Between his upcoming original features Descendant and Into the Zombie Underworld and his scripted remakes of Jacob’s Ladder, The Grudge, and Pet Sematary, it seems we can’t swing a dead Russian Blue around here without hitting writer Jeff Buhler (see what I did there?).
In Part 4 of our recent interview series with the prolific scribe, we chat with him regarding yet another project to which he’s attached, Slash’s The Hell Within.
Scripted by Buhler (known to genre audiences for authoring 2008’s Clive Barker-inspired Midnight Meat Train film and for writing and directing that year’s feature Insanitarium), produced by iconic rock guitarist Slash’s company SlashFiction, and set to be directed by Dennison Ramalho (ABC’s of Death), The Hell Within is being described as “Rosemary’s Baby in the jungle” and follows a woman from New York on a quest into the heart of the Brazilian rain forest to save a missing girl, only to discover that the child is only just the beginning…
“I’m really, really pleased,” stated Buhler of his collaboration with the Guns N’ Roses guitarist turned filmmaker (Slash’s first foray into horror, the feature Nothing Left to Fear, released in 2013), “because I’m a heavy metal fanatic from way back when. Growing up and watching horror movies and cranking crazy Black Sabbath kind of went hand in hand.”
As for how it came about, “A friend of mine, Samantha Maloney, is a drummer who played for Hole and Motley Crüe for a while and for a bunch of other bands, and she had met Slash’s producing partner, Jenna Barnes, when they were both at Sundance,” explained Buhler. “They started talking horror movies and about how much Slash loves them, and she said, ‘Oh, you should talk to my friend Jeff!’”
With the meeting set, Buhler recalls of his initial conversation with the guitarist, “When we first started talking, I realized that Slash was an encyclopedia of film, super intelligent and super passionate of the horror genre; and he’s very serious about making horror movies as a second career, in addition to his music. So when I sent Jenna the script for The Hell Within, I said, ‘I think this will fit squarely in Slash’s sensibilities. It’s evil, it’s nasty, it’s set in a crazy environment, and it’s fun.’”
“So Jenna sent the script to him while he was on tour in Japan,” he continued, “and he read the first forty pages or so and had to go on stage, and he was sending these emails to Jenna, which she was forwarding to me, that said, ‘Why did you send me this script right before I have to play? I love it, and I want to finish reading it!’ So right after he got off stage, he went to his hotel room and finished reading it; and the next day he was like, ‘We have to get this guy on the phone! I love this script!’ And that level of passion has not abated.”
“He just got it in his mind that this is the movie he wants to make,” furthered Buhler of the project’s development, “and he’s brought so many amazing things to it: Greg Nicotero from KNB FX and this whole fan engagement campaign that’s connecting all of his fans in the music and film worlds in order to make them a part of it. The campaign is essentially to engage with them and to allow them to be part of the process and to include them in the making of the film. I think with the celebrity culture, people want to tear you down or dismiss what you are doing, and it’s very important to have people on the inside; and in this case the fans, who through the campaign are able to see the material and the special effects, are able to understand what the script is trying to achieve and can see from the outset that it’s not a piece of shit. We are building out the mythology of the film within the campaign as well, so it will be a journey for the fans. It’s very grassroots, and I’ve never approached filmmaking in this way before. It’s just really fun.”
As for filmmaker Ramalho, with whom Buhler previously worked on ABC’s of Death (and who is prepping The Hell Within for a January 2016 start date of principal photography in Chile and Colombia), “Dennison is such a talented director, and I’ve been working for years to get his talents out in an English-speaking film,” concluded the writer. “He works regularly in Brazil, but this will be an opportunity to expose a much larger audience to him. And like Slash, he’s also a force of a nature. The two met while Slash was on tour in São Paulo, and we’ve all been working really hard [since]. So these different elements sort of came together and synced.”
To learn more about The Hell Within’s FanBacked campaign, click here. For exclusive word from Slash, we caught up with him at SDCC earlier this month to discuss the film, and you check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
And for more from Bulher, including exclusive updates on that dead cat (Pet Sematary’s Church, for those keeping track), you can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here. Many thanks to Jeff for sharing so much of his time with us!