Quantcast Dave Parker interview

Writer/Director
Dave Parker!!!
Ever since we started Icons Of Fright, we've always wanted to talk to filmmaker DAVE PARKER. Well, this month we got to speak to Dave extensively about his underrated Full Moon debut THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING, what it's like to work on DVD documentaries for some of the most iconic superheroes and FINALLY... we get to hear exactly what the hell happened with HOUSE OF THE DEAD! He also speaks candidly about the upcoming THE HILLS RUN RED which marks his return to directing! Read on for the FRIGHT exclusive interview! - by Robg. & Mike C. 5/07


Robg.: What are the earliest recollections you have of the horror genre? What introduced you to that world as a kid?

Well, as a little kid, it was the cliché of a Famous Monsters kit. I started out liking dinosaurs, and then I got into Godzilla, and found Famous Monsters magazine and got into all the classic monsters. That’s what got me into it. I watched scary movies as much as I could, but really, I was a bit of a pussy until age 12. (Laughs) And then I saw CREEPSHOW and that was like my gateway drug into the genre. Then it became every slasher movie and horror video I could find. As a little kid, I was always fascinated by monsters. The first time I got really in trouble over my love of horror was when I was in the second grade and my Mom and older brother were both reading “The Amityville Horror”. They told me about the book and the story behind it, and I decided for “show and tell” in 2nd grade to bring in the book and tell them about the house where the devil lives. (Laughs) I made a girl cry in class. That was my first inkling that “Wow, I can scare people!”, which was pretty cool.

Robg.: At what point did you realize that so much effort went into making films? I know most filmmakers start with an interest in special effects – learning how the “tricks” were done. What was it for you?

It was. The first 2 movies that really made me think about film making were “RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK” and “CREEPSHOW”. “CREEPSHOW” because it was so exaggerated and I really noticed lighting and make-up FX and camera angles. With Raiders Of The Lost Ark, it was just so fucking cool that I thought, “I want to do that for the rest of my life.” It was picking up Tom Savini’s Grand Illusions and reading up on make-up, and reading Fangoria magazine – that’s what really got me into it. I thought, “Wow, I can do this for a living?” I thought it’d be like playing, playing with toys. Little did I know how difficult and how much work it is.

I definitely was obsessed with Savini and Rick Baker’s teams and how they did their FX. It helped me rationalize genre films to my parents. I’d say “I’m studying it for the technique!” (Laughs)

Robg.: You ended up writing and directing ‘THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING!’ for Full Moon, but you were working at Full Moon for quite a while before that, right?

Yea, I’d been there for about 4 or 5 years working on stuff. I moved out to Hollywood when I was 18, basically right out of school. The first thing I worked on was a movie for Jeff Burr called Eddie Presley, which was not a horror movie, but I was very stoked at that time to meet Jeff Burr and work on that movie as a props assistant. It was really low-budget but it was my first taste of working on a movie. I kept working on some micro-budget productions and met the guy who did all the trailers for Full Moon. His name was Daniel Schweiger and he was cutting all the trailers and behind the scenes (Videozone) stuff for Full Moon. At the time, of course I had rented a bunch of Full Moon movies.
It was one of those things where I thought “should I try to work for Full Moon or should I try to work for Roger Corman?” It literally came down to the point where when I first moved out here, I didn’t have a car, and Full Moon was in Hollywood, and I knew I could work there because it was close, whereas Corman was in Venice. So, I ended up working for Charlie Band and assistant cutting the trailers and behind the scenes stuff. It was a great learning experience. I got a lot of set exposure. I got to see how everything was done. At the time it was great, I was having a blast, even though I was working my ass off for no money. But at the time, I was learning while I earned something.
Later, Dan left and it just seemed natural for me to take over his position. So, I did that for a couple of years, as the head of promotions. Cut all the trailers and shot all the behind the scenes videos and interviewed all the actors and filmmakers. As it always happens though when you’re working for these low-budget companies, you start to think “Well, I’m tired of working for no money and busting my ass. I want to do a movie.” It came down to the point where I was really thinking of leaving and trying to get other work. That was always my goal, to make a feature and I figured at a place like that, it was a possibility. Push come to shove, Charlie finally said alright. They had a zombie movie, and I said I had to do it. And he gave me a shot.
Robg.: Let’s talk a bit about the inspirations for “THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING!” Starting with the title, because I remember when it first came out it was one of the coolest titles for a zombie flick!

I know. And if the movie was as cool as the title, I’d have a much different point of view.

Mike C.: I think the movie IS as cool as the title!
(Laughs) Well, thank you. The title came from Charlie. He took it from an old pulp novel or magazine. I think it was the short story from one of those “Weird Tales” pulp magazines. As Charlie always did, he made a poster and some artwork. It was this very EC Comics colorful artwork with the title. I thought “That’s the greatest thing ever! I have to do that!” It wasn’t a zombie, but it had this science lab type of thing going on. When we were getting ready to do the movie, there was a script that did exist, but at that time, it was when Charlie was doing a lot of stuff in Romania. When that movie came around, their deal with Paramount was over, and the budgets were increasingly getting smaller and smaller and smaller.
So the script that was designed for Romania just wasn’t what he could do here. So, I pitched my idea. And I came up with basically a fan-boy wish list of stuff. I was so inexperienced at the time, I just thought let me write what I know and what I’ve experienced working at this place. Try to make some kind of commentary on making low budget movies. Charlie was always pretty open and free on the creative level that way. He thought more in terms of “We’ve got a cool title for the box, now can we sell it.” I worked on the original story with a friend of mine. Our original idea was way too ambitious for the money we had, so I had to scale it down. It became what the movie is now.

