Master of Horror William Malone Talks Filmmaking - Past, Present, and Future

William MaloneWilliam Malone should have developed amour-plated skin by now if the barrage of undying criticism of his work is anything to go by. FeardotCom for instance, not totally without a bit of B-movie charm, provoked a critical fury that any filmmaker would find difficult to deal with. Recently Malone sat down with Dread Central to reflect on his career and also talk about what looks to be an interesting year ahead...

"Things are good," Malone told us."I've just finished a new script that I'm very excited about. I'm about to take it out to see if I can get the financing (always scary). It's interesting going through your questions as this has, of late, been a very introspective time for me. I've had a lot of time while writing to review my past efforts. This invariably leads to examining my methods and motives."

When asked if he looks back at his work very often and, if so, how happy is he with it all, Malone stated, "I can't say that I've ever been completely happy with anything I've done. There are always limitations. I guess the projects that I've considered the most successful at being what I started out to do have (oddly) been some of my TV work. There are various reasons for this. Mostly because I've wound up working on shows that have had a well-oiled machine working by the time I've gotten on them and producers who didn't really care what you did as long as you came in on time and on budget. It made it much easier to realize what I had in mind."

"To give you a more succinct answer, my favorites would be 'Only Skin Deep' from 'Tales from the Crypt' Season Six and 'Fair-Haired Child' from 'Masters of Horror' Season One. 'Masters of Horror' was great because I had 'final cut', a great script, and was able to use all the tools that I've trained for. With both 'Masters of Horror' and 'Tales from the Crypt', I really felt while making them that the forces of nature were on my side. Whether they were ultimately successful is not up to me to say. They were just successful for me."

"With my features everything is less clear-cut. I have very mixed emotions about them all. I like parts of all of them... and hate other parts."

We next moved on to FeardotCom and had to ask: The reviews for the film were pretty mixed. What are your thoughts on it?

"First I can say that I always hated the title, and I think it hurt the perception of the film. When I think of the film, it churns up a lot of things. There is an overwhelming feeling of melancholy that falls over me... FDC is probably the darkest movie I ever made on just about every level that you can think of. I think this is much of what its detractors are reacting to. I know many people rabidly hate it. When you get that kind of reaction, you have to think you've done at least something partially right, and there are many who love this film. If you don't like a film, usually you just walk away and forget it... but to get that kind of venom, you have to have struck a nerve. FDC is a very grim, dense film and designed as a 'tone poem'. If some of the readers are thinking 'squish him so he won't do that again', don't worry. I've been properly squished... It destroyed my mainstream career. I should hate it, but I don't."

This may be news to some of you, but if there was no Malone, Michael Myers may well have been a very different babysitter stalking madman. We asked him to elaborate a bit on this.

"I get asked about this a lot, and I wish I had some great story of its creation. The truth is it was a very minor event during my time at Don Post Studios [Ed. Note: a company most famous for creating rubber masks for commercial sale and use in movies]. Fearing that we were going to lose our license from Universal, which included a great deal of our output, we were looking for new characters to license. We actually wanted to put out the monsters from 'Star Trek', which included the Salt Vampire, the Gorin, and several others. To do that, we were contractually obligated to do Kirk and Spock. We got hold of life casts of the actors from makeup wizard Mike Westmore, I think, and I used those castings as a basis to sculpt Kirk and Spock. We couldn’t use the actual life masks as they would have been too small when reproduced as masks. Sometime later John Carpenter and several others came in and asked if we could paint one of the Kirk masks white and spray the hair black. The mask was pulled from the production line and taken back to the paint department. I don’t recall who actually painted it... it may have been [head painter] Rob Tharpe. Because it was not a standard paint job, it was painted with a special paint that was a good deal more durable than the usual paints. I know there are bunches of die-hard fans saying, 'He doesn’t know what he’s talking about' because the hair is not black in the film. The hair was painted with black lacquer and would have fallen off quickly. I noticed it when I went to see the film first run."

"In any case, I think it’s interesting that everyone thinks it’s so scary. It shows the power of suggestion and the power of a great director at the top of his game. The mask is really not scary at all. If anything, it’s just nondescript. It’s the context it’s placed in that makes it scary."

