Adam Green's first horror feature, Hatchet, has literally exploded onto the horror scene after its inclusion in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. With not a seat left unsold, the screening has left those who saw it, hooked, and those who missed out, desperate to join the exclusive club. Currently finishing his second horror feature, Spiral, and working on a script for Cabin Fever 2 for Lionsgate, Adam took time out to tell HorrorTalk about his accelerated rise to genre stardom!
HorrorTalk: Hatchet is described as a return to the old-school American horror of the 80's and 90's. Tell me about the plot, and what made you decide to look to the past for your influences?
Adam Green: The plot for Hatchet is something I thought up when I was only 8 years old. I was at summer camp and the counselors told us to stay away from this one cabin or “hatchet face” would get us. It was pretty much the cabin where they partied and stuff, and “hatchet face” was supposed to sound scary enough to keep us away. Luckily, I had an older brother so I had already been exposed to slasher flicks like Halloween and Friday the 13th, so I was THRILLED at the thought of this “hatchet face” character. Unfortunately, the counselors had nothing to back it up with other than a scary name. They hadn’t even bothered to think of a story to go along with it. So that night I made up my own story (pretty much inventing Victor Crowley on the spot) and I scared the other kids in my bunk. The next morning I was threatened that I would be sent home if I tormented the other kids again.
22 years later, the story is that Victor Crowley was a deformed boy who lived with his father out in the bayou. His father kept him hidden away in the house so that no one would harm him. It was like a dirty secret and the local kids were cruel to Victor Crowley whenever they could get the chance to sneak a peak at him. Many years later, on Halloween night, some kids came throwing firecrackers at the house to try and scare him out and get a good look at him. But the front door caught fire. When Mr. Crowley got home and tried to save Victor, he started chopping at the door with a hatchet. But he didn’t know that Victor was pressed up against the other side of the door, trying to get out, and, well, poor Victor took a blow to the face and died. The old man became a recluse after that. Just sat in his house in an eternal depression until he finally died of a broken heart. And from that point on, locals and alligator hunters in the swamp started claiming that if you got close enough to the old Crowley house at night you could still hear Victor Crowley. Roaming in the woods. Screaming for his daddy.
In the movie, a group on a Louisiana haunted swamp tour (yes, they really do those down there) winds up in Victor’s neck of the woods and, well, insane amounts of gore ensue! I didn’t care what is current, what the studio trend is, or what anybody else would think. I made this movie for me — the fan of the old stuff. So it’s amazing to see the response it got at its first exhibition (Tribeca).
HT: The tagline, "It's not a remake. It's not a sequel. And it's not based on a Japanese one." has to be on of the best I've seen! Was this your idea? And was it important to get the message across that you were doing something other than the standard "Hollywood formula"?
AG: Yes, I thought of the tagline. Typically you try and come up with some catchy one-liner, you know, like “Whoever wins... we lose!” mwha-ha-ha! But for Hatchet I just described exactly what the movie is. It’s a new take on the old shit. It’s straight forward, balls-to-the-wall, gory, brutal, slasher fun. There’s no twist ending where it was all a crazy dream, or a Scooby-Doo ending where it wasn’t a monster after all. It delivers. I even show Victor Crowley front-and-center through the entire second half of the film. He doesn’t hide in shadows or wear a mask. It’s a monster movie! Hatchet does not break new ground in the slasher formula per se, but it does break all kinds of new ground in the tone it is all done in, and the gore is way more fantastical and over the top than today’s audiences are used to. What’s unique about it is that it isn’t a movie that just tried to build a generic horror film around the effects like so many of the slashers did back in the day. The movie itself is very fun, and I spent just as much time crafting the dialogue and performances as I did the elaborate death sequences. One of the best compliments we’ve gotten in a review so far is that you could take the gore out of it and it would still be a good movie. It’s genuinely funny when it should be, but when it becomes horrific it stays that way. I’m blown away by how much the critics have loved this. None of us expected that.
It’s very interesting that horror has gotten to a point that simply by stating “this one isn’t a remake, a sequel, or a new take on a Japanese one” horror fans are already lining up. If nothing else, I hope Hollywood takes notice that we want our genre back. Stop taking advantage of how loyal we are by shelling out heartless video game crap and remakes just because you know we’ll pay to see a horror film in the theater. I’m a fan of the old stuff, so I made my own unique version of what I grew up loving.