Mike C.: I wanted to ask about all of the references to all the older zombie movies, because NO one was really doing zombies at the time.

We weren’t the trailblazer of the zombie resurgence, but the thing that went through my mind was I was trying to be responsible with a budget. And I’d worked on enough low budget movies, and knew people that worked on these no-budget movies to think, “Well, I know how hard it is to pull off something that was kind of neat.” I didn’t want to attempt a Romero-thing, because I knew we wouldn’t have the budget to have a mass of zombies, and I didn’t want gray and blue faced guys running around eating people. We didn’t have the money or the time. I didn't want to tread on Romero’s thing, I wanted to make it different from those.
A lot of the inspiration at the time… well, RESIDENT EVIL the video game was big at that point, so I thought I’d make zombie “characters”. At that time, Charlie was really into thinking about the Full Moon toys. So, it was one of those things where I guess we were trying to please so many cooks. I wanted to please myself, but I knew Charlie liked to make toys and cross merchandise. So, I thought I’d make as cool a zombie characters as I can. And then we’ll be able to make toys and all this other stuff that never happened. I think if he had made a toy of one or two of the zombies, I think it would’ve done better then a ‘SHRIEKER’ toy, or a ‘RAGDOLL’ toy.
For better or worse, I wanted to pay tribute to the past zombie movies that I loved. The inspiration came from everything from “WHITE ZOMBIE ” to Lucio Fulci’s ‘GATES OF HELL ’ and ‘ZOMBI’. I was really into that stuff and NO one else at the time at Full Moon was remotely interested in those movies. I was the only one who was really into that stuff, which was funny because Charlie and his family lived in Italy and made movies in Italy. It really became this valentine pastiche of things I loved from all those zombie movies.

Mike C.: Is that something about the film you’re not happy with?

It’s not that I’m not happy with it. I think maybe it was just a little too fanboy-ish. Looking back at it now, I probably would’ve done it completely different. But it’s a time capsule. It’s who I was at the time. And what I liked and was into. It’s tough. I look at it now, and I think there’s some charming stuff about the movie. I loved the experience of making it. I loved the people that I worked with. But, for me personally the biggest problem with the way the movie is now is it should have been edited tighter. I was really inexperienced as a director and of course because of budget, I had to edit the movie myself. And for a lot of first time directors, that can be hard.
You get so wrapped up in the fact that you’re getting to make a movie, you sort of lose sight of what you need and don’t need. It is about 45 minutes before the thing gets going and then I think there’s some fun stuff in it. A lot of it comes from frustration of time and budget, but the movie still looks really good, especially for the budget that it had. The DP Tom Callaway who recently shot “FEAST”, has gone on to shoot a ton of stuff, and he did a really nice job. And it looks different from other Full Moon movies. That was one of my biggest goals at the time.


Mike C.: That’s one of the things I really liked about it when I came across it about 7 years ago. There really was not a lot going on in horror then. And direct to video horror was really bad at the time…

I can’t even remember what was coming out at the time!

Mike C.: I think the big releases from around 2000 were THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 and SCREAM 3.

I think it really did become that self-reflective era of horror, because SCREAM was so huge and so popular. And I think the first SCREAM is still a legitimate, good horror movie. What it did to the genre or what studios took from it became a dark period for horror.

Mike C.: I don’t think you took from that though. You were doing something really different. And at the time, all that Italian zombie stuff was still really hard to find. You really had to be a fan to dig into it…

Yea, at that time, I don’t think Anchor Bay had released that stuff on DVD yet.

Mike C.: Exactly, DVD wasn’t big yet at the time.
To me, that’s what I thought was cool! No one was doing zombies like that. There were no maggots in anything! Since there was none of this type of stuff, I was a bit more influenced by European horror. Of course, the whole gateway thing was influenced from “PHANTASM”. And again, “CREEPSHOW” was such a huge influence which can be seen in the lighting scheme. I wanted to make a living comic book. As cool as the title ‘THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING ’ is, I knew it’s not a title you take seriously. You can’t make a serious, grim horror movie. It’s a comic book title, so that’s what we went for.
Mike C.: At the time, it had everything I wanted to see in a horror movie. You had these great creatures and they looked fantastic. You had the practical transformation…

That was the other thing too! Being very influenced by make-up FX, at that time, there were no transformations in movies anymore. No one would even attempt it. I wanted to bring back bladders! I wanted to take all those things I liked about horror movies at that time that people weren’t doing. Movies then were just a bunch of teens running around quoting other horror movies. We were at least referencing obscure movies.

Mike C.: Besides me, who loves it and owns 3 copies of it, how did it do upon it’s release?

