Horror fans are hardcore, and serious genre lovers are not afraid to display and share their affection for all things horror. One of the best recent examples of this is the outstanding documentary The American Scream, which chronicles the challenges, frustrations, and joys of people who run haunted houses. The new documentary PsychoPath covers similar territory.
It features the adventures of Victor Marquez, a garbageman in Oklahoma with a lifelong dream of going to Hollywood and getting into the makeup effects business. While he never made it to California, he does decide to purchase acreage in his home state and create a haunted house that allows him to share his talents.
The movie premieres on September 26th at the Milwaukee Film Festival. Shock Till You Drop spoke with the movies director (and Victors nephew), Manny Marquez, about horror fans, haunted houses, and more.
Shock Till You Drop: How did you come to realize your uncle’s obsession with horror and makeup effects? What did you initially think of it?
Manny Marquez: My realization of my uncle’s love of special effects make-up and horror movies came when I was really young. There were always stacks of Fangoria magazines around, and Cinemagic. He had drawers full of VHS tapes, all horror movies and effects laden films that he had recorded off of HBO. I can tell you, when you are a kid and you accidentally pop in a copy of The Exorcist, you dont forget that! Id go to sleepovers and visit with my cousins, and hed make himself up as a werewolf and chase us around the house. I was really was inspired by that, and as a teenager, he started teaching me about the effects craft. I fell in love with Star Trek, and convinced my uncle to do a full head cast on me, in order to make me a Klingon foam latex appliance. He went all out, studying dinosaur vertebrae for inspiration, watching all of the Trek films sagain (because he was already a Trekkie), and hand-sculpting something unique for me. He even hand-made all my wigs and facial hair, since I was a teen at that time and couldnt grow a beard! We took home a lot of costume contest trophies at all the conventions back then. It was a fantastic childhood for me, being able to see something on TV, and knowing someone that could create it. Victor is a true artist, and I really want people to know that about him. On another note, my Aunt Suezette made all my costumes. This was a full on family affair.
Shock: At what point did you realize his story would make a good documentary?
Marquez: I had written a screenplay in film school about a man that had attempted to murder me when I was a child. This is a true story, and this man was a friend of our family needless to say, I was hoping to make it a dark comedy. To me, that seemed the only way to treat a story about yourself not being dead! Around 2004, my producer and I went to Oklahoma to begin location scouting for that film. While there, my Uncle Victor told me he had bought a piece of property that he was planning on turning into a theme park. His idea was to make it something like his own personal Disneyland, but it would be one long ride through the woods on a special cart he had designed called a Scarriage. Since it was a path through the forest, hed call it Psycho Path. We took our little one chip Sony camera with us out to see it, thinking maybe we could use this location for part of our movie we were going to make. We filmed a few shots of the place. I can tell you, this place was in shambles. The land was all in a flood zone, and you had to have an amphibious tractor just to get around it. I didnt see how in the world hed ever make it work out. We went back to LA, and life just caught up with me, and I began working as a camera assistant in reality television. We didnt have the money for the film, and I just focused on work.
Then, one day on the reality TV set, I realized I was wasting my life away. I studied film. My passion was film. Why was I wasting time changing batteries on cameras for reality television? Hell, the pay wasnt even that good. If I was going to be broke, I may as well be broke making my own film. I called my uncle and asked him if he was still making the Psycho Path. He said he was for sure making it, and hed love for me to tell the story. A friend of mine had introduced me to Barry Poltermann. Barry had edited American Movie, one of my favorite documentaries of all time. I pitched my idea to Barry, and he gave me a little seed money to start filming. From there, the project couldnt be turned back, and in one week I went from reality TV to the woods of Oklahoma!
Shock: The dedication to the dream of operating a haunted house seems all-encompassing. What drives him?
Marquez: I think the main thing that drives my Uncle Victor is that hes an entertainer, and that passion to entertain burns inside him. Hes a garbageman in his day job, and hes damn good at running that business. But as I filmed him one day out on his garbage route he told me, Theres no glory in this business. When you work in the garbage, people treat you like you are garbage He wanted to go to Hollywood when he was young, and he wanted to work in the movies. Victor wanted to be like Dick Smith, Stan Winston, or Rick Baker. He idolized guys like Tom Savini and Dennis Muren. Life got in the way, and he got married, had responsibility, and didnt go. Psycho Path is his opportunity to entertain the people, to reach out and scare them. He wants to see them laugh and scream, and make an impact like he could of done in the movies. I think, beyond being his passion, its his attempt to fulfill his dreams.
Shock: The attraction appears to have detractors as well as enthusiastic attendees. What is Halloween like in the rural Oklahoma community where he lives?
Marquez: I can tell you that there are certainly detractors. It is rural Oklahoma and people will claim many reasons. That could be land usage, local tradition, or just religious beliefs. A lot of it when it comes to Psycho Path, in my opinion, actually comes down to racial tension. Youll have to see the movie to see what Im talking about on that issue. With all that said, the Haunted Attraction industry has taken off in the Tulsa area. When Psycho Path opened, there were about 4 haunted attractions in the state that I know of. After that, there are about 8 in Tulsa alone! And I can say, Psycho Path had a lot to do with that because many of the original folks that worked at the park went on to help create those other haunts. Victor doesnt mind though, because that just means theres more for everyone to enjoy. Tulsa has the Scare you Straight, style haunts run by church ministries, and the more Splatter Porn, type places as well. Then, theres Psycho Path, which features full-size movie set style haunting, with live actors and animatronics. Its family friendly as well, and doesnt go too far to the dark side. Not to mention, Psycho Path is not only just the original ride, but has several new attractions on site, like their walk through The Shadow Box. As to you question about what Halloween is like in rural Oklahoma? Id say like the rest of America. There are some people that shut off their front porch lights and wish the kids away, based on their own belief systems. On the adverse, there are small towns that shut down the streets and let the creepy crawlies make their way from shop to shop collection candy. Those Norman Rockwell style Halloweens were always my favorites growing up in Oklahoma.
Shock: What do you think about when you reflect on your uncle and the film? Horror fans are a little crazy? People have and will always love to be scared? Don’t spend all your money trying to launch a haunted house?
Marquez: When I think about the film, I think about how much my uncle has inspired me. When I decided I didnt want to be a special effects make-up artist, but wanted to be a director, my uncle supported me. Uncle Victor told me, Go while you can. He also gave me a 16mm Arriflex BL camera when I went off to college, so I could always be filming. When I decided to quit working in reality TV and really pursue cinema, it was because of him and his dream to build the Psycho Path inspired me. That early work on the film lead to me having a career in short form documentary, which has allowed me to support my little growing family. I owe a lot to my Uncle Victor for subtly pushing me in the right direction with my art, and my career. I hope this film will help him realize that his dream was worth all the hard work hes put into creating it. I also hope he likes the film, he wont see it until it premieres at the Milwaukee Film Festival. As for the craziness of horror fans, yes, they are crazy. But so are any group of people that love what they are doing. I grew up going to Star Trek conventions same brand of crazy. Today, I love road cycling and watching bicycle races still as crazy as horror fans. Were all crazy in our different ways. Do I believe people will always love to be scared? Of course they will. Look at the news, and how horrible things are in the world. Yet, we build these Haunted Attractions and make horror movies to take our mind off all that other real, stuff. Human emotions like to be used, and Haunted Attractions frighten us in all the good ways. And at the end of the day, you get to go home safe. Hopefully, our film will show you a glance at the world of someone that loves to get those emotions going. But our film, PsychoPath, isnt just about scaring. Its about life and death, love and loss, and all the struggles one must trial through in order to fulfill their dreams.