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"Hatchet" Director Adam Green Interview
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Director Adam Green's Hatchet is making waves in the horror community more for what it isn't than what it is: it's not a remake, it's not a sequel, and it's not PG-13. It's an honest-to-gosh R-rated slasher movie, starring honest-to-gosh horror icons Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, and Tony Todd, about a group of tourists who run afoul of Victor Crowley (Hodder), a deformed killer who haunts the bayous of Louisiana. The film's fans have built the "Hatchet Army" to show their support for fresh material on the silver scream. Television star Milo Ventimiglia could be seen in a Hatchet Army t-shirt during the "Heroes" panel at San Diego Comic-Con, and after witnessing the Hatchet panel (check out Julia's full report) at the same convention, I'm ready to get a shirt for myself. Hatchet will be coming to all major cities in a limited (but hopefully expanding) release on September 7th, bringing its brand of "old-school American horror" with it. I had a chance to sit down with Adam Green (and his pal, rock legend Dee Snider) after the Hatchet panel and get even more details on his film.
Classic-Horror.com: In the panel, Kane Hodder said that the scenes between the violence are almost as good as the violence itself. What sets Hatchet apart from lesser slasher entries?
Adam Green: Well, as much as I think Hatchet is a return to the old school stuff, the idea was to bring it back and do it better. I think that’s sort of where the movie succeeds. The fact that those old slasher movies, they didn’t really care about character development. They weren’t really that well-written; they weren’t that well-acted. It was all about getting to the next seven minutes of “Okay, now somebody else is going to get killed.” So with Hatchet I said, “What if somebody tried with the slasher film?” What if you had all that other stuff that everybody was expecting and it was fun and gory and kind of silly, but you actually cast real actors. Which is why I went so heavily with the comedians, because comedians just have that timing where they get it and they can sell it. You like the actors and the characters so much that when they start getting killed, you’re really scared, and it kind of sucks to see them go. Whereas in Friday the 13th, you could always tell which one was getting naked because it was the worst actress there.
Dee Snider: What are you trying to say about PJ Soles?
Green: Totally! And you’d know that they were gonna get killed. With this one, two of the strongest actors in the whole ensemble…
Snider: Boobs are out the whole movie!
Green: Joleigh Fioreavanti and Mercedes McNab are f**king hilarious, and their nudity is hilarious with it, because they think they’re in “Girls Gone Wild”. We’re kind of making fun of those types of people, but as two really good comedic actresses, they just friggin’ killed it.
C-H: Victor Crowley is an urban legend within the world of Hatchet, which is something he shares with Candyman and Jason Voorhees. You had Tony Todd and Kane Hodder, obviously. How important is the urban legend background in Hatchet.
Green: Everything about a slasher film lives or dies on the mythology of the villain and that’s what made them all great. When you think about Freddy Krueger, or Michael Myers, or Jason Voorhees, there’s a story that comes along with it, that sort of baggage that made them who they are. That was where everything started with Hatchet, this story I made up when I was 8-years-old about a boy who was deformed and his dad kept him hidden in the house and the door caught fire and the dad came home with a hatchet… That right there is what good campfire stories are made of and you don’t even need anything more than that. Sometimes they miss the boat because they make the back story so intricate. It can be really simple, just “boy fell down a well” or something simple like that, and that’s what really scares you. It’s not Victor Crowley himself that’s scary, it’s the idea that there’s a ghost in the woods screaming for its father. That’s what’s scary. To me the only really scary, chilling part in that film is when they first hear that voice in the surround sound saying “Daddy,” and it’s like “Oh s**t this is real,” and then he just comes barreling out and it just turns into splatter and mayhem, which is great, but it’s that back story that makes it so important.
C-H: I couldn’t agree more. I was just watching Happy Birthday to Me. There’s just so much crap in the background and I’m like, “I’m supposed to follow what here?”
Green: Yeah, you just want to be able to sum it up to your friend. “This guy was caught behind a door, his dad hit him in the face with a hatchet and they don’t know whether he’s dead or not.”
C-H: It’s simple, it’s primal, it’s to the point. What were some of the other films – obviously you’ve got Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street – what were some of the other films that inspired you while you were making and directing Hatchet?
Green: You know, oddly enough, I always get the Friday the 13th thing, because it’s a monster in the woods killing people off one-by-one, but that movie really had no effect on this aside from what Jason looked like in Part 2. For me it was Scream, it was An American Werewolf in London. Tonally, Hatchet is nothing like those 80s slashers. It’s much different as far as the comedy and stuff like that goes, but because it’s got the slasher formula, everyone goes back to Friday the 13th, which was not the first movie to do it. There was Halloween, there was The Burning, there was other stuff. We knew as soon as we had Kane Hodder, we talked about it. We were like, everyone’s gonna say this is a Friday the 13th ripoff, so at the end we gave them what they wanted with the scene in the boat and he comes and pulls her out of the boat. Originally, in the script, he came out of the tree and fell into the boat. And I was like, “You know what? Let’s give them what they’re expecting.” And it works, because people start clapping before he even comes out, they know he’s coming. It’s just a nod to all the fans, like here you go.
