Quantcast John Fallon interview - DEADEN

John Fallon!!!
This month, we've got a FRIGHT exclusive interview with writer and actor JOHN FALLON. Most movie fans are familiar with John's website Arrow In The Head, a division of JoBlo.com. But this summer, coming to DVD, we'll see John kicking ass as the lead character Rane in DEADEN, a film we wrote, which was directed by filmmaker Christian Viel. We spoke to John about his movie background, the early days of Arrow In The Head & what it was like making DEADEN, a project born out of frustration. Read on for the FRIGHT exclusive interview! - by Robg. 4/07

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What were the first films that really scared or had an impact or influence on you?

That’s an easy one. The first horror film I ever saw was The Evil Dead. I was fairly young and in a cabin in the woods with a friend of mine and when his parents went to sleep, we snuck up to his living room to watch The Evil Dead and it scared the shit out of me! (laughs)

So, you watched The Evil Dead IN a cabin?!

Yes! That was my first initiation into horror. If I don’t count all the Chuck Norris movies. After that it was A Nightmare On Elm Street. When it had come out in theaters it was the big taboo film within my family. Everyone had seen it, but no one under the age of 18 was allowed to see it. So, I went to my Aunt’s house and she had a copy and we sneaked it on and watched it. It scared the living fuck out of me. (laughs) I was hooked after that.
Same thing for me! I had older cousin’s that showed me A Nightmare On Elm Street as a kid and that did it for me.

Oh shit, the bathtub scene! I was like shitting bricks and building a house!

(laughs) So, from that point on, it’s safe to say you became a horror fanatic.

Yeah, pretty much. Evil Dead was like the right hook, and A Nightmare on Elm Street was the uppercut and after that, I pretty much tried to get my hands on everything horror related I could find.

Now, you’re a writer and an actor. Can you give me a little bit of history into how your interest in the making of a film first began?

Long story short, I came from a fairly dysfunctional family with not really any male figures to look up to. So, I kind of latched on to Sylvester Stallone movies. Rocky and Rambo were huge deals for me and basically taught me how “to be a man”. From there on in, my obsession with film began. And after that it switched to horror. I then went to film school for 2 years, came out, then went to acting school for 3 years and graduated there too.
I started the audition process here in Canada, which eventually branched out for me doing script-doctoring for local production companies. Which eventually led to me having some of my screenplays optioned, which never led anywhere. And then the site kicked in totally by fluke. My good friend Berge Garabedian (aka JoBlo) asked me on a whim “Hey dude, you know about that horror shit. You want to write for my site?” And I thought “Yeah! We’ll do a site. We’ll call it ‘Arrow In The Head’, just don’t censor me and I’m in!” The way I figured it, I could keep my writing fresh for screenwriting by reviewing films. Unbeknownst to me, in 3 or 4 months, it picked up! At the time that I came in, the internet was fairly new, but it picked up hardcore and before I knew it, I had a new career.

Let’s talk about ‘Arrow In The Head’ for a bit. You review a lot of films and you’ve done a lot of interviews with a lot of established people in the horror genre. As a fan, was that intimidating at first? What was it like in the beginning days of ‘Arrow In The Head’?

Oh, definitely! I’ll always remember because of the first year of ‘Arrow In The Head’, I got invited to a Playboy party in Vegas.


I thought, let me get this straight. I write fucking reviews and I swear in them a lot and do blowjob jokes. That warrants me to be invited to a Playboy party?! How does that happen? But it DID happen. So, I ran with it. To answer your question more specifically, the first year I got to meet a lot of my horror idols. And it was quite intimidating initially. It was hard to let the fanboy in me go. But with time, I quickly figured out they’re people just like you and me, and the only difference between them and me is that they made it and I haven’t! (Laughs)
Would you say because of your experiences reviewing movies and interviewing filmmakers, that has been educational towards how you approach writing and acting?

I wouldn’t say that in terms of acting, but more in terms of writing. It’s probably unconscious. It’s definitely unconscious on my part, but I have reviewed over 700 films. Every time I watch a film, I’m deconstructing it in terms of editing, directing, the soundtrack, in terms of tits. (Laughs) I’m pretty sure that reflects on how I write. It goes without saying, when I started the site, I was… an OK writer. But 7 years down the road, I’m a much better writer. So, I appreciate that.
You said before that you’d written several script before, a few of which got optioned. Can you tell us a bit about how the script for ‘DEADEN’, formally titled ‘PAIN KILLER’ came about? What are the origins behind the story for that script?

It’s kind of a funny story, because before DEADEN, I had a screenplay that I wrote in 2000 called ‘The Red Hours’ which I’ve been trying to get off the ground...

