Exclusive: In Depth with Vincent J. Guastini on Scream of the Banshee and More!
DC: And colors can be different as well, right?
VG: Very much so.
DC: As I’m looking over your filmography, you’ve worked on a wide variety of films with an even wider variety of budgets. Do you approach those two things differently as well?
VG: Of course, yeah. If I say yes and the money is really low or if the money is what I would call “the norm” and is commercially acceptable as a fee, it doesn’t matter. I make sure that the work looks as great as possible. I get frustrated when we do a really good job, when we get some great stuff, and the director uses a particular shot of a puppet I didn’t like and he makes it look kind of “puppety” or he puts it in a lighting situation that I’m not really happy with and later on I look at the movie and I think, “Y’know… it’s a real shame.” But you don’t get that type of freedom a lot of times. Sometimes you do, but other times you don’t.
Real FX artists… I feel like you’re hiring us because of what our work looks like and our knowledge, so why don’t you have us in on that process as well? They should say, “Look, I’ve got a rough cut of the creature FX, would you like to look at this stuff so it not only best represents me as a director, but also best represents what you’ve done for us on a low budget or in a quick amount of time or on a quick turnaround.” Then, we could suggest, “Hey, this doesn’t look so hot. We have some other cuts or some other lighting situations that make the work look even better.” Those are the times when you work really, really hard and you try to give them ALIEN or THE THING on a catering budget and then they wind up making the mistake sometimes because they’re doing their movie and can’t necessarily have you come in all the time and look at stuff. It frustrates me when it’s a lower budget and the director makes decisions that makes my work look less than spectacular and I know it’s cool. I know the stuff looks great and I know that, for the money and time, if we used a certain cut or a certain way of lighting it, that it could be much better even than what it was.
DC: Years ago Robert Kurtzman said during an interview that he was frustrated with the creation and shooting of FX that looked really good on set, but somehow they never made it into the finished film because of ratings or whatever. Do you worry yourself much with the MPAA?
VG: Not really. It’s kind of funny because - maybe more than it was in the ’80s - there was a time when you weren’t seeing as much gore stuff, but now, that’s kind of passed. With the making of films like HOSTEL… HOSTEL’s kind of taken over where FRIDAY THE 13Th left off. When FRIDAY THE 13Th came out back in the ’80s, when you saw someone getting an axe in the head, that was when that whole craze started and you saw all these gore movies. I think HOSTEL has taken over for that type of film to come back. Now, when people see heads getting chopped off and getting ripped apart, it’s kind of the norm. Sometimes when it’s not in a movie that’s exploitative or low budget horror or something of a serial killer type of film, it’s not in there, a lot of people will say, “Oh, man… that movie wasn’t so good. We didn’t see anybody get ripped apart.”
The ratings board - unless it’s for a big studio film - I don’t see ratings affecting anything. I think people just want to see more stuff, and I think we’re not having a problem showing that. When I’m not doing creature movies, I’m not a gore-hound, but - because I have to live and eat and pay my bills - we do gore movies and it’s always a joy when I’m doing gore movies not just for the gore’s sake, but the director’s doing it because it either helps the story along or it’s not just for exploitative reasons, but it’s for some visual impact or some story impact. When you sit there and do it just to do it because you want to get a shock out of the audience because the script sucks or you know that the movie isn’t so good, that’s when it’s a bit disappointing. It really used to get to me, but I look at it like it’s great to be lucky enough to be working and doing what you love and being paid for it. So I try to make it the best I can. If you’re going to do gore, you try to make it the best gore possible. You try to make it realistic. I’m not doing it because I’m getting off on it some way psychologically. I’m not going, “Oh, my god… I can’t wait to see the guy bleed!” It’s not about that. I’ve done creative gore on a big budget level with films like LAST OF THE MOHICANS and Clint Eastwood’s movies like FLAGS OF OUR FATHER and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA and doing it for a lower budget, I’m always going to bring quality for the time, budget, and money that I have.
DC: But then again… you’re not signing onto “extreme gore films” either.
VG: Oh, no… no. I think that when you get to that level… I’ve seen stuff on websites that looks like someone took a video camera and went into mom’s backyard and started filming and these are trying to come off like legitimate movies. I think there is kind of a line. When something looks like a twelve-year-old shot it and they try to come off like, “We’re serious directors,” that’s where I think, “Oh, my god… what’s goin’ on here?” There are websites pushing this stuff and putting trailers out. But “underground underground…” we haven’t done films with budgets like five or six thousand dollars so I don’t know. “Extreme underground…” I’ve done gory movies. I think with the goriest thing I ever did, I tried to make it at least some stuff that you’ve never seen before, and whether people loved the movie, liked the movie, disliked the movie… that’s where the director has to come in and do his job. But, no… I don’t do those types of films.
DC: But you are doing a lot of work with After Dark Films. How did that come about, and was there something specific about working with them that enticed you or has it been just luck of the draw?
VG: Actually, it was kind of luck of the draw. The more recent stuff is because of a guy I really love collaborating with because a) the guy really knows how to direct and b) knows how to shoot FX because he’s a fan of FX and is always trying to light them correctly and make me look good. I hope to continue that relationship with Steven C. Miller, who is not only a fan but knows FX. A lot of time when I’m onset, I’m like, “Aw, man… I really hope we’re going to shoot this like this because this is going to be the best angle.” Steven would always say, “Listen, it’s going to look great. I’m going to make you look great. I know exactly how to shoot this.” And he’s always right. That’s why I have such a great respect for him. He knows how to shoot my stuff and so he makes me look good. He can also take something that is good and make it look great.
As far as After Dark goes, before I met Steven, I did After Dark movies indirectly either with a film I was working with like… a friend of mine Tim Sullivan produced a movie called SNOOP DOGG’S HOOD OF HORROR and then I did another film called UNEARTHED, and those films at the time weren’t directed specifically to be for After Dark or Eight Films To Die For. They eventually just wound up there. So that’s how I got involved with that. That was just luck of the draw. Then Steven C. Miller was doing a film called SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE and that’s when… I guess he was having some problems with the FX that were being done on the film and he couldn’t hire me because there were certain restrictions - either budgetary or location-wise - that they had to hire locals down in New Orleans. So when he got into trouble, he said, “Listen… I talked it over with the producers, and we can have you do some of the FX like the key effect of a head I need done and also this shield that turns into a box. This stuff I can get you to do, and if you can do me a favor and give me a friend price, I can get you down here and we can get these done.” So, we did that and we started building this stuff for that sequence. When we were in the middle of building that, the key FX they needed for Lance Henrikson and Lauren Holly wasn’t working out, so I got an emergency call saying, “Vince, I talked it over with After Dark, and they’re willing to hire you to do all of the FX and take over the whole show. If you can get me out of this problem and save my butt because we have Lance Henrikson coming in here and we may not even have a monster to shoot with.” So I went down there basically by myself and got to know some of the After Dark people and they basically said, “Can you get us out of this situation and solve this problem?” I think within two or three days I took the existing FX team and the locals that were down there and took their FX and had them redone. We got it there just in the nick of time. I had no sleep for three days straight. We did this big marathon and got everything to set on time. And that’s how I got baptized again with After Dark and got to know the actual producers and the people who were integral to that company.