Whilst Rolfe Kanefsky has been
making movies for many years, it is his most recent movies that are
gaining positive reactions from the horror community. His last film 'The
Hazing' a.k.a 'Dead Scared' in the UK, was a huge success worldwide thanks
to it's cool cast and perfect blend of comedy and horror. That trend is
set to continue with his latest release 'Corpses', hitting UK stores on
the 6th of June, and US stores later this year courtesy of Lions Gate
Films. Read on to hear all about Rolfe's experiences working with some of
the genre's finest stars, including Brad Dourif, Tiffany Shepis and Jeff
When did you first realize
that you wanted to be a director?
I first got interested in film when my father introduced me to ABBOTT and
COSTELLO movies. I caught the end of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR.JEKYLL
AND MR. HYDE and was hooked. I would watch them every Sunday morning for
the next twelve years or so. After that I started writing my own Abbott
and Costello stories which led to my "Nick and Neal" adventures (a cross
between A & C and THE HARDY BOYS) and I started acting. I wanted to be a
comedian. At 13, I got my first video camera and started shooting shorts
with friends. I made my first 12 minute short called, "BREAKING AND
ENTERING, followed by UNDEAD (my first horror short, 52 minutes long). I
also took acting and screen writing courses at HB Studios in New York City
over that same summer. At 16, I began my first feature length video
production, STRENGTH IN NUMBERS, a comedy/action/thriller. It turned into
a two year project and that was probably the deciding factor on knowing
that I could be a director. I began doing P.A. work over that same summer,
once working on a slasher film called POSED FOR MURDER and did four weeks
on TROMA'S WAR. I followed STRENGTH IN NUMBERS with my feature length
senior high school project MURDER IN WINTER, an Agatha Christie-style
comedy murder mystery. After that, it was off to Hampshire College and two
horror shorts on Super 8 later, PEEK-A-BOO and JUST LISTEN, I was ready
for my first professional independent film, the now kind of cult flick,
THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE. I pretty much decided when I was 14 that I
wanted to be a director and after working on some bad high school plays as
an actor, I knew. I realized that you have to work extremely hard and in
the hands of a bad director, no matter how hard you try, it will still be
a bad production. So, if I was going to work this hard, I better direct
myself so the final result would turn out the way I wanted it to. That's
when I moved from being on the stage to behind it.
What were your hobbies and
interests when you were a kid?
Film, film, and more film. My father was and is still a film editor in New
York City and runs his own post production company VALKHN FILMS. He
focuses mostly on documentaries but has edited and supervised some horror
"classics" like GANGA & HESS, JUST BEFORE DAWN, and the infamous
BLOODSUCKING FREAKS. My mother was a singer/dancer on Broadway so luckily
my parents were very supportive of my interest in the arts. They always
hoped I’d get other interests but film took over. Writing, acting in
plays, and directing was pretty much my childhood.
Were you a big fan of horror
movies when you were younger?
Well, horror films scared me. I had terrible nightmares when I was young.
But I was always attracted to watching the black and white horror films on
Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The television movie DON'T BE AFRAID OF
THE DARK really scared me and when I saw the 1979 version of INVASION OF
BODY SNATCHERS when I was ten in the theaters, I had nightmares for two
weeks straight. It took me five times before I could finally make it
through the opening of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN because it
was too scary. I was five years old and that first werewolf transformation
is very scary but once Costello started hearing the growling and yelling
back "Get your doggie off the phone", I was able to watch the whole thing.
My love for horror comedy started there. At 14, when I
knew I wanted to make my living as a director, I started researching,
reading FANGORIA magazine and realized that many directors started with
horror films. Steven Spielberg (a big influence), Coppola, Oliver Stone,
the list goes on and on. So, it was then that I started to rent out every
horror film on video. I started seeing a lot of bad clichéd films that
just capitalized on the success of HALLOWEEN. Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD stood
out and was (still is) very influential. You could see that here was a
young filmmaker really trying to do something special and he had so much
energy and creativity. I always loved HITCHCOCK movies as well and he was
always experimenting and trying new things. I love that side of making
movies. It's the most fun.
