I first came across Joe Lynch while attending the then Fangoria-led Weekend of Horrors in 2007. Tired of walking around, I sat in the presentation hall, and watched Joe talk about his then upcoming film, WRONG TURN 2 (a sequel to the 2003 original). What stood out about Joe, and was quite different than most of the other folks talking about their films, was the fact that you could tell there was a genuine horror fan standing up there. When Lynch talked about WRONG TURN 2, he talked about how he wanted to make a modern day video nasty, and for anyone who has seen the film, it’s a fun, extremely gruesome ride.
Having directed that film, Joe then made a film that horror fans have been waiting to see for a long time (THE KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM), directed one of the segments in CHILLERAMA (let’s not forget his role as Fernando Phagabeefy), and is preparing to begin production on what sounds like a pretty intense film, EVERLY. All while doing these projects, Joe has managed to play one of the leads in FEARnet’s horror/comedy TV series, HOLLISTON. Joe was nice enough to chat with us for a bit recently, about his projects, past, present and future. Read on!
The chemistry between all four of you in HOLLISTON is great, was it like that instantly, or did you guys rehearse a good amount to click so well?
Yeah, but first off, I know you’re reading that question off Jerry (laughs). Let’s just relax, I’ll answer any questions, but let’s have a little fun!
(Laughs) Alright, sounds good to me.
But to answer your question, Adam and I had known each other for at least five years before the idea of the show came about, so
we had five years of a bromance to foster that chemistry that I think comes out pretty well in the show. The relationship between Adam and Joe onscreen is pretty damn close to what it is in real life, except that I’m not as cheap and Adam isn’t as bad with premature ejaculation. That being said, the rapport we have is very natural and a lot of times, and that’s what the best improv came from. Now the girls, I had known Laura for many years, the first time I hit on her, I was like “Oh my god, you’re the girl from THE HILLS HAVE EYES..Part one question: Why is your eye not on your cheek, and Part two: will you make out with me?”. I said this right next to my wife, so she was like “Aww Joe”…but what’re you gonna do? Laura thankfully just laughed it off, and later on we became really close, because her and Adam had known each other and they had become really close. Corri was the only one I didn’t know very much, we had met a few times, but Adam knew when he approached me about doing the show, that they were going to be the girls. He had it in his heart who he wanted, and I said “it sounds great”. I knew Corri’s work enough, from TV and also UNREST to know that she was perfect for it.
When we finally sat down and started to kind of going through the lines, and reading the script, there was just a very natural back and forth thing going on between all of us, right out of the gate. With that said, the only way we were going to be able to do the show, for the amount of time we had, the amount of days, was that we had to shoot a LOT of pages with very little interruption. I don’t know how familiar you are with TV or film production but the norm on a feature film when it comes to shooting your day, could be between two to six pages. If you shoot past six pages, then you’re either being ambitious or you just don’t have a lot of money and you just need to do it. On average, we would do about 11 pages a day.
BUT, the reason that was, was because had been rehearsing all summer long. Really, that was our idea from the beginning, to do two things: one, so we would know our lines so we could execute eleven pages in one scene, and two, and more importantly, so everybody knew each other really well and got along. We would have these bonding days, where we would all just go to the movies, or go to a carnival or just hang out for dinner. There was one time, where we actually swapped roles when we went to sushi, and it was hilarious, because we knew each other at that point that I could do a mean Laura and Adam could do a good me. Corri’s Adam wasn’t that good to be honest, but that’s just because nobody could Adam like Adam can. We all knew each other so well, that we could easily just click into everybody’s beats and rhythm. Laura has a very particular rhythm for comedy, as opposed to me or Adam. Once we got a script for season two, the difference was that at that first table read, we knew who we were in that show. Long winded answer for that question but hey, it’s fine.
Speaking of chemistry and all, the show is very reminiscent of the “Road to Frightfest” shorts that you and Adam used to do. Were those shorts influential on the creation of the show at all?
