Spilling blood again on the big screen
Clearly, Green is staying busy, but he’s remaining selective and unpredictable. Immediately following his work on Frozen, which hit theaters earlier this year, he opted to carry on the good work of killer Victor Crowley in Hatchet II, opening in theaters this Friday. Some Hollywood players would look at doing a slasher sequel as a step backward rather than a step forward, but Green isn’t fazed by this as he knows his future is secure. He recently struck a deal with Chris Columbus’ 1492 to adapt the book “Killer Pizza” and he’s got a number of other projects in the works, including a horror anthology film. His contribution to the project, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein, was shot under the radar with Kane Hodder starring.
The question now, however, is: Has the horror community lost Green, a champion for indie horror, to the Hollywood machine? Not quite. Shock Till You Drop sat down with the filmmaker to pick his brain about Crowley’s return to the big screen, its unrated release and more.
ShockTillYouDrop: If I recall, the original Hatchet ad campaign touted the fact that it wasn’t a remake and it wasn’t a sequel. It was an anthem for originality and now you’re back with a sequelâ¦ I’ve got to call you out on this, you know.
Adam Green: Well, I have to tell you, there’s a bunch of answers to that. That slogan was an actual rejection letter from a major studio and they said, “The writing is brilliant. It’s a lot of fun, but this won’t get made in this climate because it’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel, it’s not based on a Japanese film.” At the time, it was hard to get a movie made that wasn’t a sequel, but at the same time, the sequel was planned before we made the first one, to the point that like, when you watch the first one, you can see the weapons he’s going to use in the second one. Everything was planned. That’s what makes the sequel so special to me. It’s not just, “How do we bring Victor Crowley back and do this again?” It has a purpose and the movies – aside from the fact that Marybeth changes actresses – it’s a flawless like, you can cut them right together. So, in that regard, as any good villain, you want it to be a franchise. There’s a few great ideas for [parts] three and four. There’s only a sequel because people wanted it.
Shock: Fair enough. Three years ago, you asked horror fans to come out and support originality, but I recall you accurately calling them out for supporting remakes as well. How do you think the fans are three years later? Is it the same old song?
Green: I think three years later, I think fans are starting to put their money where their mouth is a little bit with the remakes, however, the problem with the remakes is you can’t solely blame the fans. Yeah, the fan’s are going to see it, but general audiences go see those, too, and that’s why they do so well. Because it’s a recognizable title. I think unless a movie has at least $20 million in marketing and a national TV campaign, you’re only going to do so much. I’m not expecting [Hatchet II] to rave in the top ten. I mean, we’re only going to be on 80 or so screens. One of my favorite stories from the first film was the Dallas Fear Fest when I asked the audience during the panel, “What do you guys think of remakes?” And they all booed. And I said, “Okay, how many of you went to see The Hills Have Eyes 2?” And everybody raised their hand. I said, “There’s a movie playing right now in four theaters in this area called Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. How many of you have seen it?” Not one hand. And I went, “F**k you, f**k you, f**k you.” And they all laughed, but you’ve got to make them look at themselves because they love to complain, but they don’t want to do anything about it. But at the same time, if every reader of Shock Till You Drop, Bloody Disgusting or Dread Central went to see Hatchet 2, that’s still not enough, you know? It’s not a mainstream movie, it’s just not. But what’s cool about it is, I think the fans with Hatchet feel like, “This is one for us.” And on DVD, they really f**king rallied. It’s one of the bigger hits of the past 10 years, and for that, I’m extremely grateful, the fact that you get to make a sequel, and just the enthusiasm and support is unlike any other movie. As much as it would’ve been nice to see it go on to gross $100 million or something, it was never going to. I like the fact that it’s a true cult hit.
Shock: What rules did you set forth when making the sequel? The first film isn’t a deconstruction of the slasher genre, it’s more ammunition and a slasher film in its own right.
Green: With any good sequel there needs to be a reason for it and we set this up well where we never really said the whole story of Victor Crowley. We never really said exactly where he came from or what he is. Hatchet celebrated slasher films, and with this one, he really comes into his own. There’s no more questions when this one’s over as to what he is or where he is. And, it’s not going to be what people necessarily expect, which is one of the things that bothered me when the nay-sayers would be like, “This is just like the other villains.” It’s not, and people are going to see now why. We improved on the effects greatly. We almost tripled the body count, which I think is huge. And the caliber of everything has gotten so much better. Normally with sequels, I think you see them just become rehashes of each one, and they get thinner and thinner. This one, there’s just so much more to it than the first one. Now, some people are going to like that. Some people liked how simple the first one was, so it’s tough. One of the things I found myself talking about a lot doing foreign press was, you’ve got two options with a slasher movie, you can either just make the kills, or you can try to have a story. And, the audience is divided because half of them are extremely bored when you do character development, but with the first one, a lot of people loved the fact that it was funny leading up to it. Other people were just tapping their leg like, “Come on, f**king kill somebody already.” But, I’m always going to gear towards a story, because I want to make a film, not a sizzle reel of effects. And this has everything. There’s six kills in the first 15 minutes or 20 minutes and then another like, 11 after that. So, it definitely delivers, but it also delivers on the story, and most sequels, I don’t think really did that.
