Q: It's been thirteen years since the release of the TRUTH OR DARE movie, SCREAMING FOR SANITY. What prompted you to embark on the third sequel?
There was a BIZARRE resurgence of interest in TRUTH OR DARE? A CRITICAL MADNESS. The DVD had been out-of-print for years and was fetching up to $1,500.00 (!) a copy on Ebay and in the Amazon Marketplace, and I started to get all these e-mails through my website from fans around the globe, really, asking where they could get a copy of the movie and telling me about all the great memories they had of TRUTH OR DARE? from when they were growing up. Stories about the first time they saw the movie as youngsters, playing it at sleepovers, getting creeped out over some of the death scenes, even how they managed to rent the movie on VHS and sneak it into the house, watching it waaaay late at night, with the volume turned ultra-low, after their parents went to bed...I was like "Wow! That's the same way I grew up with horror movies on video!" It's just another generation of kids growing up -amazingly- with something I made as a young fan myself. It was really awesome communicating directly with all these people who genuinely appreciated the movie so much. I answered all the e-mails that were sent, and even to this day, I'm still in touch with many of these fans and consider them friends, and some of them even contributed to the new movie, like Matt Hill, who came onboard as an associate producer! All of this interest in TRUTH OR DARE? led to me putting together the 90-minute documentary CELLULOID CARNAGE: The Making Of Truth Or Dare?, which has all these great behind-the-scenes moments documented while making the original movie, many that had never been seen before, and we cut in some of the foreign DVD commentary over the images and I added some new narration to the piece...and it really worked well. On one site where we uploaded the entire doc, it got over 100,000 views, FANGORIA.com had it on their site for a long time (before they revamped everything) and it was just my big free THANK YOU to the fans, so they could see how the whole movie was put together, all the trials and tribulations included. CELLULOID CARNAGE generated even more interest in TRUTH OR DARE?, so I started doing all these "retro" podcast interviews about the movie, and the biggest question from the die-hard fans was..."when is Part 4 coming out?" Again, I was floored that ANYONE had even been keeping track of the storylines from WICKED GAMES and SCREAMING FOR SANITY, the two lesser-known sequels, although WICKED GAMES had been recut and re-released in 2004 for European markets and has been slowly building this larger following, which is amazing to me! So everything kind of just fell into place---I had all these people encouraging me to make another sequel, even if it was a small one, there was all this interest in the original movie-including a re-release on DVD that happened in July 2010, and suddenly I realized that 2011 was going to be the 25th Anniversary of the original film...and I had been writing all these spec scripts, including a draft for a proposed TRUTH OR DARE remake that didn't happen, sooo...I figured...why not? Why not jump back into the videomaking world again and see what happened? Try out some of this "Cadillac High Def equipment" that all the young up and comers have access to?
Q: What is the crux of the story?
DEADLY DARES follows the story of Tuner Downing (Casey Miracle), who is having a very difficult time when he loses both his girlfriend and his job on the same day. He turns to his friend and work colleague Axel Lawless (Billy Blackwell) for help, who steers Tuner to this alluring TRUTH OR DARE website where you can meet girls and impress them by doing crazy dares...all of which you have to record on video and upload onto the site, of course. Well, the girl that Tuner picks is a bit demanding and psychotic and she starts asking him to do crazier and crazier things, leading up to murder... and more! Tuner really gets obsessed with serial killer Mike Strauber, the maniac from the first film, and it's almost like Strauber's spirit possesses him in some sense. The questions become "how far will this character go to impress and meet the girl? What is he capable of? Is he INSANE?!?" It's kind of a provocative commentary on the whole "meeting and dating people on the Internet" thing. There's also kind of a parallel story about all these Coppermasked Madman fans out there and what they're doing to "worship their hero" online. Basically, there's a whole community of bored sadists and deviants that end up committing savage acts of sex and violence on video in an attempt to outdo Strauber and each other! I thought this was just a wild commentary on the whole "viral superstar" era of the Net, where people become famous for some of the most oddball and idiotic things, so I'm upping the psychotic ante on that and having a blast with it! Anyway, these two stories kind of intersect with each other and it's a lot of fun. We're shooting a lot of DEADLY DARES in the same manner that your crazy next-door-neighbor might shoot a home video that they upload onto a video sharing site...mixed in with the traditional cinematic narrative, of course. It's a delicate balance and a neat way to try telling a story, I think. It also helped fit things into the scope of a very limited budget. And definitely expect some crazy twists and turns in the movie, in the tradition of the first two sequels, WICKED GAMES and SCREAMING FOR SANITY.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges working on the movie?
