February 6, 2018 Interview – Adam Green
The story is similar for all of us – at a young age we have aspirations and big dreams to do something creative, only to tell our high school guidance counsellor who chuckles before deflecting us to something more practical. Often a spirit squasher, some of us are just too determined and stubborn to take no for an answer. Fortunately, this never say die spirit laid in the soul of a young kid named Adam Green who has become one of modern Horror cinema’s most known filmmakers. Famous for the creation of his beloved Hatchet series, Green has built his dreams on hard work, overcoming self doubt, and creative inspiration from surprising places. Recently we caught up with Green to talk his journey into the world of cinema, the latest Hatchet film, Victor Crowley, making audiences smile, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have written and directed a long list of films over the past 2 decades. First, tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career in film?
Adam Green – When I was a little kid, probably 8 years old, I saw E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) in the theater. I was already a big Star Wars fan, like basically everybody my age, and I loved movies, but E.T. was the first time I couldn’t stop thinking about how they made it. I was so moved emotionally by that film at such a young age. I knew it wasn’t real, I knew E.T. wasn’t real, but yet I was still crying at the end of the movie. It made me start thinking about screenwriting and wanting to know who did that. I wanted to know how shots and music were put together.
From that point on I was obsessed. I don’t even think I fully understood what a director did because in my mind, at such a young age, I felt like a director came up with the story and wrote it. You see the word’s Steven Spielberg’s film, so you think he did everything. As I got older and learned more, the kind of frustrating part was, I wanted to do all of it. At this point I write, direct, act, produce, and I have a band. I literally do all of it, I can’t just pick one.
CrypticRock.com – It is very cool how you are so hands on. Everyone has a film that inspires them like that. Much of your work has in fact been in the Horror genre. Is Horror something you always knew you wanted to be involved with?
Adam Green – Yeah, but, really, in the beginning, I was really focused on Comedy. My first few years in LA, I was doing stand-up. My first movie, Coffee and Donuts (2000), ended up becoming my TV series, Holliston, it was just a straight up Comedy. Horror was always what I was most attracted to as far as what I choose to watch. Horror films are what I actually collected along with every action figure and toy. It really steams down to my obsession with the holiday of Halloween, it is like my Christmas, it is a very big deal for me. It has never just been about trick or treating, getting dressed up, or that one night, it is the whole spiritual side of it. Horror was a way to kind of have Halloween all year round. That is what I watched for enjoyment so it seemed like a natural fit, but I really thought my career would be in straight Comedy at first. Even though, that same year I saw E.T., I went to summer camp for the first time and that is where I came up with Victor Crowley. Age 8 was really a very pivotal year for me as weird as that sounds.
So many things began then, including my love for Twisted Sister, which was a huge inspiration in everything I did. It wasn’t enough to just own the records, I needed to know everything about that band. I remember when I learned that had been around for 10 years before they ever got a record deal, how hard it was, how everybody kept telling them no, but they didn’t give up. That was very inspirational for me. When you are the son of a gym teacher and Hebrew school teacher in Holliston, Massachusetts, and you tell your teachers and friends you are going to go to Hollywood to make a movie… even at that age I was saying I was going to make the Victor Crowley movie, which eventually ended up being called Hatchet as we know now.
Everyone tells you, “Ok, that is great, but pick something realistic.” I remember in high school meeting with guidance counselors and saying this is what I wanted to do, they would literally laugh. It is hard, so I always really leaned on Twisted Sister. Also, the fact that Dee Snider as a human being, he married his high school sweetheart, he never drank, he didn’t do drugs, even though he lived and worked in an industry that celebrated all those things. Being a womanizer, groupies, drinking, drugs, he never did any of it. I just always wanted to be him. Again, it is a pretty funny thing when you think about it that an 8 year old kid’s idol was a crossdressing one or two hit wonder, but it meant everything to me.
The fact that when Hatchet first premiered that Dee was there and walked me down the carpet to my first premiere, now he is one of my closest friends. Without sounding completely corny, it is a wonderful life.
CrypticRock.com – That is an awesome story. Perhaps one of your most enduring works has been the Hatchet series. When you began the story all the way back in 2006, did you foresee the a franchise being born?
