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Film4 FrightFest Interview: Adam Green Talks Hatchet III, Holliston and Chiggers

For over a decade, filmmaker Adam Green has been making horror films and has wowed audiences worldwide on the festival circuit. One of his favourite festivals is the Film4 Frightfest. His movie Hatchet was played as part of the 2006 line-up and now, in 2013, Adam has returned to aforementioned festival with the closing chapter of the Hatchet franchise.

Ever a busy man, Adam was kind enough to give up his time to talk to us about the Hatchet franchise and his popular television series Holliston. He is an interviewer’s dream, I found his sense of confidence and undeniable passion for what he does engaging and it was a pleasure to spend time with him. Enjoy.

Adam, welcome to London. You’re back at Frightfest and we’re glad to have you here. You come here pretty much every year since Hatchet was shown in 2006, what is it about Frightfest that you like so much?

There’s nothing I don’t like. The main thing is that this festival is different from all the other festivals in the fact that you can come and you can be the filmmaker and do your thing and screen your movie, press and all that other stuff but I can just be a fan like everyone else. Even everybody treats you like everyone else. Depending on which and how many festivals you have been to they sometimes keep the filmmakers, celebrities, or whatever the word is, separate at all times. You can sign autographs but only at this specific place at this specific time and that’s it. It’s just like “What the fuck?”

With Frightfest I think it’s great that you can show your movie and then two hours later you can enjoy other movies, meet new people and make friends. What I like about it here is that people treat you like a regular human being, a Frightfester and a fan. I come here for that but this is also the place where Hatchet was born. It originally premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and it did phenomenal but that is not a horror festival like here. When it played here, I thought it was going to bomb as it was following Pan’s Labrynth but it played dam busters. So when I made Hatchet II I had it in my contract that the world premiere had to be at Frightfest which is hard to get accomplished because an American distributor will not agree to that as it’s their fucking money and they paid for that but they understood how important it was for me to do that and I am forever grateful because of that because the screening was amazing. For Hatchet III this is the only festival appearance that I am doing because, for me, this is where it started and in two hours time this is where it will end.

Speaking of Hatchet, a colleague of mine recently interviewed Kane Hodder who said you always had him in mind for the role of Victor Crowley. I was wondering if you could confirm if this is true and how Hodder became involved with the project.

hatchet-3-aWell, it was one of those dream case scenarios where I was always fan of Kane’s, Tony Todd’s and Robert Englund’s and grew up in the ‘80s watching their stuff so I thought somebody like Kane Hodder was perfect for the role. I never thought it would be him. John Buechler was one of the first persons on board with effects and he was the one who suggested that we show the script to Kane. But my producers at the time were like “Don’t bring it to him as you’re going to get these comparisons to Friday the 13th and he’s been there and done that so why don’t you get somebody new.” Kane was coming off being unceremoniously replaced in Freddy vs. Jason and the producers kept saying “Get somebody who is out for blood and needs this” and I’m like “That’s him.” When I met him his thoughts about the character and his questions, regardless of how many times that he played Jason, were that this was him from the ground up. It was so awesome to give him this chance, especially now that people can see that he can fucking act and he’s not just a stunt guy who can break wood over his head and throw up on cue as well as all the other things he can do. For example, in his episode of Holliston, which is being shown on Sunday, he is fucking hilarious so it has changed his whole life and it’s awesome in how this worked out for him.

With Hatchet III you have passed directorial duties over to BJ McDonnell. Was this your own choice or was there extenuating circumstances that led to this decision?

It was totally my choice. Before we made Hatchet II I said this would be the last one I direct. Normally in the industry they say don’t direct your own sequels and move on, let someone else make the sequels because they suck. What I loved about Hatchet II is that I got to go make Spiral, Grace and Frozen. There was no fear in making Hatchet II as I would not be pigeon holed as that guy and I always had the vision of these three movies in my head and I wanted to see it through to the end. I felt I owed it to the fans to make Hatchet II and I wanted to make it. But the experience of that and the fact that the movie was being pulled from theatres because of the MPAA and the whole fucking thing was a nightmare. Hatchet II is my favourite of the films by far and it had been enough so with Hatchet III Dark Skies said that as long as you’re willing to put your name above the title you can choose anyone you want to direct it.

I wanted to promote from within and have it be someone who had been there through the whole thing because I wanted it to feel seamless and feel like one long movie. BJ had shot every frame of the other two movies so it made sense to choose him. If I had found another established director who is going to put their spin on and change it I would have been making their life hell because I still had the final cut. I was the producer, I was the writer and had written these parts specifically for the cast so it would have been a very difficult position to have walked into.

With BJ, as he was always a part of it, he already knew the course of this thing, he knew the fans, the story and he knew the characters so there was never anyone butting heads over anything and it was such a great collaborative process to the point where, regardless that I was on set everyday, I trusted him. I don’t think many people have an idea of what producers do but the only thing that keeps that set running is that the producers are literally lighting themselves on fire or chopping off their arms to sort things out. This shoot was the worst shoot that I have ever been on as the crew were fucking horrible and there were a lot of bad seeds.

