Quantcast Nick Palumbo interview

Writer/Director
Nick Palumbo!!!

There's been a lot of controversy and claims surrounding Nick Palumbo's film “Murder-Set-Pieces”. The film is an extremely violent story of a Las Vegas serial killer who murders prostitutes, children, and has a Nazi fetish. The film opens with footage from 9/11. Palumbo had his producers actual names removed and replaced with the Heinrich Goering, Hitler's henchman. Look the film up on the IMDB and you'll find message board posts accusing Palumbo of being a misogynist , an anti-Semite. People have even lodged claims that the director had attacked them after posting negative reviews for the film.


Palumbo himself claims that 3 film labs refused to print the film, having had numerous visits from the police and that he was shocked that his film received little coverage from the horror press upon it's release. From Palumbo's perspective he and the film have been misunderstood.

So, what is it? Who do you believe? Is there a conspiracy to blacklist the film and Palumbo? Was this the one film that was so extreme it offended even the most hardened horror fans? Or maybe, it's all a lot of hype and perhaps “Murder-Set-Pieces” just isn't that great a film.

I finally had to see “Murder-Set-Pieces” for myself. I wasn't impressed by it, Jsyn liked it and Robg was mixed. My first reaction was to write a scathing review, which I did. However, instead of posting another harsh review for the film I found myself more intrigued by the stories surrounding Nick Palumbo and the making of this film.

I finally got to sit down with Nick at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in Burbank, California. I explained that I didn't really care for his film, but I wanted him to at least be able to tell his side of the story, uncensored, unfiltered. Now we have his words and his side. Misogynist or misunderstood? YOU be the judge:
- by Mike C. (Jsyn, Chris Garetano where noted) 9/06

Can you tell us a little bit about how 'Murder Set Pieces' came about? Was it a sequel to your first film 'Nutbag'?

It's not a sequel. It's a one-off movie. The producers wanted to call it ‘Nutbag 2’ just to tie it in. ‘Nutbag’ had sold quite well on the internet, so they wanted to use that as a cash tie-in, but it's a totally different movie, so I didn't want to do that.

So, where'd the idea behind 'Murder Set Pieces' come from?

I initially wasn't going to do another serial killer film. After ‘Nutbag’, I went to New York City and shot this short film called 'Sinister' that I was going to shoot a full length of. I shot it on 35 and the budget was about $75,000 and I wanted to use that to raise money for the feature. I needed several million dollars for that, so I started going to different investor meetings. Finally, I got some guys interested in making a movie with me, but they said “We don’t really want to spend this kind of money on this idea. Do you have another script? Kind of like ‘Nutbag’?” For some reason, they really liked that. So, I said “Yea, I got this other film idea called ‘Murder Set Pieces’ which is what I really wanted to do with ‘Nutbag’. And with the right money I could do what I originally wanted to do with that movie.”

I haven’t seen ‘Nutbag’, but where did the idea for this serial killer’s background come from? (In ‘Murder Set Pieces’)

‘Nutbag’ is totally different. He’s anti-social and he’s a neo-nazi. Even the way he looks, he’s this bald headed guy and he’s just aloof and lives by himself.

In ‘Murder Set’, he’s a different character. He’s a very wealthy German immigrant who’s a fashion photographer by day, but he’s a serial killer by night. Well… even in the day sometimes as well. Originally, it wasn’t even a German guy. It was an American but when I cast the actor who played him, Sven Garrett, I hung out with him a little bit and we spent some time together. He’s German. I realized I wanted to incorporate his “German-ism’s” if you will. How anal he is about things. How he’s a perfectionist about everything in his daily life. I asked him to speak in German when he got angry, because I just liked the whole way it sounded. German’s not exactly a romantic language, you know?

Was the film always intended to be so violent? Were the murders always intended to be extreme?|

I’d say yea. I wanted to show how disgusting murder is. And I hadn’t felt that sexualized violence had been shown like this before. I had done a lot of research on serial murderers, and the sexual aspect of it is so prevalent.


Was there any pressure in the beginning when you were showing this script to investors to pull back on that violence? Or were they all for it?

No, they really liked it. They enjoyed it.

How well did the actual production go once you secured the money?

It was a difficult shoot to be honest with you. It really was. A lot of the cast and crew that I had hired, all of whom had read the script – once we actually started doing it, they had second thoughts on it. On certain scenes. I had to fire a few different grips and PA’s, because we’d be on set and they’d complain that they didn’t even want to be on set. Especially some of the stuff with the children and the rape scenes.


Did they have any idea that this material was going to be in the film?

Yea, they had the script. If they didn’t read the script, then that was their fault, but I handed everyone a copy of the script.

What were some of the bigger objections to the violence that some cast or crew had, knowing what they were getting involved with? Were there any surprises on the set?

