Rob Hall and Bobbi Sue Luther (Laid to Rest) interview
After fifteen years in the makeup effects industry, Rob Hall made the move to the director's chair in 2004 with Lightning Bug, a coming-of-age drama loosely based on his own teen years. Now, for his second go-round at the helm of a feature film, Hall (who also heads up the effects studio Almost Human) dives into the realm of all-out horror with Laid to Rest, a slasher movie starring his wife, Bobbi Sue Luther, as well as Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and genre stalwart Richard Lynch. The film has been picked up by Anchor Bay for distribution at some time in the near future.
We able to sit down with Rob Hall and Bobbi Sue Luther at San Diego Comic-Con and ask them about Laid to Rest, their sources of inspiration, and Hall's transition from makeup guru to director.
Classic-Horror: Tell me a little about what Laid to Rest is about.
Bobbi Sue Luther: Laid to Rest is a story of a girl who wakes up in a coffin and doesn't know who she is or how she got there. She's kind of suffering from temporary amnesia. Over the course of one night, she's escaping the clutches of the killer who's put her there, ultimately. She's meeting these people in this very rural town, and together they need to stay alive long enough for the cops to come and help them out of the situation.
Robert Hall: It's a family film.
Luther: It's a romantic comedy.
Hall: It's a very simple premise. That was my goal. It's like, let me start with a very simple premise and try to make something that's really spectacular.
C-H: It almost sounds like you're coming into a slasher movie halfway through.
Hall: Yeah! You're exactly right. The film is told... We use the killer's video camera, so we use some tapes; it's just a little bit of a mechanism to tell you what occurred earlier in the night. So the movie does start in the middle of the night, so you're right about that. It sort of takes off. The film starts, she's in a coffin, and then the film just flies. It's just non-stop. That's how I wanted it.
C-H: So, you basically wanted to do a horror film with an easy premise and then you wanted to work from there?
Luther: Easy premise, but also something that had a lot of character development as well.
Hall: Exactly. I did a film called Lightning Bug which was semi-autobiographical, about myself growing up in the South, which was a story I really needed to tell. It was a story I wanted to get out. With this film, I wanted to do something that I believe in like that, where there's characters that you like and you root for people – imagine that, in a horror film. But I also wanted to do it with a really simple premise, because Lightning Bug was a drama, it's not everybody's cup of tea. And I said, “What's the most simple horror premise that I can start with and make a really compelling movie? Guy with mask, chasing girl.” And then I started there and I wrote the movie. That's how I did it. That's the genesis.
C-H: It obviously flowered a bit from there. You look at the cast list and there's, like, tons of names in there, very recognizable names in there. You've got Lena Headey, you've got Thomas Dekker. How did you manage to get the top two stars of Sarah Connor Chronicles?
Luther: He's a really good masseuse.
Hall: I'm a really good masseuse. Well, y'know, it's no secret that I make the Terminators for the show. That's my job, my day job. Lena and Thomas, from the time I first met them... They saw Lightning Bug, my first movie. They're like, “I wanna see your movie.” Showed 'em and they both really loved it. You know, we're all filmmakers; Lena's a filmmaker, Thomas is a director, and we're all sort of helping each other. They really like my work for whatever reason, I like their stuff, and we all support each other. They really loved my first movie and they're like, “We're going to be in your next movie.” And so when it came time and I wrote this thing as a vehicle for Bobbi, I said, “Alright, you're really serious about this? You wanna be in it” They read the script, they loved it, they came out and they were in it.
C-H: So, Bobbi, your part was written specifically for you, then?
C-H: Wow, that's got to be kind of a nice feeling.
Luther: Yeah, it's a great feeling. We made a decision to set out and do a movie together, y'know, him as a writer, myself as a producer -- both of us as a producer, but myself as an actress. We started off on this very sleepless journey to do this little thing that would essentially be our vehicle, y'know, together. Because he'd done Lightning Bug, but people were like, “Can you direct horror films?” And he's like, “Oh my goodness gracious, guys, I've been scaring people for fifteen years!” So he's like, “I'm gonna show people I can scare people for once and for all and you're gonna show people that you can act for once and for all.” Sometimes you just have to create your own paths in life and we just decided we're gonna do that for ourselves. And the rest is history. The rest is now, still in the editing bay. (Laughs)
C-H: Excepting the fact that you're obviously not an amnesiac, as far as I can tell, how much of you goes into the character?
Bobbi Sue Luther
Luther: You know, I think that as an actress when you study and you learn how to do the technique, or at least the technique that I studied... Everything all comes from an honest place, so when you cry, it's an honest cry. So, you think of things that get you there. So you know, you prepare, you do a lot of mental preparation. I prepared for, I would say two months with my acting coach with this and, you know, really working out all your inner monologues and things that will really make a compelling performance. Although I'm not somebody who just sits there, who's vacant because of a head injury, the things that I was drawing off of were real, in comparison. So I think there's definitely a lot of bits of me, but then there's also the opportunity to kind of become somebody else, and kind of find her footing.