In 1991, you directed 'There's
Nothing out There'. Can you tell us all about the project, as it has
never been released here in the UK, to my knowledge?
Well, THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE, (TNOT for short), began as an exercise. I
was still in high school working on MURDER IN WINTER and I was creatively
bored. I had a week free and remember seeing that Siskel and Ebert report
on how lousy all these teen slasher exploitation films were. I wondered
how long it would take me to write a teen exploitation horror film. That
was my goal. Five pages in, I decided to make it an alien creature rather
than slasher. I thought you could do more with that. However, as I started
writing (this was Spring of 1987), I realized that I just couldn't do the
same old clichés so I added a character named MIKE. You see, the plot of
TNOT was simple. A bunch of high school students on spring break drive up
to a country house in the woods and get attacked by an alien creature. I
had all the stereotypes; jock, blonde bimbo, computer nerd, foreign
exchange student, and MIKE- a horror geek who has seen every horror film
on videotape and knows the warning signs. As soon as they pass an accident
on the road, MIKE sees the danger and begins to warn everyone on how to
survive a horror film. Of course, nobody believes him until people start
dying. MIKE gave me the chance to send-up every annoying horror cliché
like the cat scare, the wandering off in the dark alone, the
skinny-dipping scene, standing in front of an open window etc etc. In my
mind, MIKE was the audience that yells at the screen, "DON'T DROP THE
KNIFE! DON'T GO INTO THE BASEMENT!" I had never seen a character in a
movie that had seen and commented about other horror films before so to me
it was a little fresh and original. It parodies the silly conventions of
the horror genre without making fun of horror. It was my first comedy
horror script and I wrote it in 5 days. Two years later, when my parents
thought I was ready to make my first film and I agreed, we looked through
the five or six scripts I had written by then and decided that TNOT was
the easiest. One location, seven characters and a creature. It was a
horror film, which in 1988 was still a very popular genre and would be the
perfect project to break me into the film business. We raised money
through friends, family, and some private investors, and shot the film in
the summer of 1989. TNOT was finished in 1990, the same year that the
horror market collapsed! TREMORS bombed in the theaters, NIGHTBREED was
sold as a slasher film and did poorly. Luckily, TNOT was a comedy horror
and in festivals, we kept getting a great response. Variety, Hollywood
Reporter, Billboard magazine, and when we finally got a small theatrical
release, The New York Times, The L.A. Times and many others gave us great
reviews. But with no names in the film, a final budget of around $200,000,
shot on Super 16, the studios didn't get it. Agents and studios didn't
understand how you can combine horror and comedy. They said, "It's too
funny to be scary and too scary to be funny". Eventually after a small
release independently ourselves in New York and L.A., we sold it to video
and cable (HBO). The film was a modest success but didn't really open up
the Hollywood doors for me. It was frustrating because audiences and most
critics really liked it. I knew that if a film was made with enough money
and some star names like TNOT, it would make a fortune. Audiences were
ready for this in 1991. However, it took five more years before I was
proven correct when SCREAM came out.
