Gavin Schmitt Interviews Adam Green, Hatchet III Writer
For horror fans, Adam Green needs no introduction. And heck, we have interviewed him and friend Joe Lynch on this site multiple times before. This is an interview from March 2013. Enjoy!
GS: Not too long ago, you and the “Holliston” crew gave a live performance at HorrorHound. How did it go?
AG: Oh my god. It was crazy. I think it was a record-breaking convention in terms of attendance. The last estimate I heard was close to 17,000 people. The lines, oh my, we just weren’t prepared for that. And then we found out the fire marshal had shut down and moved our spot before we started, just because of how long the line was, we were all sort of “wow”. We figured with the “Walking Dead” cast being there, everything would be about them. But we were signing for eight hours straight without a bathroom break. And then the live performance that we did… that was the first time all six of us were at the same convention at the same time. So that was huge. The hall held about 800, but they managed to squeeze closer to 1000 in there. The response was just so awesome, and there was a standing ovation. It was great. “Holliston” lends itself to live performance, because a sitcom is very much like a play, and unlike a movie.
GS: This is semi-serious, semi-joking, but do you and Rob Zombie have the same casting director?
AG: (laughs) No. No, not at all. I guess there is some crossover. Sid Haig. Danielle Harris. Bill Moseley. Caroline Williams. It’s just a small world. Mostly I just cast friends and the people I like to work with. I’m fortunate to be able to do that and not have to answer to producers about who I have to hire, like someone from the CW or wherever. But I write all the roles with people in mind that are friends or people I really like working with.
GS: One of the crossover people is Jason Trost, maybe best known as J-Tro from “The FP”. He appears in “Hatchet III”.
AG: I actually had nothing to do with that. For “Hatchet III”, maybe 80-90% of the parts were already written for specific people. But then there were a few others parts, like the police officers. BJ McDonnell was the director for “Hatchet III”, and he was the one who knew Jason and suggested him. I thought it was funny, because you wouldn’t give a police officer with an eye patch a gun. But that was all BJ. (Note: BJ McDonnell also worked on Rob Zombie’s “The Devil’s Rejects” and “Halloween”.)
GS: We know you got some inside stories on “Gremlins” from Zach Galligan. What was probably the most interesting thing you learned?
AG: Unfortunately, the most interesting things are the ones I can’t repeat. There was the night when we shot the LA portion, he actually stayed at my house rather than in a hotel. And at one point, when we weren’t shooting, he did a live private commentary and told all the stories you could never publicly say on a commentary. It was absolutely mind-blowing. So I can’t repeat a lot of that. But one of my favorite stories is how he got the part. He said that Phoebe Cates was already cast, so they had all these guys come in and read with her. It was in-between takes, and he just rested his head on her shoulder. According to him, when they were casting, they were fast-forwarding through the tapes and saw that moment, and then stopped. They looked so cute together. So I think it’s amazing what little things could lead to getting a part or not getting a part. But yeah, I was constantly pestering him for “Gremlins” stories. And he’s not one of those people who’s jaded by it. Some people get famous and don’t want to talk about the thing they’re most known for, but he totally got what a “Gremlins” fan I was and fed my geekery. So I’d pester him the whole time. And also 80s metal, because we both love that stuff, and he was fortunate enough to be there on Sunset Strip in the heyday of all of it.
GS: Which leads to the question of horror and metal. “Hatchet III” has a hard soundtrack, “Holliston” has Dee Snider and GWAR, and you’re not alone in infusing your horror with metal.
AG: I feel like both both genres — horror films and metal music — attract the same type of people. A lot of people who love horror also like hard rock and metal. Certainly not everybody, for sure. The majority of horror films I worked on, like “Frozen” and “Spiral”, there’s no metal in them whatsoever. But the “Hatchet” series, because it is such a throwback to the 80s, we always wanted to start off each movie with a hard rock or metal song. We almost didn’t do that with “Hatchet III”, and at one point considered doing this one with just a score. The beauty of the “Hatchet” films is they have their fan base, so by the time you get to part three you don’t have to worry about broadening the appeal. We get to make the movie that we think the fans want to see. It’s rare that you can do that. If you don’t like slasher movies, this movie isn’t for you, and we’re totally okay with that. So, once we got towards the end of post-production, we decided we really needed a metal song. So I talked to Dave Brockie of GWAR, who I know from “Holliston”, and they were totally game to provide a song for us. BJ and I are both huge GWAR fans and have actually gone and seen them together at least four or five times over the last eight years.
GS: You’re spot on about the fan base. Horror films and the “Hatchet” series have that incredible divide: they are hugely popular, and yet get absolutely terrible reviews.
