Brian Pulido Interview
Comic fans have known Brian Pulido for years as the co-creator of characters like Lady Death and Evil Ernie. He's also worked on tie-in comics for horror franchises like Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare on Elm Street. As a resident of Arizona, he helped co-found the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival in the Phoenix area. Now, he's turning his attentions to the realm of film direction, having just (and we do mean just) put the finishing touches on his feature debut, The Graves. We caught up with Brian at the Phoenix Comicon on Friday to talk about his project among other things.
Classic-Horror: Before you became a director, you were -- and still are -- in the comic book industry. Most of your work has a horror theme. When did you start as a fan of horror?
Brian Pulido: The defining moment for me as a fan of horror was seeing Night of the Living Dead when I was seven at the drive-in as it came out, back in the day. My mom took myself and my best friend at the time, Brian Custer. It was a traumatizing event, the movie was so scary. We probably left halfway through.
C-H: You didn't get to see all of it?
Pulido: Well, I was seven, it was too scary at the time. But we did, two years later, finally see it. Even before seeing Night of the Living Dead, my mom was a fan of horror. I can remember back as early as the age of four seeing movies like The Hideous Sun Demon and Attack of the 50-Foot Woman and It Conquered the World. So I always had attraction to the genre. So my mother's love -- it was a way that we related to each other. She liked 'em, I began to like 'em, and so I just took on what she liked.
C-H: You just told my story about growing up with horror. When did you start as a comics artist and writer?
Pulido: Well, I've always been a fan of comics, as far back as I could read. Almost twenty years ago, I began looking at making the hobby as a living. It's going back. I'd always been a fan and I decided to take the plunge and my hobby became a very good living.
C-H: And now you're a film director.
Pulido: That's right! So then I'm back to my original love, filmmaking. When I was in twelfth grade, I was in a film appreciation class. The movie that made me interested in making movies, of all movies, was I Was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. I'd always loved movies, but it was the first movie where I started to see the architecture behind a movie. And that was what actually inspired me to go to NYU Film years ago. After I graduated, I worked in the film business; I began as a street PA, working on movies like Bright Lights Big City and Batteries Not Included. I eventually moved up to what's called a first assistant director for commercials and music videos. I worked on a Who's Who of the time, ranging from Hall & Oates, KISS, Queensrÿche, etc. And then actually, the comics took over for a long time. Then a couple of years back, I just said, "Okay, it's time to take a dive and make a movie." I joined forces with Ronalds Bros. Productions and we raised the financing for the film I wrote, The Graves. In short order, we went out and shot it last May and it's going to be done later today.
C-H: Later today? Like, today today?
Pulido: Literally, we're like, there's the final coloring of a particular visual effects shot, then it'll be quote-unquote done and it'll go into the mastering process.
C-H: So this is a momentous day for you.
Pulido: (comically aristocratic) Yes, it's a momentous day. It's a great day.
C-H: So what is The Graves about?
Pulido: The Graves is about two sisters, Megan and Abigail Graves. Megan's the older, Abby's the younger, and the older's going to go to New York City to start a job; they live here in Phoenix. Abby's always lived in her sister's shadow. They decide to have one last weekend bender together and go check out kitschy roadside America. They happen upon a place called Skull City Mine. Once there, they end up being in a mind-bending fight for survival against menaces both human and supernatural. In the course of the story, Abby's going to have to grow up and take charge or neither of them are going to make it out alive.
C-H: So it's a coming-of-age mixed in with the horror?
Pulido: Yeah, a lot of the cool horror that I enjoy has a bit of story arc in there where frequently it is coming-of-age stories inside. It's like, "You better finally grow up or you're gonna die."
C-H: What was the genesis of the story?
Pulido: Wow, that's an interesting question because it came in a swirl. I knew in the world of comics, I work with certain themes. Coming-of-age is strong in a lot of what I do -- and strong women. So the two sisters almost embody the before and after. One's coming-of-age but reluctant, and one is already an ass-kicker. I frequently write those kinds of stories about those types of characters. I've also written comics for every major horror franchise -- Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Chucky, Jason, whatever. I like bad guys, so I decided to make a really challenging situation for the girls. I wanted to express all these different angles of horror I enjoy, so I had to come up with a reason for what's happening on the bad end and have it fit all the stuff I wanted to accomplish. So, it's like a melange, it's like a stew of all the stuff I got in there.