Now, I really liked SCREAM and with the exception of
the character of RANDY, I do not see too many similarities. Well, there
are a few. I do not know if Kevin Williamson ever saw TNOT on cable. It
played a lot on Cinemax for a while. However, I do know that I met
Jonathan Craven, Wes Craven's son (also a producer) at a FANGORIA
convention when Wes was promoting VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN. I gave Jonathon a
copy of TNOT and met him for lunch a week later. He loved the film and
told me he was going to give it to his father to have a look. I never
heard from him again. Two years later, SCREAM came out. I also recently
found out that Wes Craven actually talked to one of our special effects
people who worked on TNOT before he made SCREAM and was asking the f/x guy
how we combined the horror and comedy so well in TNOT! So, that's the
history/connection as far as I know. Well, after SCREAM came out and went
through the roof, I started seeing other people comparing TNOT to SCREAM
and over the years, (thanks to internet); TNOT has developed this
reputation as being the "inspiration" or pre-SCREAM. Years later when I
was making TOMORROW BY MIDNIGHT with Carol Kane, she told me that a few
people have problems with SCREAM. She starred in WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and
Fred Walton was not to happy about having his first act ripped off for the
opening of SCREAM. Although, Bob Clark could also state a case with his
much-earlier released BLACK CHRISTMAS. Anyway, I'm just happy SCREAM was
so successful because it brought back the horror genre which in part, did
lead to THE HAZING aka DEAD SCARED finally getting made, eight years
After TNOT, you didn't really
have that many movies out until the late nineties, what were you
Well, I actually was still making movies. The following year I was hired
to "fix" co-direct a family film called MY FAMILY TREASURE starring Dee
Wallace, and Alex Vincent (the kid in Child's Play 1 & 2). I then made the
move to L.A and realized that nothing I had done in New York counted. I
had to start again. I got some writing assignments, RED LINE starring Chad
McQueen, Michael Madsen, Corey Feldman, and continued writing scripts. THE
HOST, a horror script I wrote in college was optioned by producer Joe Wolf
(a producer on HALLOWEEN, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, and HELL NIGHT among
others.) Much development was done but the film was never made. However, I
pitched him a sequel to HELL NIGHT and wrote a four page
treatment called HELL NIGHT 2: THE HAZING. Nothing happened with it and a
few years went by. In 1996, I met a French producer Alain Siritzky (famous
for all the official EMMANUELLE movies). I met him at the American Film
Market at the same time I launched a company with Mark Collver (actor
friend I met on TNOT- he played "Jim"). We started GRAND MASTER
PRODUCTION, a company to shoot and edit actor's demo reels. It never
really took off but I suddenly got offered to write and direct four
"erotic comedies" for Alain Siritzky, based on the comic books CLICK and
BUTTERSCOTCH by Milo Manara.
So as SCREAM exploded at the box office, I was making these sex comedies
and very busy. Shooting 90 minute movies on 16 mm in 6 days! One of these
films, my James Bond spoof- ROD STEELE 0014: YOU ONLY LIVE UNTIL YOU DIE
aka BALLS OF THUNDER has also gone on to become somewhat of a cult
comedy. Anyway, after these, Alain wanted to make a series called THE SEX
FILES. I made ALIEN EROTICA aka THE ALIEN FILES as one of the seven films.
But I wanted to move away from all this sexy stuff and get back to horror
so I pitched Alain an idea. How about writing two scripts that take place
on the same set? It's the old Roger Corman approach and since Alain and
Roger are good friends and Roger Corman owned the domestic rights to all
these erotic films, Alain agreed. At this time, because of SCREAM,
everyone was telling me to do something like SCREAM or re-make TNOT. Well,
I didn't want to rip-off a rip-off or redo something I had already done. I
thought of my HELL NIGHT 2 treatment. Lose the HELL NIGHT connection (easy
to do) and write THE HAZING as an EVIL DEAD meets SCREAM type of film.
What are the rules when there are no rules? When anything can happen! So,
for little money, I wrote an erotic haunted house movie called RESTLESS
SOULS and a straight horror movie, THE HAZING.
You recently returned to the
horror genre with the excellent 'The Hazing', which movies inspired you to
write the film?
I decided THE HAZING would be a typical haunted house story with
characters that didn't follow the conventions. The idea was BREAKFAST CLUB
as a horror film. Where you think everyone is just a typical stereotype
but once the horror begins, the kids drop the act and become real people!
never seen that done before. I mean in thousands of horror film, the
blonde bimbo is a blonde bimbo. Even in SCREAM. However, I thought what if
the blonde is not really dumb. She just acts that way because guys respond
to it. When she reveals her true personality, she turns into the tough
heroine of the piece. That idea made me excited because it's something
different that I hadn't seen! However, the story was purposely filled with
in-jokes and situations that you've seen many times. Some of the obvious
and not so obvious influences in THE HAZING are HELL NIGHT, EVIL DEAD,
EVIL DEAD 2, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 1 & 2, THE HAUNTING (Robert Wise
version), THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, THE FUNHOUSE, RE-ANIMATOR, SUSPIRIA,
SLEEPAWAY CAMP 2, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET(s), THE CLUB, PATRICK, and
BEYOND DREAMS DOOR to name a few. Just for the record, although with A & C
MEET FRANKENSTEIN, I'd have to say FRIGHT NIGHT, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN
LONDON, TREMORS, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, and most recently SHUAN OF THE DEAD
are probably the best horror/comedies I've seen.
How long did the script take
First draft, I'd say two weeks. However, the film didn't get made for
eight years. Alain Siritzky produced RESTLESS SOULS but pulled the plug on
THE HAZING at the last minute. The cast was let go, the sets were torn
down, and for the next five years, I tried to set up the project. It
wasn't until Tom Seidman came on board that things actually started
happening again. However, in the meantime, I did convince Alain to produce
some of my favorite films (still unreleased to date) TOMORROW BY
MIDNIGHT -a black comedy thriller starring Alexis Arquette and Carol Kane
and PRETTY COOL, a fun teen comedy (think ZAPPED! meets WEIRD SCIENCE)
starring Alexis Thorpe and Summer Altice. Anyway, Tom was a first time
producer and had been a 1st A.D. and line producer for years. He met
Alain at the AFM and Alain told him about THE HAZING. Tom loved the script
and wanted to do it. But Alain got tied up with other projects and walked
away so Tom ran with it. He hired a producer's Rep- LANTERN LANE- to
handle the project and try to raise money. They almost did and for a few
months THE HAZING was going to be made between Tom's company HONEYCREEK
PRODUCTIONS and David Allan's KISMET ENTERTAINMENT (producers of DOG
SOLDIERS). It was then that the rewrites began. Although everyone loved
the humor, they started to get nervous that the film was too funny and not
scary enough. Nobody wanted this to be a comedy and I got very worried. I
knew that the plot was not original and if you lose the humor, the film is
just a blatant rip-off of better movies. There were three days of hell
script meetings with discussions like "What type of film is this? Who's
the star? Who's the villain? Why does the film have to take place on
Halloween? What if it takes place on New Years' Eve instead? What if we
lose all the hospital scenes?" And my favorite, "Don't like the tongue
scene. Tongues aren't scary. How about we have a full sized clown doll
come to life and try to rape the guy from behind while he's on the
girl?!!" Well, luckily Tom didn't agree with many of these suggestions as
well and Kismet dropped out. The humor was toned down and because of
budget reasons; some of my favorite scenes had to go. The characters and
basic situations stayed the same so the final script was not drastically
changed from the first draft.
"If it's easy, where's the fun there?".
Did you ever have any of your
cast members in mind whilst writing the script?
No, I was just writing stereotypes that I could play with. There was one
scene in the original script when the kids pull up to the house and are
"warned" not to go in by a crazy older guy. My "Crazy Ralph" Friday The
13th reference. He was supposed to be MIKE from TNOT. However, the
producer nixed that idea. He thought the character and scene was too
close to SCREAM!
How did Brad Dourif become
Our final casting people, Henderson/Zuckerman knew Brad Dourif's manager.
Professor Kapps was always designed as the one "name" in the movie. Brad
Dourif was always a top choice so I jumped for joy when he was suggested.
He got the script, liked it, the money was good enough and we got him
between LORD OF THE RINGS and HBO's DEADWOOD. Basically, we lucked out and
he was wonderful to work with. A true professional. He rehearsed with the
actors and added a lot to the character and script. The whole alchemy
thing came from Brad. It was also his idea to do the British accent which
was cool. The problem was, later when Philip Andrew and Tiffany Shepis get
possessed, they too would have to do the accent. So, Brad worked with both
of them a lot to teach in two weeks what took him a year to perfect.
