Exclusive: Bill Corbett, Mike Nelson, and Kevin Murphy of Rifftrax Talk Wes Craven's Mind Ripper! - Dread Central
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Exclusive: Bill Corbett, Mike Nelson, and Kevin Murphy of Rifftrax Talk Wes Craven’s Mind Ripper!

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In 1995, a direct-to-video film by the name of Mind Ripper was released by HBO. Starring Lance Henriksen and Giovanni Ribisi, the film went under a couple different titles, including The Hills Have Eyes III, The Hills Still Have Eyes, and The Outpost. Produced and presented by iconic horror director Wes Craven, and written by his son Jonathan, the film is…it’s not great, okay? But that’s what makes the film perfect for scathing commentary with your friends. However, if you feel that you’re not up to the task of doing the movie the justice it deserves, why not let the professionals take a stab at it!

Today, we’ve got an interview with Rifftrax’ Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, and Mike Nelson, who you might remember as being on the classic comedy commentary series “MST3K”! We chatted about the film and why they chose it to offer their commentary, what about it appealed to them, whether or not Wes Craven’s name impacted their approach, and much more!

If you want to order your copy of Rifftrax’ Mind Ripper commentary, you can do so at their official website! Seems like it might be quite the perfect way to inject some laughs into your scares this Halloween!

Dread Central: Okay, so who picked Mind Ripper and for what earthly reason did you all agree to it?

Mike Nelson: Hey, don’t look at me! It was one of the other guys, I swear!

Bill Corbett: Let’s just say this question will be central to a whole battery of future lawsuits between us RiffTrax partners.

Kevin Murphy: Well heck, it’s got a dopey script, hammy acting, a monster with emotional problems, lots of running through damp hallways – all the nutrition a riffer needs.

DC: I think it’s incredibly important to show that not everything a renowned Hollywood person touches ends up being gold. What were your thoughts going into Mind Ripper knowing it was produced by Wes Craven?

KM: I believe the full title is Wes Craven Presents Mind Ripper, so I assume his only involvement was to present it. Like you would a pie, or a stool sample. Probably like this: “Okay here’s a pile of dung in movie form, folks, you’re on your own. I’m outta here.”

BC: What you say is true, or every Rob Schneider film would be great instead of some being just almost-great. My thoughts going in were: imagine if Wes Craven and Rob Schneider teamed up, how wonderful that would be?!

MN: Hey, he was trying to give his son a leg up, I actually kind of admire him spending his capital on that.

DC: Knowing that Craven’s son Jonathan co-wrote the film but also does his best to disassociate himself from it must have set your comedy gears into overdrive. Talk to me a bit about having that information prior to watching the film and how it set things up.

KM: When a schlock producer distances himself from one of his movies, it’s like a pheromone trail – we’re helplessly drawn to it.

MN: It’s one of those thing that I love about the movies we do; trying to unravel all the stories behind it. A lot of the times you’re guessing just from what you see on screen, and then as information comes in, or you start to do more research you realize that you’re almost always right. Good movies may have great stories behind them, but it strikes me that bad movies almost always do.

BC: I understood the Craven father-son dynamic instinctively going into this movie, since I once had to watch an abysmal stick-figure animation my young son made about ninjas tearing each other apart very bloodily. I didn’t want to discourage his creativity but couldn’t justify giving it the double thumbs-up.

DC: The film has Lance Henriksen, who is basically horror royalty, and Giovanni Ribisi, who has gone on to become quite a star in his own right. Do the stars of a film ever sway your humor in terms of how hard you’re willing to “bite”?

MN: Yes, for sure. Now, the fact that Lance was able to acquit himself with some measure of dignity speaks to his charisma and gravitas. Ribisi, well; let’s just say his popcorn making improv scene doesn’t come off well at all.

BC: I got to hang out with Lance Henriksen for a couple minutes at Dragon Con a few years back. I liked and admired him before that, and came off liking him even more after our brief hang-time. Lance was friendly and cool, he can do no wrong, and he makes everything he’s in better. As for Ribisi, if I ever meet him he’ll have to apologize for the “microwave popcorn rap” he improvs in Mind Ripper. Once he does, we can try to build a friendship from there.

KM: Having Lance in a B movie is like a Good Cheesekeeping Seal of Approval – it’s a good bet that he’ll make it fun for us. We did Stone Cold, and he’s by far the best thing about the movie.

DC: Mind Ripper isn’t exactly a well-known title in the horror community, much less the film world. What appealed to you about doing this particular movie for the Halloween season over something more known and mainstream?

KM: You mean aside from the “Wes Craven Presents” thing? When a “horror” movie presents it’s biggest, scariest reveal and it immediately makes me laugh, I know we’re onto something.

MN: There’s a lot of silliness to it that makes it a richer target than more well known or “effective” movies.

BC: We thought it would be fun to feature the great Lance Henriksen even in a real piece o’ dookie. And to be Wes Craven-adjacent, at least. And for fans of the special horror that comes with really bad, bizarre performances, I offer muscle dude Dan Blom as “Thor,” the mutant-monster with a baby voice and a ridiculously phallic mouth-proboscis. Yes, I know what I just said.

DC: Obviously Rifftrax is its own thing but many fans know you from the MST3K days. How do you balance your want to be original while still going after that same charm that got you all those fans in the first place?

KM: With Rifftrax it’s entirely up to us – we don’t have silly characters or adorable Bots to endear us to the audience, so we strive to makes the riffs as funny as we can. Without really funny material I’d just come off as an Aging Former Puppeteer, whereas Mike and Bill retain an Olympian god-like youthfulness.

MN: I think we’re pretty careful to match the jokes to the actual content: that is, if we just showed a good movie and sat there and ripped on it, it obviously wouldn’t work because it wouldn’t be in any sense true. It may be harder to see, I grant you, when we’re mocking a movie you actually like, and I get that. But for the most part we’re pretty lighthearted about everything we take on because in the end we love film and we even delight in them when they fall short. I’m looking at you, Birdemic.

BC: We still have fans?? Hooray!! But to actually answer your question: we loved our time on MST3K and will forever be grateful for it, and to our wonderful fans of course. With RiffTrax we try to keep it as fun as ever but we do have a bit more flexibility to try different kinds of material, from super-weird-and-bad movies that probably wouldn’t have made it on the air on MST3K – e.g. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny; Fun in Balloon Land; Whizzo The Clown – to movies that are actually good, where we shift gears into a joke commentary that DOESN’T rely on the movie being ultra-cheesy. It’s challenging but a real blast, and keeps us on our toes. I hope fans of MST3K are still enjoying it! You’ll let us know, won’t you?

DC: What else is coming up in the future that us horror fans should be excited for?

BC: I read an article recently that Lionsgate Films might be making more Twilight movies. How’s that for horror?!

MN: I don’t want to tip my hand but I just screened a film that makes Manos: the Hands of Fate look like On the Waterfront.

KM: I’m going to the theater this week to see Geostorm AND The Snowman, So you don’t have to until we riff them. You’re welcome.

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