The Minds Behind Hatchet III: An Interview with Cory Neal, Sarah Elbert and Will Barratt
After the success of this week's red carpet premiere of Hatchet III at LA’s Egyptian Theatre, Dread Central decided to take a moment and look back at the team who has brought us one of modern horror’s most enduring icons.
Joining series creator Adam Green since the very beginning were producers Cory Neal and Sarah Elbert as well as cinematographer Will Barratt. This incredible trio of creative talent not only assisted Green in the creation of his initial Hatchet short, but they have all been with him every step of the way through the trilogy that followed.
Dread Central had an opportunity to sit down with Neal, Elbert, and Barratt to get their thoughts on the phenomenally successful franchise and what it means to be a part of Green’s enduring genre legacy.
DREAD CENTRAL: You’ve all been there since the very beginning. When you first created the mock trailer for Hatchet, were you even capable of imagining the beast it would become?
CORY NEAL: Oh, definitely! There hadn’t been a new iconic horror character in more than a decade!
SARAH ELBERT: The magic was born when we all first met. We all knew this was something we HAD to do – and we wanted to do it together. When Adam, Will, and I spent money that we didn’t have to fly to New Orleans, the only thing that I was thinking about was how fun it would be to hang with my best friends while creating something that I knew would be very special, even if we were the only ones that would ever see it.
WILL BARRATT: I think Sarah had the imagination there. When we shot the mock trailer, she saw no reason why this little movie wouldn't be a huge blockbuster hit. I think she believed in it even more than me or Adam! Adam and I were just happy to be shooting the trailer, with the hopes of someday shooting the feature.
SARAH: I was simply having fun. I just trusted and loved Adam enough to believe and support him the whole way.
DC: How does it feel to have nurtured such an iconic horror menace from Adam's initial concept into the juggernaut he's become by the third film?
WILL: It's really funny. We never even thought we'd actually get the opportunity to film Hatchet II, never mind Hatchet III… and had no idea how the fans would react to Victor Crowley. Now, seeing fans with Crowley tattoos, and hearing original songs about the monster, it's unbelievable.
SARAH: I feel so lucky to be a part of Adam’s dream. When I think back to the beginning and remember all the assholes and executives who tried to stand in our way and didn’t believe in us, it still affects me. But, in a way, I reluctantly want to thank them because every time we heard, “You’ve never done this before,” and “It’s never going to happen,” that negativity gave us more fuel to move forward and prove them wrong.
DC: Are you all proud parents?
CORY: Adam did all the nurturing and is the proud parent. I’d just like to be the godfather!
DC: We understand that creating the original mock trailer was a real labor of love. What sort of magic did you cast to get it done?
WILL: Well, luckily, Adam and I had already shot a few shorts and the Coffee and Donuts feature, where we did everything in production from scripting and shooting to editing. So we were able to do the whole production by ourselves, limited only by budget and what we could carry, equipment wise. After we got back from filming in New Orleans, putting it all together was actually pretty easy! I think the magic was from Adam's great story and Sarah's positive attitude.
DC: How has your production process changed since the first film? Does it feel different, or is it all familiar, given that the core Hatchet family has stayed the same?
WILL: Well, I can tell you that from a cinematography standpoint, the three are very different. The process has certainly changed. The first Hatchet was filmed in the desert in Santa Clarita, and all of the swamp plants were in pots! Hatchet II was on a sound stage so we had to come up with creative ways to turn the camera and make the swamp look different for every scene. Then, Hatchet III was shot practically in a REAL swamp. There, I was only limited by the wicked weather and how much light I could get into the set – which wasn't a lot.
SARAH: For me, it hasn’t changed much, since it always feels like going back to my favorite summer camp. No matter how hard it is or was, we managed to come back stronger. We are all very good at learning, acknowledging and accepting our mistakes, and we have never made the same mistake twice. With every project we grow up and learn a little bit more and become a stronger and more talented team.
CORY: Day One of Hatchet was the first time I’d ever been on a film set. The experience we’ve all gained since then has allowed us to squeeze so much more production value out of the same resources. The casting process has also changed substantially. It took us several months to cast the first film. But for the second, Adam cast roles for friends, writing the parts for each actor.
DC: Is there a secret to a smooth production, or is every project a surprise?
WILL: I think we go into every production believing that it's going to be smooth and try to think of all of the problem areas we might run into. Then, in Hatchet's case - BAM, you're hit with weather, bugs, alligators, crazy crew people, and drama that comes out of nowhere. Then we just spearhead the repair process to keep things going.
CORY: All three have been a challenge. Shooting at night, makeup FX, and stunts always prove challenging. You can’t start shooting until the sun sets, and you’re done when the sun rises. Sometimes you’ve got to scramble to make things right.
SARAH: Adam is our captain and coach, guiding us and cheering us on. Cory’s on the offense. He blocks any issues that might come up, from pre-production though completion. I am the defense. I deal with the issues that arise “on the day.” I’m the key problem solver once we are in production. And Will is our quarterback. He brings it home for us. Each of us brings our own strengths to the team, and we manage to do it without letting ego get in the way. We’re all aware that we couldn’t do it alone and we deeply respect each other. If we had a secret, that’s what it would be.
CORY: Oh, and an animated Victor Crowley. That would be the secret to a smooth production.
DC: And finally, to geek out just a little, what's your favorite Hatchet kill?
WILL: Hands down, the Mrs. Permatteo pop-top from Hatchet. It’s my favorite because it was one of the most technical kills… whipping around the monster while hiding the cut in his back was one of Adam's best ideas. And on screen – wow, it looks really gross! I mean, Robert Pendergraft even made a rubber tongue flipping around trying to find the rest of the head!
SARAH: That question’s not fair. I love them all… but if I had to pick one, I’d agree with Will –Mrs. Permatteo’s head split is the best for so many reasons. I’ll never forget Adam playing it out for us with a Gene Simmons doll and a Britney Spears doll. It was the kill that really put us on the map.
CORY: My favorite kill is Mercedes McNab’s from the original. She’s dismembered offscreen so I still haven’t seen that kill!
DC: Thank you so much for your time, guys. The horror community can’t wait to see Hatchet III, and we’re honored to have been able to speak to the creative team behind the new millennium’s icon of horror. Whether this is Victor Crowley’s last hurrah or not, we’re all certainly excited to have come along for the ride!
Hatchet III hits theaters in select cities this Friday and nationwide on VOD.
Check out our Hatchet III reviews!
Danielle Harris and Kane Hodder return in HATCHET III and are joined by Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Derek Mears (Friday the 13th 2009), Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Sean Whalen (The People Under the Stairs), and others.
HATCHET III continues the tale of the now-iconic villain Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). As a search and recovery team heads into the haunted swamp to pick up the pieces and carnage left behind from the first two films, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) hunts down the true secret to ending the voodoo curse that has left the ghost of Victor Crowley haunting and terrorizing Honey Island Swamp for decades.
The sequel, which was filmed outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, from late May to mid-June, 2012, is a co-production of MPI/Dark Sky Films and Hatchet III writer/executive producer Adam Green's Los Angeles-based ArieScope Pictures.
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