In 2006, freshman director Adam Green brought his inaugural film 'Hatchet' to Fantastic Fest. The film played to rave reviews and cheering audiences and became the darling of that year's fest. I saw the film months later and was shocked by how little I enjoyed it despite my being a confirmed horrorphile. But since then Green has directed 'Spiral' and 'Frozen', which are both great films, and returns to this year's fest with the long-anticipated sequel 'Hatchet 2'.
I was actually having a conversation with Adam about film in general when his publicist called my editor, who was standing there with us, to set up an interview between myself, Adam, Danielle Harris, and-though at the time a fact unknown to me-Kane Hodder as well. In the interest of total disclosure, I frankly admitted to Adam that I didn't like 'Hatchet' so that it didn't seem I was hiding it from him and thereby being disingenuous for an interview opportunity. He appreciated the honesty and made no bones about it. But then a thought entered his head to use the info to play a prank on his publicist by calling her directly thereafter and warning her against setting up an interview with me.
What I didn't know, is that Adam decided against that plan and instead, knowing that Kane Hodder's attendance in the interview was unknown to me, told him that I didn't like 'Hatchet' and that he should constantly give me a hard time about during the interview. What follows is the account of one of the scariest encounters I've ever had with one of the largest men on the planet.
***Note: This interview was conducted prior to the first 'Hatchet 2' screening at Fantastic Fest. Also, the massive interview that follows is intended for hardcore horror fans only. Seriously, we get really geeky. ***
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Cinematical: I was a bit nervous to do the interview without seeing ['Hatchet 2'], but I'm fully prepared to shoot the breeze with you guys.
Kane: But you saw the first one, right?
Cinematical: Of course.
Cinematical: Well, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't a huge fan. Which is also why I was nervous to-
Kane: You had to have been in a bad mood. Honestly, I don't see how anyone could not like the movie.
Cinematical: Well I definitely loved the gore, as a huge horror nerd.
Adam: He hated my writing is what it was.
Cinematical: Well this is getting off on the right foot, clearly.
Kane: I'm dead serious. I don't see how somebody could not like it. It's so much fun, the acting is f*#%ing great...
Adam: I agree with you. I really liked it.
Cinematical: So now this is Cinematical's Adam Green interviews Kane Hodder.
Adam: What do we like about us, Kane?
Kane: (Still messing with me) What site is this for? Cinema-rectical? Cinema Rectal?
Adam: Just for the record, Cinematical has been f*#%ing awesome to us with all the stuff that we've done, so...
Kane: He just hated the movie! So I guess we can tell that you're not gonna like this one then.
Cinematical: I am going into it with a completely open mind. I was a big fan of 'Frozen' so I'm excited to see-
Adam: This is nothing like 'Frozen'.
Cinematical: That's a good point.
Adam: If you didn't like the first one, you're probably not going to like this one. But we'll see.
Kane: There are no wolves in 'Hatchet 2'.
Danielle: Are you a fan of me?
Danielle: Then you'll love 'Hatchet 2'.
Cinematical: Ok, we're covered. Good! (Nervously) This is going to be the greatest interview I've ever done.
[It was about this time I began to notice a boyish giggling coming from Adam and realized that he had been setting me up. He must have sensed my terrified anxiety because he finally relented.]
Adam: I told him to say that.
Cinematical: I had a feeling you were messing with me.
Adam: I said to Kane, "he didn't like the first one but he's a good guy so we've got to f*#% with him."
Cinematical: I thought we were going to pull one on your publicist, not that you were going to pull one on me.
Adam: (To the room) Oh yeah, to the publicist I was going to be like: "Who? No, I don't f*#%ing interview with him. He didn't like the first one, I'm not doing it!"
Cinematical: And that we were going to fight.
Adam: That we were gonna get into fight over it. No, I actually appreciate honesty, I think that's great. Because so many people aren't honest and they just kiss everybody's ass the whole time, and then you read their [article] and you're like, "dude, what the f*#%?"
Cinematical: And that's what I didn't want to have happen is that I pretend to love it and you go read an old review and think, "that's not what you said...dick!"
Cinematical: (Wiping my drenched brow in relief) So Adam let me start with you. Is there something new or unique that you wanted to bring to the 'Hatchet' story? What made you want to do a sequel?
Adam: Well the sequel was always planned when we did the first one. We purposely setup a lot of things in the first one to have a payoff in the sequel. Really, even including the ending. It had a very abrupt ending in the middle of this big climax and the goal was always to make a sequel that started on the same frame that we ended on and just kind of keep going. And being able to really bring the Victor Crowley mythology to light and really explain where we came from, why he's deformed, and what he actually is. We wanted to do a sequel that had a reason for being there besides just more people getting killed.
