With more than 30 years in the filmmaking world behind her, writer and producer Gale Anne Hurd has been one of the creative forces behind some of the genre world’s most beloved projects.
Hurd quickly rose to fame in Hollywood after penning and producing the 1984 sci-fi/action classic The Terminator; soon after, she produced several more projects alongside James Cameron including Aliens, The Abyss, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day as well as countless projects like Bad Dreams, Alien Nation, Tremors, The Relic, Dante’s Peak, Armageddon and the underrated cult comedy Dick.
Hurd’s days now are consumed by zombies as she is currently one of the executive producers on AMC’s wildly successful series “The Walking Dead.” During the recent 2012 San Diego Comic-Con convention, Dread Central had the opportunity to sit down for an exclusive chat with Hurd. During our interview we of course spoke to Hurd in-depth about “The Walking Dead”: what fans can expect going into Season Three, more on the new and returning characters that fans of the comic series should definitely look forward to and the lowdown on the animatronic zombies that KNB will be using during next season.
Hurd also reflected on the film that put her on the map –The Terminator– and gave us her thoughts on a potential Terminator 5 if indeed the project ever does move forward with a new director at the helm (Justin Lin exited the project to focus on the upcoming Fast & Furious sequels).
Check out Dread’s interview with Hurd below and look for more coverage on “The Walking Dead” from SDCC 2012 coming this way soon!
Dread Central: Do you feel any pressure going into the new season of “The Walking Dead” where maybe you feel like you have to exceed what you guys managed to accomplish with the first two seasons which were both so incredibly successful?
Gale Anne Hurd: How we look at it is as an opportunity, an opportunity to do things a little differently. The first season we were getting up-to-speed, establishing the world and establishing the characters; the second season we wanted to delve even more into character and have a bit of a respite from the running. On the other hand, by the end of the season we had to establish that there is no safe harbor and we’re not going to just stick with the farm.
I mean, there we were able to explore more of the love triangle aspect and let that develop while they were there because if you’re on the run, you definitely have more critical things to be worrying about like survival. So that really allowed that whole maelstrom to fester. And now they’re on the run again, which gives a whole new set of opportunities.
Of course we’re sad to say goodbye to some of the beloved characters and yes, even sometimes the not-so-well-loved characters, too. But now we can introduce new characters like Michonne and The Governor and bring Merle back, too.
Dread Central: Is it a challenge for you to balance out the series to meet the expectations of the built-in fanbase from the comic series and still keep it open and accessible enough for mainstream audiences?
Gale Anne Hurd: We look at it from the point of view of how can we tell the best character-driven story that can take place within a zombie apocalypse? Plus we have Robert Kirkman, who is not only an executive producer but he’s in the writer’s room, too; he’s working closely with Glen Mazzara and the rest of the writers, and he’s really the litmus test for us. Our feeling is that if he’s happy and he’s proud of the work, then we’re good; he’s the fan we need to please the most.
Dread Central: Can you talk more about how Michonne and The Governor will play into the storylines for Season Three and more about the actors you chose to bring them to life?
Gale Anne Hurd: They’re both really critical, absolutely critical. The thing is, we never do anything for stunt’s sake. You hear people talking about stunt casting, and that’s not part of what we do at all. That’s not our show- there won’t be stunt cameos, there won’t be stunt guest stars. These are two characters who are important to the comic book series and will be equally important in our show but in different ways because we do like to keep people guessing.
Our show is very much actor-driven, and we always want to keep it that way; sometimes we luck out and the actors look a lot like the characters, which is always good, but sometimes the actor may only have a few physical similarities to the character in the comic. In the case of The Governor, David Morrissey looks nothing like the character really, and Danai (Gurira) happens to look somewhat like Michonne but she doesn’t have the dreads; it’ll be that she’ll have to wear a wig actually.
Dread Central: I heard you guys are doing some animatronic zombies this year; is that something we’ll be seeing a lot of in Season Three?
Gale Anne Hurd: We’ve done one already actually! If you look closely at the promo, you may be able to figure out which one. We do have a little more money to spend this season, yes, but Greg (Nicotero) has it down, and his team and KNB have it down so well that because we can break the season so well in advance, they have sufficient time to prep and build everything properly.
Dread Central: I’d love to talk about The Terminator/i> for a bit; it is interesting that it is still this movie that everyone knows regardless if they’re 8 or 80. That has to be pretty amazing for you to look back at something you created early on in your career and see how influential it has been on pop culture over the last 28 years.
Gale Anne Hurd: It really is amazing; it’s always surprising to me when I meet 12-year-olds who say, “I love The Terminator.” I mean, this came out in 1984, and that was a long time before any of them were even born. It has this legacy that far exceeded anything that Jim (Cameron) and I could have ever possibly expected to happen.