Adam Green – You can hope, but if you are going to be realistic, the chances of that are so slim. Every movie, even on the studio level, where they have the money to buy success and throw so many millions of dollars at marketing that your movie will open at least in the top 3 at the box office, you just never know. Only the audience can decide that, especially in the Horror genre. You can’t tell the Horror fans what they are going to like and not like, they will tell you. Sometimes you will see something open really strong. For example, at the time Hatchet came out in 2006, almost everything the studios were doing was a remake. The Prom Night in 2008 remake opened really strong and was a hit. But I almost guarantee for the rest of time, you are never going to see someone cosplaying as a character or even wear a t-shirt from the Prom Night remake. It wasn’t going to last.
The fact that 10 years after Hatchet, I think it was at Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, New Jersey this year I first noticed there were more people cosplaying as Victor Crowley than even Jason or Freddy. It was a really eye opening moment. These are cult movies, they are not these huge things. Even the A Nightmare on Elm Streets and Friday the 13ths were put out by big studios, their sequels especially were marketed. We have never had any of that, but the fans have carried this thing so far. Now to be on part 4, and there are halloween masks of Victor Crowley in stores, there are comic books, and all that stuff, you can hope and dream, but it is like a one in a million shot.
I made the first one, I had the next two ready in my mind and outlined – I knew every single thing that was going to happen. That was sort of the risk I took. When the first one came out, the movie ends so abruptly, a lot of people in theaters thought the film had broken. They said, “Wait, what? Are you serious? That’s how it ends?” I had to know that I need to live with that if that was the ending. Secretly, I was always hoping I would get to make more because I knew it would start on the same frame the last one ended on. Thankfully it happened, but it was no easy feat. The honest truth is when the first Hatchet premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006, nobody wanted it.
The reviews for Hatchet were incredible, the response from the audience was great, but no distributor got it. They thought, this is like an ’80s movie, these things died 20 years ago, nobody wants this. Then it was 18 months of going to every convention and every festival that wanted the movie. When you are still nobody, they are not going to pay to bring you. Everything was going on credit cards and I was something like $80,000 in debt by the time Anchor Bay finally stepped up and acquired Hatchet and guaranteed a theatrical release. That was very important to me at the time. I gambled everything on this, so it is incredible to see where it has come. It has been a very long, hard road.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is amazing. It sounds like it could have been very stressful, but the gamble paid off! The story of Hatchet continues with the latest film, Victor Crowley. What inspired this latest chapter in the saga?
Adam Green – It was always supposed to end after the third film, I had no intentions of making more. But life is going to do what life is going to do, you can’t control, it. That is one of the more important lessons I have learned over the past few years. In 2014, a year after Hatchet III came out, I ended up going through the worst period of my life. It started with the death of one of my closest friends, David Brockie, most people know him as the lead singer of GWAR, Oderus. He also played the same character of Oderus on my TV series Holliston.
Holliston is the most important of all my projects. It is the most passion of all passion projects, it is the reason I came to Hollywood in the first place. That show took 13 years to get made, and get made the way I wanted it to get made. Of course the trade off was, if I was going to make it the way I wanted to make it, it had to be a brand new, very small network called Fearnet. It should have worked, but there was a merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast, in that merger Fearnet got swallowed up, so it had nothing to do with the network. Dave died, about 13 days after that I ended up going through a divorce, which was beyond heartbreaking. Three days after that divorce, Fearnet was swallowed up in that merger.
In a period of 2 weeks it felt like the floor in my life just fell out. I would like to think if it had just been one of those tragedies I would have handled it a lot better, but in reality I spun into this very dark depression. At its lowest point, it was so bad I was living in a dark room in my house – I blacked out all the windows and covered up all the mirrors. No one knew how bad it was getting because I would still show up to do the podcast every week and put on a brave face. Joe Lynch, my co-host, could see I was losing way too much weight. Normally I weigh around 175 and I was down to around 138 at that time and wasting away to nothing, I couldn’t eat. Finally some friends got me to go to a doctor who said if you don’t hold down food in the next 48 hours we have to admit you and put you on an I.V. – in many ways that saved my life. At the tailend of that, Wes Craven passed away. As things go, when you lose someone that great, you start questioning everything you have done. At his memorial service, a common conversation between my generation of filmmakers was, “What have we accomplished? Are we living up to shadows of the real greats that came before us?” You just start to feel like nothing that you did even deserves to be there and it just doesn’t matter.
