Comic-Con 2012: BJ McDonnell & Adam Green on Keepin’ It Bloody in Hatchet III

Shock Till You Drop met up with the men behind Hatchet III at Comic-Con 2012.

We got the blow-by-blow from Adam Green (Hatchet, Frozen) and first-time director B.J. McDonnell.

McDonnell has been Green’s long time camera operator and was recently given the directorial reins of the ultra-violent Hatchet franchise.  

The fellas dish on the tumultuous shoot, the decision to bring more action to the third film, and the initial backlash of changing directors for Hatchet III.

Shock Till You Drop: Tell us a little bit about Hatchet III.

Adam Green: This is the first one that I did not direct. I know there were some people that were worried about that. But, I did write it, I still produced it. It’s still a Hatchet movie, through and through. B.J. was the A camera operator on both of the Hatchet movies, Spiral, and basically everything that I have done. So, it was basically a seamless transition. He’s always been right there shooting every single shot, working with the actors. When we were discussing it, the first thing I did was bring it up to Kane [Hodder] and Danielle [Harris]. It was a resounding reaction of ‘That would be awesome.’ So, nobody needs to worry. It’s awesome. 

B.J. McDonnell: We really went for major action. There are great kills. I think this is a much more amped up version. We both just fed off of one another with what we wanted to do with the film. 

Shock: Adam, you hand-picked B.J. to be your successor. 

Green: Yes. When I was first discussing with Dark Sky that I wouldn’t be directing another Hatchet film, initially, the first conversation that came up was “Let’s talk about other directors.” Of course, every agency in town was pitching directors with credits. I wanted to get someone who was part of the family who gets it and isn’t going to come in with an ego and want to change everything to make it their own. It was a seamless transition. B.J. gets it. I think there is something about first time directors. They are out for blood. B.J. knew that he had something to prove. He wasn’t about to walk through this. He just literally took the baton and kept going. Only, this time there were two of us. We just kept slaughtering people. We asked ourselves “How do we make this the biggest one yet? How do we amp it up?” If you think about the first two movies, they are cut together seamlessly other than that the actors change. They look the same. They move the same. If you think of it as one movie, there is the first act and the second act. It got a little bit darker in the second act. Now, this is the action climax. 

McDonnell: It’s still pretty dark, though. It feels pretty dark. 

Green: It’s dark, but there’s still some funny stuff. 

McDonnell: There is some funny stuff. 

Green: The kills are crazy. Victor Crowley has gone almost to the level of super villain. He isn’t just eviscerating people. He’s throwing them 20 feet in the air. There is really complicated stunt work on this one. I think that when people sit down and watch the three of them together – and I am hoping that some time there’s going to be a version that’s all three of them together as one film. There’s stuff from the first one that was held back. There were some deaths that happened off screen that we purposely held back. So, if we eventually have an ultimate Hatchet film that’s all three movies, there will even be death scenes from the first movie that people didn’t see. We tried really hard to look at the bigger picture of how it would all be one movie. We still have another week of shooting to go. We still have post to go through. So, you never want to say that it’s the best one yet, but we’re pretty confident that this is the best one yet. 

McDonnell: We’re pretty excited about it. Even just the little bit of the editing that we have been doing, it’s intense. This is just so killer. 

Shock: It sounds like you guys made the third film ultra violent. How does it stack up to the other films, in terms of violence? 

McDonnell: I think it keeps up with the violence that we’ve done with the other films. We tried not to stray too far away from the other two films. We want to keep it in the same vein but keep the same feel of it. The violence is out of control, but every Hatchet film has always been out of control violence. It’s what we love to do.

Green: It’s not mean-spirited violence. We didn’t try to offend people. It’s very fun. The beauty of these movies is that it’s not a big studio franchise where the whole time the studio is trying to figure out how to appeal to a bigger audience or how to make the film PG-13. Dark Sky understands that the film has a rabid world wide fan base and they let us cater to those fans. We got to make the movie that the fans want to see. Dark Sky wasn’t asking us to try to appeal to the Twilight crowd. 

McDonnell: Nobody sparkles in this film. 

Green: I think that’s why the fans appreciate it. They get what they are hoping to get. We really delivered on this one. It’s got a little more levity at moments. The ending is a little dark. There’s lot’s of ridiculous gore, but now it’s coupled with lots of ridiculous action. Whereas the other two were much more about who was going to get killed and how we were going to kill them. Now, we’ve got 30 SWAT team guys with guns coming after Crowley. 

McDonnell: It’s like Crowley on steroids. He’s just brutal in this one. He’s been brutal in all of them, but he really rampages through them in this one, because he has to. 

Shock: B.J. How has your first time in the director’s chair treated you? Are you up for doing it a second time?