That’s a project you wanted to direct, right?

Yes, yes, and I still do because I’m a very stubborn man! (laughs) But the script went thru a multitude of production companies, had a cast attached – big names. And eventually, it always fell through, due to the other side of the coin, meaning the production company in question. And I got really frustrated. After that, Arrow In The Head picked up, which opened a lot of doors for me. I finally got a screenplay with a big production company and we started development on it. We were literally inches away from getting it made on a $10 million dollars budget, and then something very unpredictable and unforeseen happened and killed the deal.
Once the deal died, and this was 2 years of my life invested in this, flying back and forth from Los Angeles – meetings – time spent- I was a very angry man. (Laughs) I fucking hated the film industry. I was incredibly frustrated. At the time, I met up with a local director/writer/producer/jack-of-all-trades Christian Viel. We hooked up and went to see The Punisher movie (2004) and were very disappointed with the whole fire hydrant/flaming skull/Tampa Bay shit… we went and got drunk and started talking about how would we have done it? What would we do? And it started from there.

Talking about it drunk, turned into talking about sober. We had come up with enough ideas, that I went and wrote the screenplay. Within a month’s time we were in pre-production. Christian found the bulk of the money, and we just went ahead and did it. The project was born out of frustration.

It’s funny, it seems like a lot of people seem to get those types of projects into production, the ones that are retaliations to the frustrating project before.

Agreed. DEADEN was not planned for years. It was one of those projects that just happened on a whim. The Red Hours for example, which WAS planned for years and which WAS acquired and optioned and developed. And another script which I had set up with the studios was planned and developed and never happened. But THIS one, which was considerably on a way lower budget just happened. We felt it. We were both frustrated. We just want to make films. It’s all we want to do. And it just happened. It was a beautiful moment for me.
Let’s talk about the character of Rane that you play in DEADEN. Because, well, he gets shot in the head with an arrow, your site is Arrow In The Head…
Well, that’s a funny story because it’s of course, an obvious reference to the website, but that was the director’s idea. He fought very long and hard for it, because he wanted to do an obvious reference to the site and I didn’t. I wanted the film to be as far away from the website as could be. His argument as a director was, well you’re fairly known for the website, you should embrace it and not turn it away. So, we fought and fought and fought, but at the end of the day, the guy’s the director, so what the fuck am I going to say? (Laughs) So, we did the arrow in the head thing. In hindsight, I think he was right and I was wrong.

It’s funny you explain it that way because I always assumed it was a character you created a long time ago. There’s a little cartoon of that character on the website. I just thought maybe it was this iconic character you created…

I noticed that now since we’ve done DEADEN. Yes the arrow in the head logo kind of looks like Rane. But that’s pure coincidence. (Laughs) Who knew?

The feeling that I got from watching DEADEN was that it drew a lot from late 70’s “grindhouse” stuff and maybe some early 80’s action films. What were your influences?

Oh, definitely, that stuff from the 70’s and 80’s. You nailed it. In my opinion, there hasn’t been a really good action film since ‘The Rock’, I guess… A real bad ass one. I was raised on Stallone, Schwarzenegger and later on Van Damme & Seagal. So I definitely pulled from that. The main influences for DEADEN were Death Wish, The Punisher (The Dolph Lundgren version), I Spit On Your Grave, Cobra & The Crow.
Let me ask you… since you brought up the original Punisher movie and Stallone before. Do you think in the late 80’s, Stallone would’ve made a good Frank Castle?

Ummm… He kind of already did it with Cobra. (Laughs) Nah, I don’t think so. Because by that point, he was too famous. He was Stallone! Much like when he did Judge Dredd, I saw Stallone. If it had been say Kurt Russell playing Judge Dredd, I probably would’ve seen him as Judge Dredd. It would’ve been hard to differentiate between Frank Castle and Sylvester Stallone. It would’ve just been Stallone in a skull shirt kicking ass. (Laughs) No, I think Lundgren was a good choice except for the mascara beard. I think Thomas Jane was actually a really good choice. I just didn’t like some of the updates they did or the screenplay much… I mean, the film is supposed to be based on the Garth Ennis comics, which I worship.
I LOVE the Garth Ennis Punisher stuff. LOVE it. But the second half of the movie felt miss-matched. The origin first half mixed with the Ennis inspired second half didn’t work.

They nailed the Russian Vs Castle fight. But the Punisher’s not the kind of guy (in my opinion) who would walk around with a fake fire hydrant in a bag. And plant it to try and turn people against each other. He’s the kind of guy that shows up with an M-16 and fucking blows them away. That’s pretty much all of the Garth Ennis comics. He just blows people away. He doesn’t play Melrose Place games. (Laughs)

The interesting thing about your script for DEADEN was that there were a lot of plot points that I felt went against the cliques of the 80’s action movies. For example, the fact that Rane was a cop, but defected and became a criminal, and joined the gang. Was that a conscious effort on your part to do something a little bit different?

Yea, that was. With that particular plot point though, where he quits the cops to embrace the crime life - that was a conscious choice by both Christian and myself. Before I wrote the script I watched every vigilante film I could get my hands on. And I noticed one thing that bothered me, the main guy would mourn for a second when his love was killed but then he’d be like an emotionless rock for the rest of the movie while killing people. Which is all good in itself.But what we tried to do with DEADEN, and I hope we succeeded – if your family dies, yes you’d be bent on revenge, but you’re fucked! You’re seriously fucked up! You’re in pain!

You’re mourning! You have a bunch of emotions going on at the same time. The Rane character carried that pain of losing his wife and child through out the whole film. This man is emotionally damaged and he’s also insane. We all tried to convey that.

The movie was an independent production. Can you give us a breakdown of what you had to work with? What was it shot on? For how long? Etc.?

The film was shot in 13 days. There were no rehearsals in terms of acting. There were limited takes because of the tight schedule. It was very low-budget. It was probably the coffee budget for a movie like Constantine! No money. No stars. A lot of stunts. And gunplay. It was quite challenging, but easily one of the best times of my life. It was a shot on a mix of DV and a few other formats.

Despite the fact that this was a low budget film… you blew some shit up! (Laughs) Can you talk about pulling off explosions on such a low budget production?

That goes with perception! Blowing up a car is not THAT fucking expensive. It’s more about getting the location, and involving the police & fire department & city officials in on it. That’s what’s complicated. But the price tag for blowing up a car, & I’m in Canada, keep that in mind – is not that high. We knew we needed to blow up a car. That adds production value. We tried to stay away from GC as much as we could. There are some CG squib shots in the film, but overall we tried to stay away from that and do everything practically.
Since you were the writer of the script, what was it like working with the other actors on set? Was it beneficial for them working with the actor who also wrote the screenplay?

From a writer’s point of view, there were some days where we had some internal conflict on the set, which delayed our shooting. Which basically was about us having to re-write scenes. For example, there’s a warehouse shoot-out scene in the film. On paper it was way more intricate. We had the guys against a gang, and then we had a SWAT team come in. We had a stalk & kill Rambo-type montage going on.
But because of the internal conflict, we had to let that go. The result is personally one of my least favorite scenes in the film.

So, from a writer’s point of view, I learned the meaning of disappointment and the meaning of compromise. It was hard to see all these script pages burn away before my eyes. From a producer/actor point of view, I guess the toughest part for me was to step out of my acting duties to help Christian manage the set, and then go back to acting meaning being depressed and pissed off. It was challenging, but I think I pulled it out.

This isn’t exactly a “horror” film by definition of what horror is to a lot of people, but I wanted to talk about the opening scene. Because… there is some violent shit that goes down in this movie! (Laughs) I understand to justify this kind of revenge, you have to go pretty far in the beginning. And you go pretty far! What was that like for the cast to act out these really horrible things?

It kind of plays against us, because the first 8 minutes of the film are really harsh. The rest of it is violent, but not as harsh as the first 8 minutes. When you shop the film around to distributors, they pretty much only watch the first 8 minutes to decide weather they want to buy your film or not! (Laughs) So, I’ve been getting a lot of emails back from foreign territories asking me if I’m insane! But my argument was that we had no money, we had no stars. We had to do something to set ourselves apart. We’re doing a revenge movie, we might as well go all the way on every level, starting with what happens to the wife.
Actually, the baby being cut out of the belly – director Christian Viel had read in the newspaper that that had happened here locally. That’s where he got the inspiration. In my script, she solely got raped. But the bulk of the rape scene came from the director and then people on set; while we were doing it had ideas! It just became worse and worse and worse. It became basically the scene you see now. It wasn’t as hard as you’d think it would be to shoot. We were all concerned about that scene for the actors. But there was such an aura of support between the actors and Christian that the scene went much smoother then you would think. Thankfully.
So, it’s safe to say you worked with a lot of sick people on this movie, huh? (Laughs)

Yea! Oddly enough, the guy that suggested that we kick the girl in her pregnant belly was our DP... and his wife had just given birth that day! And he comes up with this shit, and we’re thinking “What the fuck’s wrong with you, bro?!” But, let’s do it! (Laughs)
I actually liked the music too. Where’d the music for DEADEN come from?

