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Garris, Mick (Riding the Bullet)

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“I almost never get cranky, and there were things I did get cranky about.” This is what Mick Garris tells me when I ask him how shooting went in Vancouver on the set of his fifth Stephen King film Riding the Bullet (opening in a limited theatrical release October 15th). It’s hard to imagine Mick getting, um, “cranky.” Furthermore, it’s downright wrong. I’d like to say he’s one mean bastard – it’d be a change from everything else you’ve ever heard about him. The man is the furthest thing from being a typical Hollywood visionary sonuvabitch. In the time that I’ve known him he’s been nothing less than accommodating. A perfect guy to simply “talk about movies” with. Coincidentally, Mick was my very first interview for the web. Ever.

That was about four years back, and he was just about to set forth on adapting King’s first e-book which told the tale of a young man who needed to hitchhike to the hospital to visit his ailing mother. Along his journey he faces an array of unusual characters including one Mr. George Staub who presents Alan with a decision he cannot easily turn his back on. This novella struck a deep nerve in Garris, and it turned out to be a story he couldn’t ignore, one he had to bring to the screen. But like so many personal projects directors desperately pursue, the long road to completion was rocky for Garris.

He and I caught up with each other over the phone as he spoke from the production office of his next King endeavor, Desperation.


Ryan Rotten: What was your attraction to the Riding the Bullet story?

Mick Garris: I know a lot of the on-line people want to know that too. The people who have seen it have been very enthusiastic about it, some of them going, “Garris gets a little sentimental again…” [laughs] But mostly it’s been really great stuff and I know that people are saying, “What’s so personal about this story?” At the time I read it, when it came out, [my wife] Cynthia’s mother had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I had lost my dad a year or two before, lost a brother several years before that. Mortality was very much on my mind so I read a lot more into this story than most people would. The whole idea of mortality and guilt and isolation, all those questions, seemed to present at least the tip of an iceberg that appealed to me. I immediately began thinking about how it could be a feature film and how it could be expanded without fattening it. I just wanted to go to King and say, “Look, I would really like to write a script based on this, are you okay with that?” Fortunately we have the kind of relationship where he said go ahead and give it a try, let me see it when it’s done.

RR: Has he seen the film?

MG: He has not seen the finished movie, he has seen everything before it as an AVID output with a temporary mix [soundtrack] and temp effects. He was very enthusiastic.

RR: With everything King has been through himself you’d think the mortality issue that touched a chord with you would obviously resonate stronger for him now.

MG: Absolutely. There are a lot of personal elements to the story for him and it was surprising how personal it felt to me. The movie is much moreso. We were both brought up by our mothers after marriages ended at young ages – him younger than me – and in a very lower-middle class upbringing. So that was just the beginning of it. It’s also why I set the movie in 1969 which was because, first of all, the whole hitchhiking idea and secondly I thought a life or death choice was emblematic of a time represented by the end of the ’60s.

RR: The script has been sitting around for a few years, who generated the interest again to get it developed?

MG: It had gone to the studios – that was a very time-consuming process, you know, it wasn’t a remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When you go out with Stephen King project they want it to be a real balls-to-the-wall horror movie. And my whole point was to make it a combination of – you and I have talked about this – the two sides of Stephen King: the scary ghost story and yet the nostalgic drama too. The books all do it. Why don’t the movies do it more often? I found out why. The studios don’t want something that’s intimate and personal, they want one or the other, they want something they can sell in one line. That’s fair. They spend millions and millions to do that.

RR: I guess if you look at the cinematic track record of King stuff that has hit or miss speaks for itself too. The more somber, personal material like Dolores Claiborne didn’t really fly.

MG: No, but the ones that did they hide his name on started with Stand By Me which was a huge success and great film based on a great novella.

RR: Ditto with Shawshank Redemption

MG: Right, that wasn’t a commercial success theatrically but now video made it a huge hit and now they’re re-releasing it. But anyways, after I went through the studio thing I set it aside very discouraged and was thinking, “Well, that’s the way it goes.” I had never made a spec script even, though I think my spec work as a writer has been most of my best work. I think most screenwriters’ best work is the stuff they do on spec and is never produced. And so everything came up when Joel Smith and I were making the Lost in Oz pilot, Joel was one of the producers on that. I gave it to him to read, he got excited about it and started to take it around. We got a lot of interest on the independent financing side, which is a side I’m not that used to. It can be a fairly shifty world. It looked like it was going to come together that way when Brad Krevoy called – he had tried to get Desperation and had come out to the set of The Shining to talk to me and King about it. Anyway, Brad eventually wanted to get a project going and asked what I was doing, I told him and he asked to see the script for Riding the Bullet. Within a day or two he said, “I can get you ‘x’ amount of dollars to do that.” It was a little less than what we were looking for, but it was a bird in the hand. And it took about a year after making the deal with Brad to actually get it going. Then right before we started to make the movie – before we left for Vancouver to start prep – the bank cut thirty percent of our budget. It was tight circumstances and became “Do I make the movie under tighter circumstances or leave a bird in the hand?” You seldom get another bird to warm up that empty hand.

RR: Every director has a casting wish-list when they start a project, are you happy with who you ended up with?

MG: The first thing I’ll say is Bullet is the best experience with a cast I’ve ever had. Usually there’s at least one diva that’s really difficult but their talent is worth it, sometimes it’s not. In this case it all depended on who played the lead. I was not familiar with Jonathan Jackson’s work but the character of Alan is virtually in every scene of the movie, sometimes twice, because he plays his own conscious. Someone then reminded me that he was the boyfriend in Insomnia where he’s accused of murdering his girlfriend, a great scene with Al Pacino. We wound up meeting and we hit it off. The short version is I cannot imagine any actor doing this role better and more appropriately than him.

RR: How old is this kid?