C-H: Find the character within the context.
Luther: Yeah, exactly.
C-H: Rob, what were some of the influences that went into the film – when you were writing it, as you were directing it?
Hall: Influences in terms of other films?
C-H: In terms of films from the past, yeah.
Hall: I wear my influences on my sleeve. I'm old school. One of my favorite films is Halloween. Our killer definitely has a little bit of Michael Myers in him, a little bit of Jason in terms of he has a mask. Our killer is essentially a guy like me who has a proclivity for young females, that's all I'll say about that. He has the money to pull off this very cool costume where he makes himself a rare, unique sort of death mask that he uses as his calling card. He's a rich guy who's really sick. And he's seen all those movies that we've seen – the Michael Myers and the Jasons and all of that stuff. So there's really no competing with that – he's not supernatural, there's nothing funky going on. He's a rich, sick serial killer.
C-H: Who knows all the tricks.
Hall: Who knows all the tricks, seen all the movies. And quite frankly, wants to play a little bit, wants to do the stalking thing, and wants to do these things he's seen in movies because it's fun.
C-H: Does that kind of flow into why he has a video camera and why he tapes some it?
Hall: Yeah, yeah.
Luther: In preparing for writing the script, Rob was reading a lot of real books about real serial killers.
Hall: Yeah, so to answer your question, from an aesthetic point of view, inspirations were obviously a little bit of Jason, a little bit of Michael Myers, although there's no supernatural thing about Chrome Skull, our killer. But yeah, my true research was more in serial killer books.
Luther: Real serial killer books. He's reading these books and you watch a movie and people go, “That's too over the top, that's unbelievable.” But you know, we're reading these passages in these books about these guys that are real...
Hall: Y'know, his mom was drunk and his dad left and so he filleted his own testicle. He did this and did that...
Luther: The things were... If you wrote this in a movie, people would be like, “It's so big and unbelievable,” but it's real stuff. It was funny because you're like, “Look see, this stuff was real!” It's just funny, the real stories are much more ridiculous than some of the movies around.
C-H: Ridiculous and creepy.
C-H: Rob, you probably also contributed to the makeup effects in Laid to Rest...
Hall: Almost Human did, yeah.
C-H: So you stepped out of that yourself to focus on the directing?
Hall: What I do with my shop anyway is direct. I mean, I'm out there with sculptures and painters and moldmakers, sitting there, scratching our heads over someone else's script, going “Okay, ow the hell are we gonna do this?” So we sit there and we talk, and I delegate and I direct and I say, “ You're doing this and you're doing this.” And that's what directing is. So it's essentially it's the same thing.
C-H: So you're just making sure that everyone knows their job and they're doing it...
Hall: Making sure everyone's on the same page, that they all have a common goal, that we're all working and striving towards it.
C-H: A single artistic vision driving everything...
Hall: Yeah. Literally the same thing. And that's what gave me the confidence to direct in the early stages. I realized that's really what I did anyway, was delegate art, and figure out how to set up a shot to get the maximum effect, and work with actors, and go, “Okay, you're going to do this. Move your face like this,” to get the best kind of... I mean, that's what I did, so it's essentially the same thing.
C-H: So you found that moving from being a makeup guy to a film director was...
Hall: Super simple.
C-H: Very easy, then.
Hall: Very easy. Yeah, you know a lot of people transition to directing from a lot of... acting is a great one. Yeah, I feel like it was a really super simple transition. Because I love working with actors, I mean that's what I've spent my whole life doing, is taking a person and going, “Let me put this stuff on you,” be it a plot or a backstory or a rubber forehead. I'm putting something on them and saying, “Now, go and be this.”
Luther: And the reality is that he grew up from the age of 10 wanting to make monsters, but he always wanted to make movies. Him and his brother were going out and making movies when they were 14, 15, 16. You aren't going to be seeing them in the theater any time soon...
C-H: Oh but we should, though.
Hall: They'll be on the DVD.
Luther: They'll be on the DVD extras, right? (laughs) But he always wanted to be a director, too, you know? And working for fifteen years on set only helps you with your general understanding of the whole filmmaking process, everybody's role in it, and your lust and desire to do the same thing.
C-H: What's in the future for you guys?
Hall: Bobbi just booked one of the leads in the new Night of the Demons remake, and she will be guest-starring on the Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Luther: And then I also got to get killed in The Poughkeepsie Tapes for the Dowdle brothers. They invited me to come play with them for a day and get killed on their little movie. It's a really great movie. It will be one of the best releases of this year. So that's what going on with us. We're in post on the movie right now. And we've also, because of the movie, we've started a production company called DryCounty Films. We've got about 20 films in development right now, in various different genres, very very heavy in horror and sci-fi. Gotta love it.
Hall: Pretty much full-time job for me right now – finishing Laid to Rest, developing a couple of other projects that we're gonna do in-house, and making robots for Skynet. That's pretty much full-time.
Classic-Horror would like to thank Rob Hall and Bobbi Sue Luther for taking the time to speak with us about their project.