So actually this one, it's funny, but it's a lot darker than the first one was; a little bit more serious. And with the kills, we kind of took the face rip [a great kill from 'Hatchet'] as the bar and tried to beat that. One of the things that I think I did better in this one was, the face rip turned out to be the highlight. We didn't know that it was necessarily going to be everyone's favorite. The other kills were cool, but the movie peaked at 45 minutes. So this time, we kind of showed a little restraint and kept ratcheting it up as the movie goes. It's been very fun to watch with an audience because they'll cheer at the first one and then it just keeps getting louder and louder so it's been really fun.
Cinematical: Excellent. Danielle, I have a question for you. One of my favorite things, when I was first becoming a horrorphile, was to run through franchises. I loved horror movies with multiple sequels ('Halloween', 'Friday the 13th', and even 'Psycho'). I latched on to them and just watched them over and over, so I'm aware that you made your mark on horror playing Jamie in 'Halloween 4' and 'Halloween 5'. What has it been like to transition from playing the helpless victim to playing a character that's much stronger; much more independent?
Danielle: Oh God, it's been a blessing. But it's been more taxing actually. Because as a victim, you can only play the victim for a certain amount of time before you die. So it's a little bit harder to play the heroine. This is the first time I've been a lead in a really, really long time, since probably the old 'Halloweens', so it's a great opportunity for me. I'm kind of carrying the story through, you have all the other characters that season the story, but you follow the journey through Marybeth. What Adam and I talked about beforehand was that I have to have the audience want me to win more than Crowley. You've got to root for Marybeth or you don't care because I am carrying you through the swamps basically. It was about trying to find that balance because I do come into this movie right where the first movie ended. So I'm starting at such a high level of anxiety and pain and stress...and hell from the night before, but I personally didn't go through that. So as an actor I had to start from [the top] and continue to amp it up every time. So that was, physically and emotionally, a bit challenging for me.
Adam: Also, to add to that, it's really hard when you're playing a role like this. She just found her father and her brother murdered, everybody just got massacred around her, and she doesn't get to make jokes or be light at any point in the movie. She's got to be upset through the whole thing because it wouldn't make sense if all of a sudden she just lightened up at one point. So we tried to give her like one moment to at least not be crying. That's really hard to do as an actress and still win the audience over.
Danielle: Who wants to watch that for two hours? It's hard to find that balance. I'm tired from being angry, and upset, and f*@%ing pissed; a hysterical mess. I'm over it, let's move on...but you have to keep going.
Adam: But by the same token, if she stopped and started making jokes, people would be like, "dude, her whole family just died now she's laughing?" It's a very hard line to try to walk. But luckily, she's not too whiny when she's cries. Girls with really high voices who you're just like, "God, shut up!"
Danielle: Oh I hate those girls.
Cinematical: As much as I love the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre', one of the things that really bugs me about that movie is her screaming throughout the whole movie.
Adam: Yes, and Franklin's voice! (As we exchange Franklin impersonations) "Sally! Sally!"
Kane: Another thing that Danielle did was to start as hysterical and upset, as she should be because that's how the movie starts, but then made the transition into one-track-mind to do something and became a strong character; still upset, but not hysterical. That's what I think really makes it not hard to watch to watch at all. Even though you're upset, you change it in the midst of it.
Cinematical: That's very cool. Well actually Kane my next question is for you so that's a good transition. Playing Victor Crowley versus playing someone like Jason Voorhees. Obviously Victor's a lot more kinetic, a lot wilder. What has been like for you to play a killer who's a little freer physically than someone like Jason who's very stiff and stoic? What's that been like for you as an actor?
Kane: Good. (Awkward silence) You didn't like the f*#%ing movie, I'm not going to help you with your interview. (I wondered if Kane was joking anymore or if I might not make it out of the interview alive) Nah, there's similarities because both characters kill everybody they come into contact with, but in such different ways. That's why it was so much fun to play Victor. It was my personal choice to never make Jason too athletic or active because I think by the time I started playing the character he was zombie really. He wasn't a human anymore. Even though you can't really say Victor's a human, I approach it more from that standpoint. He's more frightening because he's more unpredictable; don't know where it's going to go or what he's going to do. That was a nice change for me, not that I ever hated doing the Jason stuff because I just thought it should be that way. It's just a nice change.