MG: Twenty-one or twenty-two. Rarely does an actor of that age come in so thoughtfully and so prepared. Usually they don’t know all their lines, young actors in particular are the least schooled. Plus he’s a musician and really got into it. We were very lucky throughout. Having the tight independent budget we didn’t have a whole lot to spend on the actors so we got a really great cast who responded to the screenplay and the roles. One reason was because we had to schedule the actors, other than Jonathan, in a tight window of time. The problem with that is, had we had to change the schedule for any reason and lengthened their period it would’ve cost us a lot. So, we didn’t! We stuck to our schedule and were beat up by weather. It wasn’t comfortable to shoot in but it makes the movie look great.

RR: From the pics I’ve seen David Arquette looks like a fish out of water compared to the usual films he’s been in.

MG: Well, I had no idea there was a faction out there who are not David Arquette fans. But he’s great. The first thing King said was, “Man, George Staub is terrific in this!” He’s really good and menacing with a sense of humor at times. I wasn’t aware of any kind of baggage from him. It’s too bad because he’s got quite a resume. If you only see Eight Legged Freaks and the three Scream movies it may not be the best way to judge a guy. He’s got a great backlog of excellent work and he really rose to the occasion on this.

RR: On the cover page of the script the film is dubbed a “Halloween Ghost Story,” can you talk about this a bit?

MG: That was not my idea. Just like The Babysitter Murders was the original title for Halloween and Irwin Yablans changed made that change of title suggestion to Carpenter. Brad told me if we could put [our movie] out at Halloween we could make more money. That was his motivation. But my motivation was suddenly, look, it’s already a period movie and I love the idea of the magic of a road movie on Halloween where death is around every corner as a symbol or a reality. That added a level to it, we play it subtly. We don’t point at Halloween all the way through the movie but there are little dashes of Halloween here and there. But when Alan has just seen the ghost of his father in the middle of this rainy highway and we flash to a shot of the Bullet and then a slow motion shot of a bus going by filled with children in Halloween masks it just gives you the goosebumps.

RR: The Sixth Sense and The Others aside, ghost stories are a rare commodity these days. Good ones, anyway…

MG: Yeah, and The Sixth Sense is just great. This is not really like The Sixth Sense, but it’s a quieter horror movie like that. But that’s not what the marketplace is looking for! [laughs] And I’ve always had trouble with the marketplace anyway, I don’t know. All I can do is my best work, I can’t sell…be a shoe salesman.

RR: That’s a job for someone else, you do your job and let them do that stuff…

MG: If they let you. But, you know, this is the first time I’ve ever taken a “film by” credit in my career. As writer, producer and director it’s really the first time it feels like it’s my own even though it came from King’s story – which is a huge element. But I’ve been able to turn it into something that feels like a piece of my life. That’s not to say it’s autobiographical in more than a handful of senses but in just an emotional level – it’s me, for better or for worse. And for some horror fans it’s probably going to be for worse! There are going to be people who are cynical about it because it is willing to play to the sentiment. It’s goes to the heart.

RR: Well, depending on the material you need that balance. It can’t be a hammer-to-the-skull every time.

MG: Yeah, but you know the movie does have a lot of horror elements. What I was surprised by is how many people who have read the script didn’t get the movie. They read the script then saw the movie and went, “Oh, this is much better than I expected!” I mean, it’s exactly like the script!

RR: Let’s talk about some of the additions you made to the story to flesh it out. In particular this physical representation of Alan’s consciousness or “inner voice.”

MG: It was my attempt to do something cinematic with something literary. The difference between novels and films is that novels are internal and films are external. It was a way to externalize something that was internal, but do it in an entertaining and visual way. Some people who read the script thought it was the worst idea in the world. Until you see it you don’t know if it works well or not. There were things like that that I added. The character of Alan and the choice he makes is really powerful in the short story, I thought I’d up the stakes a bit by making him an artist who was almost obsessed with the dark side. He’s an art student and loves the imagery of death and darkness, the grim reaper, that sort’ve thing. He even attempts a suicide early on in the movie so when he’s given choice of life and death, him or his mother, it has much more potency other than “Oh, you’re mom’s 48, she’s had a stroke, she’s not healthy anyway, so what’s the big deal?” Now it’s also, “You’ve cut your own wrist, you’re willing to kill yourself, you love the dark side, it’s so beautiful and romantic, so what’s the big deal?” So hopefully it’s about discovering the value of life…which is a little pretentious. [laughs]

RR: Another person who’s absolutely no stranger to Stephen King is artist Berni Wrightson who I hear you brought in to do some artwork.

MG: Isn’t that great? I met him for the first time on The Green Mile set and had always loved his Swamp Thing and everything else. We got to be pretty friendly after that. When it came time to find someone to do the [Alan’s] artwork, he was the first guy I went to. I didn’t think we could afford him on our budget. He read the script and said, “You know, this is my life.” We were able to make it work and he came up to Vancouver and painted these wall-sized paintings, some of which come to life in animation. It was very exciting to have him around. When I came back I was planning on asking him to buy one of the paintings that we used and Frank Darabont bought it! Darabont had already bought it before I came home! So I still have to see Berni and find something else to buy.

RR: We’ve heard about your upcoming television series Masters of Horror – was this inspired by those dinners we’ve been hearing about where you and several other recognizable directors get together in downtown Hollywood?

MG: It did kind of come out of that. The purpose of those dinners was not to do work or network, but John Landis had been talking about doing something for a while. But this finally came together, I got new management last year and the company is a big production company and they’re my producing partners on this. Once I told them the plan they were thrilled, my agent and the managers are going to work together with this DVD company who’s going to finance the thirteen episodes entirely. We haven’t even taken it to a network yet. I’ve got commitments from Carpenter, Hooper, Romero, Landis, Dante, Guillermo del Toro and maybe from some others.

RR: What are you guys looking to do with this series? You’re edging in after Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside, how’s this show going to be different?