A few months later, there was a convention called Rock and Shock in Worcester, Massachusetts, and George Romero was the headliner. He had asked me to moderate his panel, I had been friends with George for 10 years at that point, but the reverence for a guy like that never goes away. He is not just the godfather of zombies, he is the godfather of independent cinema. He just didn’t want to answer the same questions such as, “Do you think zombies should run?” What do you think about The Walking Dead?” He wanted to talk about the craft and business. As we were doing the panel, he was referencing my work, it really had a profound effect on me. When it was over, he gets a huge standing ovation from the audience, he turned me around with his arm around me and said to me, “Do you see this?” I said, “Congratulations,” and he said, “No, look, there is a Hatchet shirt, Holliston shirt, you have to pay attention.” He told me, “I know you are going through a really bad time and a lot of people are worried about you, but you have to pull out of it and do what you are supposed to do.” I think only someone like that could have made me snap out of it, a guy like that says that to you, you listen. He then said, “When are you going to give these kids a new Crowley picture?” I told him, “I’m not, it is over, it was only supposed to be those 3 films.” He laughed and told me, “It’s not over, Victor Crowley is not dead, and you know what you need to do.”
It was obviously a lot longer of a conversation, but that is the important stuff. George made me see one of the things I bring to people is a sense of humor and it makes people happy. Especially when the first Hatchet came out, everything was a remake or torture porn. Things were so mean-spirited, then you have Hatchet, which is incredibly gory and violent, but it is not ever mean or depraved, it is all in good fun. I think that is why it has built the audience that it has. That is why I ended up writing this one and I couldn’t believe that is what I was doing. I think I needed to do it and I had something to say anyway. The same people had been with the series from the get go and they were dumbfounded, they thought why are we doing this? These movies are incredibly hard to make, which is something I don’t think a lot of people realize, especially when you watch the special features and it looks like we are having a party. They are so hard to make, and it has only gotten harder over time because the budgets keep getting smaller and smaller thanks to streaming and piracy.
My one thing was if we were going to make this, I wanted to do it in secret so there was no outside interference or expectations, I just wanted it to be a surprise. The fact that we were able to pull that off, I am just so grateful that it worked.
CrypticRock.com – That is really an inspiring story. You certainly have a knack for balancing Horror and Comedy, and Victor Crowley is another success in that aspect. Is it a challenge, striking that balance?
Adam Green – First of all thank you. Second of all, yea it is hard. For instance, Frozen (2010) is not funny – maybe there are a couple of moments of levity, but there are no jokes in the movie. The same thing with Spiral (2007) or Grace (2009), which I produced, there is not even a smile in that film. With Hatchet, I wanted to make the type of movie I grew up loving, which was a Slasher film. I think most people at this point can admit, the real greats like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Vorhees, you were just waiting to see the people get killed, you didn’t really care about any of the characters. I think, if you can make the audience at least smile a few times, if not laugh out loud, it endears them that much more.
My biggest inspiration for Hatchet were American Werewolf in London (1981). Most other filmmakers could clearly see that right away. But for the more passive Horror fans who don’t really know that much, would all jump to Friday the 13th because Kane Hodder was in it and it is an unstoppable killer. I just wanted to make the most entertaining Slasher film that I could. Yes, it would have the gore, the really over the top kill sequences, and a cool villain, but it would actually be a fun movie to watch. I think that is the difference.
If you start making comedy into your villain, if you are trying to make your villain funny or crack jokes, which is where Freddy Krueger started to lose people, where they had to have a one-liner with every single kill, he is not scary anymore. I think Victor Crowley has remained solid for fans because there is nothing funny about him. Even though people will laugh and cheer for the kills, because of how ridiculously violent they are, you are never laughing at him. There was this great moment the other day, I asked Kane Hodder, “Is it weird to you that everytime we see these films in the theater the audience cheers everytime you kill somebody, but they cheer the loudest when you get it at the end of each film, why do you think that is?” He said that he never really thought about it that way, but I guess it is because no matter what, you want to see the killer die, but they always know I will be back again before they know it. Kind of like Frosty the Snowman, be back again someday. (Laughs)
Kane did point out, they weren’t laughing at the end of Hatchet III (2013). At the end of Hatchet III, when Victor Crowley sees his father’s ashes in the urn, and it is the only time he speaks on camera, it is a very sad moment of watching him realize that he and his father is dead. That is the key to a good film I think, if you can have some touch of sympathy for them that they didn’t ask for this or deserve this, and in Victor Crowley’s case, he is paying for his father’s sins. In Marybeth’s case, in the original trilogy, she is stuck in a situation because of a mistake her father made. That is how you do it. These movies are never going to be for everybody, that’s why they are cult movies. If you try and poke fun at your own villain, and make light of that, you are going to lose people really fast.
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