McDonnell: I definitely want to do it again. I really enjoyed it. I won’t say that I wasn’t nervous the first night. I was nervous. I was absolutely shaking. But, I have been doing this as a long time as a camera operator. It’s not like I haven’t worked with actors before. I basically direct actors anyway. You read the scripts, you know the story. The director is ultimately doing their thing, but I’m used to being around actors. It’s comfortable for me, but it was hard to step away from the camera aspect and go more in to the story and deal with our characters. After the first night, it got a lot better and easier for me. [laughs]

Green: I told him it never changes. I’m about to start my tenth movie right now, and the night before I’m always asking myself “How the fuck did I get in this position? Why is everybody looking at me? I don’t know what I’m doing. We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough time. This is suicide.” But, you get through it. It was a lot like watching myself. It was a lot of the same problems we had to deal with on Hatchet I. We had to deal with super inconvenient weather. When you’re shut down, the clock is ticking and you’re losing stuff. Some things on this film went much better than the other two. On the first Hatchet, we had these two condors, which are your main lighting. We couldn’t get them to the fucking set. This time we had the big lights. We had that stuff. You learn as you go, for instance, the Crowley makeup. We don’t change the design. I don’t like it when the killer looks completely different. It’s the same design, but we went silicone instead of latex, the movement and the expression that Kane could have was huge, but it was 50 pounds of makeup on him in 100 degree sweltering weather. You know, Kane is getting up there in age. He doesn’t want anybody to know that, but he’s like 90 years old. So, we would have to bring out his walker every now and then. 

McDonnell: He had a hover-round. It got stuck in the mud a little bit. That was kind of a bummer, but we got it out. 

Green: When he reads this he’s going to stab me in the head. [laughs]

McDonnell: It’s alright, we’ll be done with editing and we can run. It was funny because the first one was shot in L.A. and it rained. You hardly ever get than in L.A. It was so weird. All of a sudden it was just pouring. So, we had to do the first scene in the rain. I knew what we were getting in to, going to New Orleans, but I personally wanted to shoot it in the actual swamp. I knew we would get more scope to it. I knew you would see more. I knew it would look better. It was a fight. Spiders, snakes, alligators, rain, mud. 

Green: I’m still healing from chigger bites, and it’s been six weeks. [shows us a chigger bite on his leg] I had 48 chigger bites from my waist down. If you’ve ever had a chigger bite, they’re not fun. We had people going to the emergency room almost nightly. But, they persevered and they fought on. 

McDonnell: My girlfriend got deet poisoning, too much deet. I’d never even heard of that. It’s from the bug spray. There’s something called deet in it. 

Green: We lost a few people to that. They started having paralysis and seizures and they had to leave.

McDonnell: That was the toughest thing. Every day we were wondering who was going to go down next. It was tough. 

Green: It was the Apocalypse Now of slasher movie shoots. Being totally honest, it was my least favorite shoot I’ve ever been on in terms of fun factor. But, looking back on it, it was worth it. 

McDonnell: The hardest shoots tend to turn out the best because it’s like a struggle to get through them. You look at Frozen, for example. Adam did that in the snow. If you go somewhere and you make a movie where the conditions are tough, in my experience it always comes out way better. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the struggle, maybe it’s that everyone is just pushing forward to get it done. Everybody wanted to make a great movie. It comes out killer when you are in those elements. 

Shock: How much filming remains? 

Green: We have one more week, at the end of this month, in Los Angeles. 

Shock: What’s the word on release date?

Green: All we’ve heard so far is early 2013. So, I’m assuming around February is probably a good bet. I wish that the early could have shot earlier so we could do a lot of these summer conventions and horror festivals. We will be at the conventions to show clips and preview the movie. But, I don’t see it being completely done until closer to the end of the year. We’ve kept trying to top the movie before it. I think that other slasher franchises have gotten lazy and had the idea of “The fan base is going to come. Just have him kill people. Let’s just do it.” We keep trying to push it and push it. I feel like the quality keeps going up. It’s hard because people will always look at the original and say that it is the best and all of the other films in the franchise suck. But, Hatchet II is a remarkably better made film than the first one. Now that it’s been a couple years people are starting to see merit in the second one. It got more serious. There was more to it, there was more story, there was more emotion. People think that they want to see the same movie that they saw last time and when it’s different they get upset. But, why keep making the same movie over and over again? Hatchet II is the bridge that earned us the right to make this one. We just go balls out. I think it’s going to be really great. 

Shock: Were you able to get all the shots that you wanted, in spite of budgetary constraints? 

McDonnell: I think our limiting factor was our nighttime. We shot at a time of year where you have eight hours of night. So, it is go, go, go, trying to make the story complete. It’s a total struggle. I think, for the most part, we did really accomplish what we needed to do in the amount of time given, which was one of the scariest things ever. We would be seeing blue sky and worrying we weren’t going to finish. 

Green: But, we’ve done it. The thing is, it’s about prioritizing. That’s something that B.J. did really well. We would make sure to start with the things that we couldn’t live without and then go from there. It’s never easy, but if you embrace it and you’re excited about it, it translates. The audience can feel it. That was the beauty of the first one. So many people in the audience could see that. They could tell that we were doing it for no other reason than the love of it.

Stay tuned for more Hatchet III interviews from Comic-Con!