MG: Basically I want each of these to be a one-hour “film by.” I want Carpenter to do a Carpenter movie, I want Dante to do a Dante movie, I want Romero to do a Romero movie. What they think of as their movies rather than what I think. As a producer I have to have my input, but these are their movies and I want this to be something they’re excited about. I don’t want this to be Tales from the Crypt, I don’t want it to be the boobs ‘n blood show and I don’t want it to be the Twilight Zone. It doesn’t have to be about a twist ending. As much as I love The Twilight Zone, they did that. I just want this to be an individual movie that stands on its own every week and not necessarily feel like the same series every week. I like these guys. The reason they’re successful in their field is because they created their own individual imagery and style. So we’re going to try and get people like Argento and Shimizu and make it international too. I’m just amazed everybody has agreed to do it, scripts are being written, it’s in the works.

RR: You’re in pre-production on Desperation. That’s another King project you’ve been working on for quite a while, huh?

MG: Oh, about eight years. [laughs] We begin shooting November 2nd. I’m talking to you from the production office right now. KNB is going to be doing the effects, we’re in the casting process. The director of photography is Christian Sebaldt who shot Feardotcom and Resident Evil: Apocalypse, so yeah, we’re there.

RR: Is it still a two-parter?

MG: It’s going to be one three-hour movie. The whole evening on ABC!

RR: Three hours of Desperation!

MG: Which means probably two hours and ten minutes.

RR: Three hours on DVD…

MG: Yeah, and I think Lions Gate is doing the DVD on that as they are on Riding the Bullet next year. They would’ve put it out theatrically but they didn’t have any open slots. We’re kind of doing it ourselves through MPCA.

RR: Where are you shooting Desperation?

MG: We’re going to shoot in Arizona. We found an amazing location that not only has the open pit copper mine and the nearby ghost town strip of Desperation, but also right in the same neighborhood there’s an old movie theater that has been closed since 1978 and not been kept up since then. You can’t build sets like these and it’s all in like a one-mile radius.

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Exclusive: Cast & Crew Reflect on Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation – Part 2

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Last month, we brought you Part 1 of an extensive cast & crew retrospective detailing the history of the oft-maligned sequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation! Continuing our coverage, we bring you the remainder of our interviews with actors Tyler Cone (The War at Home), Tonie Perensky (Varsity Blues), and John Harrison (Guiding Light) as well as special effects artists J.M. Logan (Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering) and Andy Cockrum (Sin City).

In this segment, we cover the various production details that went into the making of this campy sequel, as well as provide a bit of insight into the Hollywood politics that plagued the film’s initial release! Enjoy!

What were the shooting conditions like?

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “Shooting conditions were about as basic as they could get. Chainsaw was an incredibly low budget movie. I don’t know the official figure, but it was a very small, very local production… privately financed by a wealthy lawyer who I think was a personal friend of Kim Henkel; they’d been trying to put it together for years. Bob Kuhn was a classic Texas warrior-poet-cowboy who’d always show up in the morning after every all-night shoot with a giant cooler of Lone Star beer on ice for the crew. So that was the guy that made this movie happen, if it helps paint a picture. It was all local actors and I think Levie Isaacks (cinematographer) was the only person that came in from Los Angeles. I can’t imagine the budget was more than a couple hundred grand. They had rented an old historic house in downtown Austin as their production office and set out to find the things they’d need among local professionals.

“The gore is being kept real minimal on this one which is fine with me … Chainsaw 2 was basically a gorefest. Tom Savini did some great stuff for it but we’re trying for a much different feeling with this one.” – J.M. Logan, Fangoria, 1994

The production gave me a little shed in the back of the house which became my make-up effects lab. I placed my first order for special effects supplies from Hollywood and my good buddy Andy, a filmmaker colleague, volunteered to be my assistant as long as we covered his gas and I agreed to do the make-up effects for his movie A Troll’s Bridge, which we shot immediately following Chainsaw. Honestly, it was a miracle I didn’t fall flat on my face. I’d never even used most of the supplies I was ordering. I just knew that’s what everyone else used to make that stuff. Incidentally, I ended up doing all the practical effects on the movie too; I didn’t know any better.”

ANDY COCKRUM (Special Effects / Stunts): “My job on the set was initially helping J.M. with tasks like painting latex on skeletons or helping Matthew with his leg brace. However, my job quickly shifted from being J.M.’s full-time assistant to being the fog guy.”

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “I brought in a bunch of smoke machines that I borrowed from video game tycoon Richard Garriott’s stash of stuff that we’d used to put on his epic spook house in 1992. Every bit of fog you see in that movie are Andy and I running around in the woods with two stage foggers that weighed about 100 pounds a piece!”

ANDY COCKRUM (Special Effects / Stunts): “They had a couple of fog machines and no designated operator. One night I volunteered and for the rest of the shoot, I was running around the woods with these heavy fog machines that were tethered to long extension chords. It was a grueling hot job but I loved doing it. Most of the scenes where you see Renee running through the woods or cars racing through the forest… that’s my fog!”

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “Our first night of shooting was a night shoot out on location in the woods in Bastrop, Texas. It was 95 degrees with 100% humidity at midnight! I felt so badly for our hair and make-up department. I had a bouffant hair style and the minute I stepped out of my car aka my personal honey-wagon, my whole look would practically melt.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “Those nights were hot… and long nights from sunset to sunrise. So in between, we had as much fun as we possibly could.”

ANDY COCKRUM (Special Effects / Stunts): “I also played the Stuffed DPS Officer. I guess I get to brag that I played in a scene opposite Renee Zellweger. My job was to stand perfectly still in a corner… Renee runs in, sees me, screams and then runs away. Unfortunately, this was the last shot of a long night and by that time, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t stand still and was slightly weaving back and forth. I remember one of the camera assistants being so pissed at me because he was tired and wanted to go home. He started screaming and throwing stuff and had a fit and walked off-set. They eventually got the shot but if you look closely, I think you can see me moving back and forth.”