It did really well. I promoted it as best as possible. We were in Fangoria. Rue Morgue did a cover and we got a lot of web coverage. To me, I never said, “This is the future. I am the future of horror!”, or anything. I just wanted people to see it! So I talked about it as much as possible. At the time, it there was still VHS and DVD together at the stores. I think it shipped 65,000 copies on VHS the first time out. And I think 15-20,000 DVD’s. It certainly made its money back and more and did really well in that way. It rented well. It certainly got out there, it was on the shelves and that was exciting. So, Mike, what was it you liked about the movie that you owned 3 copies of it at one point?! (Laughs)
Mike C.: (Laughs) Well, like you said. No one was doing these homage’s to Italian zombie horror, and they were so hard to find. And then I come across this movie in the middle of Blockbuster video, I rented it, watched it and I felt like it was made just for me. I didn’t know anyone else who liked these zombies movies, or the way they looked. I loved the transformation scene. That was one of my favorite things about 80’s horror movies. It just had this great energy. I loved the band Penis Fly Trap, and they had the theme song in there. Everything seemed to work for me and I fell in love with it.
Robg.: Dave Parker, I think you made THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING for Mike C.

I think I must have. (Laughs) Because I’ve never known anyone to know obscure zombie movies AND Penis Fly Trap. For me that was very exciting, because I was friends with those guys. At the time, I was either going to do a movie for Full Moon or I was going to leave. I mean, the budgets had gotten really low. Everyone was struggling there. It wasn’t a happy atmosphere most of the time. I just went out randomly and there was a party in Hollywood. It was a launch party for the re-release of ‘The Beyond’ that Bob Murawski and Sage Stallone did.
It was this whole night where 3 bands played and I was just going to stop in and say my hellos. But Penis Fly Trap played that show. And I just thought “Wow”. I hadn’t seen a band like that ever, and they were horror based. So, I loved them and ended up hooking up with them, eventually doing a music video for them. So for me, the ego stroke of all time was to get a band to write an original theme song for you – it’s something you think you’re never going to get, and then they do that. That part for me was a thrill. I dug that song! They really came through and it was a nice bonus, which again Full Moon movies didn’t have at the time.

Mike C.: Were you aware that Diana Cancer had been in ‘45 Grave’ and on the RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD soundtrack?

Yea! That was the thing! “Party Time” being to me the ultimate zombie theme and then to have her do this. And it was always a treat to see them play that song live. It always got a good reaction from the audience live, so that was cool.

Robg.: I wanted to ask – the other thing that stood out for me besides the title was that cover image with that one main zombie.

Yea, that’s “Maggot”!

Robg.: How much input did you have with the make-up crew on the look of the zombies? Because they were all so memorable and that one in particular I remember loving. Is the front of his face cut off? I was always trying to figure out what was up with his mouth!

I don’t know! Honestly, part of his look came from Resident Evil. If you look at Resident Evil 2, and it’s not that he was in the video game or anything, but there was a character with a similar sort of exposed, no-nose. I thought, “Whoa! It’s a creature, not just a rotted guy!”, so that became part of the influence. And then I thought we need autopsy scars and the spinal cords sticking out. Since I was only going to have a few zombies in it, I knew they had to be designed to stand out. I thought things like “What if the Incredible Hulk was a zombie?” (Laughs) It became that big, hulking guy.
And then I wanted this really tall, elongated guy, because early on, there were these import DAWN OF THE DEAD action figures, and they were sort of caricatures and elongated. So that’s where “Gaunt” the really tall zombie came from. When I worked with the make-up people, I was really specific and we had gotten concept sketches done, so they knew pretty much what I was going for. Even the character of Eric, the actor - that make-up was inspired by WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST. Again, little nods to things I thought were fun and cool.
The cover – Jamie Trueblood, who was one of the still photographers, his friend Brett Beardslee I cast in the movie. And Brett said “You know my friend’s a photographer. Do you mind if he comes down and takes some photographs?” And I said “Sure. As long as I got some copies!” So, I started to get impressed with Jamie and I saw that photo (from the cover) which looked different just as a photo, but it was a really interesting image and I thought “THAT should be the cover! It looks like it could be Famous Monsters cover.” Originally, I tried to convince Charlie to get Basil Gogos to paint that image for the cover, but of course we couldn’t afford him. I was really getting into Photoshop early on, so I did a very rough color scheme of what I wanted using that picture. And we sent it off to Lee McCloud, who did all the Full Moon covers. And he painted the cover and it came out gorgeous. The whole psychological thing of it is the character is staring out at you, so when you see that box in the video store, it feels like someone’s staring at you.

Robg.: Mission accomplished!

A lot of people have complimented the box, which makes me pretty happy.

Robg.: Let’s talk a bit about Matt McGrory who is no longer with us. Was this his first movie?

