This recent interview with the head honcho of Troma Films was done for the horror-related documentary, THE LIFE OF DEATH, which also features such genre people as Jack Ketchum, Keith DeCandido, Debbie Rochon, Bob Fingerman and Caroline Munro.
Q: Do you think a person's attitude about death affects their life?
I think death is probably undervalued by people of certain age. I think the problem is young people contribute something to society, older people, I don't know, death might be appropriate for older people. Those beyond sixty don't have any reason to live.
Q: Did you think about death when you were younger?
I think when I was young I never thought about death. It seemed impossible to die. I was 19 years old and I didn't want to go to Vietnam. I also felt it was an unjust war, I was against it-- it was about empire building and bullshit. When you're 19 you don't think you're going to die, that nothing will kill you. But on the other hand when you get to a certain age, in my case, nary a day goes by where I don't think about death, suicide. Why not? I don't have the guts to do it.
Why do you have to keep living, what is so great, that you have to live, I don't see it. Your body starts breaking down, your body definitely goes. My mind is sharp as it will ever be...I love death....I think about it every day. I don't think it's not such a horrible thing. For Lloyd Kaufman the concept of life becomes perhaps more questionable as I get older and I see these old people and they are miserable and making other people miserable.
Q: How does death affect your work?
The kind of movies Troma makes are satires, we use Grand Guignol and gore. Peter Jackson and others have credited Troma with creating the "slapstick gore movie", making fun of some type of death, banal things like a milkshake machine in a fast food place is made into a death machine--in TOXIC AVENGER a man dies by being made into a milkshake. It sounds funny, but if it happens to you it would be a horrible death the same way a woman having her face eaten by a chimp and killed might seem amusing on the surface but that's a horrible way to go.
Movies can present death in the most horrible realistic way or in the cartoon goofy way, like how Loony Tunes or Troma presents death. What is more horrifying and what presents death more obscene and more disgusting is when it's presented to five-year- old children eating their Fruit Loops at 7am in the morning and seeing body parts littering the screen on CNN or THE TODAY SHOW. An airplane crash or a war, graphic scenes of violence and death, make death very horrible.
Q: How do you think the media presents death?
Major media is controlled by a small number of devil worshipping conglomerates. They use death as an industry and make money off death. They sell death in video games, in movies, selling death on TV, the excitement about other people killing other people. Also, the food and drug industry has a way of profiting from death, selling a purple pill or some pill that might stop us from having a heart attack. I supposed there's a constant fear mongering about death.
Q: Do you think a person's attitude about death can affect how they live their life?
There's no reason to be panicked, to have death control your whole life. That's the problem with religion, the cartels that run the media, food, drugs, is that there's a constant selling of fear mongering and selling death. Al Gore is selling death by Global Warming. They haven't proved GW is human oriented, they've proved cows fart and that's the biggest contributor to Global Warming, but I haven't heard Al Gore say we should stop eating meat. And every cow that goes out of business will feed a shitload of more people, we'd have more real estate, more food for human consumption and more children would live longer if we didn't eat meat as much-- but that's why death is an industry, that's what it's all about. Death is everywhere and its sold to us and we're forced to consume it.
Religion feeds off death, for sure, but religion is a way to deal with it and a good way to deal with it. For example I studied the Muslim religion and I agree that if I'm good I'll go to heaven and there will be 72 Virginians waiting for me. I think religion is a way to deal with death. Religion also a good way to create death, like Hitler and the Crusades. They used religion as a death machine. It definitely exploits death.
Q: What do you think happens after you die?
I have no idea what happens. I just have absolutely no concept of it.
Q: What would you like to happen?
I don't think about where I go after I'm dead, I just think about being dead. If there were an afterlife, goddamnit, I'd like for it to be a place where half the children in the world aren't starving or beaten, forced to be raped, that would be a world where children had some true rights. Heaven would be where all the children would be happy, that would be good enough for me.
Q: Do you think there is a hell?
I think people make their own hell. I can't think of an afterlife with hell. There are too many Darfurs here, too many people dying of Malaria, too many people telling us we can't have transfats in our hostess snowballs yet we aren't allowed to smoke within fifty feet of a hotel. Being on the earth with all that is hell, at least for me, someone who reads the paper and lives in the actions and passions of his time. I'd rather be upset about it then have my own legs chopped off.
Q: What do you think about the phrase "Battling Death"?
Everybody knows somebody who has perished tragically or is battling a life threatening disease. Even though I make movies about people getting their heads squashed by wheels of autos or arms ripped off or getting their faces sliced off. To see a real person suffer is horrible., I can't comment on it. I don't want to speculate, I'd not be brave enough to go through the process.
If I had some horrible disease I think I would end it all. I've had Melanoma but if it was something like bone cancer I would not look upon the death thing as something that had to be fought. The victory might be ending it and cheating death so I wouldn't have to suffer. That might be the better victory to end it.
Q: What do you want to do before you die?
I don't think there's anything I need to do, personally, before I die. I have a wonderful wife--I'm proud of that, one or two friends of 50 years-- I'm proud of that, I'm proud of the fact I am respected within my profession as being a decent person. I love making movies. Were I not able to make movies that might be reason enough to blow my brains out and have death.
Q: How do you want to die?
I guess probably an interesting way to die might be taking mushrooms or a kind of spiritual situation, that might be.....I'm not so sure, LSD, mescalin, something along those lines, a nice way to go....and maybe while that is going on intercourse, not with a farm animal, proper intercourse. That's why we're here, alive, no other reason except to propagate. everything else is a station break. So, probably copulating might be a nice way to go out along with a hallucinogenic.
Q: Talk about death in horror movies vs. death in real life
When death happens in a Troma movie, it's goofy. No one has every been frightened by a death in a Troma movie. In POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD one of the chicken zombies pulls the face off a customer and eats it and says "I know it's fattening but I love the skin". She has no face left, and it's hilarious, a huge laugh. But if you saw that in real life, if a chimp ate a person's face off and then made that comment you'd be horrified. There's no way the reality of death does not blow people's minds, no matter how I may say "If i had cancer I'd kill myself" I'd have to wait till I get there, I'd probably be the biggest baby, whining, make my wife change my bedpan. I'm a baby at the dentist.
Q: Have you ever experienced anyone close to you die?
I remember when my father was on his deathbed, my stepmother was attentive. Every so often I'd hang out with him. He had cancer and towards the end he was taking Ensure, and I remember he didn't make it to the bathroom...but as I was cleaning it up he said "Lloyd, you finally found something you're good at". I thought it was a good way to deal with death, keep the sense of humor. I thought that was kind of brave. My father died in his own bed, I think he was content, with some dignity
Q: How do you want people to remember you?
I think the best way for people to remember Lloyd Kaufman is that he was a good guy, a loyal buddy, a good spouse and a good father. That's enough.
The documentary, THE LIFE OF DEATH, is now available for purchase on Amazon.com