AG: If you look up “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “The Dark Knight”, there are like 16,000 people on IMDb that gave them a one (out of ten). IMDb is where intelligent conversation goes to die. After “Hatchet”, I stopped looking. First, because it’s meaningless. IMDb is pretty much only good for looking someone up and seeing what movies they have coming out. But the reviews on there are bullshit, because it’s either “the greatest movie ever” or “the worst movie ever”. The horror genre in general, though… if you find yourself writing “Exterior, swamp, night” and think you’re going to win an Oscar, or get critical acclaim, you’re doing the wrong thing. That’s not what these movies are about. You have to find out who your audience is and make the movie for them. Again, with the appeal, we’re very fortunate and probably more than anything the timing was right. When “Hatchet” came out, there hadn’t been a slasher villain in a long time. Or a movie with all-practical, super-gory makeup effects. Everything was mean-spirited, or depraved, or a remake, or J-Horror, or PG-13. If “Hatchet” had come out in the mid-90s, I don’t think anyone would have cared. But it happened to come out at just the right time where a million people were missing that tone, that feeling. And having comical characters going through something horrific makes it enjoyable. Bottom line, I was just trying to make the kind of movie that I wanted to see again. I had no idea if it was going to work. The reps were telling me the slasher sub-genre was dead and nobody wants this anymore. But I disagreed, and I got to make all three movies I originally set out to make. And I’m proud to say in many ways things got bigger and better with each one, rather than the way certain other franchises seem like they just gave up and are cashing in. But we actually cared about our movie, and got everyone to come back each time.
GS: For “Hatchet III”, Kane Hodder’s makeup was and prosthetics were easier than ever before to assemble and put on. Was there anything else in the technology department that made things smoother this time around?
AG: The movies have actually gotten progressively harder to film, because we keep getting more ambitious. With “Hatchet III”, it’s really the same exact makeup as “Hatchet II”. At that point, we really got the look right, and it was less of a mask than the first film. But it took three hours to put on and three hours to take off. It was so hard for Kane to deal with. So for “Hatchet III” we switched to silicone, and the appliance then only took 45 minutes. Maybe by the end it was even 35 minutes. So it was the same pieces to wear each day, as opposed to the latex where you have to throw it out. On the down side, though, the costume weighed between 45 and 50 pounds. So imagine being in 100-degree, sweltering New Orleans heat in the summer. The suit doesn’t breathe and it covers his whole body. But he said this one was his favorite, because even though there’s excess weight, there’s not the appliance process. We wanted Victor Crowley to be consistent, but you always want to improve, too. So moving from foam latex to silicone was a huge asset.
We also look at the kills and how we can have fun with that. The first film had seven on-screen deaths. The second one was maybe seventeen, and this one was around twenty-five. Maybe more. With “Hatchet III”, it wasn’t about making every kill a huge spectacle. There’s some of that, but we also have multiple people attacking Victor Crowley at once. So there’s heads being chopped off, and legs, and people being thrown around.
GS: You’re part of the movement rebelling against CGI, working with practical effects whenever possible. Has it limited what you’ve been able to do?
AG: Yes and no. While I’m writing it, I also run it by the makeup guys and ask them if we can do it practically. Sometimes they’re be terrified. In “Hatchet II” the deaths were much harder to do, more elaborate. Pulling a guy out of his skin, almost like a “Mortal Kombat” finishing move… that was so many pieces that had to be made, and some of them are on screen for only a frame or two. But running it all together sells that effect. The two guys on the chainsaw… I think for that we had nine guys operating the wires. Everything was on wires, the chainsaw was on wires, and the special effects guys are there splitting the body. It’s very, very hard, and that’s where a lot of the budget and time ends up. But those effects are what people are paying to see, so we want that. If you have a CG character or have CG blood, what’s the point? At least in a slasher movie where you want to see the fake blood. If we were to use CG, it would be to remove a wire or a boom mic, but never to add or create anything.
GS: There’s rumor that your next project is a fake documentary. Can you explain it?
AG: It’s hard to say, hard to explain what it is. So we’ve been purposely not saying much about it. The long story short is that four or five years ago, I got some crazy fan mail. Someone had sent me this whole package telling me that Victor Crowley was real and I had screwed up the whole story, didn’t tell it right. Now, keep in mind, this is a story I made up as an 8-year old kid. But this guy had proof and photographs in a swamp. It was actually quite hilarious, especially because the return address was from Seattle and not New Orleans. But my producers partners are always looking for something to do. So the idea was proposed that we contact this guy and follow him around, but we quickly realized no one wants to do that. So we let it go. But then I met the artist, Alex Pardee, and he had an exhibit called “Digging Up the Marrow” about a guy who contacted him and had seen monsters and wanted him to paint the monsters. So we thought about a documentary about where monsters come from, and the people who make monsters, directors and artists. From there it evolved into something else and we made sure things went how we wanted them to go. That’s really all I can say at this point. It’s done in a documentary style, but it’s not a documentary and it’s definitely not found footage. It’s very weird, and I can’t directly compare it to anything. But we’re in editing right now, so maybe after that… right now, not knowing what it is has been sort of the joy in making it. Hopefully next year people will start seeing it, but right now I don’t even know.