No, I can’t say that. I can’t say there were any surprises. It was all really in black and white. I just think that if you’re not a filmmaker or you’re not a writer, and you don’t have the vision… Stanley Kubrick once said “If it can be written, it can be filmed.” And I think some people who read something just can’t visualize it. And then when they actually do see it, it really messes with their minds.


What about the guys working on the effects? Toe Tag. Did they have any problem with the things they had to create?

Well, the only time Toe Tag… Twice… they wanted to do it, but they didn’t know how I was going to pull it off with the child getting killed and the little girl we had to use in the film. The baby scene.

Why was there a child murder in this movie?

Well, it was something I saw in real life. I’m friendly with some of the homicide police detectives in Las Vegas. And being somewhat of a student of true crime/criminology, they’d take me out on some night time cruises and I’d see some really horrific things…


But the child murder didn’t seem to fit in with your character (The Photographer of ‘Murder Set Pieces’). Everything else in the movie seemed to be sexual in nature, but this child, the murder comes out of nowhere…

Well, he’s starting to lose his mind more after seeing the fortuneteller. It comes right after that scene. She starts talking about his childhood, and right after that it goes into the child scene. It’s not subtitled, so a lot of people don’t know what he’s saying, but he’s telling the little girl as he’s murdering her why he’s not going to allow her to grow up.

Any difficulty with the parents of the children involved?

None. It’s funny, the parents were very happy. They were just thrilled that their children were being involved in a film.

Have the parents of those children seen the film since?

Yes. At the American Film Market, the parents of our star Jade Risser, both of them came up to me and hugged me and said “Thank you. Thank you very much.”


Did the children present any difficulties? Was there any unique challenges in working with kids that age and having them in scenes so violent?

It’s always difficult working with child actors. I was fortunate that I had worked with Jade Risser before. She was the star of the ‘Sinister’ trailer. Whenever you’re going to hire child actors, you have to interview their parents, first and foremost, because that can become a major issue. The parents have to trust you. If the child knows that their mom & dad trust you, then it makes them easier for them to trust you. In fact, then they get to the point where they’re asking their mom & dad to leave the set. “I’d feel more comfortable if you weren’t here.”


What are some techniques you used to help the kids separate the reality from fantasy? You always hear about director’s sitting down with children on a horror set and publicly saying “I spoke to the children, I showed them the monster, they knew it wasn’t real.” Is there anything you used to make sure this material was handled ok and this wasn’t going to hurt the children?

Sure. I had them interact with the lead actor and show them what kind of person he is, at first. But then I pulled back. They met him a few days before they actually shot the scene. It’s funny you said that, because I would call him “the monster”. I’d tell them “Ok. The monster’s going to come.” And they actually would be afraid when that happened. The performances of the kids are really incredible, I have to say.


Was there any times where it maybe went a little far for them? Did they need to take a break?

Yea. Yea. In the film, Jade is walking in the basement at the end of the film and she’s looking for her sister. She’s seeing all these horrible things. And she was pretty frightened actually. I had not allowed her to see the set that we created. That was all by plan. So, the reaction that you see from her is real.

What was the first clue that you had made a film that was going to ruffle people’s feathers? When did you first notice that you made something that some people were pushing away?

I got a call from one of my producers that said that he was having some issues with Technicolor. We had first taken the film to Technicolor. I’m trying to remember his exact words… He said, “Man, I think we might be in a little bit of trouble.” And I said, “Well, what’re you talking about?” I just asked who he was talking to, and to give me the number so I could handle it. So, I called and I was proceeded with this nasty person on the phone, and they were just going all over me about…

What were they saying?

“This is illegal stuff. I don’t know who or what you are. We don’t know if this is real or not, but we’ve already called the police. And we’re going to let them handle this from here. But we’re not going to touch your negatives.”

Was this because of the child scenes? Or because of one of the other murder scenes?

I didn’t know at the time. I didn’t know what scenes it was. I never did know exactly what scene it was.


Were you actually visited by the police?

Yea.

Can you tell me a little bit about that?

That actually started in production. That went on and off for a long time.

So, the police came to the set?

The police came to the set with guns drawn a few times.

What were the circumstances that led the police to show up on your set?

Well, after all the madness was over with, apparently the neighbors said they had heard screaming in the house and they were in fear that someone was being murdered. The one time that was the closest for me actually getting killed on the set – there was a scene where actress Jamie Jent was getting nailed to the chair and the Las Vegas police department had entered the home. About 8 police officers. And no one knew they were in the house. They had actually broken in the house. They came storming down this stairway we had built, with guns drawn, and they proceeded to throw everything out of their way, shoving people down with guns in their face, walking up to the woman, the actress saying “It’s ok now. We’re here. You’re safe. The ambulance is on its way.” Next thing I know there’s fire trucks out front.


Were you able to clear that up quickly?

I was shocked at first. Because there was a huge Aeroflex camera. I thought they can’t really be this ignorant, but I guess they are.

Did the police come again when Technicolor called the police, or had at least claimed to call the police?