It was even chosen as part of the National Registry in the Library of Congress, which is wonderful; but when we first made the film, one of the marketing executives there said that he was embarrassed that they even had to release the film. They said it was a down and dirty exploitation film and they didn’t even want to screen it for critics because they thought it was so terrible.
And that was the first feedback that we had; obviously we were crushed. But it turned out that the fans and the critics felt quite differently about it.
Dread Central: Was it ever a struggle for you back then because you were a woman writer working within the male-dominated genre in the early 80’s; other than Debra Hill, I can’t think of too many others really off the top of my head.
Gale Anne Hurd: You know, Debra was my idol. She is missed every day. Contrary to what a lot of people may have heard about the industry, I’ve always had women as mentors who reached out and helped me in my career, and Debra Hill was one of them.
Dread Central: In regard to Terminator and all that negative feedback from the studio- how did you guys respond to that? How did you manage to get the film out there in front of people after all?
Gale Anne Hurd: You know what really helped was the late agent Ed Limato, who was everything an agent really should be. He represented Michael Biehn, and he also represented at the time Mel Gibson, Richard Gere and a number of other actors who were doing films with Orion also. He saw the film and he loved it. He thought it was fantastic so he said to Orion, “You either screen this for critics or I’ll have to reconsider whether or not my other clients will be working with you in the future.” That was the only reason The Terminator ever got screened for critics, and as it turned out, it made Time Magazine’s 10 Best List of that year.
There are very few people that will put themselves on the line like that, and I miss those people a lot. Debra was one of them and Ed Limato was one, too.
Dread Central: It seems that over the last few years that the industry has truly felt the effects of our economy in some major ways; how does that affect your job as a producer? Are you finding it harder and harder to get original projects up and running as well?
Gale Anne Hurd: That’s why I love television. Obviously, people take risks there, and I have to give full credit to AMC and Fox International for not just wanting a pilot; they wanted six episodes right out of the box. I mean, it could have bombed and they would have been out all that money. There’s really not much you can do with six episodes when you think about it so this is really due to the teams at both places for understanding something that no one else did. It had been passed on by all the other broadcast and cable networks before this.
Dread Central: Does AMC ever send back episodes for changes because of the material or the gore you guys have on “The Walking Dead”?
Gale Anne Hurd: We have never had a single thing sent back to us by AMC. Not once. They don’t censor us; they’re always very clear with us in advance about what the limits are, and I don’t think the fans can ever complain that we pull any punches either because there is a good amount of gore to our show. I also think because AMC has their annual FearFest in October, this isn’t a new culture to them; they love the horror genre as much as we do.
Dread Central: I know that there were some fans out there who said that you guys spent too much time on the farm in Season Two; what do you say to the fans who were looking for less character stuff and more zombie-related stuff? Personally, I loved it, but that’s mostly because I love Scott (Wilson) from Behind the Mask so I was happy to stick around Hershel’s farm for as long as we did.
Gale Anne Hurd: I love Scott, isn’t he fantastic? Again, he’s another one who doesn’t look anything like his character; he looks nothing like Hershel, and yet, he’s a brilliant Hershel. But you know, it’s fine; everyone is entitled to their opinion. We just never want to be the show that the only thing the fans have to look forward to is the weekly unique zombie kill; that’s not what the show is. I mean, we do provide a lot of that, but you are only going to be invested in someone’s death if you have enough time to develop their character so you can miss them when they’re gone.
We were really happy with the way the fans responded overall, especially when Sophia was revealed in our mid-season finale, which was directed by the fantastic Michelle MacLaren. That’s another fantastic thing we’re able to do on “The Walking Dead”, feature a lot of women directors. We have two more terrific female directors on board this season- Lesli Linka Glatter and Tricia Brock.
That’s another thing for us- diversity. We have a pretty diverse cast, and it’s even more diverse now. Plus, we also have an African-American director, Ernest Dickerson, who has directed quite a few wonderful episodes for us, and considering the lack of opportunities still for minorities in feature films, I believe that television can be a wonderful opportunity for everyone.
Dread Central: Because you are so busy these days in television, do you still look at film scripts to produce? Is that hard managing both worlds simultaneously?
Gale Anne Hurd: I do, and in fact, I have a film currently shooting right now called Very Good Girls, which is an independent movie that I’m executive producing. Naomi Foner is writing and directing it, and it stars Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen.
I also have a project in development that I’m very excited about; Neil Marshall would direct it, and it’s called Hellfest. We’re hopeful it will be in production later this year.
Dread Central: When you’re looking at scripts to produce, what kinds of things are you looking for then? What catches your eye when considering a potential project?
Gale Anne Hurd: It has to be a story that I would want to go see in the theater or watch on TV; it has to be the kind of project that I’d want to really spend a lot of time and effort working on because I never just put my name on a project. I want to invest in the characters, I want to invest in the world and I don’t want it to be a retread of something that someone else has already done.