Well, balancing the traditional cinematic narrative with the "reality video" stuff has definitely been a challenge for me as overseer of all this, just trying to keep it all straight in my mind and how it will cut together! It's almost got like this surreal VIDEODROME vibe to it. Also, keeping the actors and crew interested in doing a project was difficult, simply because there are SO MANY movies being made in the underground and independent movie worlds these days...A lot of actors are shooting movies EVERY WEEKEND anymore, so...scheduling people and keeping them with us was difficult, especially since we shot over a period of six months, mainly on the weekends. The recessionary times made it tough as well...most people, especially in the arts, are really struggling, so a lot of folks had to bow out due to unforeseen financial circumstances, and that was hard for both them and me. I had great producers working with me, though, including local Kentucky producer Denise Blackwell, who really helped keep everyone motivated. Self-funding the movie was very difficult, so that took a lot of effort and finagling as we went along! Finding locations was hard, we had to keep everything fairly close to the city and there were a lot of outside woods locations, but fortunately one of our actors, Thomas Kindler, was generous enough to let us use his expansive property right outside of town, so that worked out great! We ended up using his place like a big movie studio, it was awesome! Getting the blood formulas to show up properly on HD video was also a HUGE challenge this time around, our old formula worked fantastic on the older video formats and film, but HD is very hard on certain reds. So that was a real trial and error thing throughout the entire shoot. Also, CHIGGER BITES! We shot mainly outdoors in the summer, so past experience taught me to cover up to avoid sunburns, but I had no clue about chiggers...until we all got eaten alive by the invisible critters! I had over thirty huge welts all over me for an entire month, and they REALLY itch and hurt! They're very much like spider bites. It was then that we all re-discovered OFF! bug spray! But overall it was great to get out there in the blistering summer heat, sweat bullets, get eaten alive by bugs, and collaborate creatively again with so many cool artists! There's nothing like a good day shooting, you know?
Q: Does Joel Wynkoop return? Who are the other actors?
Yes, Joel Wynkoop makes a very cool appearance in the movie, reprising the role of Mike Strauber that he played way back in 1985 in the original TWISTED ILLUSIONS "Truth Or Dare" short. Joel filmed and directed his scenes for me in Florida and just sent em up for us to use. We had hoped to use Joel in the Dan Hess role again, but we just couldn't coordinate the schedules for it this time around. But maybe in the future! But it was awesome of Joel to contribute to the movie, as he's pretty big in the biz these days, starring in stuff like H.G. Lewis' THE UH OH SHOW and Mike Hoffman's GIRLS GONE DEAD. As far as other cast members, we used some really great people. Jessica Cameron plays the Video Vixen role of Dara, she is really a very professional actress on the way up in the biz and she has so many projects completed and coming up. She did a fantastic job! Casey Miracle, from the movie MOUNTAIN MAFIA, plays the lead guy obsessed with Strauber, and he did spectacular. Really showed a soft side to the part and when it came to the rage, he was right on target, like John Brace in the original movie. Heather "Scream" Price, a Midwest Scream Queen, took on the part of Rose, who is a big catalyst in everything that happens in the movie. Heather proved herself to be quite the talent and she's already moving on up the acting ladder. Heather's a joy to work with because she's also just such a true horror fan as well! You can talk to her about Michael Myers, John Carpenter, Wes Craven...and she's right there on the same page with ya! Billy W. Blackwell, no stranger to all kinds of cult horror movies, plays the part of a nosy reporter with twisted glee, and he was a blast to collaborate with. He improvised a lot of great moments into the proceedings. Also, Mike Holman from the original JACKASS TV show makes an appearance as a crazed individual, and Mike was just very pleasant and down-to-earth to work with, also pulling in more talent (like trouper actress Jordan Pynk, who we covered head-to-toe in blood and she loved it!) and other resources for the project. He's a real champion of indie moviemaking all around. I can't forget my friends Claude Miles and Roni Jonah, either. Claude is just a really cool actor and filmmaker himself, very active in the Lexington, KY film community, and he's super knowledgeable and generous, always willing to help out. Roni has this incredible background, having started out as a very successful wrestler, moving into modeling, acting, special effects, and directing. She's just a very special collaborative person to work with---really, everyone I'm mentioning is, and I really hope to work with them all again! Roni also just won the MISS SPLATTERTRIBE Award for 2010, which is kind of like a Best Actress and Personality Award in the Horror Genre, so that was really exciting! I also want to promote rising cult actor Shawn C. Phillips, who drove down for a crazy little sequence in the movie---very fun guy and man, talk about a 'viral internet' career- he's living proof that you can live your dream starting out with just simple camcorder skits and reviews put on Youtube! He's making a whole career out of it now- it's just fantastic! I first saw Shawn doing a review of KILLING SPREE and we linked it on my website because it was so fun and he is such a character, and whaddaya know, a coupla years later, here he is on the set of DEADLY DARES, using the prop hammer from KILLING SPREE, of all things! Seriously, though, he is amassing so many movie credits these days that he always seems to be on a set somewhere in the U.S.A. Producers are flying him all over the country, and the press is calling him 'the next Joel D. Wynkoop', so...who knew?!? I think he just moved to Hollywood California to boot! And I can't forget Thomas Kindler, who really puts himself into his roles- he comes up with his own props, wardrobe, and has an enthusiasm for this kind of stuff that money can't buy. Lastly, Tony "The Review Guy" Dallape also shot a cool little scene for us, and I hope everyone makes the final cut! Editor George Maranville definitely has his hands full with raw footage, that much I can say. He's calling it my APOCALYPSE NOW!