Yea, this was his first movie. Matt had sent in his head shot for something else. I think he sent it into Full Moon just in general because they were doing weird movies and I assume his agency sent it in. I thought for our movie, we’d get a basketball player or someone who was really tall… I just didn’t think we were going to get someone THAT tall. I saw his photo, because his headshot was of him standing next to a phone booth, and he towered over the phone booth. So, I thought if nothing, I have to meet this guy! I’ll always remember it. He comes in and of course, he has to duck down to get in the doorway, and I’m thinking “This guy is awesome!”
And then he starts talking and he’s got this really deep voice. So, we start talking and I ask what he does, and he said, “Well, I’ve been a bouncer in Philadelphia and I’ve done a few things. I was in an Iron Maiden video where I played Eddie.” And I was like, “Iron Maiden! Fucking Rad! Right on!” He also said he’d been bartending, so I asked him “How do you make a Jack and Coke?” And he replied, “Well, I get some ice, put it in a glass, pour in the Jack Daniels and leave the Coke on the side.” I said, “You’re hired!” (Laughs) And he was. Seriously.
You could never find anyone cooler then Matt. Matt was the nicest guy in the world. A complete sweetheart. He was the epitome of a gentle giant. I was very protective of him on the set. And I recall we would hang out at this bar, and obviously because of the way he looked, he was conscious of it, people would stare, but he’d sit at the end of the bar and I’d go hang with him. He’d also gotten a bit of notoriety from The Howard Stern show. But yea, Matt was the nicest guy and he never complained about anything. The only time he complained was when he had to shave off his goatee. (Laughs) And he didn’t want to do that but he did.
But in his real day to day life, he never complained about his situation in life. He really enjoyed his life as much as he could. After we did the movie, we kept in touch, because we lived down the block from each other. He told me he’d gotten a Rob Zombie movie, and I thought that was amazing and great. I’ll never forgot this one day, I hadn’t heard from him in a couple of months, and he gives me a call and says “Hey, I’m on set shooting this movie in Baltimore.” He was just calling to say hi, and he didn’t tell me what it was.
Literally, the next day I go on line and there’s a photo of him with Tim Burton and he was doing ‘BIG FISH ’. And I called him back and said, “You son of a bitch! You’re doing a Tim Burton movie and you didn’t even tell me?!” (Laughs) And to me, BIG FISH was his greatest role. In a lot of ways, THAT was Matt. I saw him about a month before he passed away at the Fango convention and we talked a little bit. I knew things weren’t going too well because he wasn’t moving around and he was in a wheelchair. I was really sad to hear about his passing. He was a really good person and he had a really good heart. He never said a bad word about anybody.

Robg.: Well… it’s funny you mentioned Rob Zombie before because I’ve got another little question for you…

(Laughs) Ohh…

Robg.: Well, you mention in the commentary… Is it an obvious homage that the main zombie character in THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING looks like Rob Zombie?

It was obviously… well a certain… Yes. (Laughs) Of course. (Laughs) Come on, if I said no I’d be a fucking liar! But honestly…

Robg.: Quite frankly, I thought he was in the movie for a very long time.

A lot of people thought he was in the movie. I’ll tell you this though. The original concept came out of casting. I had it in my head for a while that I wanted to cast a musician. I wanted to cast a rock star.

I tried to cast Alice Cooper. He turned me down. We gave the script to Dee Snider, he turned us down. I met with Blackie Lawless from WASP for an hour and a half one day, which I thought was really fucking cool. He was into the movie, but he was going to Europe on tour, so he couldn’t do it. When I was cutting the movie, I temp-tracked the transformation to a WASP song. And then I thought, “Well, this guys the king of the zombies. Why the fuck have I not tried Tom Savini?” I called him and he was into it, he wanted to do it. He told me to go look at his website, and at the time he had long hair and he had a full beard, because he was trying to make a movie called Vampirates. So, he looked like Blackbeard…

Mike C.: We’ve heard about VAMPIRATES!

So, from checking out those photos, I sort of got those images stuck in my head. But Charlie Band wouldn’t pay Tom Savini. He wanted too much according to him which was ridiculous, because having him in the movie probably would’ve added up to more sales. I mean, a zombie movie with Tom Savini at that time, it seemed like a no-brainer. So, we had a really hard time casting the role. It came close for us to start to shoot, and I decided to have this actor who had come in to audition for a couple of the other roles come in again because he was really a strong actor.
He was young, but I figured maybe we can give him long hair and give him the look that Savini had… and… then it sort of became Rob Zombie. (Laughs) Funny story. I remember there was a DVD store out here in the Valley called DAZE LASER, which was the DVD place to go. And it was a big Laserdisc store before DVD, and I’d go there every Tuesday to go shopping for new releases. One day I was there after the movie had just sort of come out. And Rob Zombie was there. I had a copy of the movie in my car.
I ran in, slapped the VHS in his hand. I really didn’t say much, I just said, “Rob, I really just want you to check out this movie. Thanks for the inspiration. I think you’re awesome.” And I left. Of course, I never heard anything after that. But I don’t know if he ever watched it and saw Matt and thought “Who’s this big guy? I have to hire this big guy for something.” I’m sure it had something to do with it. Rob obviously knows the movie, because someone talked to him while doing HALLOWEEN, and he mentioned “Oh yea, The Dead Hate The Living, that was Matt’s first movie.” So I assume he watched it, and remembered it. Hopefully, he feels flattered! The movie’s probably not his cup of tea but I don’t know…


The Dead Hate The Living! trailer


Robg.: It took me a while to realize you’re in FREE ENTERPRISE, and I love that movie. Was a lot of the stuff that you did at “Full Eclipse” in the movie meant to be your real life experiences at “Full Moon”?

Absolutely. The shooting of the girl doing the video intro, that happened. And there was more, because she took her top off right in front of us and we were shooting this intro for a Videozone. All that stuff… a lot of FREE ENTERPRISE, while it may be somewhat exaggerated, pretty much everything that happens in that movie happened in real life. In one way or another. Absolutely. Except in real life, I actually talk. (Laughs)
But that Gene Simmons jacket was mine. Yea, it’s all based on real people. Anyone that’s seen the movie and watched the documentaries knows. Rob Burnett and Mark Altman like to say it’s loosely inspired by them… Bullshit. It’s very close to them and our lives at the time. In a way it’s a little time capsule.

Robg.: Dare I delve into ‘HOUSE OF THE DEAD’ next? (Laughs)

Sure! Why not?! (Laughs)

Mike C.: Oh, It’s that time!!!

Well, when you’re kicking someone while they’re down, why not just go for the groin! (Laughs)

Robg.: Oh, we can’t wait to talk about this one! How’d you get involved with HOUSE OF THE DEAD and… well… what exactly happened?

Ok, this is how HOUSE OF THE DEAD came about. I think we had just finished THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING, and it wasn’t released yet. A group of people, sort of the FREE ENTERPRISE crowd of people who the movie was based on, we’d get together occasionally and watch stuff together. So, there was a day where we all got together and it was about showing the work that you’d done. Some people had brought shorts. Or little things like, one of our friends did the Star Wars spoof ‘TROOPS’, so I brought THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING to show everyone, because obviously I wasn’t going to have a big screening, because Charlie Band wouldn’t pay for it. (Laughs)

There was a movie before it, which was Mike Hurst’s first movie called NEW BLOOD. It was a crime/gangster thing, I think. And it didn’t really go over that well with the crowd. I was kind of freaking out and panicking, because here was this movie that had Joe Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss. I just thought they were going to look at my movie and hate it. During that screening, I felt really bad for Mike, because I don’t think it’s a bad movie, but people were getting up, and getting beer and fidgeting. So, we throw it on, and it hit for that crowd. All the references and jokes – they really got into it. And Mark Altman saw the movie there and he came up to me after and said, “Look, I think we’re getting the rights to HOUSE OF THE DEAD and you have to meet on it! I think you know zombies so well that you’ve be right for it.” I thought “Are you serious? Great! I play this video game all the time and I love it. It would be fantastic.” So, I was all excited. A couple of months went by because it took them a while to get the rights, and they finally call me and I’m freaking out. They sit me down and they go, “You’re our guy. You’re going to write it. But here’s what we want to do… It’s got to be a WB type of cast. We want to set it in Spring Break. And ohhh, let’s set it on an island, because wouldn’t it be cool to shoot it on a tropical island. It’ll almost be like a vacation!” Inside I’m thinking “Oh fuck.” “So… you don’t want to adapt the video game?” And they replied, “No, no, no. Because they’re getting ready to do the RESIDENT EVIL movie and it’s too similar with the bio-viruses and outbreaks and gothic settings.” And I just thought OK. Here I am though, I just did this little movie, and they tell me this one’s going to be a $5 million dollar theatrical movie. And it’s going to be all cool and impressive. So, what am I going to do? Turn it down? So, I thought OK, let me take a crack at it. So, I write the first draft, and at that time the reviews for THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING came back, and I read what people didn’t like and what they bitched about, so I was consciously writing with that in mind. No film references. Now I’m going to write a serious gory zombie movie with action. And there’s a budget, so I’m going to write cool set pieces and good gore stuff and go nuts with it. Treat it seriously. Still under the restrictions and hitting the points that they wanted, which was young cast, on an island. I convinced them not to do spring break because no one’s going to care about that. I was the one who did suggest a rave. BUT I suggested “the rave to end all raves”. It was going to be “Burning Man”. It was going to be this big, decadent festival. Of course, it would be at night. So, I turn in the draft, and I’m fairly happy with it. It’s a first draft and it’s pretty rough, so obviously there’s going to be some more work to do. And I wait to get notes back. 2 weeks later what I DO get is a new draft, written by Mark Altman. And I read it. And… I’m horrified. I’m fucking horrified. There’s all this in-jokey film reference stuff. He’s changed all the dialogue, the situations… and I just thought it didn’t work. I went into the office after reading it for another meeting to talk about doing another re-write, because I contractually owed it to them. I sat down and said to them, “Guys, I don’t know if I’m the right guy for this job, because your draft is so completely different from what we originally sat down and talked about. I just don’t get this. I don’t think this is cool.” They were like, “No, no, no. We want you to do it.” So, I went back and spent another 3 weeks or so rewriting their draft, not losing everything he had in there, but getting rid of a lot of the campy dialogue and things like that. And for me, that was it. I turned it in and I got paid. It took them about a year to actually get the money to start making the movie.

I really didn’t hear anything. I’d get random updates like “Oh we’re meeting with these people” or “we’re close to getting the money”. Then I heard through a friend of mine that worked at an FX company that they got the script in to do a bid on it. And… it was the draft that Mark Altman had written. They didn’t even use or send out the draft that I had rewritten the second time. They were just sending out Mark Altman’s draft. And I knew there was nothing I could do. Then he told me they got financing, and because they were a low-budget company, it wasn’t always a sure thing that I’d get to direct it or anything. They got the financing, but it’s coming from the director, and at the time… I’d never heard of this guy. So, I thought… well… all right.
Mike C.: Nobody knew! (Laughs)

Nobody knew at the time (about Uwe Boll) and they went off to shoot. It was one of those things where they were shooting it in Vancouver and I asked, “Cool, well… can I come?” And they were like, “Yea! Well if you want to fly yourself out and put yourself up, you’re more then welcome to. And you can come to set.” And I didn’t have the money for that. So… thanks a lot. They went and shot the movie. I got to see promo footage several months later that they had for a sales market.

Robg.: I think I remember them showing that at a Fangoria convention. And it didn’t look all that bad.

It didn’t look all that bad. Some of it was ugh, because well, the Jurgen Prochnow character was fine. But originally, here were the things. When I wrote the script, it was set in the tropics, like Zombi was. Then they went and shot in Canada. Well, they didn’t change the script, so the island they’re going to still has a Spanish name. The character that Clint Howard ended up playing was written for a black Jamaican guy, so that got totally changed. Then I saw the footage of “the rave”, which looked like 50 people during the day. Of course, because no one had probably ever been to a rave, so they didn’t know what it was supposed to look like.

So, that’s all I saw for months and months. Then the internet stories started popping up about how the director was going to put video game footage in the movie. And I thought… You’re… FUCKING kidding me! I just couldn’t believe it being true. Some website asked me and I said, “I think it’s the worst idea a director could ever do. And here’s the director’s personal email and here’s Mindfire’s email. You should write them and tell them.” I didn’t hear anything for a while after that, but I later got invited to a screening at the American Film Market, where they were screening the movie for the first time. And I went with a friend of mine, who I actually named the main villain in the movie after. We sit there and watch it. And I was horrified and so embarrassed. And I was smarting from some of THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING backlash, because places like the Imdb, people were tearing it a new A-Hole.

Mike C.: They don’t like anything on the IMDB.

They never asked if I wanted to take my name off this thing, and then there it is, first up and THEN Mark Altman’s name. I’m watching this thing, and I’m seeing the video game footage, and I’m seeing the performances, which suck. And I’m seeing the action, which is insane gonzo… just horrible. It’s watching a horrible disaster car wreck and knowing that you are the only person connected to the movie that ever gave a shit about a zombie movie at all. That actually appreciated them. And having your name attached to this thing. After I saw it I understood why he used video game footage because he was so fucking incompetent that he didn’t know how to shoot out of sequence. So he used them sometimes as transitions into other scenes because the guy was so clueless. It was the worst.

After that screening, I walked out of that theater, completely depressed and bummed. And there’s Uwe Boll… whom I’d never met before and he’s standing outside the theater talking to people. Mark introduces me. This is the first time I’ve met this guy at all. He’s standing there in a Batman emblem T-Shirt and he’s just… a big German dork. He asks the worst question he possibly could’ve asked me. He says, “So, are you happy?” (Laughs) And… I stood there for a second trying to think of what to say, and I just looked at him and said, “Not really, man.” And I walked away. And that was the last time I ever talked to him. Then the movie came out in theaters and everyone pressured me to go. My friends were like, “Come on, your movie’s in theaters! Opening night, ya gotta go! You’re being over dramatic! It can’t be as bad as you think.” I’m not an idiot, but I figure OK, let’s go. We hit Burbank. And the show was sold out. Well, who knows, maybe we’ll do ok? We get into the theater and I sit there again. 20 minutes go by and I start seeing people getting up and walking out. Continuously. Just start getting up and walking out. Finally, I left. I walked out. Then of course the end of the year “worst” list came out. And it’s a clean sweep. HOUSE OF THE DEAD! 2003! The worst fucking movie to come out that year! (Laughs) But yeah, it really hurt. It hurt me. Professionally I don’t know if it hurt me because the movie DID make money. Lions Gates did well with it on home video and DVD…

Robg.: They did well enough to make a fucking sequel! Sheesh.

Yeah. And that was the thing. It psychologically fucked me up. Especially with my writing. I really wanted to do this. I love the genre. I love these type of movies and now I’m connected with the worst movie of the year. And the fans are not going to cut me a break, because they don’t know the whole story. So, it was a bum period. And it really sucked. The fact that the movie is so worthless… it’s just a sad waste of money. God, there’s so much more I can say… The house itself looks like a fucking shack! Everything about it! The poster was ok. That’s probably the best compliment I can give about it. The only time I started to feel better about it, and I hate to say this, because I don’t hate Mark Altman – I can’t stand Uwe Boll though, but he’s the worst filmmaker in the world.

Mike C.: Well as time has told, where does the blame fall but on him.