Shock: Because I never heard the story, why didn’t Tamara Feldman return to play Marybeth?
Green: I know people want to hear dirty stuff, but it just wasn’t going to work out. She’s at a place where I don’t think she’s necessarily making smart choices. We started to have conversations, and then before we ever really worked it out, I already had moved on in my mind, and I had moved on in my mind during Frozen.
Shock: What’s this business I hear about Kane Hodder and a sex scene in the film?
Green: I like to challenge him and I did with the first one with the dramatic scenes. As he’ll tell you, it changed his whole path of his career. He was no longer the stunt guy behind a mask. He, as much as they might be smaller movies, he’s like, the leading character in movies now. With this one there’s a very extended flashback of all the stuff you didn’t see. We not only the moment Victor Crowley was born, but the moment he was conceived. And so, when Kane first read the script, he got to that part and then called me up. He’s like, “Are you serious?” And I said, “Yeah.” That was the very first thing we shot. And then, he’s like, “What are you going to make me do next?” And I was joking saying, “Dancing,” but in “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein,” Kane dances. But what I love about him is, he’s down for it, and as an actor he wants to be challenged and do stuff people haven’t seen him do before.
Shock: How old is he now?
Green: He’s 55.
Green: Yeah, as he’ll say, his real career basically started at 50 doing what he really wants to do. He loves the stunts and he lovesâ¦obviously playing Jason was the biggest thing in his life. But, now he’s really doing what he wants to do and it’s great to see.
Shock: A brief aside from the Hatchet questions, but I have to ask why you haven’t written anything for Dee Snyder yetâ¦ Not even Hatchet II?
Green: He wouldn’t fit. Dee’s got a very thick New York accent and I have another project with him that I just finished writing, the one that we touched on a little bit in the Hatchet: Behind the Scenes about our story – a coming of age comedy. Sort of A Christmas Story meets Almost Famous. I just finished the script for that and should have very, very big news on who’s producing that. He’s right for that.
Shock: Back to Hatchet, I can imagine the first film was a tougher challengeâ¦
Green: The second film was a much bigger deal because the first time around we had ultimate privacy. Nobody cared. Nobody knew what we were doing. And I made the movie I wanted to make. Now, there’s something to live up to. There’s fans you want to please, so there’s a lot more pressure this time around, especially when I’ve gone out and made Spiral and Frozen and produced Grace for ArieScope and for myself. We didn’t want to be taking a step backwards, which a lot of people view doing your own sequel as. I think the cool thing is that especially that it’s coming out right when Frozen comes out on DVD, it’s very obvious I didn’t do this because I needed the money. I did it because I wanted to. But at the same time, the amount of pressure that all of this had on us, there would always be conversations with every choice, “Well, what do the fans want? What do the fans want to see? And don’t do that. And don’t.” More importantly, one of the mistakes I felt I made in the first one, it felt like the movie peaked at a certain point with one of the kills [Mrs. Permatteo’s death] and the other kills, as good as they were, couldn’t touch it. This time, I structured it in a way where they just keep ramping up. By the time the last kill happens, you’re full on by the end of it. I learned from that. And then, of course, the bigger cast is a lot harder to work with.
Shock: As we all know now, when Hatchet II opens in theaters, it’s going out unrated, which is awesome, but do you think sensationalizing that fact might hurt you later with the MPAA? You’re getting away with murder in some respects, but doesn’t it hurt when the horror cheerleaders come out and write in their blogs, “Adam Green says FU to the MPAA!”