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “Chainsaw was a very, very rough shoot for everyone. It was almost all night shoots. We only had one motor home for all the cast, costumes, everything… limited amenities… uncomfortable locations that were sometimes an hour’s drive away from home… long days and massive mosquitoes. I didn’t know any better at the time, but it was an incredibly tough movie to work. We were all beat into the mud… which was part of Kim’s philosophy. He felt the discomfort of everyone making the movie would psychologically help create the atmosphere of discomfort in the film itself. He wasn’t there to have a good time and actively tried to make the experience uncomfortable, in the most purely creative sense possible. He didn’t thrive on others suffering, necessarily… he thought that art came from adversity, which is a sentiment I believe in philosophically… but Kim took it to another place.”

Publicity still of Renee Zellweger

Was there a scene that proved most difficult to accomplish?

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “The kitchen scene where Matthew smacks me and throws me down to the floor… we shot a number of takes.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “The car scene was tough to shoot because it was 110 degrees in that warehouse. For me, none of my scenes were really tough. Even the scene where I got killed, it was a split-second with a sledgehammer coming down on my head and then all of a sudden, it’s like, Barry’s gone!”

JOHN HARRISON (Sean): “The chase scene was challenging for technical reasons. When Matthew was running me down with the truck, we were suppose to make it look like the truck was zigzagging across the road. It was tough because the road was fairly narrow and my natural instinct would probably have been to run into the woods instead of staying in the street. Part of the joy in this period and specific genre is watching people do stupid things. It is like the typical scene of a person home alone and going outside without any protection to check on the noise of something really creepy… then they get their head chopped off or they are eaten by a monster. Or the dream that people are being chased but their feet aren’t moving and the monster is walking slowly but catching up. There is a but of humor in the cheesiness of events.” 

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “Everything on this movie was difficult to accomplish. It was hot… which means that the actors were super sweaty which is hell on make-up. There were no trailers or other movie comforts… so nowhere to really cool off. We were rolling camera from dusk til dawn, six nights a week, for what seemed like months. I don’t know how long it actually was, but it was long enough to feel like a lifetime. In many ways, I feel like I grew up on that movie… it was a transformative film for me. Not only did I get to put my spin on one of the greatest horror icons there is, but I learned how to work a movie set.”

ANDY COCKRUM (Special Effects / Stunts): “I’d only worked on two features before… as an extra on Nadine (starring Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger) and doing props for a Merchant Ivory production… so I didn’t have a lot of experience on how a film should run. Since then, I’ve worked on several Robert Rodriguez films… Sin City, Spy Kids 2… and looking back at Chainsaw, I realize it was a pretty crazy shoot.” 

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “In the scene at the end where Leatherface chases the RV and then shows up strapped to the side of the wrecker… that was actually me as Robbie’s stunt double because Robbie had hurt his knee. Both Andy and Steve Kuhn, who was the transportation captain and son of producer Robert Kuhn, at one point or another, played Leatherface in that sequence in various shots. The shots with me were the first shot of him running out of the woods, the shots through the RV door of him trying to get in, and then being strapped to the side of the wrecker. We all wore Debbie Pastor’s face at some point!”

Publicity still of Leatherface vs. Mr. & Mrs. Spottish

ANDY COCKRUM (Special Effects / Stunts): “I was Robbie’s stunt double for two or three scenes. They asked me to put on the outfit, which was lingerie, a mask and a wig… The scenes I was his stunt double for were at the end when he was chasing Renee down the road with the Chainsaw. Some of those shots are me. Also, in the shot where Leatherface is on the back of the tow truck swinging at the RV… that’s me.

Looking back… and having worked on many films since then… I realize now how crazy and dangerous that shot really was. There was no rehearsal. They just took a belt and secured me to the back of the truck and told me, ‘Okay, the truck is going to speed down this road and pull up next to the RV. You’ll lean out as far as you can while you’re swinging like crazy at the RV, then right at the end, the tow truck will veer off and the RV will flip.’ That was it; no rehearsal, no nothing. It was pretty exciting and scary at the same time and I think I could have done it better with some sort of rehearsal. But we did the shot and I survived. Robbie eventually had a small part in A Troll’s Bridge as well.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “I remember with Renee running and the cattle prod… and all the different things that Lisa had to go through with all the blood on her face… I just remember everybody else seemed to have a much tougher time whereas I was just having a good time. I just didn’t have any of the heavy duty scenes!”

“Kim [Henkel] said that in the first film, they did [the scene] with a pantyhose harness, but that didn’t work this time, so they ended up making this pretty industrial harness for me …. It took us maybe two days to shoot because we couldn’t get it right …. [Robbie] had to actually lift my body way up over the hook and pull down on it and do it all looking natural.” – Lisa Newmyer, The Austin Chronicle, 1997

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “At one point in the movie, Matthew bites onto Lisa’s nose and shakes it so violently, she comes away bloody. To create the effect of her bitten nose, I made a prosthetic. Once Kim saw it, he told me that he wanted me to put wax on her nose and actually bite it myself so that it would look real. He wanted to see that actually happen so that he’d believe it… and he wanted Lisa to feel the experience of someone biting her actual nose. I don’t remember if I tried that or not to appease him, but ultimately we went with the prosthetic version.” 

TYLER CONE (Barry): “Joe Stevens was very method and he was hitting that cattle prod so hard on Renee that it was actually bending a bit. In the scene with the shotgun on me, he was hitting me with that shotgun. I mean, I had figure 8 scratches on my chest from the barrel of that shotgun.