Well, the other thing that made me feel somewhat vindicated is when Mark Altman started making all these movies that Anchor Bay released, like ALL SOULS DAY. When ALL SOULS DAY, which was the first one in that string of releases that they (Mindfire Entertainment) did – was another zombie movie. It was solely written by him, and it felt like HOUSE OF THE DEAD. The writing, the dialogue. It all felt like HOUSE OF THE DEAD. Ok, if people see this, they’re going to clearly see where that movie came from. And progressively every other movie that they’ve released, Mark Altman has had his hand in. I think now, I hope people can see where the blame lies in those films. At the time, when you’re a little younger and struggling and trying to start a career, going through that experience, it’s really damaging to the spirit. I should’ve sucked it up and moved on but it was tough. Eli Roth had called it the Gigli of horror. It was just a horrible, horrible thing! (Laughs) I’m not the only screenwriter that has had that happened to them, where they have their name attached to something they’re not happy with. Much better screenwriters have had the same experience. And… now that an hour has gone by… (Laughs)

Mike C.: Get it out! Might as well! (Laughs)

I feel so much better now!

Robg.: Well let’s focus on the positives! You’re making your grand return to directing…

Yes, I got out of director jail!

Robg.: Yes, so tell us a bit about coming back with ‘THE HILLS RUN RED ’. Did you write the screenplay for that as well?
No. Since HOUSE OF THE DEAD, I’ve been working on DVD documentaries and doing all the documentaries for much bigger films. Like THE USUAL SUSPECTS. We did the 20th anniversary edition of VALLEY GIRL. And I did the features for X-MEN 1.5 and X2. And SPIDER-MAN 2.

Robg.: Hey, you edited the featurette for PUMPKINHEAD 2! Don’t forgot about that, pal!

I did that for Jeff as a favor!

Robg.: Hey, I own that DVD and I love it! I don’t want to hear it from anyone!!! Dave, I just have to tell you. Not only am I a horror fan, but I’m a big comic book geek too. And I was just telling Mike, with X-MEN 2, SPIDER-MAN 2 and the SUPERMAN RETURNS DVD’s, I literally spent a full day with each JUST watching the special features you put together. They’re among some of THE best documentaries on superhero DVD’s.

Oh thanks, man.

Robg.: Obviously, you’re a big comic fan too. So, what’s it like working with all this behind the scenes footage for the making of some of the most iconic comic characters? I still can’t believe you worked on the SUPERMAN RETURNS documentary, which quite frankly might be a tad better then the movie itself!

You’re not the only person who has said that! It’s pretty wild. Certainly with the X-MEN movies. 20th Century Fox put out X-MEN 1 on DVD with very little extra on it. So, when Bryan was doing X2, Bryan and Robert Burnett have been friends since college, and Rob had gone on from Full Moon and worked on NBC cutting promos, and he got to work at this company that was really at the ground floor for DVD features. He did a lot of Disney stuff like TRON. That company also did Lord Of The Rings.
So, at the time he was doing Lord Of The Rings, Bryan said “We’re going to do a Usual Suspects Special Edition and I want you to do it.” So, that’s how that started. When they were doing X-Men 2, Bryan said they were going to do a X-Men 1.5 before X2 comes out and then you guys will do the X2 DVD. I thought “Oh my God! This is amazing. I can’t believe it!” I was doing these small movies and DVD stuff for those, and then to get these big ones…

What’s great about doing these DVD’s, and not just for Bryan’s although Bryan’s have been probably the most inclusive in detail documentaries. For me, not only was it getting to work on movies I’d love, but also getting to see the process of how these movies are made and to really get an insiders view that you normally don’t get unless you’re on the set every day.

Getting to work on Spider-Man 2’s features was a dream because I love Sam Raimi, so getting to work on that and having him see that stuff was great. In some ways, I’ve been very lucky. The people I’ve gotten to work with, and a lot of DVD producers are like this, Robert and Charlie Delosorica have been the 2 main DVD producers I’ve worked with. They’re both of course big movie fans. They love movies.

Despite what the budget for a DVD might be, we want to give the most to an audience that we can possibly give. Our thing was always that we’ve got 100’s of hours of footage, so don’t give someone a 30 minute documentary and say “That’s it!” Give them everything and more then the studio would ask for. We’re really doing it for people like us. We’re such DVD collector’s ourselves, that we really try to do documentaries that we would want to see if we were buying the disc. We approach them as telling them a story. Even if the documentaries are separated, if you watch them all through there is a focus that goes through them to tell a story. Even though we don’t always have the urge to direct our own features, but we look at these documentaries as we’re making feature-length documentary films.

Robg.: That’s exactly what they are!

Because we don’t get to make our own movies at the moment, for us, it’s what keeps us interested and excited about doing this stuff. In a way, we do get to make movies. The process in a way is just as time consuming. Superman (Returns) was such a great experience in a lot of ways. Just to be involved in the return of this iconic character was just great. I loved Superman 1 as a kid. These movies make me feel like a kid again when I see them, and that’s what’s so cool about getting to work on them.