Green: It’s a selling point for the movie because fans didn’t get to have this too often ever in the past 25 years. But yeah, I don’t want a war with the MPAA. I don’t want to fight with them. In the LA Times article, I was at the premiere in London and all of a sudden the publicist was like, “The LA Times wants to talk to you about this.” And I kept trying to stress on that like, “I’m not trying to be a hero. I don’t want to be” and this all comes on the heels of that article in Bizarre Magazine where somebody called me the “Jesus Christ of Horror.” And I’m like, “Dude, do not do this.” I’m not trying to save the genre, I’m just doing my thing. And, if you’re with me, that’s awesome, if you’re not, that’s awesome, I don’t care. People are trying to make something of it writing “Adam Green says, Fuck the MPAA.” I get that it’s an angle and I get that it’s exciting, but I don’t want a war with them because I’ll lose. I can’t believe we’re getting away with this and it’s exciting. Now, at the same time, if the fans fucking sacked up andâ¦it’s almost like buying a ticket is a vote for change, it really is. I wish this was somebody else, because then I could push this even harder, but it’s weird for me to push it because I sound like a car salesman. If this wasn’t my movie, even if it wasn’t playing near me, I would get out there and buy a ticket. I would buy a matinee $6 ticket, an $8 ticket just to show I want this. I want more of this. If the fans support it, and let’s just say we get like, a decent per screen average, that’s going to send a message. Other people are going to be like, “Wait a minute, maybe we should do this.” Is a major studio ever going to do this? I don’t know. But, it’s time for change because it’s not fair how they’re so hard on independent movies. Piranha, Machete, some of these other movies, I think people, when they see Hatchet 2, a lot of them are going to walk out and go, “Really? That couldn’t get an R?” Yeah, it is insanely violent, I admit it, but it’s not disturbing, it’s not depraved, it’s not rape and torture. It’s just fun. It wasn’t fair.
Shock: I’m seeing more younger and independent filmmakers trying to take your approach to filmmaking, looking at the Hatchet model as an example.
Green: Well, I think what people should be taking out of what I did is not to try to copy what I did because you can only get away with it once. Our idea of creating a trailer, creating awareness, that wasn’t to sell it to the fans, that was to sell it to potential investors because it made it a lot easier to say, “Hey, look at this,” because they want to feel safe in their investment. But now, everybody’s trying to do that because of Hatchet and it’s not necessarily going to work all the time. But I think what people should do is see what I did and then come up with their own outside-of-the-box idea. That’s what I’m always telling people: “Don’t copy me. Do your own thing.” To some extent, I lucked out, but to some extent I also delivered and I think that made the difference. Some of these other movies, you get sent them all the time, they’re just, they’re not great. It took me about five years to recognize that because when I read comments like the Bizarre Magazine thing I’m always like, “What?” But I get it. And, I just tried to find a way by any means necessary to get my first movie made, and it worked. I hope other people look at that and say, “Okay, well, what’s my own, original, innovative way to do this?” And they come up with their own. But, I get the same thing you guys get when they’re like, “Hey man, can you help me? Will you put your name on this as producer? You don’t need to do anything, but just put your name on it so I can get it made.” I’m like, “Dude, I worked hard to create this name and I’m going to protect it violently if we need.” And then they’ll write back, “Oh, how quickly you forget what it’s like to be struggling.” Like, “No man, I did not forget. I was eating out of trashcans before Hatchet got made.
Shock: Well, that’s a good lead-in to my final question. You’ve had a seriously big announcement come about the last few months with the Chris Columbus stuff. You’re not selling out, are you?
Green: Not selling out, but the best way to describe it is, when Hatchet hit, I did start to get opportunities to go do some of these bigger things and I was very, very picky and I want to make sure this comes across right. I’m not saying I was offered all these movies and turned them down. That’s not what happened. But, I was invited to come and pitch like everybody else and I was being treated like a major player. I would hear the direction they wanted to go with these remakes – because I’m not anti-remake, I like a lot of them. But, it wasn’t for me. And I would rather produce a movie like Grace, or make a movie like Frozen because to me Prom Night, for instance, made a shit-load of money at the box office. In 20 years, kids who are 14 or so, are they going to be picking up Hatchet or Frozen or are they going to be picking up the Prom Night remake? I feel with horror, you need to look at it like wine and you need to try to be in there for the long haul. And that’s why I made the choices I made. When 1492 sent me that book “Killer Pizza,” I couldn’t sleep. My palms were sweating. I was like, “Oh my God, this is so great.” I’m doing what I want to do still. I haven’t taken anything for the money and I’m in a very unique position where I have my own production company now. I can get my independent movies made, so I’m very comfortable and very happy doing that, and I waited for the right thing. I’ve always thought about that because if I ever do take a remake, is everyone instantly going to turn on it and go, “Sell out?” But, I also feel like I’ve earned it now. I’ve done so many original things. I’ve done a lot for the genre. And, if it’s the right thing, then I’ll do it, but it’s got to be the right thing. A lot of these directors take [certain movies] because they know it’s getting a wide release, they know it’s going to make money on the title. And then, they shoot themselves in the foot. I don’t want to do that. I’m going to use Hatchet as an example, but it’s like getting that call from one of these studio saying, “We’re going to remake Hatchet, but there won’t be any kills in it, and we don’t want Victor Crowley.” There’s other directors out there who’d be like, “Fine, f**k it. I don’t care. I just want a job.” I don’t need a job, so I’m very lucky.
Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor