Building off the success of the critically acclaimed ‘Hatchet’, it seemed as if director Adam Green had transformed himself from a relatively unknown horror director to an award-winning filmmaker and producer at his company ArieScope Pictures almost overnight. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Adam Green and his dedicated collaborators have spent the past fifteen years shaping their company and amassing one of the most dedicated fan bases in cult cinema history. During that time, his tireless efforts have brought us unique films such as ‘Frozen,’ ‘Grace’ and ‘Chillerama,’ not to mention the always hilarious ‘Holliston’ television series which has managed to rekindle interest of some of the genre’s biggest names by showing them in a whole new light. Despite all of these other successes, Adam Green will always be known for one of his most sinister creations — Victor Crowley. This Boogeyman of the Bayou has managed to charm his way into the hearts and minds of horror fanatics around the globe. ‘Hatchet III’ continues the tale of the now-iconic villain Victor Crowley, played by genre favorite Kane Hodder, and ramps up the action to bring this epic tale of terror to a close. The film As a search and recovery team heads into the haunted swamp to pick up the pieces and carnage left behind from the first two films, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) hunts down the true secret to ending the voodoo curse that has left the ghost of Victor Crowley haunting and terrorizing Honey Island Swamp for decades. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with writer/director Adam Green to discuss the success of the ‘Hatchet’ franchise, the challenges involved in bringing it to the screen and the personal sacrifices he has made in the name of the horror business.
I wanted to go way back to the beginning. You have inspired a lot of people with you hard work and dedication to your passion in recent years. What was the event that kicked started your interest into entering the world of filmmaking?
It was ‘E.T.: The Extraterrestrial’. I was about seven or eight when I saw the film. I was already a big movie fan because of ‘Star Wars’ and all of the related toys. That was my life! I remember leaving the theater after seeing ‘E.T.’, hysterically crying. I knew it wasn’t real and that E.T. wasn’t real but I was affected by it, basically for the rest of my life — even to this day! I have seen it in the theater seventeen times at this point and I have watched it hundreds of times and it still devastates me. I was so intrigued by how they did that with the music, the script, the acting, the lighting and the storytelling. I wanted to know how you did that with a movie. That is really where it all started. From then on, whenever I would play with my toys, which was always ‘Star Wars’ toys for the most part, it was all about staying true to the characters in the movies. When I would look at them and play with them, it was through the eyes of the camera and camera shots. I started making my own little shows with stuffed animals or puppets. My uncle got this crappy little video camera that he let us borrow and I would have it in the backyard shooting stuff. I guess I was like everyone else who gets the bug for this thing. Horror was always my favorite because of the holiday of Halloween. I would look forward to that all year round! I just could not wait for Halloween! With most kids, it is Christmas or their birthday as their favorite but for me it was Halloween. Horror movies was a way to capture the magic of Halloween year round. It is pure escapism! It is the fun, the stories are great, the special effects are terrific. For the ‘Hatchet’ movie, all I did was make the type of movie that I wanted to see again. I wasn’t thrilled with what I was being offered. I wasn’t into torture porn, not that I was against it because there has to be stuff for everybody but it wasn’t my style. Then there were all the remakes and the PG-13 stuff. I wanted to see non-CGI makeup effects. Where did Tom Savini go? Where did John Buechler go? I wanted a magic show again! All I did was make the type of movie I wanted to see again with my comedic voice and sensibilities. Nobody really thought it was going to work! Everybody passed on that script because it wasn’t the style at the time. I would hear “This isn’t the style right now. This isn’t it. The writing is great and we would love to hire you to write something else but we are not going to make this movie.” We gambled and we made it. Now, Part III is about to open! It is incredible!
When you set forth to make the original ‘Hatchet’ film, did you have any idea whatsoever you would go on to spawn two sequels?
The story in these films was always very well thought out from the get go. The gamble with the first ‘Hatchet’ film and it’s ending being so abrupt, it might have ended it there. That might have been it. I was OK with that — end the movie where it needs to end. It was like “He’s got her and if that is where it ends, that is where it ends!” You don’t need to see the fake ending we did. We made it but we were like “Fuck that part! We don’t need that extra little shit.” We ended the movie right at the climax. Whether people loved that or hated it, I think most people respected it because it was ballsy to do. Then there was the gamble of “Are there going to be more?” Even back in the first ‘Hatchet,’ the chainsaw he uses in Part II, we show it in the shed. We already knew about that kill in the sequel. I had already told Robert Pendergraft and John Buechler, our artists who were designing Victor Crowley, that his real mother was black and that is why his hair and skin color needed to look a certain way. I had the whole story! Even in the flashback where Mary Beth tells the story, I purposely made it very truncated and more of a little campfire, urban legend and held back on telling the real story for the sequel. It was really had to do that because I thought “What if I never get the chance to tell the whole story?” Gratefully, I did! These three movies tie together as one big movie and I am happy that the quality continues to get better between movies instead of worse like most of these slasher franchises. I think a lot of that is because the same people have stuck with it through the whole thing. It is really, really important to us and we really love it. We do everything we can to try and make these movies fun for the fans!
It seems you definitely make an effort to keep your finger on the pulse of what the fans want these days. Is that a fair statement to make?
It is not just me. I have to point this out because it is so unusual. It is really Dark Sky Films, the distributor. They came onboard for parts two and three. What is amazing about this company is they are so filmmaker and fan friendly. It is not just abut what names are attached or how much money can we get for it, like a lot of other places. Thankfully, the ‘Hatchet’ fan base is a cult fan base but it is not like ‘Saw,’ where it was released on 2000 screens and made $20 million dollars or whatever. The fan base worldwide is extremely loyal and very, very big, so they let me make these movies for the ‘Hatchet’ fans. They have never said “How do we make this a little bit broader for a wider audience? Let’s make it PG-13 or maybe it doesn’t need to be quite so gory. Maybe i shouldn’t be funny.” They totally listen to the fans and the feedback we get and they care. They have never meddled and we have never not been on the same page. That is so, so unusual and a huge reason why I have been able to keep my finger on the pulse of what the fans want. As people know, I am very accessible. I write back to everyone who writes to me. I have a Facebook page that I personally respond to people on, as well as Twitter and all of the convention appearances I do. I listen! It has been great! I love that the fans treat me like I am available. I hope that for most, it feels like I am one of their friends. That has also become a fun part if the process.
As a fan of your work, I totally agree with that. I totally get that vibe from you. It is a rarity these days, so kudos to you on that! You stepped away from the directors chair on this film. Where you ever apprehensive in doing so and what does BJ McDonnell bring to the table for this project?
I was never apprehensive because it was a very unique situation. I had already directed two of these films, especially after ‘Hatchet II’ got pulled. I thought “Ok, I don’t want to do it again.” I had my TV series now, I had ‘Killer Pizza’ and ‘Digging Up The Marrow’ and it was either going to be wait five years until I was ready to do this or let’s do it. The situation was pretty unique because I wrote it, and as anyone knows, the script is God in the movie. That is were everything is decided, so I was still able to control the story. I also cast the movie, aside from a few people. The parts were written specifically for them. I then I also had final cut, I was on set and in editing, so it wasn’t the typically thing where you just get a producer credit because you created it and see what happens. I was very, very involved. By promoting from within and giving BJ a chance to do it made perfect sense because he was already part of the whole family. Everyone already knew each other and there was no ego there! He wasn’t coming in as an established director who felt the need to come in, change it up and make it his own. There was never a butting of heads about anything. He stayed very true to the script and very true to the vision that was set out for from the get go because he was a part of all of them. This is a very collaborative group of people. Everybody had a say and was involved! There is nobody on the crew who is ever apprehensive or coming forward with an idea or saying what they think about something. I think that really shows in the movie. I think as a camera operator, BJ was very, very focused on camera shots. That is very interesting because this film is a lot more of an action movie but we still have the same DP, Will Barratt, who shot the first two. We wanted to make each movie a little different. Obviously, you don’t want them to be the same movie over and over again, so for this film, the scope is definitely a lot bigger. That was really the goal with the script from the get go — How do we go out with a huge, huge spectacle?
One of the coolest aspects of your projects, including ‘Hatchet 3,’ is the fact you bring some great talent with some classic actors from genre’s past. What can you tell us about bringing the cast together for this film and how it took shape?