Did the cast all audition, or
did you actively pursue any of them?
Well, everyone auditioned except Brad who just accepted the offer. Even
Brooke Burke auditioned. The only two actors I knew beforehand were
Robert Donavan (ROD STEELE and in almost every single one of my films) and
Tiffany Shepis. I met Tiffany about four years earlier at (guess where?)
the American Film Market (AFM). She had started her career at
TROMA (although we never met on TROMA'S WAR) and had her own small company
at the time. I gave her THE HAZING script and she loved it. She was dying
to play Marsha and tried to raise the money for the project. She even met
with Alain Siritzky back then and discussed it but also couldn't get the
money together. So, when it finally came about, I called in Tiffany. I
knew she was perfect for the role and would have cast her on the spot but
Tom needed to see her. Tiffany ended up auditioning about seven times
before Tom was convinced. I was very happy and Tiffany did
an amazing job. It was great to be able to give her a real role where she
could show her acting skills. So many of those low-budget films she had
done were so bad that you just assume all the actors in them are also bad.
Tiffany is a really good actress as well as being fun as hell to be
around, so it's about time people took notice. After THE HAZING, I wrote a
zombie comedy horror film and wrote a role for Tiffany. We made the film,
CORPSES, and she was great again although the production was a nightmare
(but that's another story).
How long was the
THE HAZING shot for 18 days which was tight but I've worked with much
less. Tom Seidman was very worried. It was an ambitious project but why
make something that's not ambitious. If it's easy, where's the fun
Any funny stories from the
The house where we shot (HACK HOUSE) is a real house. It was 100 years old
when we shot the film. Although we painted everything inside, the house is
a mess and is pretty disgusting. All the dirty furniture and dirt was
real. Cats live in that house and it all smelt like cat piss. With the
smoke machines and everything, you'd have to go outside for a breath
of fresh air quite often. Then there was the day that the owner of the
house, rented out the side lot (about ten feet away from the house) for a
15 year olds birthday party and a live Mexican band showed up in the
afternoon. Inside the house we're trying to shoot this scary scene between
Justine and the mannequin and we can hear loud and clear this mariachi
band playing "La Cucaracha". I think we paid them off to stop playing for
two hours but there are definitely some takes where you can hear them in
the background between Charmaine’s screams. We also had some special
effects issues and had to fire one assistant who was practicing with the
real axe one day and fell on it. He went to the hospital and when he came
back he almost burnt down the house by turning up the fireplace's propane
tank too high so the flames licked the ceiling.
Did everything go well for the
Yes, the cast and crew were great. The schedule was tight so I didn't
really get to have much fun while I was shooting but I am happy with the
final result. The biggest regret was the day with Brooke Burke. In the
script, when Brooke changes into her Halloween costume, there was a scene
of her changing her clothes (i.e. - taking off her clothes) but we ran out
of the time and the producer deemed it smart to cut the scene to stay on
schedule. I almost threw a fit. I mean how can you cut the scene of BROOKE
BURKE undressing?! But it happened. Luckily Tiffany, Nectar Rose, and a
few other actresses provide plenty of skin in the film and Brooke does
look amazing in that harem girl outfit.
How long did post take?
It was about nine weeks of editing and then a month or two for sound. We
shot the film in March 2003 and it was completed by end of October 2003. A
great score by Christopher Farrell (who's done about eight of my films
now) and some fun songs by Ron Zwang (another friend of mine for years.) A
new company, The Mission did the mix and we have a wonderful 5.1
mix that has NOT been included on the DVD. I have no idea why. It's just a
stereo mix right now. Hopefully, one day we can fix that because, in 5.1,
it really sounds incredible.
The reaction to the film has
been highly positive, how do you feel about it?
Pisses me off! I want people to hate my films so I never work again. What,
are you crazy?! I love it. It seems that almost everyone has really gotten
what I was trying to do. Make a '80s style horror throwback with a good
sense of humor. I'm delighted that everyone has gotten the joke! So far,
this is the best reviewed film I've made. I just wish we could have gotten
this into the movie theaters.