Dread Central: Since this is my last question, I want to go back to The Terminator for a moment; taking into consideration how underwhelming the last two sequels were and really abandoned a lot of the core elements that made the first two films so good, what do you think it would take to get things back on track if Terminator 5 goes ahead?
Gale Anne Hurd: You know, it’s hard to say anything when you don’t have the rights to a property anymore. I do think it’s important to remember what grounded the first two films, which was the characters. Everything else can be fantastic, but if you’re not rooted in the characters, that becomes tough for audiences.
Special thanks to Gale Anne Hurd for taking time during her hectic SDCC schedule to chat with Dread Central!
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The Crucifixion Review – Should’ve Left This One Nailed to the Cross
Starring Sophie Cookson, Corneliu Ulici, Ada Lupu
Directed by Xavier Gens
Claiming to be inspired by actual events, director Xavier Gens’ The Crucifixion forgoes the affecting shocks and awes, and instead beats its audience into the ground with a laundry-list of ho-hum dialogue and lesser-than-stellar instances…forget the priest, I need a friggin’ Red Bull.
A 2005 case is spotlighted, and it revolves around a psychotically damaged woman of the cloth (nun for all you laymen) who priests believed was inhabited by ol’ Satan himself. With one rogue priest in command who firmly believed that this was the work of something satanic, the nun was subject to a horrific exorcism in which she was chained to a cross and basically left to die, which ultimately resulted in the priest being stripped of his collar and rosary…how tragic. Enter an overzealous New York reporter (Cookson) who is intently focused upon traveling to Romania to get the scoop on the botched undertaking. After her arrival, the only point of view that seems to keep sticking with interviewees is that the man who sat close to the lord killed a helpless, innocent and stricken woman, that is until she meets up with another nun and a village priest – and their claims are of something much more sinister.
From there, the battle between good and evil rages…well, let me rephrase that: it doesn’t exactly “rage” – instead, it simmers but never boils. Unfortunately for those who came looking for some serious Father Karras action will more than likely be disappointed. The performances border on labored with cursory characters, and outside of some beautiful cinematography, this one failed to chew out of its five-point restraints.
I’d normally prattle on and on about this and that, just to keep my word limit at a bit of a stretch, but with this particular presentation, there just isn’t much to bore you all with (see what I just did there). Gens certainly had the right idea when constructing this film according to blueprints…but it’s like one of those pieces of Wal-Mart furniture that when you open the box, all you can find are the instructions that aren’t in your language – wing and a prayer…but we all know what prayers get you, don’t we, Father?
My advice to all who come seeking some hellacious activity – stick to The Exorcist and you’ll never be let down.
The Crucifixion is one of those films that needs the help of the man above in order to raise its faith, but I think he might have been out to lunch when this one came around.
Giallo Makes A Comeback With Crystal Eyes
The giallo genre has somewhat fallen off the radar in recent years, but that’s all about to change with the new Argentinian film Crystal Eyes (original title: Mirada de Cristal). Set in 1985, the film’s about a series of murders taking place in the glamorous and colorful fashion world, so it sounds like a true giallo throwback.
Crystal Eyes was directed by Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, and stars Silvia Montanari, Anahí Politi, Erika Boveri, and Claudio Armesto. It screened at both the Mar del Plata International Film Festival and the Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre Film Festival, and received a great audience reception at both. We were sent the trailer for the film along with the poster and a bunch of lobby cards, which we proudly present below.
Black Christmas Blu-ray Review – Making Its U.K. Debut From 101 Films
Starring Keir Dullea, Olivia Hussey, John Saxon, Art Hindle
Directed by Bob Clark
Distributed by 101 Films
There is only one Bob Clark Christmas movie I watch each year and it doesn’t feature Ralphie and his Red Ryder fantasies.
The endurance of Clark’s 1974 legendary slasher, Black Christmas, can be chalked up to a number of factors but the greatest is this: it is a disturbing film. I frequently come across horror message board topics asking for genuinely scary titles devoid of jump scares and excessive gore, but oddly enough Black Christmas doesn’t get many mentions. Maybe because it has been relegated to the “seasonal viewing only” heap? Regardless, fans will agree that the unsettling events portrayed don’t diminish with repeat viewings; if anything, subsequent watching serves to reinforce that it is a standout among a sea of imitators. The film is also a noted influence on John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) – arguably the granddaddy of slasher films – adding a bit of prestige to its legacy.