And it was exciting. There were times where I couldn’t believe I was there. And it’s just me and Rob really shaping this stuff, really having the trust of the director. Really showing the process and making it as much of a personal experience as you can convey in the time we have. It’s still long hours. There are many 24 hour editing sessions, but what’s great about it is Rob was on the set of SUPERMAN RETURNS for 8 months.

I was on the set of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA for 5 months. For us as filmmakers, it was like the best film school you could ever go to. The professors are Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer, Ridley Scott. Those are the types of advantages to come from it. It’s really fulfilling. Also, these titles, you get to walk into a store and they have 300 copies there and it’s being seen around the world. I wish the MASTERS OF HORROR documentary that Mike Mendez and I had done had been seen as much as those other documentaries. (Laughs)
Robg.: I’d heard about that! What exactly was the story with that? It was a horror documentary you did that never came out. Was it a rights issue?

What really happened with that was the company that made it, which was Flix Mix, they were connected with Universal – they went out of business. Universal still owns it. It’s probably one of those things where they don’t even realize that they have it. I know Mike (Mendez) and I would love to see it get a legitimate release someday, but would we have to re-title it now with the Masters Of Horror series? We would love to get that out there.

Robg.: Would you say that all your experiences in the past few years doing the documentaries and really being behind-the-scenes have influenced the way you’re going to approach your next feature?

Absolutely. Like I said, it literally was like going back to film school and learning from the ground up by watching these guys. And even though the movie that I’m going to do is a much, much, much smaller movie, the process is still the same for a director. And what those experiences taught me were the importance of preparation before you get on the set and direct it. And working on the script. And storyboarding. And casting it right. Really bringing together the right team of people on the technical side and in front of the camera to execute it the best you can. Now, of course with all the editing experience I have now, I think I’m a much better editor then I certainly was. You learn not to fall in love with your material to a point where it’s detrimental. The key to a good director is really assembling the right people to convey what you’re trying to put on film. Or… capture on digital now. They say if you cast it right, half your job is done. But you have to pick the right director of photography. The right screenwriter. The right FX team. It’s all a major part of it. And then it’s about managing the ship and guiding them to give you the best work possible.

Robg.: What can you tell us about the recently announced HILLS RUN RED? And what prompted you to make a return to the director’s chair?

Well, what prompted me to return to directing was that somebody asked me! (Laughs) It was pretty easy. What happened was, the company that’s financing the movie – they’ve produced 3 movies themselves over the past couple of years. They’re a New York based company and they did FLESH FOR THE BEAST, SHADOW: DEAD RIOT and they did a co-production in Japan called DEATH TRANCE. The movies themselves on a dollar basis did really well, and they were happy with that, but they weren’t so happy with the talent they got behind the camera at the time with those movies. They were still learning about the process. This go around, they wanted to come out to Los Angeles and find a great team, so they wouldn’t have to micro-manage every aspect of the movie. They wanted to find people that had vision and could bring to the table the things they wanted. Daniel Schweiger, whom I worked with at Full Moon, knew one of the producers Carl Murano and he recommend me and Rob to him. So they came out and met with us.

We made a presentation and showed them the office and what we had to offer. They saw my reel. They had two projects. They said “Yes, we’d like you to do THE HILLS RUN RED.” So, we’ve been working on refining the screenplay. They had a screenplay they brought to us. We read it and made notes and they were very open to us changing the screenplay and making the necessary changes to make it more effective. That process went on, and then they came and asked for a promotional teaser for the Con Film Festival. They’ll have a booth there because it’s a sales market along with an actual festival. That was this past month. We came up with a teaser idea. More so for the tone and feel the movie was going to have, as opposed to something specifically from the movie. We wrote a script for it, storyboarded it and shot that little promo in early April (2007) in Hollywood at the Vine theater. It was a tough 17 hour day. We had a small amount of money to pull it off, but we had really great people working on the crew. It seems to have come along really well and they’re happy. Next thing is we’re moving very quickly into pre-production on the actual film.

Robg.: Awesome. Congrats!

Thanks! And it’s nice. It was a really good feeling going on to that set, because it was really the first time I had directed since THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING, so it had been 7 years. It was proof that all of the stuff that I learned since that movie had really stuck. It was a much more confident directing style for me. It was different then it was before. There were no questions about how things were going to get done, and we got everything done. We even got extra stuff that wasn’t storyboarded. I can’t for everyone to get to see it, which will be a little taste of what’s to come. Hopefully the feature will be it’s own thing.
Bryan (Singer) said it was like PEEPING TOM meets WHO KILLED THE GREAT CHEF'S OF EUROPE. Which… (Laughs) Well, OK, there you go. I haven’t seen Who Killed The Great Chef’s Of Europe so I don’t even know what that means. It’s going to be very serious. It should be very brutal, but it’s NOT the trend that’s going on now with “torture porn”. We’re focusing on good characters, a good story that isn’t generic that doesn’t just go down one direction. We’re trying to surprise people with it, and give people a twist so it’s not predictable. We’re really focusing on the script. Are the characters interesting? Is it involving? And does it deliver? That’s where our focus is.

Robg.: We wish you the best with that! Thanks Dave!


Special Thanks to Dave Parker for his time!

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