Chat Transcript: Mike Mendez!

Finally the public got to see just how cool Mike Mendez first film since The Convent really was when The Gravedancers got shown as part of the After Dark HorrorFest the weekend of November 17th-19th.

We figured since the fans got to see it, they’d want to ask some questions about it as well, so we used the opportunity to host Dread Central’s first online chat with the director, Mike Mendez! The results of said chat are below, enjoy!

Mike Mendez:: Hi everyone!

Q: What was the general reaction to The Gravedancers after the Horror Fest?

Mike Mendez: From my point of view it was great! We sold out our showtimes for the most and what matters most is that everyone had a great time. We even had applause after the film, which is pretty rare. I saw a lot of reactions to the other films, and not everybody was applauding! LOL

Q: So you were at the first screening?

Mike Mendez:: I went to the 7:00 pm screening in Hollywood. It was a madhouse — just a real local crazy reaction, everything you’ want; screaming, laughter, jumping, the whole nine yards. It meant so much to me.

Q: Why so long between Convent and Gravedancers?

Mike Mendez: If I could have gotten it out faster, I would have. It just took a long time to get the money together. Several options fell through — so that’s how long it took — five years at a third of a budget we intended. From Halloween 2000 til now, it’s been Gravedancers with a year for it to come out.

Q: Was there any footage that didn’t make it into the theatrical cut?

Mike Mendez: Yes. You’ll see on the DVD there are about 15 minutes of deleted scenes. We took them out mainly for pacing reasons. All the gore is in the movie though!

Q: Any ideas when the DVD will come out?

Mike Mendez: I don’t know the exact date, but look for it in March.

Q: There was a bit of Evil Dead to be seen in GD; what were some of your other inspirations?

Gravedancers pic (click to see it bigger!)Mike Mendez: I had a lot of inspiration of the movie. I’d say the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney and Poltergeist. The first half was like The Changeling and The Haunting. By the end I couldn’t suppress my love for Frighteners and Evil Dead!

Q: What would have done different with more money?

Mike Mendez: If I had the budget I wanted … I definitely would have shot for a longer amount of time. I probably would have had the luxury to recast it slightly. I would have like to have spent more money on the effects…

Q: The ghosts where creepy as hell, where did the look of the ghost come from?

Mike Mendez: I would say the Haunted Mansion — it was kind of our take on that, but also Lon Chaney’s The Man who Smiled. Tings like Bava’s Black Sabbath, too. That thin smiling guy had been haunting my nightmares for years, so I wanted to put him up on screen!

Q: How do you see your filmmaking style evolving into? Killers, The Convent & <>I>GD are all very different movies.

Mike Mendez: I’m interested in making all sorts of movies. I want to stay in the genre but do a blend with action, comedy, etc. I’m trying to stay different — it’s just what’s interesting to me.

One of the things I want to do is go back to The Convent and go back a midnight movie in that style. I still want to explore my horror/action muscle and probably will head off there next.

Q: Did you watch all of the horror fest films?

Mike Mendez: I saw about five of them.

Q: How’d did you get involved?

Mike Mendez: They approached us. After Dark put it out there to different companies that they were looking for movies. They screened 60 to 80 and then approached us.

Q: Any word on a release of Killers?

Mike Mendez:: I’m working on that. The producers gave it to a yay-hoo company. I’m trying to get the rights back. Some companies have expressed interest. Worst case, I’m going to bootleg it myself on my website. I’d rather somebody else do it though.

Q: Do you more or less gore to go back to a midnight movie style?

Mike Mendez: By midnight movie I definitely need more gore — the over the top type of gore. Like Hatchet and Feast — those are good example.

Gravedancers pic (click to see it bigger!)Q: What was the reaction from the people who put on HorrorFest?

Mike Mendez: They are very pleased .As far as I know, they are doing it next year too.

Q: You mentioned in an interview that you read what your fans say about you. Was there anything that you’ve taken to heart, whether good or bad?