“So far, I’ve been hung on a meat hook and had my nose bitten off. Tonight, I’ll get set on fire. It’s been great … the wounds get worse. I look really hideous. When we have dinner at 1:30 AM, it’s like, ‘Don’t let Lisa come in.'” – Lisa Newmyer, Fangoria, 1994

I’m always protective of my friends and I was very protective of Renee and Lisa this one night because… from the cattle prod, they just had bruises all over them… Renee was all scraped up. I mean, she probably still has scars from when she was filming this. And I remember saying, ‘Either I want to have scenes like this or we need to stop…’ I was a little bit envious because I really wanted to have some action scenes but I also remember being like, ‘Okay, they need to tone this down a little bit.’ Because as you’re making a movie, you really shouldn’t be getting injured this much. And I’m sure if a union was on-set, they probably would’ve prevented some of that stuff from happening. But everyone stuck with it though. They were troopers!”

Any memorable on-set moments? 

TYLER CONE (Barry): “The high school scene was the first night of filming. My first scene was the kissing scene where Heather (Lisa Newmyer) finds me.”

JOHN HARRISON (Sean): “The moment we drove off from the prom parking lot was following a short sprinkle. I recall the production and art team running all over the parking lot trying to wipe down cars for continuity.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “We had a lot of the scenes in the car. We filmed those scenes after we did all of the outdoor stuff because we had this large warehouse [which is] where we filmed… it was like 110 degrees in there. It was hot and we were all sweating. Those were kind of stressful times to work.”

Renee Zellweger. Courtesy: Tyler Cone

JOHN HARRISON (Sean): “The old car we used with the suicide doors was beautiful and troublesome. I don’t recall what happened exactly but I feel that it broke down a couple of times when we were trying to get it to work for the scenes.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “We had contests of who could catch the biggest mosquitoes because we had mosquitoes out there like pterodactyls. I mean, they were going through jeans; they were going through everything!”

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “We would smash the beasts, transfer them to a piece of white gaffers tape and stick them to the inside of a ziploc bag with our name written on the tape. At the end of each week, the crew member who smashed the biggest mosquito would win a six pack of beer… many prizes were awarded. There were mosquitoes the size of humming birds.”

JOHN HARRISON (Sean): “On the nights that Renee, Tyler, Lisa, and I were hanging out, we had a ball. We would sing songs together, dance around, goof off, and just enjoyed our time. Renee even brought in some poems she had written and they were brilliant.”

John Harrison. Courtesy: Tyler Cone

TYLER CONE (Barry): “We spent a ton of time just dancing. We did ballroom, we did swing dancing, we did the pretzle, we sang… Renee was a great singer too. I never saw the movie Chicago, but I’m pretty sure she sang in it. Great voice.”

JOHN HARRISON (Sean): “I was on set for probably three weeks or so. While the budget was low and I needed to be there much more than just during the scenes I shot, it was such an exciting experience. We were treated well and had fun.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “Renee would walk around and talk to Levie Isaacks or some of the crew… and while she’s talking to them, she’s squirting them in the crotch with a water gun. Totally straight-faced as she’s talking to them and they’re talking to her… and they just don’t even notice that she’s squirting them with a water gun. It was hilarious. 

Sandra Adair, who was recently nominated for an Oscar, edited our film. I saw [Richard Linklater’s] Boyhood and was like, ‘She edited Chainsaw…’ I’m sure she would have a much different perspective *laughs* She saw so much footage, oh gosh.”

JOHN HARRISON (Sean): “Tyler used to give me rides to the set on occasion as I didn’t have a license yet. We would listen to bands like Blind Melon in Tyler’s jeep as we drove out or home, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning.”

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “Driving home at 7 AM on the I35 from Round Rock into Austin as Darla… ghoul make-up and that insanely sexy silver dress by Kari Perkins. I was exhausted, but when stopped in traffic, I would from time to time notice other drivers who had noticed me. You should have seen the look on their faces. Classic.”

Courtesy: Tyler Cone

Do you remember anything about the locations? 

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “The high school and the ‘hospital’ at the end were both Pflugerville High School, which featured all of the original Chainsaw cast except Gunnar Hansen. Much of the driving stuff was at the intersection of Mopac and Highway 71, way before that intersection was complete. It was still under construction when we were shooting there, before Mopac continued any further south than Highway 71.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “I do remember the house… Upstairs, there was some room that was supposedly off-limits to everybody. So, of course, once somebody says the room is off-limits, all of a sudden it’s because, ‘There was a murder. It’s haunted!’ The set decorator and art director had made that house such a mess, in a nice horror film-style… that it really looked like we had found this house in the middle of nowhere and decided to film in it.”

The Chainsaw house as it appears today; directly across the street from the house featured in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Courtesy: Robert Patterson of Set-Jetter.com

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “Between takes or during scenes that I was not in, I would sit on the back porch of that famous old house. One morning at dawn, I sat there looking out at the most sedate picture-perfect scene of the Texas prairie at sunrise… an orange glow… birds just beginning to sing the morning in… and then behind me rose the blood-curdling screams and sound of the chainsaw revving up and slicing through some… thing. It was surreal.”

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “All of the woods scenes and the road where the RV flips over was a ranch in Bastrop, close to the Lost Pines State Park, which is likely no longer there due to the devastating fires a few years ago. The gas station and the realtor office were in a small crossroads south of Bastrop on Highway 95, which I’m certain are no longer there.”

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “The realtor office was a little metal building, so multiply the heat and bugs for that one.”

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “The gas station was an ancient general store that had closed in the ’50s with most of its contents still intact. Inside, there were still pairs of Converse sneakers in their boxes from back when Converse first started manufacturing shoes.”

Do you have a favorite moment or line from the film?

JOHN HARRISON (Sean): “With Matthew… when Vilmer tells me, ‘He’s dead now.'” 

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “The kitchen scene with Matthew. What can I say? It was an homage to a scene from The Postman Always Rings Twice. I tried to do it justice.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “My favorite moment was actually an ad-lib in rehearsal. When Heather, Lisa’s character, starts going on about, ‘What if we all died? They could write a song about it!’ and I just slowly look at her and say, ‘Shut up.’ That wasn’t originally in the script. When we were in rehearsal over at the studio, I remember doing that and Kim was like, ‘Okay, we have to have that in there.’ That was my favorite line because… that was me.”