Did you have any idea how
successful the film would be?
I thought the film would work. I knew the cast was great and I was hoping
people would accept this 80's style. Again, it would have been nice if we
had been picked up like CABIN FEVER and given a real theatrical shot. With
the response the film has received now, I know it would have played. Word
of mouth would have sold the film but again, it's a comedy/horror
film and still studios are scared of that combination.
How did you go about securing
Lantern Lane, the producer's rep, screened the film and helped make a deal
with Lightning Entertainment, who's handling the foreign sales and MTI
Home Video picked up domestic (the states).
"I'll be very curious to see
what people think of it".
Has the movie sold
Well, it seems to be. Blockbuster grabbed it and bought 20,000 units. In
L.A., it also seemed to be at every Hollywood Video and other smaller
outlets. I don't know what's happening with foreign sales except that it
hits Australia this Wed., October 13th. Hopefully, other territories will
Any idea when we might see it
here in the UK?
I don't know. If nobody has picked it up, it's available. Just contact
Lightning Entertainment. I'm sure they're likely to sell it. Most
companies want to make money you know.
The title has apparently been
changed to Dead Scared here in the UK, was that the distributor's
Yes. Lightning told us that they don't have "HAZINGS" overseas. I came up
with a lot of titles with friends. One of my favorites was DEAD EVIL. But
they liked DEAD SCARED the best. My friend and storyboard artist on the
film, Chris Kaneff came up with the tagline "Good Friends are hard to
Who will be distributing the
film here in the UK?
No idea. Sorry. (The film has since been released by Mosaic Movies here
in the UK).
Any plans for a
Well, right from the beginning, the word sequel was mentioned because
every company wants a franchise because that's where the real money is.
Although there are a lot of openings to continue from at the end of THE
HAZING, I haven't really sat down and thought much about it. There are
other horror projects that I'm working on and would like to work on. Right
after THE HAZING, I did the zomedy "CORPSES with Tiffany (again) and
Robert Donavan, and Jeff Fahey. York Entertainment's releasing the film in
the states on November 30th. I then started my own production company with
Gabriella Halls' Pixie Flicks Entertainment and made JACQUELINE HYDE, a
sexy female take on the horror tale of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. It will be
screening at the AFM this November and Alain Siritzky (ASP) is handling
foreign sales. Right now, THE HOST has some interest again and if you
check out my website www.rolfekanefsky.com, you'll see trailers and
artwork for many of my past, present, and future project. You can also
learn a lot about NOTHING at www.theresnothingoutthere.com and more about
something at www.gabriellahall.com/jacquelinehyde and
What can you tell us about
CORPSES is about a town mortician who invents a serum that can bring the
dead back to life for an hour at a time. He controls them by threatening
not to give them their hourly injection and thus creates a "small" army of
junkie zombies to do his bidding. Part of his plan is to get enough cash
to pay off the bank and stop them from tearing down his funeral home and
replacing it with a shopping mall and trying to prove to his ex-wife,
who's now married to the town sheriff (Jeff Fahey), that he isn't a loser.
Meanwhile, the sheriff's daughter (Tiffany Shepis) wants to leave town
with her boyfriend who happens to be the mortician's assistant. They
start to suspect something's not right and before long, everyone is
fighting the junkie zombies.
How did Tiffany and Robert
Donovan become involved? Did you ask them to move on with you after The
Well, I had been contacted from York Entertainment for a while to do a
project over there. After I finished THE HAZING, I had a little time and
was asked to do CORPSES. They had a poster and a one page concept. I had
five days to knock off the script and turned the whole thing into a dark
comedy, which I assumed they would hate because York doesn't usually make
those types of films. I wrote the part of Rhonda for Tiffany Shepis. We
got along great on HAZING so I wanted to work together again. She had
already done one York film, SCARECROW, so they liked her and agreed.