C-H: And who's in The Graves?
Pulido: The film stars Clare Grant from Masters of Horror: Valerie on the Stairs, Jillian Murray who was in The Fun Park and she's currently in a Disney series of all things. Our genre stars are Bill Moseley from Devil's Rejects, Tony Todd from Candyman, Amanda Wyss from Nightmare on Elm Street. We also feature Lamb of God frontman D. Randall Blythe. We have a lot of terrific wonderful actors, [like] Patti Tindall, a local actress who was in Death of a Ghost Hunter.
C-H: What was the shooting process like?
Pulido: That was so much fun. Shooting lasted eighteen days. My production designer and my director of photography, we both went to the location in advance and spent nine days poring over diagrams, storyboards, etc., so that we would be well-rehearsed for the shot list and pre-planned. When we actually got to shooting, it was pretty efficient. It was pretty fun. I mean, it had its challenges. One thing that comes to my mind was Day Eight, the first day with Bill Moseley, was 108 degrees, which in May in Arizona is actually hot. By Day Eleven, though, it was forty-nine degrees and hailing, but thankfully we were doing an interior. The range of temperature was unexpected, particularly considering that we expected it to be fairly mild where we were in Arizona. It should've been 70s, 80s every day with blue skies, but it was anything but. Luckily, we were able to turn all of that to our advantage, it actually doesn't impact the film negatively at all.
C-H: So some quick thinking on the spot saved the day?
Pulido: You bet.
C-H: Will The Graves lean more towards suspense or more toward gore?
Pulido: Well, strangely, it's a combo. There's a lot of suspense in it. My gore hits are pretty splatterific is what I would say. It's not like Frontier(s) where people are drenched in blood and for the next half-hour stay drenched. But when we have our hits, we have some fairly spectacular splatters in the movie. I must admit we're focusing on suspense over insane gore. It's a movie made for men and woman -- I'm looking to bring some female horror fans back to the genre, because I think they've been kind of spit on for the last couple of years.
C-H: I'm not going to disagree with that.
Pulido: There's a lot of misogyny right now and just a lot of hating going on. Since really, half of the horror movie going fanbase is actually 50% women -- people tend to forget that -- I wanted a movie that wouldn't invalidate the guys but could bring the girls back.
C-H: And give them an empowering role.
Pulido: A lot of fun horror stories that people like are really about people facing down fears. Even Jaws -- Roy Scheider character didn't like water, had to face down. The whole Freddy franchise was about people having fear x and facing things down. I think there's a lot to be said about horror as a moral force where people have to face what they did not want to face, that an unusual situation forces them to face. That I kind of like.
C-H: Where do you see horror going now? We seem to be in a remake cycle, where do you see it going from here?
Pulido: Are we talking about American cinema or some of the European stuff?
C-H: Mostly American, but taking foreign horror into account.
Pulido: The American horror movie... Well, remakes are still working and I'm all up for that. Ghost stuff is not working, it's not particularly fresh. I think we need another re-invention. We need fresh stuff, like a fresh on zombies or vampires, a fresh take on ghosts, because it's getting a little back into the doldrums again. Even five years ago, it felt really fresh, now it's like a lot of people chasing each other's tails. In The Graves, I wanted to come up with a story that was not like other stories, that was respecting the genre -- certain rules for different types of horror films -- but I wanted it to be a new take. This happens every couple of years, where people kind of play out a given way of doing things, and you just need someone to come in with something fresh, and I don't know what that's going to be.
C-H: Maybe it'll be your film.
Pulido: It's up for the audience to decide, I don't know.
C-H: When do you think you're going to be out?
Pulido: Well, the film goes out on the film festival trail in the first quarter of '09. I predict we'll be out with some sort of distributor in '09. So, sometime, maybe, in later 2009.
Classic-Horror would like to thank Brian Pulido for taking the time to talk to us about his movie.
Brian Pulido photo by Erin Dow.