They called the police and my producers were arrested. The attorney general of California was called.

What were the charges they were going to bring against your producers?

Homicide. (laughs) They thought it was real. And then once that was cleared up, they thought we had violated some kind of second amendment rights. That we had pushed it too far. It wasn’t legal to even film, even if it was fake, then they thought it couldn’t possibly be legal to shoot that.

Because it was considered obscene?

They thought we had pushed the limits like they had never seen before and that it can’t possibly be allowed by the law. Once they saw that it wasn’t real, the signatures were there, we had outtakes to show them. This is fake. It’s not real. It’s just a movie.

Technicolor still refused to print the film?

Yes. Funny, it’s LA, it’s a very liberal town here. Which was shocking to begin with, that with all these liberals…

They can also be very selective of what it’s liberal about too.

In film though, I’ve never really heard a story like this. Except in pornography. So, we went to DuArt in New York City, I decided to go back to the East Coast. The film there, less then 36 hours, we got another phone call telling us “Sorry, your film’s outta here. We can’t deal with this. The techs are complaining. One guy got sick and had to go home.” So, we talked to the manager, the manager said “I’m friends with your DP Brendan Flynt, he’s brought a lot of films to us. But I’m sorry, I can’t deal with your movie. End of discussion. I can’t deal with it.”

Where’d you go from there?

To Deluxe. I knew a guy at Deluxe. A friend of mine worked there as a sales guy. And he said “You’re not going to have any problems. Just bring it on in.” I brought it on in, I think it was on a Tuesday and by Thursday, he called me saying, “Nick, man. I’m really sorry.” (laughs) I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me, man.” At first it sounds cool, your film is being thrown out and your getting some publicity, but now it’s turning into a pain in the ass and a nightmare. Because now I had so many delays…

Were the other labs maybe contacting each other?

I’m sure they were.

Is this common for films?

In my research, it’s never happened on a 35 mm feature narrative film before.

So, what was your last option to get the film printed?

I got a hold of a guy named Straw Weisman, he wrote this cult film in the 70’s called ‘Fight For Your Life’. He said “I got some friends over at Ascent Media in Burbank and I’m going to get this fucking movie done.” I went in there with Straw. We explained it all. A couple of days later, they had called me and said “We can’t do your film.” I called Straw up and told him, and he was in a rage. He just said, “I’ll call you back.” He called me back in 10 minutes and said he took care of it. I don’t know who he talked to or what he did, but he took care of it.


Was the problem yet again over the violence? Or the stuff with the children?

You know, I started calling some of the houses after all of this happened and I would talk to some of the people, who didn’t work on the movie but that were around. They’d tell me it just spread like wildfire. The stuff with the children. The baby. The rape. The misogyny. I just kept hearing this over & over again, so it’s pretty much the same thing. Interesting enough, I’d always ask “Well, are there woman working on this? Who’s got these complaints? What’s the demographic? The gender?” The answer was always all white males.

So, once you got the film printed, what’d you do next, and what was the next obstacle?

Well, we wanted to get into some festivals. We had a showing at AFM, the American Film Market which we were excited about. Lion’s Gate came, they’d sent some guy. 2 guys actually. One guy had walked out of it less then a half hour into it. The other guy lasted until the end, but as soon as the screen went blank, he ran out and I didn’t get the chance to talk to him. I knew then…

Why do you think they were walking out?

Well, just like at the AFM there were a lot of people walking out.


At this point, was this the cut with the 9/11 footage? And were your producers names changed at this point?

No. That was way later. Even before the AFM, a friend of mine – the producer on The Toolbox Murders Tony Didio helped me set up a screening. And there were a lot of people that came. I think we did it at a big venue – MGM? Or maybe Sony? I’m not sure exactly who was in the theater, but we invited a lot of people. By the end of the film, there were maybe 12 people left and it started at over 200. So, most people left.

Were you there? Did you get a sense of why people were walking out?

I was there. This was the first time I had seen it on a 50 foot screening and it was beautiful. As a filmmaker, it was great. I was with one of the guys that did post-sound, David Bartlett. He worked on Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’. And he was there and we were just having the time of our lives watching it. It looked and sounded great. People were walking out and I didn’t get up to ask them why.


Did you get a feeling as to why? Any particular scenes you saw people leaving at?

When the little girl got murdered, it was like Moses and the 10 Commandments, the seas parted. The aisles were filled with people, man.

Did you have any reviews or feedback from this first screening?

It wasn’t until the AFM where we got our very first review and that was from a girl named Heidi Martinez, she works on a lot of different things, but at the time she was writing for Film Threat. She came up to me and said to me, “I have never seen or experienced anything like this. This is incredible. I think you created a new genre.” And she gave us a great review.

Was the AFM’s where some of the negative reviews came from? Or was this the point yet where a lot of people refused to review it?

A lot of people were there I’m sure.