Q: Who did the special effects?
Most of the practical on-set stuff was done by Lyzayne Whitaker. Burns, tongues being ripped out, eyeballs flying, axes chopping people up, all the usual stuff! We also purchased a lot of gore gags from a California effects house that were really awesome; they tailored stuff for our needs. They do props for shows like C.S.I. We also had make-up effects contributors like Gordon Loving, who made a very cool blood mix that showed up well. Let's see, we have really exciting virtual effects contributors Dann Thombs and Todd Pontsler, who worked with me on RECONCILED. Dann really does incredible work, and most of what he does...you can't tell that is wasn't practically shot! It's genius! We also had some second unit stuff being shot by filmmakers Stanley Scott Bullock in Colorado, Richard R. Anasky in Florida, and Dann Thombs in Rhode Island, and each director had his own incredible staff of make-up effects individuals that really pulled off some cool, magical gore! Really, DEADLY DARES is just like a giant fan movie, made by horror fans, for horror fans. We all grew up loving the same movies, all of which inspired the original TRUTH OR DARE trilogy---and here we are again, just collaborating for the sheer joy of contributing to the genre again in some small way, really. There's no other purpose this time around, other than to make the best movie we can with the resources and passion we have.
Q: When will it be available for purchase?
Honestly, I'm not sure. We're targeting a premiere date of either late summer 2011 or Halloween 2011, to be followed by playdates at various horror cons and film fests. We might have a version for sale on DVD somewhere in this timeframe, but as of now, DEADLY DARES has been made totally independent with no distributors involved. We might just end up self-distributing as we go along with the showings, and not worry about traditional distribution routes until 2012. But we're hoping there will be some excitement in seeing this thing at conventions and film fests on the big screen. Plus 2011 is the 25th Anniversary of the original TRUTH OR DARE? film, so that ties in with it all nicely. I'm amazed that 25 years later, I'm still in this whole TRUTH OR DARE world and that it's lasted this long! The first teaser trailer played before MOUNTAIN MAFIA's theatrical premiere in October 2010 and the audience feedback was incredibly positive! So we want to just slowly roll the movie out and get people excited about it, get word of mouth going, and see where it all leads.
Q: You've also written a few novels this past decade-- THE HAMMER WILL FALL (2000) and UNREEL (2004). Are you working on any new books?
I do have a couple of books on the back burner, one on independent moviemaking, but now I want to add my experiences from DEADLY DARES to it, so it may be a while before I finish it and get it out there. I also have a new idea for a horror novel, so I may embark on that after DEADLY DARES begins its distribution journey. Writing is fun, but sometimes I also just need to get out there on the set, amidst all the blood, sweat, and bugs...as opposed to just being stuck behind the keyboard! But yes, more to come in the future for sure. THE HAMMER WILL FALL was very well-received, so there'll be more in that style, hopefully. UNREEL was just something I had to get out of my system and didn't do as well, but I'm still really, really happy with the way it came out.
Q: Any other projects in the pipeline?
I'm working on a project with Stanley Scott Bullock soon, which I think will more than please hardcore horror fans, and I also have a few things on the back burner with Richard R. Anasky, and hopefully these movies happen in the very near future. With both of them, I'm mainly contributing writing and co-producing duties, these guys are the visionaries behind them, but if they happen even 50% close to what we have planned on paper...horror fans...watch out! Prepare to have your socks knocked off!