This past Friday, the 13th of August, I had the pleasure of chatting with Friday the 13th Part VI director Tom McLoughlin**. Jason Lives was discussed of course (and how adorable is it that McLoughlin still has Jason’s headstone in his backyard?), but only briefly as the topic of the day was the 30th anniversary of McLoughlin’s much adored spookshow One Dark Night.
Seems the writer/director noticed our recent One Dark Night retrospective here and dropped DC a line to chat about the film and what its creator has been up to lately.
Though the flick always had has its fans, I’ve often wondered how a bloodless supernatural thriller managed to score funding during the Sea of Slashers Era. “When we finally did get the money, [it] actually came from a Mormon businessman who needed a tax shelter instantly,” recalls McLoughlin. “It was like, ‘Can you get this thing going in three weeks from right now? And then we have to show it in the Bahamas to qualify for the tax shelter before Christmas.’” Fortunately, McLoughlin had already storyboarded the entire film and knew exactly what he wanted the movie to be, should he ever get the chance to direct it.
Though One Dark Night was completed in ’81, McLoughlin and co-writer Michael Hawes had been banging away at the script for some time before. “Quite honestly, it was four years of dreaming. The original inspiration really came from when I was in Paris studying over there as a student of Marcel Marceau. I went down into the Catacombs, and those were in the days when you would go down there and basically go with a little tour group and they would give you a candle. You were supposed to stay with the group, and of course in my deranged mind, I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll let the group go ahead and I’m just gonna hang back and see what it’s like to walk around here by myself.’ And it’s just literally wall-to-wall skulls and bones, and if you chose to, you could actually grab somebody’s head or leg bone or whatever and stick it in your coat and no one would know. You literally had that kind of access to it. But as I kind of walked along there like Tom Sawyer lost in the cave, for the first time and the only time in my life, I began to have that sense of supernatural fear – that thing like, ‘There’s nothing really to be afraid of, nobody’s coming after me…’ But I just felt that kind of classic ‘Oh my God, I gotta get outta here.’ It’s not like these skulls are gonna come to life – I don’t know what it was, it’s just something that truly raised the hairs on the back of my neck… So I caught up with the group and that impression stayed with me.”
Indeed, the idea of being stuck in a mausoleum haunted McLoughlin right into conceiving One Dark Night (DVD review here) with friend and co-writer Hawes and eventually shooting the film at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. This famous resting place is the final home for many of Tinseltown’s beloved, from Peter Lorre to Rudolph Valentino to – someday – McLoughlin himself. But more on that later.
Though clearly affectionate of his debut film, McLoughlin doesn’t shy away from what he would do differently – in the past, present or future – if permitted to take another crack at One Dark Night. “It’s so funny because I look at the movie now and all I wanna do is remake it. [There’ve been] a couple of near possibilities, but still I haven’t given up yet. I always look at it and see everything that I really wanted to with it at the time but didn’t have the financial resources or even just the ability as a filmmaker since it was my first film and everything was just flying on instinct. But if I did remake it in any way or if anybody did, I hope you don’t lose the…there’s a kind of innocent Gothic quality to it that was obviously so influenced by the Corman movies and things that I saw growing up as a kid.”
“I would love to be able to float those bodies in a more horrific fashion and have them dragging in different ways. There’s so much I wanted to do, but we were so limited with time and budget. If I was to remake it, there’s a whole thing I’d love to do now with Raymar’s backstory… Now because of how movies have changed, I feel like I’d wanna give you a little more of a horror show but with what Raymar did while he was alive. How he would drain the life out of people. And then kind of allow the story to evolve into the other part of [Meg in the mausoleum].”
Speaking of altering the film, fans should know that the director’s cut version of the film available on the DVD release (titled A Night in the Crypt) contains McLoughlin’s preferred opening scene. “It is what it is,” he says of the final cut that we eventually came to know. “I have to accept that’s what it became, but [the beginning] was really intended to have that eerie, strong image of those coroner wagons be the very first that you saw.” Indeed, the fade in of A Night in the Crypt does forgo the theatrical cut’s title cards and plunges us right into the freaky fade-in of the meat wagons coming to collect the grisly aftermath lying in Raymar’s apartment. It’s effective as hell and highly recommended for die-hards and newcomers to check out.
How closely does McLoughlin hold his debut film? He has already begun making payments on a crypt in the famous mausoleum where it was shot. It was a recent One Dark Night 30th anniversary party thrown by his wife, Nancy (Lucy in One Dark Night and Lizbeth in Jason Lives), with his friends and ODN actors and crew members at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where the film was shot, that moved the director to determine his final resting place. “It was like the AFI tribute that I’m sure I’m never gonna get because it was all people I know and love. I said for some odd reason, ‘The next time we’ll all be back here is 30, 40 years from now, where I’ll be entombed over there, and you can all say you remember this night.’”
The next morning McLouglin made his first deposit on his plot in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. “It’s right on the end corner of one of the corridors literally like three feet from Peter Lorre. And then there’s Valentino, Peter Finch…and just out the door in the cemetery are Johnny Ramone, Fay Wray, Vampira and directors Cecil B. DeMille, John Huston, Victor Fleming, on and on…and I just thought, ‘This is a neighborhood I gotta be in.’”
Whether you’re watching One Dark Night or glancing at its cover art, it’ll be “perfect,” says McLoughlin. “I mean, after I’m gone, anybody who loved the movie or cared about the movie in any way, shape or form to, to look at the box and say ‘Well, that’s where the sonofabitch who made it is NOW.”
As for McLoughlin’s plans while he’s still with us, he’s keeping in close contact with his “Masters of Horror” peers (who meet often for truly cream-of-the-crop dinners to discuss what the next Big Thing may or should be). He’s also co-writing a new script, which he’s keeping mostly under wraps but should be a real punch in the gut once completed. “We haven’t quite nailed it yet, but for me, it needs to be an experiential horror movie,” insists McLoughlin. “With elements like Memento, where you keep watching because these pieces are coming together in such a fashion that you know this is gonna come to some greater conclusion that you haven’t quite gotten to, without it being The Sixth Sense, which has been done so many times and in so many variations that even Night can’t top himself.”
”I keep trying to figure out what is a different way of presenting the basics,” McLoughlin continues, “because we have not really changed in what the basic things that scare us are: the fear of the dark, claustrophobia, being forgotten, left alone, death … All those things still are what we’re going to resonate to if you hit the right note, and universally, which is so important to me to make something that works everywhere.”
McLoughlin is definitely approaching this project as a film that necessitates a theatrical presentation. “It needs to be something where you gotta see it in theater, you’ve gotta see it with people, you’ve gotta go through the experience with a group. Those are the kinds of things I grew up with – seeing movies, particularly in the 70’s, where the audience would be so much a part of the experience …”
Stayed tuned for more details on McLoughlin’s upcoming projects.
** Why did it take so long for this interview to post? Because Tom and I were trying to figure out where the hell the Raymar puppet is after all these years. After a lengthy search with no results, it can only be determined that Raymar is still out there. If anybody knows of Raymar’s whereabouts, please leave a comment. We won’t come hurt you or try to steal it, but we would like to know where the wicked bastard is. Our thanks – Chris and Tom