Raw, honest and DEATH HOUSE!
How many times have you, the fan, desired a horror film that includes a variety of your favorite horror icons in ONE film? But if it could be made possible, what if a horror icon wrote it too?
Sounds like a dream doesn’t it?! Well, Harrison Smith MADE IT HAPPEN and he is taking time from the this epic adventure to give me some insight into this dream-to- reality project titled DEATH HOUSE!
Terror Time: Harrison, we have to just dive in!! With an innovative story, the heavyweights of horror casted and bringing justice to the original script write, the cherished, Gunnar Hansen, how the hell are your nerves doing? (laughs) This has the horror community salivating! What was the catalyst in your commitment to make this film?
Harrison Smith: My nerves are just fine. The catalyst was the opportunity to step up my game. I knew if the financing kicked in, it would lead to an opportunity to work with the largest cast of celebrities to date in my career. Additionally, it would let me work with some pretty historic people. You need to eat and keep the lights on, so survival is always a catalyst, but on the artistic end, I would say the opportunity to work with this cast of legends would be the top answer.
TT: I hear that media manifested tagline “Horrors Expendables” and that’s cute but this is clearly a very smart authentic horror film. These icons aren’t playing their “known” characters. In DEATH HOUSE, they are bringing entirely new nightmares to life. What was is like to direct these juggernauts,knowing their staple roles, and needing them to be something else?
HS: I was approached by the producers with the pitch “The Expendables of horror.” However even they did not coin the phrase. Someone in the media did it and it goes back to the inception of the project. For me, “The Expendables of Horror” translates “gimmick.” It seems that film and music and most pop culture is geared for a fourth grade learning level. Just look at the standard Yahoo headlines and what passes for news and you get the point. People should expect more of their entertainment and because many do not, this is why remakes, reboots and regurgitation flourish. The whole “Expendables” thing goes for the lowest common denominator. Many instantly envisioned a Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Pinhead, Candyman monster mashup.
This is not the case. Common sense alone to anyone who has a basic knowledge of filmmaking says the expense to just license these characters would preclude such a thing. To make an “Avengers” type of horror film is a gimmick. Period. It’s stupid. I said it. Many of those characters don’t belong together anyway. They are grounded in different worlds. The hard part of FREDDY VS JASON was meshing the worlds. They just didn’t go. It wasn’t a natural fit and the storyline to get those two together was threadbare at best. Freddy doesn’t belong in the world of the Cenobites anymore than Chucky does. So forcing these characters together comes down to one word: “FREDDY VS JASON” was not much more than a bloody update to “Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein.” Directing these folks? It was less daunting than it was sobering to the fact that I was getting to do something pretty special. People embraces the movies because they are as close immortality and magic humans can get to. Additionally, they represent great memories. We remember where we were when we saw a certain film, how it made us feel, and the memories it gave us. So horror characters and the people who play them become a part of our lives. Conventions allow people to come into physical contact with their dreams and memories. I am sure many horror stars can tell you that one of the most common things they hear is “I remember when I saw __________________ for the first time…” And it goes from there. So I felt lucky to work with people who gave me many great memories and that is something a lot of folks don’t get to do and something I never take for granted as it could end at any time.
TT: Love that answer!! As lightly stated earlier, Gunnar Hansen wrote the original script to DEATH HOUSE and you had a chance to get close with him. What was it like working alongside a man who is so much more than just Leatherface?
HS: Gunnar was a gentleman. I got to know him decently but I wish I had known him longer and better to have learned more from him. He was soft spoken, so articulate and most of all passionate about this project. He wanted to get his friends and these names together but not to exploit them in a cheap, gimmick film. He was adamant. He was very open about his shortcomings with the script and felt pressed to get it going. Of course now we know that he knew he was terminal with pancreatic cancer. It was important for him to leave this earth knowing the film was on the track to get made. He gave my script his blessing and ordered his own agent to exploit his death to the fullest extent to get whatever support was needed to make the film. “Film it on my grave if you have to.” For me, I still hold to the idea that in another universe he could have easily played Santa.
TT: This idea of a sinister all-star ensemble has loosely been tossed around tables for a while now, what has it meant to you personally to pioneer its establishment?
HS: It’s simple: well done is better than well said. People in Hollywood and this industry talk a lot. From the trolls who circle the comments sections who have nothing going on except to tear down other peoples work to IMDb whores who have thirty projects “in development” There have been plenty of people who claim to have had similar compilation films in development. And that’s the difference isn’t it? Theirs are in development and ours is made. Simple as that.
TT: Very well put!! You can either talk about it or do it! What can we do as a community, to see DEATH HOUSE be where you need it to be?
HS: Know your horror. Know that horror is more than the latest HALLOWEEN or FRIDAY THE 13th reboot or sequel. Know your horror from the silent era all the way through the present day.
Resist remakes and reboots and open your minds to new things and trying fresher ideas. Stop saying that something isn't like something else. Know what’s good, bad and so bad it’s good.
Understand that some product is just cynical shit and no, it’s not so bad it’s good. There is a difference. It takes a lot of work and passion to make a truly bad film. However it takes little to make a mediocre one that people like to excuse as “guilty pleasure”. Know the difference and expect better.
Terror Time: And that folks, is horror wisdom! DEATH HOUSE, support it and we will keep you updated on this exciting, needed film that’s being done by the incredible Harrison Smith!
You can follow me @Amy_HumphriesDC