C-H: I really wish I could see the film.
Green: You haven’t seen it? I just ruined it!
C-H: No, the first time I saw any footage was on the screen in [the panel].
Snider: What I like about the movie is that when it’s funny, it’s intentionally funny, as opposed to a lot of the horror films of the 1970s that you laughed, but they didn’t want you to laugh. You were laughing because it was just so ludicrous. The comedy is designed to be funny, but it does not interfere with the horror aspects of it. Which is just great.
Green: There’s nothing spoofing in it either. It’s not spoofing anything. Like it’s just genuinely funny.
C-H: So it’s not like, say, Behind the Mask, which is another slasher film that’s calling back to the past.
Snider: That one was great.
Green: So good.
C-H: This one [Hatchet] is nostalgic in a different way, taking a different tact.
Green: This is more about for, like, the people our age. When they see it, they’re just going to smile and say, “that’s why I got into this in the first place. Now I remember why I liked horror.” In the past five or six years, it’s just – all the brutal raping and the torture films that don’t have a villain in them? It’s just like, “We’re gonna torture somebody for an hour and a half now.” It’s still horrifying, yes, and I can appreciate what the film is, but I don’t walk out of that film wanting to see it again. I don’t walk out telling my friends, "Dude, you gotta go see whatever the movie is." It’s just not like that. I wanted to bring back the boogeyman. Like, where did the boogeyman go? That’s the biggest staple in horror, since Nosferatu, and we’ve lost our boogeymen. Hopefully, Victor Crowley can come close to filling the shoes that these guys all did back in the day.
C-H: I guess that would be the difference between – you have “horror” in the dictionary sense and then you’ve got “terror”, and really what you’re going for here is terror.
Gree: And just… fun, I guess.
C-H: Terror and fun.
Green: Yeah! When I first saw Friday the 13th VII in the theater, when Jason first just randomly pulled a weed-whacker out of his pocket – he’d always have the weirdest instruments. He’s got Terry Kaiser on the ground from Weekend at Bernie’s and all of a sudden he just turns around and he has a weed-whacker. The whole audience stood up and started cheering. And it was like that feeling, where I was like, “He’s gonna pull out a… gas-powered belt sander!” At first everyone’s like, “Where did he get that?”
Snider: Do they have those?
Green: That was a big fight on set! I didn’t want to use it. At the last second, I was like, “You know what, I don’t want to do this gag. It’s stupid. Where’d he get it?” And the production designer said, “If I can build a functioning gas-powered belt sander, will you use it?” Because that means it could exist. And I said, “Fine,” because I didn’t want him having an extension cord running off into the woods. [The production designer] showed up to set and he pulled the thing and it started. We had a gas-powered belt sander.
Snider: He finished the table, it was fabulous.
C-H: Finish table, finish face!
C-H: What would Hatchet 2 entail, if there is one?
Green: If there is a Hatchet 2 -- which all signs point that there’s going to be at this point – I’m going to outdo the death scenes in this one. I already know how. People keep saying, “No way,” but there’s some crazy s**t in this one that we already set up in the first one. For instance, you see the inside of Victor Crowley’s shed, and we showed a bunch of the things he’s going to use in the next one already. The one thing I tried to do with this is, in the 80s they would make one movie and when it made money, they would just start coming up with ways to keep bringing them back, and of course it’s easy because the villain never dies. With this, I purposely left questions unanswered, like there is an actual story for the sequels, so it’s not just going to be…
Snider: Like the Police Academy films. There’s a reason why you need more of them.
Green: Exactly. So when they go to Russia, it’ll really make sense.
Snider: Victor Crowley has those roots and he must go back to the mother country. Back to Russia, his Russian descent.
C-H: And you can get Christopher Lee for that one.
Green: That would be awesome. Well, I am struggling with the idea of, do we keep going with the idea of bringing back icons to make appearances in these and… I don’t know. But, I know that Tony Todd and Kane Hodder are gonna face off in the sequel. And that first time you see the two of them run at each other to fight, like, every fan’s gonna cream in their jeans, cause that’s just going to be awesome. We’re also gonna learn who Victor Crowley really is, why he’s deformed… Is he a ghost? Is he real? Why did he end up like that? There’s a lot of actual information for the sequels where the fans are gonna be actually watching a second film and not just seeing Victor Crowley come back and kill people again.