HT: You have some prominent names from the horror genre in the movie. Was this something you set out to do in the beginning, to get the fans interested, or did it develop later in the schedule?
AG: The icons we have involved with Hatchet (Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, Tony Todd, and John Buechler especially) were all people who helped build the slasher genre to the top of its game in the 80’s. When they saw the spirit of what I was trying to do, they participated as a way of putting their stamp of approval on it all. I never thought I’d get so many of those guys involved. Of course it helps raise awareness with the fans if you can have some credible names in your film, but at the same time, it’s not like I was just trying to make a cameo fest. I took 5 months to cast it and auditioned hundreds of actors. Robert Englund and Tony Todd were actually two of the last actors to sign on. The movie is an homage to the good old days, so it was great to be able to pepper in the kings of that time period. I still can’t believe I got to work with them all. It was a fan's wet dream come true.
HT: I read that you've been asked to write a sequel to Cabin Fever. Given your obvious "love" of sequels, why did you choose to take it on? The original didn't do much for me at all; do you think you can improve on it?
AG: Haha! I actually have no problem with sequels. In fact, I’m praying we get to make one for Hatchet cause it’s set up for one. What I don’t like about sequels is when they are all that the industry puts out for us. Sure we’d love to see a new addition to a movie we like, but give us some new shit too. Lionsgate had me write a sequel for Cabin Fever 2 back in 2004. I had a really good “Halloween 2”-style take on it where it literally started on the same shot the first one ended on. I was thrilled with how my script finished up and I had a great experience working with the executives at Lionsgate, so that project will always be dear to my heart. Before I even heard that they were meeting with writers about it, I had been thinking of a good direction to go in with the story. (Hey, I’m a horror fan/geek just like everyone else reading this. I do stuff like that, too!) So when I was invited to come in and meet, I was thrilled to have a chance. There was a lot about the first one that I totally dug and Eli Roth and I have a similar twisted sense of humor and taste. It was an honor to be invited into the world of Cabin Fever. Do I think I can improve on the first one? That’s all objective. All I can say is that I wrote it my own way while trying to stay respectful to Eli’s vision and the fans of the first film. I think it would be very arrogant to even approach it any other way. I just wrote the sequel that I wanted to see. But in the end, I am a guest in the house that someone else built, and it’s in my nature to stay conscious of that.
Unfortunately, things behind the scenes seem to be holding that project up from moving forward. For all I know, if it ever does move forward it may not even be my script. No one knows what is happening with it now. It’s an unpredictable business and I am just as in the dark about it as the next guy. For instance, I did a re-write of Stir of Echoes 2 for Lionsgate in 2004, and yesterday I saw one of the horror sites reporting that it’s going into production with a completely different script. It sucks never knowing what’s really gonna happen, but at the same time, I’m kind of grateful to stay out of the politics of it all and just do my own thing. It all works out for a reason. If I sat here and tried to figure it all out I’d get even less sleep at night.
HT: Obviously you're a fan of horror from the '80s and '90s, but have there been any movies in recent years that have blown you away?
AG: Of course! I thought that Shaun of the Dead, Frailty, Slither, 28 Days Later, High Tension, and The Blair Witch Project were all amazing for different reasons. There’s also this sort of preconceived notion about me (because of Hatchet) that I’m completely anti-sequels and remakes. Not true. I’m just sick of the fact that they are 90% of what Hollywood is giving us fans these days. I was surprised, but I totally loved the remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, and The Hills Have Eyes.
HT: You've just wrapped production on your new movie Spiral; it must be incredibly difficult finishing off one movie while riding the media-train to promote your first. Has it been a stressful time for you? Do you ever sleep?
AG: It’s been harder than you can imagine. But to complain about any of it would make me an asshole. This is what I worked so hard and long for, and now I’m actually doing it. So I need to keep it all in perspective and remember where I was just 3 years ago when I was so poor I had to eat other people’s table scraps off of the dirty plates in the club I worked in to stay alive.
