Hatchet II Interview Week Entry 4: Adam Green Part 1
First and foremost, it should be noted that writer/producer/ director Adam Green is a film fan. It’s evident in his feature films. It’s evident in his short films. It’s readily apparent when you talk to him. His speech is touched by a slight Boston accent and his verbiage is punctuated with words such as “like” and “y’know,” but one thing is clear – the man knows film.
Bursting onto the genre scene in 2006 with Hatchet, he created a film that is a referential (and reverential) homage to the slasher and “hillbilly maniac” films of the late Seventies and early Eighties. In 2007 came Spiral, a quieter, more subdued film about a reclusive telemarketer who fixates on a coworker. After several years spent making mostly shorts, his unique tale of three friends trapped on a ski lift for a weekend entitled Frozen brought him onto center stage and made him a reputation as someone who could deliver a solid film even if given a complicated premise.
Last year, with the release of an unrated sequel to Hatchet, he found himself at the center of a media circus. After AMC Theaters agreed to release the film unrated in certain markets, it was immediately pulled after its opening for “not performing financially” according to a press release AMC issued. Those who attended the packed showings knew the statement was untrue. Anyone with media savvy could tell it was a CYA move by AMC to avoid the ire of an increasingly conservative marketplace. Unfortunately, the move left Green with a popular film that no one was able to see.
Thankfully, all that is about to change as Dark Sky Films releases Hatchet II onto DVD and Blu-ray on February 1, 2011. Dread Central spoke at length with Adam Green in a two-part exclusive interview in which we talked about the making of the film, critics (both on paper and online), and his history of storytelling.
Dread Central: Tell me, when you were growing up, what directors and films were made you say, “Yeah, this is what I want to do.”
Adam Green: ET was above and beyond… and still is my favorite movie of all time. Steven Spielberg is an absolute god. I’ve seen that movie theatrically twenty-two times. It’s absolutely the most perfect movie. This summer, I did a screening of HATCHET in London the night before the world premiere of HATCHET II and the theater was like, “What other movie do you want play with it?” I picked ET. [laughs] They were so confused. All these fans showed up with the black makeup and nail polish and so many of them did not know ET. Talking with them before the movie started, they said, “This doesn’t really look that scary.” I was like, “It’s not! [laughs] But you’ve gotta watch it!” By the end of it, there was all that mascara running down their faces and they’re all crying. It was pretty awesome. That was the biggest one.
And then, THE GOONIES was one of the first movies where I really noticed what screenwriting is because it was the first time that kids onscreen spoke like I did. I really, really paid attention to what it means to write dialog because of that movie which, again, has always been one of my favorites. Everybody my age will always cite the original STAR WARS Trilogy as this usually inspiring thing that makes you realize that anything is possible. Those were the toys that I always played with. That was my first directing because even playing with my STAR WARS toys with my other friends, they’d start doing something with Chewbacca that doesn’t make sense and I’d be like, “Wait, he wouldn’t do that! This is what you need to do.” It was very annoying for my friends because they couldn’t just play, but that was really where it started.
DC: So you were that guy… “Wait, this isn’t canon!”
AG: Yep… I was totally that guy. Just the way I would look at them when I played with them, I was always looking at camera angles as if it were a movie. Then, it would be John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. It’s funny, the Blu Ray for HATCHET has a quote on it that says, “the Holy Grail of slasher films.” It should say like, “except for HALLOWEEN.” [laughs] When they showed me they were going to put that on there, I was like, “Look, this is a good quote and I understand it, but HALLOWEEN is the Holy Grail of slasher films.” That movie is still absolutely perfect and didn’t need all the gore and FX or comedy or any of that stuff where the slasher genre has gone. HATCHET’s certainly guilty of it. That movie is just truly frightening and so perfect. Then… John Landis’ AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON which… that and FRIGHT NIGHT were my two biggest inspirations when I was writing HATCHET because they were movies that took a beaten-to-death, tired genre, but then injected it with massively entertaining characters and comedy and still delivered on all of the other stuff, the gore and the stuff you knew you were going to get, but you also got something more. It wasn’t justy like a “B” movie. It was a good movie.
DC: It makes sense especially when you consider the American Werewolf in London thing you and Joe Lynch did for Frightfest. It was so spot-on. It was obviously made by people who knew and loved the original movie and had seen it a lot of times. [laughs]
AG: [laughs] Yeah… Too many times.
DC: Speaking of those films, tell me about ArieScope which is the company that made them.
AG: ArieScope basically started very innocently in ’98. Will Barratt, my Director of Photography and I were working together making these really, really, really terrible local cable commercials in Boston. We borrowed this equipment and made this short film called COLUMBUS DAY WEEKEND which was like Jason and Michael Myers talking at a campsite and falling in love with each other. It wasn’t even supposed to be a short film. We were never going to do anything with it. We just made it to show at a Halloween party we were both going to. We thought it would funny to say, “Hey, guys… watch this.” In doing it, we were trying to make the opening credits look just like FRIDAY THE 13TH and we needed something that said what the production company was.
So, we came up with the name “ArieScope” because we were both Aries and it just sounded right. We just used it. When we made the next thing, the name stuck there and now, twelve or thirteen years later, we’re an actual bonafide Hollywood production company. It’s pretty crazy. We’ve been one of the most active production companies for the past five or six years now. I mean, we’ve put out six theatrical movies in four years. It’s also a little bit of a fraternity though. Everybody’s always trying to get a job or work with us. Really at the core of it is myself, Will, and Cory Neal who’s a producer and we have a whole team of people that have been with us since the very first thing and that’s really who we work with. So, it’s a dream-case scenario in the fact that I get to go to work every day, be with just my best friends and family and really love everybody I work with and keep it the way we want to do it. Not many people get to do that. I’m very lucky to have it.