Now the crew that had made the two, all the returning people, were fantastic but there was some bad problems that we had to deal with. The conditions were horrible so I had my hands full with that and it was at this time that I was writing Killer Pizza for Christopher Columbus and Season Two of Holliston. So in the two months that I was in Louisiana, I was always the first person on set and the last one to leave and whilst everybody else would sleep I would be writing and I came back from that shoot with 675 pages of material. I didn’t sleep for seven months, literally, no joke, I slept for 45 minutes a night with 20 minutes here and there. The shoot was horrible but I never felt like I had to stand over his shoulder or look into the monitor saying this is how you shoot this as he knew already because he had done it so many times and my DP was still the same DP so it worked out great and I knew if I had needed it I had the final cut card to pull. It was a really great experience.

So what about the effects? The entire Hatchet  franchise is a great throwback to ‘80s slasher movies and I love the fact that you use practical effects. I want to know more about your experiences on set using practical effects. Would you describe yourself as anti-CGI?

Hatchet-2-10I always come up with really extravagant kills and anybody else would be like “We need CGI because there would be no other way.” A great example is the double chainsaw kill in Hatchet II. That took fourteen different people for the one shot of them getting lifted up and splitting apart from five different angles. So we needed all fourteen people out of frame whilst operating these things. There are guys in harnesses who are being lifted and the chainsaw weighed 125 pounds as it was a real chainsaw so there is the safety element as we don’t really want them to fall on it. The fake bodies, they had to fall apart so they were packed with PVC piping and blood was squirting and their intestines falling out but anyone else would have been like “Let’s do this in CGI.”

I think you can tell when it’s CGI and it’s not fun at all. Take Frozen for example. We had to do a lot of wire removal and the same is with Hatchet III as we had a lot of people on wires. When you start to use CG blood or CG characters when you don’t need to and you only do it because its lazier, cheaper and easier I’m like “Fuck that. This is a slasher movie and you want to see foam latex and silicone.”

One of the great things about this movie is that Victor Crowley uses the same mould as Hatchet II so he looks the same but it is silicone instead of foam latex so he looks better than he has ever looked before so the amount of expression Kane Hodder has is amazing but it weighed 50 pounds. Wearing that in New Orleans in the Summer in 100 degrees in a swamp, we spray bug spray on him and that is all fair and good but when you throw on the fake blood which is Karyo syrup you’re asking for trouble. He had over 125 mosquito bites and only from the elbow down is visible so you can imagine how tough that was. I myself had 49 chigger bites from the waist down.

Chigger 1_thumb[5]Chiggers are bugs that burrow under your skin and lay eggs. Eventually it starts itching because that’s the eggs hatching and they are growing inside of you and if you open it bugs will come spilling out of you. So 49 from the waist down and the only way to stop this is to put nail polish remover directly on it and it dries it out and kills them all. You can feel them inside you so believe me when I said this was a difficult shoot.

Every night someone was being taken to the emergency room. Kane went to the emergency room from so many mosquito bites at one point. People started to get Deet poisoning, Deet is the chemical in bug spray and if you inhale too much of it you will hallucinate. We had a girl who tried to kill herself one night. It really sucked, it was horrible, the worst shoot I have ever been on. We never had this problem on Frozen. We were in Louisiana and we were supposed to shoot at a certain time of the year but there was a problem with the financing and Dark Skies kept pushing us back into the summer which meant we had less time to shoot the movie and as other films were shooting in Louisiana at the same time we were left with the D-list. I don’t want to say that about everybody as there was some wonderful people but then there were some others that weren’t so it was a very hard shoot. If it wasn’t my baby I would have quit.

I admire you for sticking it through. I personally don’t think I would’ve made it. This said, people say that working in difficult situations is what can push you to perform better.

BJ says that a lot. The times when it was the coldest or the wettest it looks the best and it’s true. This movie looks fucking fantastic but I wish you could see the bugs. There’s only one or two shots where you get to see any of them and there’s thousands of them to the point where we had to set off these bug bombs and all this smoke would pour our. We’d have to let is dissipate and we’d only have 10 mins of shooting before the bugs would come back so it was all go to get the shot. It was a nightmare but fun too.

Your films have an underlining sense of humour about them. There are some directors that say humour has no place in horror. What do you have to say about this?

To anyone who tries to say that try to tell me that there is something wrong with An American Werewolf in London or Evil Dead II or movies like Slither. You just have to know what you are doing. The problem is sometimes that people use it because their movie is being necessarily campy and so they will embrace it and go with it because it is unintentionally funny but I feel like, if you’re making a slasher movie or you take a movie like Spiral, Grace or Frozen there is no real humour in that, the dialogue is real and it may give you a chuckle at some of the things they say but they are not comedies.

Freddy_KruegerIf you’re going to have a slasher movie and people are going to be getting killed in strange ways by an undead swamp monster ghost with a gas powered belt sander, you need a sense of humour about that. Take A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th, those first 30 minutes of set-up, do you give a flying fuck about their problems or who they are? No, you don’t give a shit. You’re like “When the fuck is Freddy coming and when is he going to kill this fuck.” But if you can win the audience over with having entertaining characters then so be it. The quickest way to win audiences is to make them laugh because you are endeared to the character because you like them and it then becomes an enjoyable movie. I think that’s the reason why the ‘80s slasher genre died out because they weren’t good movies. They had cool killers, they had cool kills but very few of them were films where you were enjoying watching and not waiting to see the villain.