Who have you invited to this film that hasn’t published a review of it? Because we’ve heard that some publications won’t review your film.

Fangoria wouldn’t put it in their magazine. But Michael Gingold from Fangoria wrote an on-line review but they wouldn’t do a feature. I invited him and Tony Timpone to come out to the set, I offered to fly them out to Vegas and they said no, before we shot the film. Rod Gudino from Rue Morgue magazine came out to set, and he was going to do a big feature on the film. Then when his assistant Javonka saw a rough cut of it, she was highly offended by the movie. And so, Rod said “I can’t do a feature on it, but I can give it to the Goremet and he can do a little blurb on it” or whatever.


What was her objection? She writes for Rue Morgue, she’s exposed to this kind of extreme violence all the time, I’m sure.

I don’t know. She’s a woman… that’s the first thing I thought. But then afterward, up until now a lot of women like my movie. It’s mostly white males that have an issue with it. She told me she was a big fan of ‘Maniac’ and ‘Last House On Dead End Street’, so I didn’t think my film would offend her.

Do you think that maybe she just didn’t like the film? Or think it was any good?

Well, I knew she didn’t like the film, but I knew it was something else when Fred Vogal from Toe Tag who did my special effects told me, “You know, Javonka called me up at my house and she was really upset.” Asking “How long has Nick had a problem with woman?” (laughs) I felt like I didn’t get the press from the horror community like I thought I would. Whenever you make an independent film, it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of effort. And I thought that the people that we had on the set of the film could see that.

And the fact that we had done some firsts in this film, and that hadn’t happened in a long time. There hadn’t been an unrated American “slasher” film in a quarter of a century – not since Bill Lustig’s ‘Maniac’, that actually played in American cinemas. We shot on 35, it was 2.2 million dollars. It’s the most expensive independent “slasher” film ever made in history. And for every single North American film festival to not show that, I just thought was disheartening. Not only for me, but for a lot of the cast and crew. I thought it was really asinine. I have to admit that. But like any filmmaker would… you get past that.

Well, films like Bill Lustig’s ‘Maniac’, they generated their share of controversy in their time. Would something like that make it into a film festival today, in today’s climate considering how sensitive people are?

That’s a good question, really. The problem today is, for one, we don’t have the drive-in’s. Number two, the rating system. Unrated films won’t get to play that they would back in the day. I had a long conversation with Bill Lustig, because he saw my film up in the village in New York. And he said to me, “You know, Nick, you really took the movie to some place I had never seen before and I’m really disappointed in you. I think what you created, you should be ashamed of that.”


Isn’t there a positive comment from Bill Lustig on the front cover of your DVD?

Well, it can be taken as positive, but all he said was “I’ve taken the horror genre to a level never before seen”, but I don’t know if he had meant it like that. He was just being honest. He had never seen anything like it. But, ‘Maniac’ was an influence on me, as it was on many filmmakers. I was having a hard time understanding why he was giving me such a hard time. I said, “Bill, you’re the guy who made ‘The Violation of Claudia’ and did all these adult films in the 70’s. You made what a lot of people consider THE exploitation film of all time ‘Maniac’. He said to me, “Well, Nick. I was a different person back then. Maybe my sensibilities have changed.” And I said, “Maybe they have. But maybe I am who you were back in the day, so why can’t you see that?” “Maybe you’re right, but it still really offended me.”

Bloody-Disgusting is very public about not covering your film. It’s listed as “blacklisted”. What’s the situation with that?

Well, I didn’t know they actually “blacklisted” it. I’m never met the guy who runs that site, actually. You know, a lot of the controversy on the internet started when the producers hired a bunch of people to talk about the film on the internet. Because we weren’t getting picked up for distribution at the time. So, the internet you could reach millions of people. So, we thought let’s do that. But it kind of backfired to a lot of hate…

Well, what happened? There is a lot of talk on the internet, in the message boards of things you’ve said defending the film. People maybe claiming to be you that aren’t really you? Is that a situation you’ve encountered?

Whoa yea, because I’ve been called an Anti-Semitic person. And a lot of my good friends are Jewish. People that worked on the film are Jewish. My favorite filmmaker of all time is Jewish, Stanley Kubrick. (laughs) I think people are shallow and they don’t… there’s key words that they pick up on. And they run with it. And most people are followers, not leaders. So, when somebody starts talking on the internet, instead of doing their own research will just go with the crowd. You ever sit in a restaurant and you’re sitting down, with your girlfriend. There’s no one else in the restaurant. All of a sudden, someone comes in and they sit right next to you. The whole fucking place is empty, yet they sit right next to you. It’s the herd instinct. It’s a phenomenon and that’s what happens I think on the internet.

What about some of the accusations of Anti-Semitism? Do they stem at all from when you changed your producers names to 3 key members of Hilter’s henchmen?