The girls of Pi Kappa Sig are throwing a holiday party before the Christmas break when, toward the end of the night, they receive a phone call from a man they’ve been calling “The Moaner”, who has a habit of calling and making unusual noises. Jess (Olivia Hussey) initially accepts the call but also allows her other sisters to listen in, prompting outspoken Barb (Margot Kidder) to jump on the line and goad this mystery man. She and Phyllis (Andrea Martin) argue over the possibility this guy may be more threatening than anyone realizes. Unbeknownst to the ladies partying downstairs, however, moments before the phone call came through an unidentified person (very likely this same caller) snuck up the side of the house and into the attic. And once the party wraps up that same person is found hiding in Claire’s (Lynne Griffin) closet, whereupon she is strangled and placed in a rocking chair in the attic.
The next day Claire’s father comes to the campus to meet her and is understandably stood up. He heads to the sorority house and reports her missing, at which point the girls and their housemother, Mrs. Mac (Marian Waldman), agree to help him locate her. The file a report with the police, led by Lt. Fuller (John Saxon), and Jess also wrangles in Claire’s semi-boyfriend, Chris (Art Hindle), who helps bolster the search by raising hell at the station. Jess, meanwhile, is having problems of her own after confessing to her boyfriend, Peter (Keir Dullea), she is pregnant. She wants an abortion; he is vehemently against it. Claire’s absence grows more concerning when another missing girl is found dead in a nearby park, prompting the cops to ramp up their efforts. The girls are being picked off one by one as the unseen assailant remains hidden in the attic, continuing his phone calls that come after each murder. The cops suspect Peter may be a person of interest, as his interactions with Jess have become increasingly aggressive, but everyone is in for a shock when a tap on the line reveals the true source of the calls – they are coming from within the house.
With the film having been around for over forty years, and fans having been sold one “upgraded” home video version after the next, I suspect most readers are more interested in how Scream Factory’s Blu-ray stacks up against similar editions – which is basically my way of saying this review is a bit glib. For the uninitiated, however, let me say that I cannot overstate how exceptional Clark’s film is – never giving the killer an identity, an entire subplot concerning abortion, a palpable sense of grief for Claire’s father, a cast of interesting, unique people who don’t ever feel like archetypes, and a potentially downer of an ending. Some of his moviemaking tricks are brilliant, like the decision to create Billy’s voice from a combination of three different people (one a woman) and using interchangeable actors to portray the killer so you’re never quite sure who is in the attic. Carl Zittrer’s score is disorienting and minimal, making use of odd instrumentation to add extra unease; it also appears infrequently, giving the movie more of a real life quality. Black Christmas was a reasonable success upon release, more so commercially than critically, but time has been kind to this old gem and many now view it as an outright horror classic.
Hell, it was Elvis’ favorite Christmas movie.
Cult label 101 Films is giving the film its U.K. debut, presenting a transfer that is nearly identical to the remastered version Scream Factory released last year in North America. That 1.85:1 1080p picture is very likely the best this film can and will ever look. Black Christmas has a long home video history of looking very grainy, murky, dulled, and soft. I can’t say the new disc’s results are far off that mark but there are clear improvements. For one, grain has been resolved in a tighter field that looks less “noisy” and more “grindhouse-y”; do not expect an image clear as a crystal unicorn by any means. There is still softness to many faces and objects though detail looks far better here than it ever has before. Colors are more vibrant, too. Black levels run on the hazy side but they’re more stable than ever. The only noticeable difference between the Scream Factory and 101 Films versions are the latter is a touch brighter, allowing for a little more detail to filter through.
Audio is available via an English LPCM 5.1 surround sound track or a 2.0 stereo option. The multi-channel effort grants the unsettling soundtrack and Billy’s insane vocalizations more room to breathe, ratcheting up the creepiness thanks to the sense of immersion. Unlike the Scream Factory edition, the original mono track is not included.
Only a handful of extra features have been included, all of which can be found on the Scream Factory edition, too.
“Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle” – Hindle, who still owns that jacket, talks about being a working actor in Canada when there wasn’t much work, as well as how he wound up auditioning for Clark for a different role.
“Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin” – The actress who is most famous for having a plastic bag over her head tells a few tales from the set.
“Black Christmas Legacy” – This is a lot of interviews from the film’s actors and notable fans. I found it to be a bit tedious.
A handful of original TV and radio spots have been included, along with the “40th Anniversary Reunion Panel: Fan Expo Canada 2014”.
The package also includes a fold-out poster, reversible cover art, and a DVD copy.
- Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle
- Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin
- Black Christmas Legacy
- Original TV and Radio spots
- 40th Anniversary Reunion Panel: Fan Expo Canada 2014
This is an easy recommendation for purchase if you live in the U.K., since this is the film’s Blu-ray debut. Stateside readers may find this region-free version attractive due to the price, but know that it does contain significantly fewer extras than the in-print Scream Factory release. Either way, fans on both sides of the Atlantic have a version worth buying.
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The Crucifixion Review – Should’ve Left This One Nailed to the Cross
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Black Christmas Blu-ray Review – Making Its U.K. Debut From 101 Films
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