Do I sleep at night? Never. But not just cause of the hours I put in. I have trouble shutting my head off at night so even if I had the time I wouldn’t sleep. I worry about my 20 other projects, what to do about the plaque on my cat’s teeth, nuclear war, whether or not the fact that I sneezed three times in a row means I have cancer and I’ve even been known to convince myself that there are disfigured old men standing in the shadows of my room. My girlfriend deserves some sort of award for how she puts up with my neurosis. Sleeping next to me is a full contact sport some nights.
HT: Tell me about Spiral. Does it have the same tongue-in-cheek attitude of Hatchet, or have you opted to go for a more serious tone this time?
AG: Spiral is a 180-degree turn from Hatchet. It is a very serious drama with thriller elements. It’s not funny, it’s not gory, and it’s not something like Hatchet where you want to get blazed up with your friends and watch it a bunch of times. It’s also the first thing I’ve directed that I did not write. When Joel Moore approached me about co-directing it with him my first instinct was to say no. First of all, co-directing is just asking for trouble, and second of all, I still had to finish Hatchet. But once I read the script and saw the cast, I was in. As much as I hate the word, it’s very “arthouse”. It’s really a tremendous story and we wound up making a film with so much dark aesthetic style...it’s just beautiful. I got the chance to show a completely different side of myself as a storyteller. It’s very character driven and it deals with dysfunctional relationships, art and jazz. I am blessed that I got to make such a wonderful movie with my friends — especially before Hatchet comes out. In this business, everyone wants to pigeonhole you. Hatchet’s gonna come out and everyone’s gonna say I’m just a horror guy. But now I already have a drama finished on its heels and the funding to start a comedy. By the time Hatchet comes out Spiral and my next one (to be publicly announced soon) will be done. People will say “what’s this guy’s deal?” And then I’ll go back to horror. Or maybe direct an episode of Sesame Street.
HT: When can we hope to see Spiral hitting the big screen?
AG: Spiral is in its final weeks of postproduction right now. Like Hatchet, it is an independent film, so it will most likely take time before we find the right opportunity to exhibit it and then even more time to negotiate a distribution deal, etc.
I know it’s been frustrating for a lot of horror fans that have been waiting so long for Hatchet. People have been following it since we announced it 2 years ago. But in all honesty, Hatchet actually came together and was made very quickly compared to most films. You gotta keep in mind that the independent world can be very shady and sketchy. You can’t just rush your film out and take any old offer that sounds good. Doesn’t matter how good your film is, if you don’t play your cards right and tread carefully, there are a million people out there ready to take advantage of you, or who may have negative intentions towards your film. Everyone knows the stories of films bought up by major studios and shelved for eternity or dumped to video. Sometimes studios do this intentionally to simply get rid of any competition for their own films that they’ve already invested a lot of time and money into. Then you have stories like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre where all of the profits were hidden from the filmmakers while other random people got filthy rich off of its success. There’s always that risk no matter who you’re dealing with. You just have to be patient and try and make the best decisions you can with the information you have. At the end of the day, I just want to be in business with good people. I don’t care if you’re the biggest studio in town or the place just starting out.
HT: Final question to test your morals: You are approached by a major studio to shoot a remake of a Japanese sequel, but it's the best-paid gig you've had yet. Do you take it on, or do you stick to your principles and turn them down?
AG: That’s hilarious! It depends on the material and what my gut response is. I can tell you I’ve been offered some projects that would have been extremely well paid gigs and I’ve turned them down. As soon as I hear the words ‘remake’ or ‘sequel’, I instantly think, “pass”. Especially since right now I seem to be one of the few carrying the torch against that stuff. But you have to stay level headed and think about the project in an entirety. Who would I get to work with? Would I get to make it my own way or just be a gun for hire making someone else’s movie for him or her again? I can tell you that I recently took a meeting on the remake of a horror movie that I actually never liked all that much. But the attraction was that I was told I would be able to go back to the original short story (which I love) and completely disregard the first version of the film. That made me consider the notion. In the end, that particular project is not going to happen with me, but that’s not to say I would NEVER do a remake or sequel. All I can say is that I’m not developing anything along those lines or pursuing such projects.
But let’s say my idol — Steven Spielberg himself — decided he’d like to remake the Care Bears movie and wanted to meet with me on writing or directing it…I would RUN to the meeting.
And anyone who claims they wouldn’t is a liar.
Links: ArieScope Pictures
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