Next we queried Malone as to what horror flicks inspired him. It seems he follows some damn fine examples:

"I’m sure I’ve been influenced by everything I’ve seen. The filmmakers that stand out in my mind are F.W. Murnau -- the greatest director of all time as far as I’m concerned -- Billy Wilder, Ridley Scott, Gerd Oswald, The Bros. Quay, James Whale, Edgar G. Ulmer, and numerous others. I think individual films have influenced me more than particular filmmakers. It’s very difficult for filmmakers to be consistent due to the forces at work in the industry. Most fans don’t realize that, just like them, we have to pay the bills and often do things just to pay the mortgage. The chance to shine comes rarely. My favorite films would include Alien (1979), Frankenstein (1931), The Black Cat (1934), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), Saw (2002), Nosferatu (1926), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) , Forbidden Planet (1956), REC (2008), and many others, including a number of non-genre films. I’m also very struck by a lot of painters and sculptors. I love the work of Fuseli, Beksinski, Giger, to name a few. Filmmaking is really a wonderful medium because you can make use of so many different other disciplines and art forms... and of film, horror and science fiction are the best and great art when done well. What a joy to see a film made by someone who is really good at it... someone who brings a sense of wonder to their work."

In 2002, Malone, as the story goes, sat with horror maestros John Carpenter, Guillermo Del Toro, John Landis, Stuart Gordon, Mick Garris, Tobe Hooper, and Joe Dante for what proved to be a fruitful dinner evening. They conceived "Masters of Horror", a television series with episodes directed by an international and star-studded list of genre masters. We asked him his thoughts on his involvement in the series and his thoughts on being one of the "Masters", to which he responded, "I really don’t consider myself a master of anything. The whole 'Masters of Horror' series was really a wonderful thing to be a part of. How could you not be humbled by making films alongside such great company? I felt a tremendous weight of expectation placed on me. I did my best not to disappoint. I know that none of the 'Masters' take that title seriously. It started out as a joke made by Guillermo Del Toro at one of our dinners. Later it became a sales tool to get the series off the ground. I really have to thank Mick Garris for putting the series together, creating such a wonderful working atmosphere, and including me."

And similarly, we have to thank William Malone for taking the time to talk to us and wish him the very best with his new script – something which he advises us is ready for the less-than-pleasant search for financing! Keep it tuned here as things progress with the project.

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James Coker's picture

Vanvance1 I felt the same way about Parasomnia, I was really Excited to see it but I was a little disappointed when actually watched, yes, Visually he Nailed it but story wise...just didn't work

Submitted by James Coker on Sun, 01/15/2012 - 3:57pm.
James Coker's picture

Vanvance1...thank you for the compliment I do have great taste in horror but their are a few "guilty Pleasures" of mine too (Jason Goes to Hell, Black Christmas Remake,Man-Thing). but I have to ask what did you think of Malone's PARASOMNIA?

Submitted by James Coker on Sun, 01/15/2012 - 3:07am.
Vanvance1's picture

I wanted to like it a lot more than I did. Visually he nailed it and the film isn't without merit, but mostly it doesn't work. Malone might benefit from finding a talented horror writer to collaborate with (David J. Schow).

Submitted by Vanvance1 on Sun, 01/15/2012 - 4:27am.
James Coker's picture

Vanvance1 I could disaggree with you on that the House on Haunted Hill Remake is a GOOD remake, a surprisingly good...but top 3 best horror remakes ever? really? you for forgeting Cronenbergs THE FLY, Carpenters THE THING, Russells THE BLOB, Savini's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or even Aja's HILLS HAVE EYES ?????

Submitted by James Coker on Sat, 01/14/2012 - 2:33pm.
Vanvance1's picture

You make some very solid points. The Thing and the Fly are masterpieces, both so far surpassing the originals that I will likely never watch the older works again. The Blob remake I loved but I feel Malone's House on Haunted Hill achieves a similar level of success and reinvention.

Aja's remake of the Hills Have Eyes is a good film but on a lower tier for me. Savinin's remake of Night I have no fondness for at all.

You do have great taste in horror.

I commented on the article because I firmly believe Malone is a hardcore horror director who understands and loves our genre. He has a fine eye for composition and is often ambitious with his ideas and concepts. I want to see more from this director who is obviously motivated by passion.

Submitted by Vanvance1 on Sat, 01/14/2012 - 10:07pm.
Vanvance1's picture

Amazing article and interview with a sadly overlooked talent.

I think the remake of House on Haunted Hill is one of the top 3 best horror remakes ever. It's done so well it is actually justified.

Fear.com had it's problems but visually it's amazing and it never fails to entertain.

I hope he finds the financing he's looking for. This is a man with a great eye when he's behind the camera. I want to see whatever he comes up with next.

Submitted by Vanvance1 on Sat, 01/14/2012 - 1:43pm.

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