I have been very fortunate that after the first film, every convention I would do, the entire roster of horror celebrities appearing there would always come up to me at some point and say “Hw do I get in on one of these things?” I think what they like about it is they get to be front and center and actually play good characters! Tony Todd, for instance, wasn’t just being scary or making ‘Candyman’ references. He was a funny, funny, larger than life guy who a lot of people had never seen him do comedy. That was really, really fun. For this film, having Zach Galligan back was terrific. Many people haven’t seen him in 20 years and Caroline Williams hadn’t been the lead in a movie for so long. It isn’t that they aren’t good actors. I don’t know if people are just forgetting they are there or what but getting to put them front and center and bring them back again is really, really fun! With “Holliston” as well, you have horror icons doing a sitcom. They are doing a multi-camera, traditional sitcom with a studio audience and a laugh track. They never thought that was going to happen. You have to remember, when you decide you are going to be an actor, that is awesome if you re Robert Englund and are known as being “Freddy” and are an icon but you want to do other stuff too! As much as you appreciate what you have, you don’t want to play one role for the rest of your life and do cameos! You want to do different stuff! I like giving people that chance!
You have logged a lot of time as a writer over the past few years with the ‘Hatchet’ films, your other movies and ‘Holliston’. Are you doing anything differently in regard to writing than you did early on and what is your process like these days?
My process is extremely unhealthy and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I have ten more days of press until ‘Hatchet III’ comes out. Then I am going into rehab. It is not really rehab but that is what I am calling it! I am just going to my parents house so my Mom can baby me and get me back on my feet. I am just not well. I work at least 22 hours a day most days and sometimes I was doing 36 hour days. I would sleep for twenty minutes and keep going. I love all of this so much that it isn’t like work and I can’t stay away. It isn’t stressful in terms of stress, it is stressful in terms of it being so much to handle. That goes for ‘Holliston’ more than anything because it is sitcom where normally you would have a staff of twenty writers and all of these directors. I write and direct almost every episode this season. I had someone understudy me last season, John Becker, who was able to step up. With TV, the showrunner is really the director. The director is basically getting the coverage and making sure it is correct and everything is there. The showrunner is the one with final say. I write non-stop. I am constantly doing it and it is fun! That part of the process is so great because it is just you in your mind and as many gallons of Diet Coke you can drink to keep going! [laughs] I love the writing process! It is great! It gets tough when you get a studio assignment because you will have 17 different executives giving you notes. A lot of times, those notes all conflict, don’t make sense and they don’t know what they are saying sometimes but that is the part of the process where you really get to do your thing.
With as active as you are in the industry, do you every take time out to look back at all you have accomplished and ponder your evolution?
That is something I regret. I have never had the chance to do that. I have never celebrated any of it. It is one of those things. Being totally honest, I just started going to a therapist this year because my wife was very concerned. She was like “You have never even been happy about it. You never just relax, look back and think about how great it has been. It is always about what’s next and what’s after that and after that!” I am trying to get better about that. Sometimes, if I am in my studio, and I look at the walls with all of the posters from ‘Hatchet’ to ‘Spiral’ to ‘Grace’ to the ‘Hatchet’ series to ‘Chillerama’ to ‘Frozen,’ it’s like “How the fuck did this happen?” It has been a fifteen year journey since I started and started ArieScope Pictures. The fact we have all stayed together through all of it and made so many different things is amazing. ‘Hatchet I’ was shot in 2005 and we haven’t stopped since. The projects overlap and we just keep going and going. I am lucky to be in that position. A lot of my friends who are directors will go three to four years between projects sometimes, so I always knock on wood and never take it for granted. I do need to, hopefully, reflect on it a little bit, enjoy it a little bit and take a vacation every now and then. I am even looking forward to going to a premiere, watching and being excited and not totally worried about if the color not being exactly right or what is happening with this or that. It is a great problem to have but it is a problem. I am not going to last as long as I want unless I learn how to manage that better and live my life a little bit. I have no social life at all. I never go out. I barely get to see friends and my family, so I am working on that!
As a fan, I thank you for your time today. Keep up the great work but let’s not kill ourselves over it!
Thank you very much! [laughs] It was great talking to you. Take care!