Snider: I think that Victor Crowley should discover that the reason that he’s so f**ked up is because he was actually a hot young girl, originally. And then his parents forced a sex change on him.
Green: People were shocked at Tribeca, when we were like, “Do you guys wanna see who the young Victor Crowley was?” And they’re like “Yeah.” And [actress Rileah Vanderbilt] just walks up and they’re just like, “What?”
Snider: She’s no Ari Lehman, I’ll tell you that.
C-H: In the panel, you emphasize that Hatchet is not a remake, it’s not a sequel, and in the posters, it’s not one of the Japanese ones. Do you see Hatchet as a sort of call to Hollywood to start investing more resources in original horror with original stories?
Green: It’s exactly what it is. Like, Hatchet, as far as the formula, is not that original. It’s been done. We’ve seen people get killed by a monster before.
Snider: Not with a belt sander.
Green: Not with a belt sander. But the way it’s done is what makes it original. That tagline, “It’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel,” was actually a rejection letter given to me by one of the studios when the script first when out. They were saying, “The writing is terrific, but this movie’s never gonna get made because right now we make remakes, we make sequels, and do you have any Japanese movies that you’re interested in?” I thought that was so f**kin’ funny that I made it the tagline, and it pissed off some of the distributors, cause when they showed up to Tribeca and that poster’s up there… It is a big “f**k you” to Hollywood, because that’s all they were doing. Hopefully, if this does well, we’ll see more of it. The horror fans need to understand that Hollywood caters to them and they make the decisions, because all they care about is your money. So, if people wanted to support and pay for Holocaust comedies, Hollywood would be like, (funny voice) “Oh, we could make some of these, it’s a bunch of Jews dying, it’s fine.” They’ll justify any way to make money. That’s why we have all the remakes, like Texas Chainsaw did well, which I was thought was great for a remake. A lot of people hate me for saying that…
C-H: No, I totally agree.
Green: Dawn of the Dead I really liked the remake for, and that was one where I walked in like, “This is gonna suck!” John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my favorite movies of all time, it’s a remake. So I’m not anti-remake, but let’s throw in a few original things here and there.
Snider: I do Fangoria Radio every week. Tony Timpone comes in with what’s gonna be big now. And it’s just remakes. You can’t believe some of the s**t they’re remaking. It wasn’t even big the first time around.
Green: No… The House on Sorority Row. Silent Night, Deadly Night, the s**t that they come to me with, it’s like “Why?” They’re like, “We want you to do Hatchet with Santa Claus.” Why don’t we just do a different movie, how about that? If the fans actually do show up on September 7th -- and I’m not saying this because I get the money, because I’m the last dude who gets paid on this whole thing – and the movie does well, you’re gonna see the tide change for horror, because people are gonna be like, “Oh s**t, wait a minute.” I think the torture thing, they abused the hell out of it, like with Captivity, I didn’t see. I know you saw it, but like…
Snider: Woo-hoo. What’s that smell? It’s comin’ from the movie!
Green: I just think people are ready to have fun again. If this does well, Hollywood gonna start trying to find original movies again. But right now, every single studio, their development slate is all remakes right now. All of it. I go in for every meeting on all of that stuff. So I went and made another film called Spiral afterwards, which is like this art house drama, because if I wanted to accept an open writing assignment from Hollywood, it was a remake. That’s all they had.
C-H: How wide are you going September 7th?
Green: It’ll be nationwide. It’ll be every major city the first weekend, but not that many screens per city. So I think that’s like 80 screens, probably, on the opening day, but it’s only going to be in the best theaters. Which means it’s not going to be at that weird art house theater. It’ll be in the main shopping mall complex. In New York, it’ll be at the Empire, in Hollywood it’ll be at the Chinese or the Arclight. So they’re being very careful and they’re making it very prestigious where it’s like, an exclusive event that this theater’s gonna get it. Their idea is… they’re prepared to roll it out to 1500, 2000 screens, but nobody trusts the fans. They go to remakes and like… I hear these fans at these conventions, “I’m sick of remakes, I’m sick of sequels.” What do they go to see? Remakes and PG-13 Disturbia that did so well… I haven’t seen it yet, that might be a great movie. I don’t know. If the fans go and show up, it’s gonna change everything.
Classic-Horror would like to thank Adam Green and Dee Snider for taking time out of their busy schedules to talk to us. If you're interested in supporting Hatchet, join the Hatchet Army at http://www.hatchetarmy.com/, but even more importantly, show up at the nearest theater playing Hatchet on September 7th and buy a couple tickets. Pick up a giant tub of popcorn and a box of chocolate-covered raisins while you're at it. I'll see you there.