Well, that was for the DVD that I created. I was in a lawsuit with the producers of the film. Ok. First & foremost. So, I decided, ya know what? This movie might never get shown. I have all the elements. I’m going to go ahead and create a director’s cut. I cut 15 minutes out of the film, I made it a tighter better movie - faster paced. And ya know, I felt like they were Nazis. The way the producers treated me. And just so you know, we have since come to an agreement. But at the time, I felt they were Nazis and I was being treated the way the Nazis treated people, which was like dirt. It was kind of an in joke to them. Because they knew exactly who they were and where their names were supposed to be. So, instead of seeing their names, they’d see Heinrich Himmler.

Is this what sparked some of the accusations? Or rumors?

I think people kinda ran with that.


I’ve seen it on the message boards. I’ve seen people run with EXACTLY that.

Yea, I’ve tried to explain to people. To his credit, the Goremet (I don’t know his real name) - I did see where he came out and nailed it right on. He said, “This is obviously a crass joke to the producer of the film.” And that’s exactly what it was. Nothing less.

What about these message boards? Where have you not been allowed to post?

We’ve been banned from posting. You can get on any site and if you talk about ‘Murder Set Pieces’, instant hate and ban will come up.

What are some of the things that people are saying that you’ve read?

Ya know, that “Nick Palumbo is a misogynist pig.” That he’s a “neo-nazi. Hates woman. Hates kids. We can’t be behind a guy that sponsors this kind of trash.” That’s pretty much it. I think that people just don’t know me. I’m not one of these guys that goes to a lot of conventions and I don’t get to meet a lot of the fans. I’d like to do that more, but I work a lot. And I just don’t have a lot of time for that. But maybe I need to start making more time to meet people, and let them know who I really am.


People were accusing you of being misogynist because of the violence in the film towards women. When you were bringing this film to the labs, one of the questions you’d ask them was “Are women working on this?” Were you apprehensive about showing this movie to women? Were there any issues that you put into the movie that you were trying to say about women? At all?

No, no. The killer in the movie, the photographer is misogynistic. That’s obvious. But I think I portray him as being a bad person. I don’t think people watching this get the idea that killing women is a cool thing to do. I don’t see that. Maybe some people do? But obviously those people have issues before they’ve seen my movie!


Ok. You’ve generated all this controversy from the film not being processed by all these labs. There are publications that won’t print reviews of it. What if, someone (like myself) who watched the movie just said “I just didn’t think this is a very good movie. This is why this film isn’t being covered. And the controversy around it is the key marketing element that you have going for it.”?

Well if you don’t like it, that’s fine. I mean, not everybody is going to like a film. Some of my friends didn’t like the movie. And I can understand that. The subject matter inherently is going to turn some people off. They are going to shut off. It’s like when John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ came out, there was so much overt violence, that it took years for people to go back and see that there was a story there. I think Roger Ebert called it a geek show. And then 20 years later, he said “Wow, this is really something else.” There’s so much violence in ‘Murder Set Pieces’ that upon first viewing, you can’t really see what’s going on, and see what this movie is saying.

You do portray the killer as a bad person. It’s obvious. It’s obvious that you’re not portraying this person with Nazi fantasies as someone who should be admired. It is obvious from the film. But where else do you think these people get these ideas about you? Why do they get these ideas about YOU specifically?

I think that in any film, the director has to take all the bad and the good. Ultimately, I’m responsible. I’m the guy that wrote the movie, I produced the film. I cast it. I did everything on this film and I wore a lot of hats. You have to accept that responsibility. I think that most people take everything at sea level. They think, this guy made this film, he MUST be that way. He must really hate woman. He must really hate children to make that. And they can’t see that I can just write a story about someone else doing these things. People really have a hard time separating the artist from his art.


Ok. So, Nick. You’re not a misogynist. You’re not Anti-Semitic. You’re not a Nazi. And you don’t murder people. That’s obvious. Ultimately, has this controversy and all of these obstacles and your film being banned – hasn’t this been one of the better things to happen to ‘Murder Set Pieces’?

There’s an old saying that “Any publicity is good publicity” and there’s some truth to that. I think that maybe with some different PR in the beginning – maybe if we had a different sales agent, things might’ve been different. I mean, I don’t know for sure, but if at least the film could’ve been shown at film festivals. The idea to making a movie is obviously to make a film for yourself. As a filmmaker, I make a movie that I want to make first. But if the audience, the people can see it, let the people decide. You’ve got the guys at the film festivals and you’ve got the guys who run the magazines, and they say they are about horror as cultured entertainment. But they’re really not. They’re really Nazis. They really control what they like and what they don’t. And they don’t talk about it. A film like this, weather you like it or not has enough in it that it needs to be talked about. Because there’s nothing else like it.

Why weren’t the film festivals taking your film? Do they give you a reason why your film was rejected?

Yea, the reason was it was too violent and we’re afraid of backlash. That was pretty much it. One or two sentences. It’s disgusting. It’s sickening. And there’s no moral. Mitch Davis, who runs Fantasia – I don’t know Mitch, I’m sure he’s a nice kid, sent me a letter saying “Ya know, I’m a really big fan of ‘Maniac’ and I know you are because I’ve read that. But there’s no… redeeming qualities in your film. Ultimately there’s no reason or rhyme. There’s no melancholy to balance out the nastiness. In Lustig’s film, there’s a lot of melancholiness to balance it all out.”

Do you think there’s that balance in your film? Where do you see that in your film?

Well, I don’t think that there has to be in a horror film. I make horror films with an H. I don’t make comedies or black comedies. I don’t believe you have to have humor in horror films. I want just a gruesome film. Like when I was a kid and I saw Hooper’s film. Horror films should be an assault on the senses and it doesn’t have to have underlying meanings and hidden truths. It can and you can find that, but it doesn’t have to have that.


What about a rhythm? A film like Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Eaten Alive, where there’s a very extended scene of a child in danger from a man who wants to kill her. Chainsaw had a rhythm to it. Is there a rhythm in ‘Murder Set Pieces’ that people can follow?

I believe there is. Part of the problem people have is that there have been very few movies that take place from the killer’s point of view. There’s a couple, but very few. It makes the audience feel dirty, because they’re inside this guy. Maybe because of the sexualized violence of the film, people can see themselves being aroused – they see two beautiful women with this guy, and they think to themselves “Wow, I’d like to do that.” And then all of a sudden this guy murders those women, and you think “Man. I can’t believe I was just excited by this scene.” And it makes people angry because now they’ve got different emotions running thru them. When people don’t understand what’s happening to them, they get angry and then they lash out.


What if you maybe marketed your film as something more dramatic, rather then a horror film?

But that’s not what it is. It’s a horror film.

It’s horrifying. There’s horrifying scenes in it. Does it frighten the audience?

I think some people, it frightens, but I think it’s more disturbing then it is scary. Again, because it takes place from the killers point of view. It’s not like ‘Halloween’ or a ‘Friday The 13 th’ where the killer’s going to jump from behind the bushes. It’s not a lot of “boo’s!” Or stingers. It wasn’t like that in ‘Murder Set’. You see this guy from frame number 1. So, you’re on this guy’s journey – you’re on this guy’s odyssey, and you’re along for the ride. It’s not fun, it’s not difficult. And it wasn’t meant to be. It was just meant to be what it is. A journey into the madness of this guy and it shows how disgusting murder is. And I think it’s very realistic. And when I say that, I mean the murder scenes are very realistic, but as in all films, there’s some fantastical stuff. People always ask “Why don’t you show police officers?” I get a lot of criticism for that. If you show police in a film, to me that turns it into a thriller. You start getting into ‘Silence Of The Lambs’ and ‘Se7en’ territory. And I don’t make those kind of movies. To me, when you put police in a movie, it shuts the movie right down. When you’re watching Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt having dinner with Gwenyth Paltrow, they’re safe. That’s a safe scene. There are no safe scenes in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s just there. There’s no down time. And that’s what I wanted to make. A movie with no down time.

Are some of the murders in it maybe over the top? Less realistic?

You could say that. That could be a point of view. But I’ve seen some crime scenes like that. To me, it’s very realistic. Toe Tag, they do phenomenal effects and they also study true crime as well.

After all that’s said and done, would you go back and do anything differently? Would you change anything about the film?

No, I would not. I’m really happy with it. I’m happy with everybody. I appreciate everybody’s hard work. If anything, maybe the marketing?


How would you change that? How would you market this film better or in a way that people wouldn’t attack you personally so much?

I would probably hire a top PR firm in LA to handle it for us.

Chris: Ultimately right now, where does ‘Murder Set Pieces’ stand in terms of distribution or being released to the public?

Well, fortunately after all is said and done, we have a happy ending. Lion’s Gate is distributing the film. It should be out the Tuesday before Halloween.

Are they going to leave the film in tact?

I believe they’re going to cut it for an R rating.

Chris: Originally, Lion’s Gate had a problem with the film. How did that change?

I really don’t know the exact answer to that. I don’t think they sent the right person to see the film, originally, and I think that plays a big hand in it. Who see’s your film. And I also think the success of Eli Roth’s ‘HOSTEL’. The fact that it’s a violent film and it made so much money. Distributions have come back to look at it now.

Chris: What do you think the differences are between ‘HOSTEL’ and ‘Murder Set Pieces’? You can regard financial differences. Or differences in talent in terms of their stature.

‘HOSTEL’ is a more fun movie then my movie. I liked ‘HOSTEL’ and I had a good time with it. It’s more of a rollercoaster ride. It was kind of like ‘Porky’s’ at the beginning and then it turns into ‘Marathon Man’ toward the end. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think you can compare the two. They’re different, I think.

Chris: What was it about the sensibilities of ‘HOSTEL’ that you maybe feel appeal to a vested interest in your film? (From distributors)

I think the fact that really it’s about torturing people, and you see people being murdered on screen. Crying out for their lives in a chair, kind of like how I had the chair in ‘Murder Set Pieces’.

Chris: So, it’s aesthetically that the film appeals to them – the gore, the blood, the women getting tortured?

Yeah, I think ‘HOSTEL’ proves there’s an audience for that, although in ‘HOSTEL’ you don’t see women being murdered and you see more men getting murdered as I recall.

Chris: So, really it’s not a moral issue, but a financial issue. If ‘HOSTEL’ didn’t make a dime at the box office, then these movies wouldn’t exist.

I think you can thank Eli Roth for helping this genre come along, yes. Him and Tarantino did a great job, so I salute them for that.

How do you think they’ve avoided controversy, because I haven’t really heard too much controversy about ‘HOSTEL’? Critics didn’t really attack it. Some didn’t like it. But you didn’t hear people saying…

It’s a different kind of movie. My film, you see kids getting killed and woman being raped. I don’t think you see that in ‘HOSTEL’. And I think people have a problem with the rape scenes or the child murder. That could be the big difference. Also, I think when you see naked women, the whole misogyny thing starts playing in. There’s a lot of nudity in ‘Murder Set Pieces’.


Chris: Have you ever felt the apparent “blacklisting” was a result of something personal? Perhaps caused by interaction with certain people in the business?

Oh, absolutely. Because when people see your movie and they judge you as a misogynist or an Anti-Semitic person, then they don’t want to deal with you at all. They misjudged me. People that didn’t even know me, that never met me, that’d never called me, written me or interviewed me. They based ME on my film.

I’m still a little curious as to know, you felt that when there are these people that are sometimes exposed to extremely violent films, who see woman murdered in horribly violent ways, in ways even worse - by the character that’s being presented in your film and isn’t being reprehensible, where it is a very sexual film. There’s a film downstairs being hawked called ‘Dawna Of The Dead’ which is a woman being raped by zombies…

Well, for one, that’s unrealistic. There’s a difference between unrealistic horror and realistic horror. People don’t get offended by zombies, because zombies don’t exist. Also, I think the production value – The New York Times called my film “a highly stylized exploration of a serial murder akin to a snuff film”, so I think when they see 35 mm film – (Dario Argento is a huge influence on me) The reason I hired DP Brendan Flynt was because we have a lot of the same sensibilities and we work well together. The movie looks beautiful. In fact, Javonka from Rue Morgue did call it “beautiful violence” and said she had never seen anything like it. So, I think that when people see that, the aesthetic of a film makes you take it more serious. A lot of these films that you’re talking about, a lot of these fo-snuff movies are not really narrative films, they’re really special effects reels…


Chris: How can you explain a film like ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, which was a metaphor of man and nature, and man getting away from nature and then being raped by it. Kind of like ‘Deliverance’ in a way. But at the same time, ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ Special Edition was just released and you can buy it at Borders. It’s a rough movie. That’s what makes me think sometimes that this vendetta, isn’t a vendetta but a personal thing – that it’s not ‘Murder Set Pieces’ but perhaps your interaction with certain people that has spread like wildfire unfortunately. Sometimes I feel that way…

I’m a big fan of that film. I salute Grindhouse for putting it out. It’s also the age. When a movie has been around for so many years and has developed a huge cult following. Everything is forgiven. Again, go back to ‘The Thing’. When you have a movie that came out 25 years ago, you can’t judge it now. A lot of these kids reviewing it now, a lot of these kids running these websites weren’t even born when ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ came out. So I think that time has a way of healing open scars.


And another thing I think is that when you’re dealing with zombies or cannibals, most people can’t relate to that. Because how many people out reading or watching this have actually gone out and hung out in the jungle, or have gone on an expedition. Very few people do that, or have the opportunity to do that. But you can envision yourself being in a big city, being a woman, walking alone and having some guy rape and murder you. So, that in effect, ‘Murder Set Pieces’ mirrors the night time news.

Was it that realism that left ‘Fangoria’ unwilling to put it in their magazine? Or was it something else that they told you?

No, I think it was that. Tony Timpone, he’s a very nice guy and I don’t blame him, because he has different sensibilities then me and he runs a business. And I can understand how he thought that if he promoted ‘Murder Set Pieces’, it would look bad for Creation or Fangoria or Starlog. I was disappointed but I can’t blame them.

One of your cast members objected to her appearance in the film, Cerina Vincent. Did she ask to be removed?

