We’ve been talking a good long while about the remake of Patricio Valladares’ Hidden in the Woods (Review) and finally the release date is upon us (December 2).
Featuring a lavish ensemble cast, headed up by Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, William Forsythe, Jeannine Kaspar and Electra Avellan, Valladares returns to the director’s chair to helm Kevin and Bradley Marcus’ adaptation of the screenplay. For those of you unfamiliar with the original, the premise relates the harrowing tale of two sisters who have been brought up in isolation and subjected to insufferable abuse from their drug dealing father. When they eventually find the courage to report him to the police, he kills the two officers and is put in jail. But things go from bad to worse when the girls must answer to their Uncle Costello, a psychotic drug kingpin, who shows up looking for his missing merchandise which is “hidden in the woods.”
To celebrate the film’s release, I caught up with both Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn when they paid a visit to this year’s SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia where I got to pick their brains and find out exactly how Valladares’ original had affected them and their reasoning behind giving the movie the remake treatment…
Dread Central: So how did you cross paths with Patricio Valladares and ultimately end up producing and starring in Hidden in the Woods?
Michael Biehn: I was at a film festival and I think it was the first and only time I was a jury member. I saw Patricio’s movie and instantly thought it was incredible so I voted for it to win the best movie award there. It didn’t win in the end but that was the film I voted for. Even so, I liked it so much that I asked if I could meet him and talk to him because we had a little production company. He’d obviously made this movie for not very much money and we got talking and one of the problems with his movie was that it was a little bit too gruesome. I personally thought that there was some stuff in his movie that was just a little bit too much over the edge for an American audience. And another problem I had were the subtitles. I don’t like watching with subtitles because I like to watch the movie and I just can’t if I’m reading the subtitles.
So I asked Patricio if he’d be interested in making the movie on a bigger budget. He was excited and he’s a little bit of a fanboy so he was like, “Wow! Michael Biehn,” and when I asked him about remaking the movie he just expected that I was wanting to direct it myself. I had directed something before but I didn’t think I had the kind of vision he had for something like this so I told him I wanted him to direct it and that was when he became very excited about the whole idea.
DC: Although you never intended to direct it, was it always your intention to have a role in the film?
MB: It was always my intention to be in the film, yeah. We went to Houston to shoot it and I guess I probably didn’t scout it as well as I could have. Sidney Lumet has got a book about directing and one of the first thing he says in the book is, “You have this movie in your head that you want to make and then you start shooting. And everything after that is a compromise.” So I had this idea of the movie taking place in this very poor bordertown that was just economically devastated. The closest I could get my actors to come to was just outside of Houston and everybody there drives a big truck and things like that so it was hard to get shots in without these trucks coming in and so forth.
In hindsight, I wish I could have maybe been able to have done it more like Patricio did it. He probably made it with his own actors; he probably had a sound man and just the one camera.
Being American, we had the Union and the Screen Actors Guild and everything so we had this whole crowd around us and I don’t think that Patricio quite understood all that and I don’t think he and I really got on the same page when I explained to him that he was going to have to wait for the company to catch up to him. I mean, he was just going out and shooting literally anywhere. He didn’t understand about permits and he didn’t get that this was a really horrifying movie and that you couldn’t just go and shoot in front of IHOP or whatever. So I think that Patricio was frustrated and I was frustrated because he was frustrated. But Jim Cameron told me one time, “The only thing when you make a movie, Michael, is what is in there. All the problems you might have, whether it be someone having an affair or the camera people not getting on with the sound people; none of that matters. The only thing that matters is what happens right in there.” And I think we did a pretty good job with it in the end. We got some good cast members and I played the character I wanted to, although I don’t think I did as good a job as Patricio’s original guy.
What I did this time though, rather than doing it my way, for the very first time I told a director to just direct me and I did whatever he said. And the reason I chose to do that was because Patricio had done just such a great job with the other actor previously.
DC: Having seen what the previous actor had brought to the role, did that make you very self-aware when it came to shooting your scenes?
MB: Not really because you see a movie and you remember great actors and the roles they’ve played but you don’t really remember isolated incidences unless you go back over and over again. So I wasn’t intimidated by that fact at all. Again, Patricio made his movie and all of his actors were wonderful in that movie so that was why I just told him to tell me exactly what he wanted me to do.
Coincidentally at that time there were congressional hearings going on about rape in the military and the head of the army, navy and air force were all in front of Congress talking about how they were going to be able to stop sexual harassment and so on and so forth.
Two or three months later, it turns out that of all the people that had any kind of sexual problems or any kind of rape or incident that went on, only one guy in the air force ended up getting charged for some form of sexual misconduct. So it was a real problem, you know? I’ve never understood rape but in prisons it’s the scum and I wanted people to see the ugliness of it all. I wanted people to see how disgusting and horrible these situations are – situations that are happening all over the world right now as we speak.
DC: You mentioned your production company before so can you finish off by letting us know what kind of films you are looking to add to your slate and also what you have lined up over the coming months?
Jennifer Blanc-Biehn: The criteria we look for is horror and sci-fi, just because we are on low budgets and those types of films sell a lot easier. If you’re on a lower budget it’s also often a lot easier to make those kinds of movies as opposed to say making a drama on that budget because if you’re making a drama you’re gonna be wanting someone like Tom Cruise to come on board and that would just be very hard. But we always look for good story, good actors, names that can help support the movie and will come in and give their all and we’ve been successful at that.
Coming up we have She Rises with Angus Macfadyen who wrote it and stars in it. And then Hidden in the Woods is with Michael here, William Forsythe, Chris Browning from The Book of Eli, Electra Avellan from Grindhouse. We have a very cool support system of about twenty other actors who have great careers going on right now that I’m not even mentioning. We also had The Girl which I directed Michael in with Tia Carrere and so we got that support too. Another film we have coming up which is also here at Sitges is Psychophonia. That film started at our company and our investor Lony Ruhmann came up with the story and then the screenwriter, Barbara Stepansky, won the Nicholl Fellowship whilst she was writing so she had to go and direct other things because she was offered films with a budget of five million dollars instead of our way, way, way under a million dollar budget movies. So we went to Brianne Davis and asked if she was interested in this one, which she was, and then we have a great cast involved with Vedette Lim, who has a slew of movies and TV shows under her belt, and Mark Gantt who is also in Hidden in the Woods. So we have a slew of genre movies coming out with Hidden in the Woods right now and The Girl is out in January and then Pyschophonia in February, and the list goes on and on, which is always great.
Hidden in the Woods is available from December 2 and we’ll leave you with the latest trailer…