Cinematical: And it seems like you're having a lot of fun playing the character. I saw a lot of the special features on 'Hatchet' with you playing pranks on people and them being legitimately scared filming with you. Like with the guttural screaming that you did...
Kane: They really were [scared], that's not all hype.
Cinematical: Oh I know, because they were really terrified. So it does seem you're having a lot of fun playing the Victor Crowley role.
Kane: Well that does make it more fun. I know that the actors aren't going to see me in the full makeup until they're on camera. So I know that they're reactions are going to be real, but then I'll do sh#* right before the camera rolls or as it's rolling that makes them even go a little bit higher with their anxiety. In the graveyard, the growling and stuff like that behind the mausoleum right before they're gonna see me makes her about to lose it by the time she sees me. So it's fun.
Adam: Another thing we improved on in the sequel was the makeup job. It's the same look, but a much more extravagant makeup job so that he has full range of expression with his face. Whereas in the first movie, half of Victor Crowley's face...like Kane just couldn't move it, there was so much latex that it almost looked like a mask.
Kane: It was thick.
Adam: And as much as we are going for, yeah it's a guy in makeup, we're not doing the CGI type thing and still want it to look a little more realistic. So in this one, same look, same disfigurement, same everything but on one side of his face he's got full range of expression. And he really goes through all of it I think in this one whereas in the first one it was a little limited.
Cinematical: That is one of the things that I really did like about the first one is the practical effects. Was it 100% practical?
Adam: 100% practical; no CGI. And when you come up with some of these elaborate deaths, like a lot of people have already heard about the chainsaw through two guys at the same time, you're inclined to use CGI because how else are you going to do it?
Danielle: I love that scene
Adam: Then we have a chainsaw. It's a real Redwood chainsaw that weighs 135 pounds that no human being can actually do that with.
Cinematical: But Kane can do it, right?
Adam: Of course. We have cables on them, two actors that are rigged to the ceiling, all this orchestrated to go up through their balls, up them, and they rise up in the air, the thing cuts through them and the bodies split apart. The planning that has to go into that...
Danielle: Every time I see the testicles I start giggling.
Kane: Oh, were they showing again? I'm not even wearing shorts!
Cinematical: And there's the title of my interview: "Every time I see the testicles I start giggling"
Danielle: It's true, I haven't done a movie where I've [while watching] cheered and laughed and can giggle through the whole thing ever. They're always so hardcore so this is a really nice change.
Adam: I think one of the things we're trying to do with these, is that we're just having fun. In the first one we took a lot of s#*t for throwing buckets of blood against trees all the time and we take a really good shot at ourselves for that in this one. But we are just trying to fun, we don't think it's 'The Exorcist'...it's 'Hatchet'.
Cinematical: Gotcha. Going back to the question of practical, how do you guys feel about the current state of horror with the often overwhelming reliance on CG? Obviously this is more of a throwback movie and the practical stuff is what I personally favor. What do you think about movies right now that lean almost 100% toward CG?
Adam: I think that everything has its place. But for a slasher movie, the thing that made me fall in love with it was people like Savini, like John Buechler, people who were really artists at magic shows, at trickery, and having it be something tangible. Even if you can tell yourself that it's not 100% real, you can still appreciate it on a different level. If your villain becomes cartoony-looking, and you can tell he's not even really there with the people, there's nothing to be afraid of or even be that excited about. I think it's been a cop out to be honest with you because it's actually harder to do the practical effects. But sometimes these bigger studio movies have these bloated budgets so it's easier to just throw up a green screen, and I kind of feel like it's lazy.
Some of the artistry that we had in the 70's and 80's, I don't know where it went. That was sort of my point with the first 'Hatchet': remember what we used to like? Remember when there was a villain? Remember when there were practical effects? Remember when it was a show and it was fun? That sort of has gone away a little bit. I think there's room for everything in the genre, but I personally am not that big on the rape, and the torture, and the depravity. I would rather enjoy it and have a good time, which is funny that this is the movie that the ratings board has gone after so hard. It's the most harmless of all of it.
Cinematical: It has no agenda at all.
Adam: None. They tend to be harder on independent films, that's not a secret, but I don't know why they picked this one. Maybe they did it because they could because we don't have the money to fight or do anything. But we found a way around it this time and it's the first time in a quarter of a century that a horror movie is going to be released unrated on mainstream screens. So...very excited.
Cinematical: That is exciting. I want to pose that same question to you, Kane. With your 'Friday the 13th' films using amazing practical effects throughout, how do you feel about the practical versus the CG? Are you an old-school guy as far that goes as well?