So with the Hatchet movies it is one of those ‘80s slasher movies that I wanted to appeal to my voice and my sensibilities and sense of comedy. The thing is that Victor Crowley is never funny. There are never jokes about him and he doesn’t crack one-liners. In fact the last 5 minutes of Hatchet III are very emotional and the first time we screened it was at a fundraiser in Boston where we screened all three movies back to back for charity for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. The last five minutes is where Victor Crowley speaks on screen for the first time and it’s very short but all of this has built to the point where he finally realises he is dead, his father is dead and all this happens at once. When the screening was over there were people crying and people were laughing and people told me that they wouldn’t have believed me if I had told them by the end of this that they would be at all emotionally moved by a Hatchet movie. This for me was such a huge compliment. The entire process has been emotional for me too especially when it was all done. I was there at the editing; I cut the whole fucking thing. The first time you watch it with all the bells and whistles, the score and colour, it’s a very different experience and by the end I was torn up. This has been a life-long friend for me, it launched my career and for what it’s meant to burn victims to deformed people who I have met through conventions it means a lot to people and for a few people tonight it’s going to be hard to see it come to an end.

Is this the end for you where Hatchet is concerned?

You can never say never. I always had these three movies played out so this is as far as my involvement will go.

Quite an emotional goodbye then?

Yeah. It is but that doesn’t mean that they can’t find a way to continue the franchise. I am open to that and will endorse it if somebody else can get a start on their career and they have a really good idea and are able to handle it with care. That’s the thing about Hatchet; the crew all cared deeply for this thing and for the fans. So as long as it won’t become a cash grab then God bless them, keep going on with it. I can’t protect it.

As well as making movies you have been working on your television series Holliston which I understand to be inspired by your film Coffee & Donuts. Knowing that the show has horror elements, how hard it was to sell the idea?

holliston_photoReally hard. It was set up two other times over the years with bigger networks but every time they would go for it they would want us to get rid of certain parts like the imaginary alien in the closet or the cross dressing boss or any of the horror type stuff as they thought it was too weird but I was like “It’s not too weird, you’re not being open minded.” As much as it was a horror sit-com you don’t need to be a horror fan to watch this and what we found was that the front line of horror fans is what it appealed to. What the horror fans liked about it is that horror fans are being portrayed as real people who love, who have their hearts broken, get rejected and have their dreams crushed. Instead, horror fans are usually the supporting character but are never used as the main characters. But as the show went on it reached out further and people who don’t know a thing about horror just loved the show because it was funny to them. For example, my hamster’s name is Horrace Pinker. If you’re a horror fan you will know that it’s from Shocker. Now we had a screening which was literally 75% elderly people in Holliston Massachusetts and the hamster’s name got them all laughing. They don’t know what it is but to them it was funny. We tried to make it so it appeals to everyone and that you don’t have to be a horror fan to enjoy the show.

The fact that FearNet was just starting I was able to maintain creative control and made the show that I wanted to make. There are other networks calling for it now as it is working but I’d like to keep going with FearNet as they were the ones who believed in it first.

So there’s a definite future in sight for further seasons of Holliston then?

Yes. It’s going to happen for one way or another for sure because so many people are interested in it now. We should know by the end of the year.

I’m glad it’s going so well for you. I know there’s plenty of cameos in the show. Has there been anyone who you have asked that have turned you down?

No. In fact, people are asking us to appear in the show, it’s fantastic. The show gives them the opportunity to show something they haven’t been able to do before like comedy. Hatchet II was the first opportunity that Tony [Todd] got to show how funny he could be so with Holliston in a studio and in front of a live audience he got to try something he would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. Sid Haig is another example. He sought me out and asked me if he could be in it. We have such great people and they all want to do it. It’s great.

So what’s next for you?

It’s called Digging up the Marrow. I just finished shooting it two weeks ago so I’ll be editing it for the next sixth months.

It’s a documentary right?

Kind of. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s not a found footage movie, it’s not really a mockumentary. It started out as a documentary and then it went off the rails but it’s a movie for anyone who is really into monsters. If you wished monsters were real then it’s for you. There are no blood and guts, there are no killings but there may or may not be monsters.

Killer Pizza too?

Yeah, there are a tonne of monsters in that. It was at MGM for so long and then, thankfully, Chris Columbus had enough with all the re-writing for no reason so he called it back so the rights are back and hopefully within the next year we can get that going.

We’d like to thank Adam so much for taking time out during his FrightFest visit to speak with us and we’ll leave you with an unrated trailer for Hatchet III.

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Jon Dickinson

The author Jon Dickinson

[HORROR AND SCI-FI EDITOR] Jon Dickinson graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2006 with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis on PR and Multimedia. Since graduating he has contributed to several publications and regularly attends some of the biggest film festivals in the UK including Film4 Frightfest.