DC: Is Joe Lynch a part of that?
AG: No. Lynch isn’t part of ArieScope. We met… probably back before HATCHET came out. He had just done WRONG TURN 2, so we were always asked to go to a lot of the same stuff. This one party in particular we were both at, I’m kind of like holding court in my section of the party and everybody’s laughing and I’m doing my standup thing. Across the party, I see another group of people all circled around this other guy who’s making everybody laugh and I’m like, “Who the fuck is THAT guy?” So, the next party I saw him at, I think, “I’m going to sit next to this guy and [laughs] see what the fuck the big deal is.” He was thinking the same thing. And by the end of the screening we were both at, we were inseparable from that point on. He’s one of the directors involved with CHILLERAMA. Aside from THE ROAD TO FRIGHTFEST, we have a couple of other things that we talk about doing together. One of them we might actually be able to announce pretty soon, so we’ll see, but… Joe’s just a great guy and definitely one of my closest friends.
DC: I covered the making of Wrong Turn 2 in Vancouver and met him there. It was pretty obvious that, not only does the guy know and love film, he was a hoot to hang out with. So… how did the Frightfest shorts come about? Was that just a promotional thing you’d agreed to do together?
AG: It really was just a gift. HATCHET premiered at Tribeca. Frightfest was the next festival that we did. It was my first time ever leaving the country and going somewhere else. That was really the first time I feel like the movie played for its real audience because at Tribeca, there were so many critics and journalists and, as much as they liked it, they’re not like die-hard horror fans. To go to a five day movie festival where, from ten in the morning to two in the morning, the same people sit in the same seat and watch movie after movie for five days and they come from all over the world. When HATCHET screened there, it was like this uproarious sound that reverberated around the world.
All of a sudden, everybody was hearing about it and asking to program it. So, I really felt like Frightfest was the place that really kicked it off for me. For Joe, the next year, he had WRONG TURN 2 there and it was sort of the same thing. One of the years, we were saying as a joke, “Why don’t we make a short promo for Frightfest and we won’t tell anybody and we’ll have them just show it there?” That’s really all it was going to be. When we were doing the TWILIGHT ZONE thing, we thought, “We really could do one for every night since this is really easy. We’re just sitting in the car. We’ll just come up with different things to talk about and get different endings.” We basically shot all of them in a night. When they played, they quickly became, not only popular there, but online other people started watching even though they didn’t know what half the jokes meant. It’s very “inside” jokey for Frightfest.
The next year, we did AMERICAN WEREWOLF and this year, we did BLAIR WITCH. The status on those now, like we said before, we showed the BLAIR WITCH ones and with that we were done. We were just going to call it a trilogy and that’ll be it because they’re really, really hard to do, especially like last year when I had FROZEN and HATCHET II in production and CHILLERAMA and other things. [laughs] Just trying to come up with the time to make five short films was definitely starting to become a little bit more of a job than just a fun thing to do, so… We said we were done with it, but we’ll see if we can actually stay away. [laughs]
DC: It’s interesting… The chemistry you two have is infectious. You can tell that you guys genuinely like one another. I mean, just in the Halloween short you put up last year, Just Take One.
AG: This year’s Halloween short was really tough because we were coming off of JACKCHOP the year before, which there was no way to top that unless we did another JACKCHOP which is what everybody was asking us to do, but… The whole point of the Halloween shorts has always been to always to something different and just see what we come up with in one night without a budget and just do it. We’ve done them for twelve years now. That was tough because we knew whatever we did, nobody was going to think it was as successful as JACKCHOP because it’s not going to get 1.5 million hits or whatever JACKCHOP ended up getting.
So, we just did something that was sort of an observatory thing on a Halloween tradition. I always hated the “honor bowl.” I was like, “Are you serious? You can’t just open the door? You have to leave this out here?” we’ve been approached about a TV thing together. It’s funny that these shorts were just really made for fun and for us. So many other festivals started have approached us and ask, “Would you guys do that for our festival? How much do you want to do that?” And we’re just like, “It’s not about money. It’s not why we’re doing it. Sorry, but… No.” Not that we have anything against the other festivals, it’s just that you can’t do that. It wouldn’t be special for Frightfest.
DC: I also imagine it’s a time management thing.
AG: Right. One of my goals for this year is to slightly get better with that because I’m going to be dead in two years if I don’t slow down.
DC: I’m curious about your scriptwriting process. Is it literally like, “OK… I need an idea!” or do you have the idea and that blossoms into a fully realized script?
AG: I’ve never written anything until I already knew exactly the whole story. The only stuff that I actually outline and do story treatments and stuff for are the studio assignments that I do. You have to do that because there are forty people who have to give their input so every word is right. With other stuff, normally, I already know exactly what it is. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. So, when I sit to write, the first draft usually happens pretty quickly. FROZEN took a while because I was in production on GRACE when I was writing it, so I could only write a little bit here and there. HATCHET was written in three days. Well, the first draft of it, anyway. It changed drastically after that. HATCHET II was written in a week and then changed a little bit. The thing with HATCHET II was there were five years of thinking about it, of discussing what the kills were, of what the story was, and I cast it before I wrote it. I already knew who I was writing the parts for which definitely made it a very unique process from the normal thing. It was a sequel. It was already so spelled out. You can get that first draft out pretty quickly.