Kane: Well yeah, of course I am. I mean everything that I've done in horror pretty much has been practical effects. Like Adam was saying, it's much more difficult to do; more time consuming. If a director knows that something is going to be done as a CG thing in post-production, it saves time. So it's harder for the director and everyone involved to shoot practical effects, and I think you can tell on the screen that it took more work. As long as they're not too cheesy, that is. I'll always be a fan of the practical stuff.
Cinematical: One thing I thought was fascinating about the first one is that your production designer created a gas-powered belt sander that doesn't exist.
Adam: Yeah, it doesn't exist
Kane: Oh sure it does!
Cinematical: Yeah, I guess it does now.
Adam: My first short film was called 'Columbus Day Weekend', it was something I did for fun for a Halloween party. It was Jason and Michael Myers stalk the same camp by mistake. We just started grabbing absurd things. There's a scene where Jason suddenly looks down and there's a fan running with an extension chord just going off into the bushes that he then puts in somebody's face; same with the sander. So the sander is the one thing about that short that we always really liked; the idea off sanding someone's lower jaw. So when I wrote that into 'Hatchet', I got cold feet on it. I started saying, "this makes no sense, where's he going to plug it in?" I was going to change it to a death that ended up in Hatchet 2 where Crowley uses the blunt side of a hatchet to break somebody's teeth in. But then Bryan McBrien, the production designer, said, "give me three days and if I can make a functioning, gas-powered belt sander then there's no excuse."
Cinematical: If you're holding it in your hand, it exists. So it can't be disputed.
Adam: It exists! He went to town and didn't sleep for three days trying to make this contraption work. And he did it, he made one that worked. That became one of everyone's favorite set pieces of the first movie so of course it'll make an appearance again.
Cinematical: And that's the genius of practical! These guys are wizards; creating stuff that doesn't exist.
Adam: And that's what makes it so fun. When you're going to do a scene that's like a true, full-on 'American History X' curbing, to show it and not cut away anywhere. To pull that off and have the audience go, "holy s*#t that was crazy!" If you did that with CGI, they would go, "ehhh."
Cinematical: It's one thing to make something that doesn't exist on a computer versus something you can touch and hold in real life. I'm 100% with you on that. So obviously there are a huge number of horror references in the first 'Hatchet'. The most direct being your cast: Kane, Robert Englund, Tony Todd. I want to know if there was anything I missed. Can you tell me if there are any subtler references in the first film?
Kane: Well you've got Josh Leonard too, don't forget.
Adam: Yeah, Josh Leonard from 'Blair Witch Project' and Mercedes from 'Buffy'. So we have the pedigree of actors who are known within the genre. One of the things that we did intentionally was the ending with the boat and Marybeth getting pulled over. We knew as soon as we cast Kane in a role killing people, everyone immediately assumes it's 'Friday the 13th'. And it's not 'Friday the 13th', if anything it's 'Fright Night' or 'An American Werewolf in London' because we took a tired, beaten-to-death genre and tried to make it fun. But we did that on purpose so we could get to that red herring of Joel's arm coming in to save her and then all of a sudden we killed the main character of the movie and she's about to die.
Cinematical: It's a bold choice
Adam: But it pissed a lot of people off. They said they didn't like it, but they didn't like it because they didn't expect it. First, she gets pulled over and they were like, "I knew this is the way it was going to end," and then it didn't. So sometimes in order to surprise people, you have to lead down a path where it is predictable for a second because then you really get them off guard. So that was definitely an homage to 'Friday the 13th', even the music that we used. In 'Hatchet 2', we have a few great things. There's a shout out to Leslie Vernon. 'Behind the Mask' and 'Hatchet' were doing festivals at the same time. I think Scott Glosserman is a terrific director and I love that movie, so to make our characters exist in the same universe was really fun. We take a dig at ourselves about the Jason comments and throwing the blood against the trees.
The thing is, you don't want the whole thing to become a reference to other movies. In 'Hatchet 2', especially once people hear Victor's whole mythology, I think he really comes into his own. I don't want to completely spoil it, but he's a ghost. In the paranormal world, for people who do ghost hunting, there's [type of ghost] called a repeater which means every night they go through the same thing they went through when they died. So every night, [Victor] comes back in the same form as when he died and does not understand that he's dead or what happened. He's just scared and he's going to f#*% up anybody that comes near him. So, great twist on the slasher villain because it doesn't matter what you do, as soon as the sun goes down again, he's right back the way he was when he died. I knew this about Victor while making 'Hatchet', I even knew that Victor Crowley was half black in the first one. John Buechler knew when we did the design, but (To Kane) I don't even think you knew.