She did. Cerina Vincent who by the way is a great actress and was really great to work with, I think Cerina was influenced by her manager, who saw the film at the AFM and he was highly offended by it. And he said “Cerina, I’m sorry that I put you in this film. Please, forgive me.” And without seeing it, she called me in an uproar, “Nick, I heard you’ve got all this rape and sodemy in your film. How could you do this to me?” And I told her, “Cerina, it’s just a movie. It’s about a serial killer and it’s not promoting child murder or necrophilia, it’s just the character. That’s what he does, which I told you before all this happened.” I offered to send her agent the entire script, he said no, just send me her scenes. But ya know, Cerina’s in it at the end of the film, she’s not even nude in the movie. I didn’t want that. I wanted everyone against type. Like Gunnar Hanson and Ed Neal playing somewhat normal people. And Tony Todd…


Why not just take her scenes out?

Well, her scene is actually my favorite scene in the film! It was my homage to John Schlesinger’s ‘Midnight Cowboy’, which is one of my favorite films. That’s where that scene came about. And it’s a beautiful scene. I really like it. And I wouldn’t take that out.

Have you ever confronted the people that have reviewed your film in a negative way?

No, I don’t mind negative reviews. I respect a negative review, as long as you see it. You can bash it all you want, that’s fine. It’s America. Every time you make a film, people are going to love it and people are going to hate it. That’s just filmmaking. You just roll punches. Maybe I’ll make a movie next time that people will like.


Jsyn: Well, maybe people sub-consciously thought “We just watched this whole movie where this guy did these terrible things and he got away with it.” Which brings up ‘Maniac’, because at the end of that movie, he gets his. Kind of.

Well, at the end of ‘Maniac’, it’s ambiguous…

Jsyn: Or even like ‘American Psycho’, those were the 2 movies we were talking about compared to ‘Murder Set Pieces’ when we all first saw it. ‘American Psycho’ has Christian Bale, who’s this good looking guy, and you watch the movie, it’s almost a guilty pleasure, but then at the end of the movie, it may be a dream, it may be in his head, it may have never happened. It kind of cleans up the whole movie. But in yours, it’s played realistic. Do you think that THAT also affected people who watched the film - who were expecting some kind of pay off against the killer, and when they didn’t get it, it pissed them off?

I think for some people, yea. It could have very well done that. But I’m from Las Vegas, Nevada. And Las Vegas is a very transient town. A lot of murders happen in Las Vegas. A lot of serial killings happen in Las Vegas. A lot of prostitutes get murdered in Las Vegas that you don’t hear about, because the hotels have an agreement with the police department to keep that under wraps, because it’s bad for tourism. People tell me the average woman doesn’t look like this (in the movie). This guy wouldn’t be able to pick up these kind of women. But things happen in Las Vegas that don’t happen in other cities. That’s the difference. People like the photographer exist in Las Vegas and they’re not caught. They’re just not. Because the police and even people in general don’t care about prostitutes and what in their terminology would consider “whores”. They don’t care. They’re easy prey and that’s why serial killers stalk them. I’d also like to say people like Ted Bundy and Andrei Chikatilo, it took years for them to catch these people. Serial killing is the hardest type of crime to apprehend. Because there is no motive. They kill people for no reason. It’s killing people that you don’t know at all, for no reason other then your own sexual blood lust. Most people are killed by people they know. That’s a fact. When you take that out of the equation, you have people that A) most people don’t care about. B) You’re in a transient city. Serial killers move from town to town, like Ted Bundy did. I think it was realistic that he was not caught at the end. To show him being caught at the end would’ve been a cop out.

I like the point that Jay brought up with ‘American Psycho’. Let’s just take a second to compare your film to that and…

I think a better comparison would be to the ‘American Psycho’ novel.

I was thinking more about the reaction to ‘American Psycho’…

The novel or the film?

Both. The novel is very graphic. The film isn’t particularly. But there are elements there. We’re talking about violence against women – dropping a chainsaw on a woman, which is a little over the top. The film hasn’t been accused of being misogynist like yours…

Well, you can’t take ‘American Psycho’ seriously. It’s a comedy, it’s not a horror film. It’s a complete comedy. You don’t understand film if you take that serious. And the film was directed by a woman, so already that silences a lot of the critics to begin with. And the director (Mary Harron) of that movie took a whole different approach with the movie, then in the novel. I think people would’ve been offended greatly by the novel. I think that if the novel would have been filmed, it would have been a lot like ‘Murder Set Pieces’.

Even if it was directed by a woman?

If she stayed true to the novel, which they didn’t. They made it a complete comedy. To me, that film doesn’t work.


Jsyn: When Lion’s Gate puts out the movie, do they cut it or do you cut it for an R? Are you going to approve the cut?

Usually director’s work hand in hand with the studio to cut the movie. This is a different circumstance because I was bought out, so to speak, before this distribution deal happened. I’m just really happy that the average person will be able to walk into Blockbuster or Hollywood Video or Best Buy and see the film.

Jsyn: Will there be an unrated director’s cut?

There will be. There will be an unrated director’s cut. I’m not sure if it’s going to come out at the same time.


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This interview will appear in the upcoming documentary 'SON OF HORROR BUSINESS' by Christopher P. Garetano.

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