That wasn’t an influence, that was the genesis of the whole thing. It’s because of those shorts. Adam and I had gone to Fright Fest in 2007, he had SPIRAL and I had WRONG TURN 2 there, and we immediately bonded because we were the two “yanks” there. We REALLY bonded on that trip, and we were saying “Man, there’s a lot of short films here, why don’t we do one, and use them as bumpers for each night?”. Those were really well received and people really liked them. Those five ended up turning into fifteen, the first year was THE TWILIGHT ZONE, the second year was us doing AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, and the third one was BLAIR WITCH. They got online, and went viral and people really seemed to respond to it. So, once we had that out there, it was kind of proof-positive that something was working, the kind of comedy that was happening, and the pairing of two people with the writing, things just seemed to sort of click in a certain kind of way. Like you said before, it’s a chemistry, and you normally don’t usually get that with another actor, so when we did those and they did well, it was easier to pitch the show. It was originally at G4 at one time, then we tried to go to other places, and eventually we got to FEARnet. We had those shorts to show, and we said “look, we know you think that we’re just directors, and are thinking ‘what, these guys think they can act?’, but before you slam the door in our faces, watch these shorts and you’ll probably laugh a little and see that we could probably see that we can act in front of a camera without making too big of fool out of ourselves. Now, two seasons into it, it’s kind of history.
What is it about HOLLISTON that you think brings people in? You said people liked the Fright Fest shorts, but HOLLISTON has a really large fanbase.
I think it’s mainly because it’s a reflection of the community that we live in. I don’t mean, just as the horror filmmakers, but there is a genuine culture of horror fans, sci-fi fans, genre fans. Horror has its own little subsidiary, and it’s a very tight knit group. I’m sure you’ve been to a Weekend of Horrors, or a horror con, or a film festival that’s horror-centric. It’s a very familiar feeling to me, and Adam, you never feel like an outcast at those things. You never feel like “just because I want to wear a RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD shirt, and wear black nail polish and profess my love for CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, that you should judge me.” People at these things are sympathetic towards each other, if you throw up devil horns and they throw up devil horns, you know that you two are boys. Someone mentions that they love BATTLE ROYALE or FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4, the other person will say “Dude, you like those movies? ME TOO!!”, and you’re immediately friends. You don’t really have that in the romantic-comedy world or the western-genre world. It’s a tight-knit group and because we use that sensibility in the show, fans seem to gravitate towards it because it’s them. It’s us. As soon as someone says Horace Pinker, someone watching says “DUDE!”. I think that’s what HOLLISTON is saying, we’re throwing up the devil horns and saying “dude, I like DR. GIGGLES too!”, and it’s a call to arms to other fans to say “I love DOCTOR GIGGLES, the doctor is not insane, let’s hangout!”
It’s not even JUST the horror fans either. Adam is really smart, and it’s not only just being smart, but the ingenuity, as well. He knew that in order to make this work, there would have to be a balance between horror and heart. The fans see that we like the same things as they do, we’re going through the same struggles, it’s so key. it’s an instant connection between us. The people who aren’t horror fans, as long as we had good writing, and the heart in there, they’re into it too. At a lot of these horror conventions that we’ve done, there will be people that you would never expect there. When we did Horror Hound in Cincinnati, there was a group a women who came, that had never been to a horror convention before. They had just heard that we would be at this convention, not knowing that there would be zombies walking around, and were genuinely freaked out, but they came because they enjoyed the humor and the heart of it, the characters.
Speaking of horror conventions, I remember seeing you talk about WRONG TURN 2 back in 2007 at a Weekend of Horrors, and how your goal was to bring fans a modern day video nasty, which you obvious did. A lot of fans think your film is more responsible for creating the franchise than the first film was, did you think WRONG TURN 2 would be so well received?