Robert Donavan got the role of the mortician, Fred Withers, at the last
second. Originally, they (York) told me that Tony Todd was going to play
the mortician but they changed their mind. They knew they wanted a name
but didn't know for what part and we went around and around for months.
When we locked down Jeff Fahey and had an opening for the other lead, I
knew Robert Donavan would be perfect. I fought for him and eventually won
out. I have worked with Robert on eight previous films. He's in almost
all my movies. Robert is a great comedy actor and if you ever get a chance
to see him in my Bond spoof, "ROD STEELE 0014: YOU ONLY LIVE UNTIL YOU
DIE" or "PRETTY COOL" or "BUTTERSCOTCH", you'll know what I mean. I was
delighted to be able to give Robert a leading role. He had small roles in
THE HAZING and TOMORROW BY MIDNIGHT but he almost steals the show in
CORPSES. A very nice, funny man who's a pleasure to work with. Just like
Tiffany but change the "man" part.
How did Jeff Fahey become
When Tony Todd was out, I was given a list of names that were
possibilities. It was a very scary list. You see, York Entertainment can't
really avoid name actors so they came up with the idea of "Stunt Casting".
Hire someone in the news, who doesn't even know how to act, but people
know them. Monica Lewinsky was on the list as was Wolfgang Puck, Pete
Rose, Anna Nicole Smith's son, etc... They had recently made a film called
ALIEN 51 starring
Heidi Fleiss so they thought this was a good idea. There were two actors
on the list GARY BUSEY and JEFF FAHEY. Both can and have been wonderful in
the past but I heard Busey was having a lot of problems so I pushed for
Fahey. Luckily, he liked the script and agreed to do it. Like Brad Dourif
on THE HAZING, Jeff Fahey was also wonderful and very, very funny. He
nailed the part and completely got the humor I was going for.
How did he get on with Tiff,
he plays her dad doesn't he?
Well, everyone loves Tiffany Shepis. That's a given. I don't know anyone
who has met her and not completely fallen in love with her. Tiffany is a
wonderful force of nature and makes everyone feel good. I thought the
casting was perfect. Jeff Fahey is very believable as Tiffany's dad. Their
scenes together and apart were great. Both are pros and when you have two
good actors working together, you're in good shape which is more than I
could say about the making of CORPSES.
How was the
I could literally write a book about the making of this film and one day,
I might. It was the worst produced film I have ever worked on. A complete
nightmare production from start to finish. Everything that could possibly
go wrong went wrong. Now, before I go into some of this, I do want to say
for the record, that the film actually turned out okay. Well, let me say
this. If you are comparing this to other York Entertainment films, it's
good and funny. If you compare it to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, it almost seems
like a rip-off made for pennies that's kinda fun if you have had enough to
drink. If you are expecting something along the lines of 28 DAYS LATER,
you will absolutely hate this movie. CORPSES is a "zomedy". The budget was
$100,000 dollars and the producer, Mark Headley, pocketed half of it. This
is a 35 mm feature film shot in 12 days. The total special effects budget
$1,000.00 dollars! Besides the actors, who were all great, the crew tried
hard but there was no way to make this movie work the way it was handled.
Between the lack of permits, locations, no caterer for the first three
days, no film for the camera on the first day, shooting in a real funeral
home with REAL DEAD BODIES everywhere, directions that got everyone lost,
no dolly, shooting short-ends where the cameras run out of footage after
15 seconds, having to shoot only 34,000 feet and using two different film
stocks- Kodak and Fuji, not having any doubles for clothing so you
couldn't get blood on them or they'd have to be washed for the next take,
having the producer put together a secret unit crew for a crucial scene
and then telling the crew not to let the writer/director know about it,
having your D.P.'s wife give birth right in the middle of the shoot so you
need another D.P., having your lead actress tell you that she's four and a
half months pregnant and is worried about being around the embalming
fluids because of the baby, having to spend four to five hours a day
getting zombies into make-up when you have to be wrapped in 12 hours
because nobody is paying for overtime, having the fire marshall kick you
out of a location because production didn't have the right permits
filed....Okay, I'll give you an example of one day on the set.
