great, because we really needed the help. They color corrected, boosted the audio, helped us with titles. If it wasn't for Don May this movie would never have come out.

For a better sense of the genesis and production of the film definitely check out our DVD commentary, which details most of the hell that we went through.

Q: The newest movie you've written, POP SKULL, is directed again by Adam Wingard. What is the movie about and who is in it?

Pop Skull is a complete 180 from Home Sick - it's a psychological ghost story... with a drugged up vibe. It's about a young man who's recovering from a devastating break-up... and suffers from addiction to pills, who starts to get affected by the ghosts of two murderers in his house. It's very atmospheric and moody, really dark. We have a couple familiar faces from Home Sick in it: Jeff Dylan Graham, L.C. Holt (the evil mechanic), and Brandon Carroll (who played Devin, one of the redneck kids). There isn't really any gore in this per-se, but there is some shocking violence... I really had a great time with this one, it garnered some fantastic reviews, and it's gone over well at many film festivals around the world. You can check out a trailer here: www.popskullthemovie.com

Q: You also were one of the producers on the Tobe Hooper directed MORTUARY?

Tobe Hooper was one of my favorite horror directors coming up, so it was a real pleasure to work with him. I also met my good friends Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson on the production; we went on to work on Autopsy together.

Q: You also co-wrote AUTOPSY, which is in post-production. How different is it for you to co-write a screenplay?

It's very different. Much more of a give and take. You can't just go charging in with some vision... you have to be able to accommodate other people's ideas as well. I really matured as a screenwriter working on Autopsy, because Adam and Jace were older, established writers, and I was a newbie who'd just done things on my own. It was the first time I had to do extensive rewrites for a producer... I learned quite a bit with Autopsy.

Q: Do you have a website?www.population1280films.comWe need to update it though... so, go there for some year old news and a bunch of short films.

find information about E.L. Katz at imdb.com find horror stuff by E.L. Katz

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