“I just thought of something SO cool. What if we got into a wreck and crashed into a car in front of us and we all DIED? They could write a song about it!”

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “My favorite scene by far is at the Bud’s Pizza drive-thru where I am toying the police officer (Derek Keele) about his investigating what is in the trunk of my car (Renee Zellweger). I really got to improvise there and loved every single minute of it. Ever since I was a kid, I had an innate fascination with human behavior. I would closely observe people, dissect and extrapolate. The sociopathic mind is such a maze. And I’ve never met an actor who didn’t delight in playing ‘crazy.’ There’s so much room to create there.”

Do you recall anything about the local Austin rock band Pariah, whose song “Torn and Tied” is played during the opening scenes? Both Renee Zellweger and Lisa Newmyer were dating members of the band at the time.

TYLER CONE (Barry): “I believe Renee was roommates with Lisa for a long time. She was dating Sims [Ellison]. He was the bassist and I believe Lisa started dating Sims’ brother. One night, Renee and I got together when we were still in Austin and the band was shooting the music video for one of their songs. I remember Sims was wearing this Mickey Mouse spinners-and-shorts kind of get-up and Renee had on these really long eyelashes… I mean, she looked beautiful. And I guess we were part of this crowd watching these guys play, almost like a Nirvana-type video. But I’ve never seen that video… I’m not sure if it even came out. But Renee and I… we were extras in that music video.”

Rumors were circulating that McConaughey and Zellweger’s agencies were ashamed of the film and in turn, had put pressure on Columbia/Tri-Star in order to shelve the wide release. Do you recall any of these matters? Were you disappointed in the film’s limited release?

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “Every actor goes into a project with high hopes. There’s always a cautious optimism that you could be a part of something that will be entertaining and have a lasting impact. So, of course I had hoped the film would have made a bigger splash initially.”

ANDY COCKRUM (Special Effects / Stunts): “I had no knowledge of agencies trying to squash the film. However, one day on the set… J.M., Tyler and I were discussing that we were going to shoot A Troll’s Bridge after Chainsaw.  Renee said she was interested in playing a part in the film. I remember a few weeks after Chainsaw wrapped, I met with Renee down on 6th Street to give her the script. She seemed really excited to have another film on her schedule. A week or so later, she called to tell me she couldn’t take the part because she had a role in Love and a .45 and the rest is history! Obviously, I think she made the right choice.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “Renee wanted to make sure that she had the next project lined up… which ended up being Love and a .45 with Rory Cochran, which kind of helped her move out to Los Angeles. That was around the same time that Matthew moved out to LA as well and I think he did Angels in the Outfield. It was kind of weird how both of their careers took off around the same time.”

“We had a blast making that. But that’s all I’m going to say on the subject.” – Matthew McConaughey, Entertainment Weekly, 2002

JOHN HARRISON (Sean): “I was in high school during that whole period and not too worried about it. I was more concerned about my classes, football, band, theater, and after school jobs.”

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “After we wrapped, I just went on and kept working. I moved to Los Angeles three years later. I kept getting wind that at some point, the movie had been completed but hadn’t come out yet so I didn’t really know much about it. We had a premiere at the Paramount Theatre in Austin… I would say around 1995… just after Matthew started exploding. Both he and Renee were there, but then I didn’t hear anything at all for years until it finally came out on video with a whimper.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “I was living in Los Angeles when the release happened four years later, but the film actually did show at South by Southwest. So we had that screening there… Renee didn’t show up to that one but Matthew did. I believe that was right after he had started A Time to Kill and so there was already a lot of buzz about him getting that lead role. So my take was that he was totally cool with it because if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have been at the premiere. He came over to me after and told me that I was funny in the movie… but we didn’t see Renee and the rumors at the time… and I don’t know which way it was… was that it was more Renee’s manager and not Matthew.

And I do know that at one point, when I was living in Los Angeles… because remember, Renee and I were pretty good friends… she sent me a message because she was jet-setting all of the sudden… she said she had to get her phone disconnected and was going to get a new number. She had left me this really long message and said to call her through her manager. I did and I said, ‘Renee told me to get a hold of her through here, just let her know that I called.’ Her manager said, ‘Oh, by the way, how do you know her?’ and I said, ‘We did Chainsaw together.’ I probably should’ve just said we were friends from Texas. He laughed and said, ‘Yeah, she’s not gonna call you,’ and then hung up. So that was the last interaction that I had with Renee and so my thought was that it was more so him. I do know that Renee stayed in contact with Lisa afterwards and it wasn’t like she was trying to run from the film. I believe that if I had been through her management and not really her manager personally, it would have been different. Renee wouldn’t have done that.

Renee Zellweger. Courtesy: Tyler Cone

As a matter of fact, I think I still have the voicemail… Because it was on the old voicemail tapes and I realized I had saved everything from those days… scripts, video tapes, any kind of tapes… so I have all that stuff. I haven’t heard it but I know it’s in there somewhere. I just remember it being this really long message like, ‘I hope that LA is rockin’, we gotta get together, just make sure that if you want to get a hold of me, you call this guy.’ If she didn’t want to talk to me, she wouldn’t have left this long message. So when I got through to him to get a hold of her and he pulled that little laugh and said, ‘She’s not going to call you,’ once he found out I was associated with Chainsaw… I mean, that was him. That was him for sure.

Supposedly, Robbie told her what happened and she was so mad that her manager had said that yet I still never heard from her after that. So she knows what happened but, again, it wasn’t one of those things I was devastated by. I’m sure if I ever ran into her, I’d be cordial because I don’t blame her for his actions.”

According to Texas Monthly, Robert Jacks also believed Zellweger’s camp was behind the film’s botched release. Did Jacks ever comment on the matter with you? 