It's eleven o'clock at night and we're shooting at a
real motel. The next day we are supposed to be filming at the exterior
funeral home scenes. Well, to get a real funeral home is too expensive and
I'm told, it's not in the budget but the producer (Mark) has a friend with
a house deep in the middle of nowhere. It's not a funeral home. It's
actually more like a ranch but it's all we can afford. Nobody knows where
it is and we're supposed to be there shooting in ten hours. Meanwhile, I
get back to the motel room with Jeff Fahey to shoot this scene when I'm
informed that we don't have permits past midnight even though we were
supposed to be filming until three o'clock. Well, we get four shots of the
scene and get kicked out.
The next day at the "funeral home", the producer shows
up furious about the permit issue and someone's head is going to roll. The
thing is, it's HIS FAULT but you know he won't take the blame. So, he's
screaming at everyone only there's nobody here because everyone's lost
since they never gave anyone good directions to find this lousy location.
I'm here and so is the D.P. and camera department. We are set for the
first shot and Mark comes storming off saying we must start shooting. He
asks, "What's the first shot?" I respond, "We're all set. It's Jerry, the
actor who isn't here yet, riding in on his scooter which isn't here yet,
walking over to the mailbox which isn't there yet and going inside through
the curtains that aren't there yet." I tell him there is nothing to shoot
there's nothing here. He says, "shoot the mailbox". It's not here. It's
with props. "Where are props?" They aren't here! Two hours later, people
find the location. The actors are pissed (don't blame them), the scooter
has a flat tire and can't be repaired so the actor has to push the scooter
into the shot to make it look like it's running. People are ready to quit.
We finally start shooting and a cell phone goes off in the middle of the
take. Guess whose cell phone? THE PRODUCER!
The make-up woman accidentally locks her keys in the
car with all the make-up and has to call Triple AAA to get her car open.
As the sun sets, the wolves start howling which start the dogs barking. We
keep shooting until one of actor’s stops, thinking that I yelled "Cut" but
it was actually the dog barking. Now, he may have been barking "Cut". I
don't know. And it goes on like this, only getting much much worse for the
next ten days.
This is all true. I swear! Ask Tiffany Shepis or anyone
else who worked on the film. It was a living nightmare. If you wind up
seeing the film and enjoying it, it is a miracle. But you might like it
because for some strange reason, it kinda works in its own weird way. I'll
be very curious to see what people think of it.
Any idea when we can see the film here in the UK?
I do not know. It is finally getting released in the states on November
30th. Blockbuster picked it up and because zombie films and SHAUN OF THE
DEAD are doing so well, it actually may make money. But despite all the
problems, it is still my film but you have to understand it was made for
nothing and I tricked York into making a comedy zombie film.
The one good thing to come out of it was that it was the last straw for me.
After CORPSES I went right on to JACQUELINE HYDE which I co-produced for the
first time with Gabriella Hall under her Pixie Flick Entertainment company.
And JACQUELINE was a wonderful experience. We had a great cast, treated
everyone right, had a good caterer, and made a sexy horror film that really
works as a modern day female take on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson
tale, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". We are almost finished
and screening the film at the AFM in L.A. in November. With any luck, it
will be picked up soon and released everywhere.
If all goes well, it will lead to a slate of three new horror films under my
own company banner, VALKHN FILMS. I've got the scripts and they're ready to
go. Meanwhile, I'm dealing with another producer right now who's trying to
put together a slate of ten horror projects and has the remake rights to a
bunch of 80's titles like THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, MUTANT, THE UNINVITED,
WITHOUT WARNING, THE DARK, THE POWER, and some others. Scripts are in the
works for HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW and MUTANT. At the moment, I am attached as
director on both projects. So, if things keep up, next year may be very busy
and productive. Hopefully, THE HAZING, CORPSES, and JACQUELINE HYDE will
lead to bigger and better things.
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."