How do you think DEAD SEASON is different from your other productions?
It's more an attempt at a serious movie, I'm more concerned with developing themes, mood and characters than with over the top horror farce I am normally associated with. And while there is humor derived from the quirky characters, I have tried to make it less campy and more grounded in reality. There are no supernatural elements for example -- Or are there? At least not of the overt variety. Here also performance was more in the forefront in my concerns than it has been in the past.
How did the story idea come about?
Producer Combs had a title in his head. He told me that he had always wanted to make a movie called Dead Season. That made me think of hotels in touristy areas that have an off season, or a dead season. The quiet tensions that it evoked. I had the ornate house to use as a location, so it was logical to set the story in a bed and breakfast, for which the bizarre and quaint house would look perfect. I was obligated to make this movie a Randal Malone vehicle, and I wanted it to costar one of my favorite local stage actresses, Trish Haight. So I devised characters for them. Then I was off and running in the writing zone. The rest of it poured out.
Was the part of Lucas Swan written specifically for Randal Malone?
Yes, as I said above. It is a more subdued Randal than we have seen before, but it was written for him.
How did you find Trish Haight-she was really good as Jenny Barrett.
She is a talented stage actress I had the privilege of working alongside in a couple of productions. I loved her work and wanted to make this a vehicle for her. Jenny the Seagull is part I knew she could play to the teeth.
You also have some of your regular actors…
Yes, Mark Shady and Athena Demos make cameos as the philosophical lovers at the beginning of the movie. I didn't have bigger parts for them, so it was nice they decided to accept. Hot Tamale returns from CRAWLING BRAIN as a victim. Wes Deitrick, who has been in my stuff since my second picture, MARK OF DRACULA, was along in a very subdued, believable performance as the detective. Carl Washington, another cop, was also in THE CRAWLING BRAIN. And of course Tim Murphy plays Skippy, he was in HOLLYWOOD MORTUARY. And of course our old Oscar winning friend Margaret O'Brien, who was also in HOLLYWOOD MORTUARY, did us another favor and returned for a cameo to give it a little class and name value. I like working with the same people. I know what they can do and they know how I work, so nobody is disappointed.
In addition to writing/directing/producing, you act in the movie, as a retarded guy. Do you find it difficult performing in a movie your are directing?
Yes, it is tough to juggle all the hats I wear. When I act in my movies I am nowhere near as prepared as when I just act in another director's movie or in a stage role. The only saving grace is that I know the character really well, and usually I can jump into his skin pretty easily. Then there is always video playback to check the scene before moving on, since I can't act and watch the other actors at the same time. So I make it work. But since I am an actor, I can't see not giving myself interesting parts when I have the power to do so.
How was it doing a scene with Joe Estevez? And how did you get him to act…this is one of the best scenes I've seen him in.
Well, we obviously differ in our views on Joe. I think he is a terrific, underrated actor who has done good work in a lot of crappy movies where he was wasted. Once in a while he has also done some really good work when the part was right and he had the time to prepare. I know Joe a little bit through mutual friends and we always have had a good relationship. I just asked him to do this and we came to a handshake deal. It was great acting next to him because I had a challenging actor to work off of. We both decided to go intense with the scene, and I think we fueled each other into getting to that dark, angry place it required.