TYLER CONE (Barry): “Robbie and I were friends after we filmed. He was still in Austin when I was in Austin. Matthew and Renee had already moved to Los Angeles. Even though I was talking to Renee on occasion, Matthew and I never spoke outside of filming. And so Robbie was kind of in-between, like, ‘Hey, what’s going on with Matthew? What’s happening with Renee?’ Because he was in contact with both of them. And I know that he was excited for this to come out because he was also really good friends with Blondie… Debbie Harry… and they had worked on the soundtrack together and so he was looking at that as an opportunity for his music as well. 

I’m not surprised that he would be upset by anybody trying to squash it, but I don’t recall him saying that it was Matthew or Renee. I just remember, at the time, it seemed to come more from Renee’s side. I can understand if he was upset. I mean, I wanted the film to come out. We were excited to work on it and to see what was going to happen. Then all of a sudden, it was one of those situations where it’s not good enough for somebody? It’s like, wait a second, you were on the set, you had a good time, we all had a good time doing this and now it’s not good enough and you want to hide it? That’s why I didn’t feel that it was Renee or Matthew, but I would not be surprised… especially given my interaction with her manager… I would not be surprised at all if it was him. At all. I felt like he pulled a lot of strings with her career and her personal relationships as well.”

What are your thoughts on the lasting appeal of the film? 

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “As a movie, I think it’s all pretty silly, but I don’t know that it matters much what I think. I still think it’s one of the most bizarre and unique movies I’ve ever been a part of. The whole experience was so traumatic, even though it was amazing at the same time… it’s still hard, 25 years later, for me to be objective about the film. This wasn’t another job for me, as it might be now. It was my first job of its kind… my age of reason. My rite of passage in many ways.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “I just think that if more people did kind of catch on to what Kim was trying to do, it would’ve been more entertaining for people. I admit there were a lot of people that were angry with the film because they were expecting something different. I think some of it also… with Matthew and Renee’s careers taking off when they did and how that whole thing happened… I think that it kind of took out some of that chance for it to be known as a campy cult classic because then their success kind of overshadowed everything. Now, people would watch it and they would be more fascinated with the fact that Matthew and Renee came from this as opposed to appreciating it for what it is.”

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “I am grateful that it seems to have found its audience over the years. I never dreamed that twenty years later, I’d be answering questions about the film. That makes me smile.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “At the time, there were a couple of interviews but Lisa, Renee and Matthew really took everybody’s attention. Robbie, a little bit… but for the most part, people weren’t really too interested in John and I; they were more interested in Matthew and Renee, obviously, and then Lisa… because she was the scream queen who got hung on the hook, everybody wanted to get a piece of her!

“It is what it is. It’s a classic B-movie. Twenty years from now, it’ll probably be as popular as the original.” – Lisa Newmyer, The Austin Chronicle, 1997. Courtesy: Kenny Braun

The Los Angeles Times actually had a pretty decent article and what I liked is they said that I was a guy that had an electronic news zipper scrolling across his forehead reading marked for death, which I thought was a pretty good compliment… It was a good compliment to me when people didn’t want to meet me ’cause they thought I was going to be an asshole. It’s been a long time and being recognized… which doesn’t happen often but it does happen on occasion… is still like, ‘Wow. That’s really cool.’ If people are like, ‘Wow, I was kind of afraid that you were going to be a dick,’ I’m like, ‘That’s cool! That’s cool that you thought that!'” 

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “I was so young and had such naive expectations… it almost seemed natural that I could be doing a Chainsaw movie at that point. I just sort of thought that’s how it happened; you kept working on movies and some of them happened to be noticed and you took opportunities where you could find them. I definitely felt honored to be doing a Chainsaw movie, but I don’t think I quite grasped the uniqueness of what I was doing at the time… or appreciated it as thoroughly as I might now. I didn’t feel like I was making a “big” Chainsaw movie. It was the kind of atmosphere that felt like a bunch of friends got together and decided to make a movie with Leatherface in it. It never felt official but at that point, I didn’t have much to compare it to. I didn’t quite understand the gravity at the time.”

JOHN HARRISON (Sean): “Fond memories of a really fun time. My wife got to work with our friend Eric Thornett a few years ago on a couple of projects. It was fun to watch them play with some of the same fun, campy elements that make these films enjoyable. Chainsaw definitely has a bit of a legacy from its original release. Each iteration is also so different from its previous version. My time on-set and with the cast and crew is definitely a time I will never forget.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “I feel like we all got something from the film and whatever direction we went in our lives, Texas Chainsaw will always be a part of it. I would love to be able to reconnect with everybody. Obviously, that’s very difficult to do, almost impossible to do… but I had a great time.”

“On the opening weekend in New York, Debbie Harry went with some of her friends, and she called afterwards and told me that they laughed and screamed and jumped and had a real good time. Chris Stein thinks it’s the best out of all the films. Exene Cervenka adores it. Viggo Mortensen, Exene’s husband who was in the third installment of the series, thought it was great. As far as people that I know who have seen it, they weren’t just buttering me up about it, they really think it’s hysterical. I think that it lives up to what it is, but, you know, I think it has to be promoted in that kind of a way.” – Robert Jacks, The Austin Chronicle, 1997

TONIE PERENSKY (Darla): “I got to be a part of the canon of Chainsaw films, and as a horror aficionado, that’s great. I’m honored to have been part of the series and rub shoulders with horror royalty. Thank you so much for bringing attention to the film and keeping fans in the loop.”

TYLER CONE (Barry): “If you keep an open mind, you’ll see the humor. But if you go in and you’re like, ‘I want to see the original Chainsaw,’ you’re not going to see it. You have to have an open mind to see the differences that Kim Henkel purposely put into the film. There were no mistakes. He knew what he was doing when he was doing it. He was a really smart guy and people just didn’t get it. He interjected that humor in there on purpose, and I like that kind of stuff. I like that humor.”

