Fango spoke with B-movie director C.L. Gregory, who is currently in preproduction on his latest genre opus THE KENTUCKY FRIED HORROR SHOW and courting singer, actress and celebutante Jessica Simpson for the lead. To be executive-produced by Regina Huff and William Lancer and lensed later this year, the flick will be directed by Gregory from his own script, and the filmmaker is anxious to get Simpson on board. “I’ve taken a great deal of heat in the media for my desire to bring her onto this project,” Gregory tells Fango of last week’s Internet dust-up following a PR release. “Most [people] honestly don’t give her credit when it comes to her acting abilities. But I have held out that Jessica could really branch out with her craft on this type of project, and I’m committed to casting the best when it comes to my films. If I felt she couldn’t perform well, I wouldn’t be considering her for the lead role, and I believe the audience will enjoy seeing her work on screen.”
Gregory (whose credits include the horror-porn opus BLOOD LAKE, to be released October 31, and serving as 2nd assistant director on last year’s SEE NO EVIL) says that he wants “to put the grindhouse back into grindhouse, so to speak,” with THE KENTUCKY FRIED HORROR SHOW, and given his tutelage under the watchful eye of deceased exploitation king Joe D’Amato (on productions like TROLL II and BEYOND DARKNESS), he shouldn’t have any problem. The plot centers on a group of New York State college students who set out on a debauched spring-break road trip to Florida, and make a “startling discovery while traveling through rural Kentucky: Southern hospitality does not apply to everyone. After encountering signs of devil worship along the way and warnings from the grimy, impoverished locals and an old blind woman, [the youths] notice a tent revival taking place and find themselves exposed to a world of conservative ideas, religious dogma and, more importantly, a secret order whose bloodthirsty leader is charismatic and whose followers are driven by pure evil. They are in fact Satanists.
“I’m trying to bring back the atmosphere of horror films from the ’70s,” Gregory continues. “It’s a throwback to those exploitation occult horror films, and I’m going to strive to please [horror fans] with graphic scenes and gore.” Of note, Gregory reveals that the script calls for “an abortion that should stand as the most shocking part [FX man Dave Boneywell has been tapped to provide the grue]. This movie will be very violent.”
In keeping with this visceral approach, Gregory plans to shoot on location, utilizing the “gravel back roads of Kentucky, the claustrophobically rural small towns and the ramshackle buildings out in the boonies,” to evoke a sense of realism which he finds “lacking in other movies of this particular genre. The settings and locations we have looked at are like going back to 1963, when moonshine stills were still rampant and shotguns were not for living-room wall fixtures—and that’s a good thing.”
Gregory adds that his inspiration for this “hardcore horror” project stems from his experiences growing up in a Christian/Pentacostal home in Indiana, where he “witnessed a great deal of events that shaped my life and my views of Christianity.” Indoctrinated by a religious group associated with televangelists Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker, his family had views at the time that were “similar to many today in small pockets of Kentucky,” where the script is based. “Some circles [there] still practice snake handling, drinking poison; it’s very strange to think that it still goes on, but it does.”
Of particular influence was Gregory’s experience attending a revival “in a small church with a man named Jim Jones. Although I was very young at the time, I can still remember how disturbing he was,” he recalls of the Temples Group founder, who would be responsible for the 1978 mass murder/suicide in Guyana. “It was going back to that memory that gave me the inspiration for [KENTUCKY FRIED character] Elias Moses, one of the film’s central figures.” Representing “everything wrong with extreme religion and cults,” Elias masquerades as a benevolent, caring figure who at his core is “darkness and pure evil.” Enter genre veteran Bill Moseley, who “we’re finalizing [to play Elias and] will be a co-producer as well. Once we communicated and I learned what he wanted to do with that particular character as well as the script, I knew he would be perfect.”
While Gregory’s main goal is to create “a film that will be enjoyed by many who like good horror films and want to have a good time getting scared,” he’s not shy about admitting that his script is imbued with a social subtext, albeit one he hopes to deliver in a subtle manner. “I wanted to incorporate a great deal of what’s going on today and reflect it back through this film without being overly political. We are very vulnerable to acts of violence; we once again faced the realization last week [referencing the Virginia Tech tragedy] that we’re really not safe in our homes or schools anymore, and I want to show that evil can be found anywhere at any given time.” The division of “right” and “left” comes into play as well, with the conflict at the script’s core a “result of the protagonists who reflect the diversity of modern liberal attitudes having entered a [stagnated] cultural region that finds itself facing a world that is ever-changing, and the antagonists [who inhabit this world] who use violence to counterbalance the change.”
As far as casting is concerned, KENTUCKY FRIED HORROR SHOW has attracted the interest of P.J. (HALLOWEEN) Soles, Zoe (KOTTENTAIL) Hunter and horror personality Joe Bob Briggs, who have all signed on for roles. Gregory tells us that he’s also currently in talks with teen-idol actress Hilary Duff, scream queen Tiffany (ABOMINABLE) Shepis, veteran Polly Holliday, REBA’s Scarlett Palmers and Monica (FREDDY VS. JASON) Keena. For more information and updates, keep an eye on the film’s official site here.
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