Kane: I didn't.
Adam: Nobody questioned who his mother was. And in this one, we not only see the day that he's born but also the day that he's conceived. There's a sex scene so it's all in here.
Kane: That's right, sex scene! You heard it! (As he rejects my offer of a high five) Oh no, you won't like it.
Adam: (Laughing) It was cool to leave holes that I already had the filling for so that I had somewhere to go with the sequel. It wasn't a new group of tourists whose boat breaks down and they get killed. If this was 'Friday the 13th', that is exactly what it would have been because they always did the same movie over and over and over again. So we're trying to deliver more of a story.
Kane: And here's an exclusive for you. Another reference-I know you don't like my work.
Cinematical: (As Adam laughs) I didn't say that. Now that's unfair.
Kane: Every time we do a movie, Adam gets the name of the island I grew up on in the South Pacific in the movie somehow.
Adam: Yeah, in 'Hatchet', Parry Shen says, "if you look over to the right by Kwaj Island..." and in 'Frozen', they talk about skiing at Kwaj hill. In 'Hatchet 2', you'll hear Jack Cracker say, "out that door is Kwaj road."
Kane: That's the name of the island where I grew up.
Adam: Even in 'The Diary of Anne Frankenstein', something we just finished at 'Chillorama', Joel David Moore is playing Adolf Hitler and basically spouting gibberish through the whole thing. At one point he yells, "Kwaj-an!"
Cinematical: Did you say the 'The Diary of Anne Frankenstein'? That's awesome!
Adam: We just announced this movie in London. It's actually done, we kept it under wraps, but it's an anthology movie. I did a segment, Adam Rifkin ('Detroit Rock City') did a segment, Joe Lynch ('Wrong Turn 2') did a segment, and Tim Sullivan ('2001 Maniacs') did one. Mine is a 1940's, black-and-white all-German movie called 'The Diary of Anne Frankenstein'. Joel plays Adolf Hitler and tries to create the perfect killing machine to win the war. Everybody that I cast is German and speaks fluent German and it's all subtitled, but Joel doesn't know any German so he's making up his own language. But it's funny, when people watch it because it takes them a little bit before they realize that this guy has no idea what he's talking about. But on set, the Germans are speaking German and he doesn't know what they're saying so he's spouting back, "Boba Fett" and "sarlacc pit."
Kane: "Salacious Crumb!"
Adam: So that'll be out later next year.
Cinematical: Very cool. I have one question for you Kane, something I've always been curious about. The Uber-Jason suit in 'Jason X' looked horribly uncomfortable. What was it like trying to perform in that?
Kane: Pretty uncomfortable, not terrible. But very limited mobility because when they designed it, and had it on a mannequin, it looks great with all these metal plates. But then you put it on and try to move your arms, the plates here [forearm] and the plate here [shoulder] touch by the time you bend your arm. So with the one leg and the one arm, very limited movement. But as far as comfort, it wasn't any worse than anything else. In fact the worst costume or body that I've ever had to wear was 'Jason Goes to Hell'. By far the most uncomfortable...
Adam: Worse than ['Friday the 13th Part VII']?
Kane: Yeah, it really was. It was so f*#%ing thick and incredibly hot. I don't know what it was about it, it was almost like somehow the latex usually breathes a little bit and that didn't at all. I had to wear a cool suit, which is a vest that circulates ice water like a racecar driver wears. I couldn't function without it. Plus, the hockey mask is built into the makeup so I couldn't take it off between takes. Which is f*#%ing hard to do something very physical, get out of breath, and then try to catch your breath like this (covers mouth); breathing your own exhaled air. So you know, the 'Jason X' one wasn't all that bad. Because with both versions of Jason in 'Jason X', my face was out; it was a cowl.
Cinematical: Well guys, I do appreciate your time today. 'Hatchet 2' is premiering here at Fantastic Fest.
Kane: And you won't like it.
Cinematical: I am very excited to see it.
Kane: You had to have been in a bad mood.
Cinematical: I will make the concession that I didn't see it with an audience.
Adam: That's cool, it doesn't bother me. If I were actually offended by the fact that you didn't like it, I wouldn't have pulled this.
Kane: When you see it, tell me if you didn't like it again. I'll be so surprised.
Cinematical: Can I tell you from a distance?
Kane: I'll just be very surprised. I mean I loved the first one, and I think this one is a lot better. And if you still don't like it, I'd just be amazed.
Cinematical: Looking forward to it.
***Note: Since this interview I have seen 'Hatchet 2' and loved it. Kane was right.***