J.M. LOGAN (Special Effects / Stunts): “The movie itself is a very strange piece of art. Resplendent in flaws arising from both the script and the manner by which it was made, driven by a man executing a vision formed over twenty years of catharsis… For years afterwards, the sound of someone in a neighborhood using a chainsaw would send involuntary shivers down my spine from the experience of working on the film and I’m sure I’m not alone. In the end, I think Kim would look at that as being one of his greatest accomplishments.”

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Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day Has Now Made $100 Million Worldwide

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Well, it looks like it will only be a matter of days at this point until we hear that Blumhouse will be producing a sequel to their recent hit Happy Death Day.

Deadline is reporting that the PG-13 slasher has just snatched up $100 million dollars worldwide. It breaks down to a total of $55.5M domestic and $44.6M international.

These are surprising numbers considering the film is a (fairly) bloodless slasher. But it does sport the twist/gimmick of being placed within a time-loop so it has my interest.

I haven’t seen the film yet myself, but I do plan on checking it out once it hits Blu-ray on January 16th, 2018. How about you? Let us know below!

Happy Death Day is directed by Christopher Landon from a screenplay he wrote with Scott Lobdell. The film stars Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, and Rachel Matthews.

The film hits Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand January 16, 2018.

Blu-ray Bonus features:

Alternate Ending

Deleted Scenes

Cupcakes & Killers

You’ve Killed Me!

Tree’s Final Walk of Shame

Worst Birthday Ever – Filmmakers and cast discuss the challenges of executing the time-loop concept at the center of the film, including how to make each day feel different despite the fact it’s being repeated.

Behind the Mask: The Suspects – At the heart of any great murder mystery is a list of possible suspects. In this featurette, we explore all the possible identities of Tree’s killer.

The Many Deaths of Tree – Director Christopher Landon, star Lena Rothe, and producer Jason Blum recap the various ways in which Tree is killed, but also explain why we never actually see her die.

Synopsis:

A college student who relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.

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Whatever Happened to John Gulager’s Children of the Corn: Runaway?

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Sometimes a movie goes into production and then seemingly disappears from the world altogether. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Usually, Dimension is involved.

Ouch. But true.

Such as Amityville: The Awakening which was filmed in 2014 but didn’t get released until recently this year (3 years). And All the Boys Love Mandy Lane which was completed in 2006 but didn’t see release until September of 2013 – a whopping 7 years!

Another such movie you may not have even heard about – or more specifically – may not remember hearing about is the lost Children of the Corn sequel from Feast-director John Gulager called Children of the Corn: Runaway.

What follows is the history of the film as best as we could piece together, along with a possible update on just when we might expect to see this missing sequel.

It’s worth noting right off the top that this film is closely linked to yet another Dimension film which still has yet to see the light of day, Hellraiser: Judgment. Both films were produced around the same time, in the same area, under producer Michael Leahy.

Anyhow, the first word we heard on the production of Children of the Corn: Runaway came on March 21, 2016, when it was merely rumored that there was a new Children of the Corn movie secretly being filmed in Oklahoma City, OK.

It was thought at the time (and most likely true) that Dimension was rushing out a sequel so they could keep the rights to the franchise, regardless if they had a release plan or not.

That same day we learned that the new film was directed by John Gulager and was going by the title Children of the Corn: Runaway. We also learned the film was currently shooting in Oklahoma City, OK and the surrounding area including Luther and Coyle and that filming would wrap on April 2nd of that year.

Joel Soisson was rumored as the screenwriter for the new film, and Gatlin Returns, Inc. (natch) was producing with Mike Leahy, Joel Soisson, and Sean Patrick Eaton.

At the time, the plot of the movie was rumored to be:
A young pregnant Ruth who escapes a murderous child cult in a small Midwestern town. She spends the next decade living anonymously in an attempt to spare her son the horrors that she experienced as a child. She lands in the small Oklahoma town, but something is following her. Now, she must confront this evil or lose her child.

Then all of this info was confirmed the very next day by press release.

A month later on April 13, 2016, we got a bevy of behind the scenes pics via News OK – all courtesy of Nathan Poppe – and you can check all of those out below.

After that? Nada. Total silence for 19 months. Children of the Corn: Runaway seemed to fall off the edge of the world. Just like Hellraiser: Judgment.

But unlike Judgment, which gets fairly regular updates via new Pinhead Paul T. Taylor and director Gary J. Tunnicliffe, no one seems to be talking about Runaway. At all.

What’s the deal?

Truthfully, we’re still not sure. In the researching of this article, we reached out to director John Gulager, writer Joel Soisson, producer Michael Leahy, and new Malachi actor Blaine Maye. But all of these leads came up fruitless.

That is until I attempted to contact lead actress Marci Miller.

While I was unable to contact her directly, I did take a look at her Instagram, where I was able to confirm that the film is currently doing some ADR and will be shooting for a February/March release date.

Here is her post:

Children of the Corn #ComingSoon

A post shared by Marci Miller (@_marcimiller_) on

And if you look closely, you can see that a fan asked (and I’m paraphrasing):

“When will the movie be released?”

And below you will see Miller’s reply:

“February/March.”

For now, that is all the new info we can find on Children of the Corn: Runaway.

That said, with Dimension and the Weinstein Company going under recently, maybe another top horror producer (You listening, Jason Blum?) will snatch up the rights to this and Hellraiser: Judgement and we will finally see the films released.

After all, in the above-mentioned set-visit from NEW OK, producer Michael Leahy said this about Children of the Corn: Runaway and Hellraiser: Judgment:

“We’ve had a lot of fun,” Leahy told the site back in 2016. “Blood has been flowing here in Oklahoma City. These are two horror films that are going to be seen by a core audience.”

Yeah, we’ll see about that…

We’re not trying to be pessimistic here, but really this is getting ridiculous at this point. Will we ever see Children of the Corn: Runaway and/or Hellraiser: Judgment? Your guess is, unfortunately, as good as mine.

Fingers crossed. We’ll let you know when we hear more.

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