We got lucky with the music. That’s all I can say. You’ve seen independent films before. I’ve seen a zillion of them. The one thing that usually suffers is the music. If you don’t have much money, you can’t pay some record label to acquire rights to songs. Christian and I went and hit every door that we could. And because of that, in my opinion, we got music that is superior to stuff that usually ends up in no-money independent films. We also got lucky.

The music stood out so I wanted to ask you about it.

Oh, well thank you. Basically we used the internet to find people. And people were excited. 85 percent of the people that contributed music did it for free. It was tough, but we were very happy as to how it turned out. As you know, music can make or break a film.

Were there drastic difference between your original script and the final film? Overall are you happy with the final product?

There’s always the saying of if we had more money and time. But taking into account the money we had, and the time we had, I’m personally very happy with it. I’m happy with myself in it. I’m happy with most of the story, the music, the editing. Most of the action. I’m 85 percent happy! In terms of differences between my screenplay and the final film, there are many. We had a subplot in the film that has to do with a female police officer that used to work with Rane and is hunting him down. In the script her subplot was much more developed. Once we got to post production it felt different. It’s one of those things, you read it on paper it’s great, you’re on set its great, then you’re in post (production) and putting the film together and you realize “Oh that really doesn’t work.” So, both Christian and I agreed to cut down the subplot with the cop since it took away from the main narrative line which was this guys revenge. In hindsight, if I had to do it all over again, there wouldn’t even be a chick cop in the film. It’d just be my wife and baby die, I survive, now I fuck you up. (Laughs) We stripped it down as much as we could and looking at the final cut, I think it works.
I tend to notice lately horror films seem to have a vengeance theme to them. And it’s not even something obvious. But films like Hostel, Hills Have Eyes or even Chan Wook Park’s Vengeance trilogy, I just feel like subconsciously, people want to see vengeance carried out…

That’s an interesting take.
I just wanted to know your thoughts and if you saw that in horror films of today.

I didn’t see it. Hostel, I think of torture. And thinking of Hills Have Eyes, well thinking back, I can see elements of vengeance. But I will say this – I think the theme of vengeance will always resurface in films because it will always be something we can relate to. You? Me? We’ve been wronged. How many of us wish we could take things into our own hands and make them right. But we have laws, and can’t do it! So, we watch films like Death Wish or The Punisher and for me personally, it acts as a catharsis. I get involved in the story and the character’s plight, and I get off on seeing them carry out good old fashioned payback. There’s a lot of people I wish I could show good old fashioned payback to, but I’m a civilized human being! Through these films, I’m able to live that to a certain degree. Vengeance as a theme in films will never go away because it’s part of human nature.

Can you talk at all about the DVD release for DEADEN?

Right now the only territories that is locked is the USA. Summer of 2007 is the planned release date. China is also locked and we’re about to lock Canada.

Is it too early to discuss what kind of features might appear on the DVD?

We’ll have cast and crew interviews. There will be a commentary with me and the director. It’ll be more of a technical commentary. And then there will be another commentary with myself and my co-star Deke Richards who plays Kersey, it’ll be more of an actor-type commentary. And possibly a making-of featurette.

I heard a rumor about a potential comic book based on DEADEN? Any truth?

Well, it’s in the works, but that’s all I can say about it so far.

You also appeared in the Halloween documentary 25 Years Of Terror. How’d you get involved in that?

The director Stefan Hutchinson approached me to be interviewed in it. He was totally cool with me just smoking and swearing and being myself. So, I did it. And to be totally honest, from shooting to release there was a 2 year gap. So by the time it came out, I didn’t think I’d be in it! (Laughs) A lot of stuff I said did get cut out. I really bashed into H20, and that all got cut out. But overall, I was very happy to see myself in it. To be in between Rob Zombie and Clive Barker in that doc, it was just a nice little fanboy moment for me.

I felt you embodied the fan’s opinion the documentary.

Oh definitely. No matter how far I go within this industry, I’m a horror fanboy and I always will be. And I’ll never change. I met George Romero a few years back, after the site was established and I was still nervous! “Holy shit, it’s George Romero, man!”

So, what’s next for you?

There’s a lot of stuff going on. I have 2 acting gigs up in the air, but until the papers are signed, I won’t give titles. I’m very cautious about saying what I’m doing until I know it’s 100 percent. I just finished writing my draft of Recon 2023, which is the third of a sci-fi trilogy. We’ll shoot that this summer, 2007. I’m also still trying to get financing for my directorial debut The Red Hours I also have another screenplay with Mister Christian Viel called Death Row, which is a zombie movie. So we’re trying to get that going. Another script I wrote called Trance is getting some heat right now so we’ll see where that leads.

VISIT: www.ArrowInTheHead.com
and: www.MySpace.com/Deaden_Movie
and: www.John-Fallon.com

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