Mike Mendez: It all affects me. I’m trying to be better about it. I don’t read as much — but I certainly care about what people think about my movies. I don’t make them just for myself but for fans of the genre. For my own sanity, I’m trying to stay away though!

Q: What do you have to say to people who say the ending of GD was kind of goofy?

Mike Mendez: I would say they’re right, but that’s the point! The point was to be as over the top & crazy as possible. Reviews act like the audience laughing is a bad thing — but that’s a perfectly acceptable reaction. The important thing is are you having fun.

Q: Have you ever thought of making a balls-out scary film with no humor?

Mike Mendez: Yes I have. But I don’t know if I’m capable of it; The humor always slips out eventually. I’m trying!

Q: Masters of Horror is one of my fav docs. Why was it never on DVD?

Mike Mendez: MoH was never on DVD because the company that made it went out of business. Unfortunately it’s one of those properties that nobody really knows exists. It’s probably in a vault somewhere. Once I get my website, I have some copies that I’ll be selling there!

Q: Was Tcheky Karyo always your first choice for Vincent?

Mike Mendez: Yes. For whatever reason, when I first wrote the script, I met him shortly thereafter, and I had him in mind the whole time. I saw him as a sort of Inspector Clouseau.

Q: Did he have any issues with doing a horror film?

Mike Mendez: No — he was a big fan of The Convent actually! He knew what he was getting into and welcomed it.

Q: Where did they concept of grave dancing come from?

Mike Mendez: The concept came from the writers, Brad and Chris, from their childhood superstitions. I use to break into cemeteries when I was a kid and drunk. We wouldn’t dance per se, but I knew all the legends about disrespectful things around graves. That was pretty much the core concept behind it.

Gravedancers pic (click to see it bigger!)Q: What’s the deal with the caretaker of the graveyard?

Mike Mendez: At one point we wanted to make a trilogy, but then we realized that wouldn’t happen. If it had, you would have found out more about him. But since that won’t happen, it’s left up to your imagination.

Q: Why do you think that so many directors get their big break in horror and then act like horror is a bad word?

Mike Mendez: Horror is looked upon as an entry-level position and that saddens me because they’re doing it just to advance their careers. I do it out of love for the genre. I’m a horror director because I want to be. But it seems like most people use it as a foot in the door.

Q: So what’s next?

Mike Mendez: I’m not sure. I’m unemployed right now. There are a couple of projects surfing about. One is Toolbox Murders II; I’m waiting to see how it turns out and if I want to tackle the script. Otherwise I’m just developing my own horror action/horror/comedy stuff.

Q: What would your dream project be?

Mike Mendez: A lot of them have already happened. At one time it was Haunted Mansion and Scooby Doo, and then the results disappointed me. One thing I still think about is Hard Boiled by Frank Miller.

Q: Any chance of you reteaming with Dave Parker?

Mike Mendez: Sure! Dave & I wrote a script called Dead Stuff. It’s a fun splatter movie and hopefully it will happen sooner rather than later!

Q: Top 3 favorite horror movies?

Mike Mendez: Exorcist, Evil Dead 2 & Suspiria. I have a soft spot for F13 Part 2 also; there’s just so much right about it.

Q: Of the Horror Fest films you saw, did you have a favorite? Getting back to that…

Mike Mendez: I really liked Reincarnation and The Abandoned. It was great to see movies like that on the big screen. It’s was made the fest so great.

Q: Are you one of those directors who storyboard the movie before shooting or do you change a lot along the way?

Gravedancers pic (click to see it bigger!)Mike Mendez: I storyboard everything beforehand. the reality of the shoot — budget and time constraints — make me cross things off, but I do love it; It’s the most intimate time you have with your movie.

Q: Whats your favorite non genre film?

Mike Mendez: It’s going to sound really weird — but I like Pink Floyd’s The Wall It’s really interesting storytelling.

All right gang! Thanks for coming by! I will make a new film for you all as soon as I possibly can!

Thanks to Mike and all the kids who came out to ask him questions! The Gravedancers will be out on DVD along with six other movies that played HorrorFest on March 27th; keep your eyes peeled for more info very soon!

Johnny Butane

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