Honestly, I did and I didn’t. Not to sound pompous or anything, but when I made that movie and walked away, it was done, finished and I knew in my heart that I did what I sat out to do, which was to make a love letter to 1986. I wanted to make a movie that could have been made in between the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies going on during that time, REANIMATOR, EVIL DEAD, all of these movies that I grew up with, I wanted to make a movie that would fit into that genre, the splatter-genre. The studio didn’t care about the movie, as I’ve said before, an executive told me right before I got the job, that I could spray diarrhea into a dvd box and it would sell, just because it says “WRONG TURN 2“. They didn’t care what I did, as long as I made my day and didn’t offend TOO many people. I’m very proud of that movie and walking away from it, I knew that I had made a 1986-style splatter movie. I knew that there would be a group of horror fans who would like it, because I would like it too if I were them. I knew it would have an audience, especially since around that time, there were so many straight-to-dvd horror being released, you had the EIGHT FILMS TO DIE FOR, and had Asylum pumping out movies left and right. I could’ve done anything I wanted to, but I knew that fans would get the jokes, the tone I was going for. I DIDN’T know that it would end up being Fox’s highest grossing direct-to-video title of all time. I had no idea that it was going to be on 12 top ten lists of that year, for horror films. I wasn’t expecting that, but those were like the votes of confidence that I needed, to know that I did my job.
For any good franchise, to me, it’s the second one that sets it all in motion. Fox said to me at some point in the process, “We really want this to be a franchise..”, but when they saw the first cut, the head of Fox said “I have NO idea what this is”, and I said “If the first WRONG TURN is more of the ALIEN, atmospheric horror film, this one is the ’80s ALIENS action fest rollercoaster ride”, and he said “Ok, now I get it!”. I was shocked, because though I thought there would be enough horror fans to make maybe one sequel, I never would have thought that they’d be on WRONG TURN 5 by now.
Awesome. When I spoke to Adam recently, he mentioned that you were going to shoot EVERLY this year, what can fans of your work look forward to with that film?
EVERLY is a project that I wrote a couple years ago, actually I think I wrote it before I even did WRONG TURN 2. I’m a big fan of enclosed space movies like RIO BRAVO, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, I just love enclosed space movies. I also love movies with rules, I guess I’m a child of the “Dogma 95”-era, where they would say “you can’t use lights, and you can’t use a soundtrack”, which to me, makes for more engaging cinema. You have all of these rules, and it makes the filmmaker have to be more creative in trying to work around that, and ultimately it makes a better film. So, I came up with an idea where a woman would be stuck in a building, and her Yakuza boss boyfriend finds out that she’s an informant, so he sends ALL of his guys to go get her. Now the thing is, the “rule” for the movie is, that the camera can never move outside the walls of that room. Mainly because, and I’m not giving too much away here, but mainly because she’s stuck in there. That was the rule I had even before I began writing it, so I was writing it, trying to make my way out of that room. When I brought in my friend Yale Hannon to take over the screenplay when I had to go off to do KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM, I already had a 17-page treatment that I handed over to him. When I was done with BADASSDOM, I came back and we went back and forth, and ultimately had this great script. The script got on the blacklist when we went out with it, I made a trailer so people could see what it was going to be like, and they bought it. Originally we had Kate Hudson cast, but that didn’t work out, so now we have Salma Hayek, and dude, it’s my dream come true. One of my favorite films is DIE HARD, well this is my DIE HARD. What I mean by that is that they always say “This is DIE HARD on a train, this is DIE HARD on a bus, this is DIE HARD in a Denny’s”, well this is DIE HARD in a room. That’s just about all that I can about it right now, but it’s like if Luc Besson, Michael Mann and Takashi Miike all came over to hang out, that’s kind of the movie that you’re going to get.
Damn that sounds great. A question that a reader sent me to ask you is if fans will ever get to see your cut of THE KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM?
(Laughs) I knew that was coming! I promise someday, I don’t know when, and I don’t even know if my cut will be the one that’s going to be released, but because that film is close to me in a lot of ways, someday I’ll make sure it is. Whether it’s this year, next year, or if years later I’ll do the Ridley Scott thing and re-release it in theaters with no voice-over..just kidding, there is no voice-over (laughs). No matter what, I will personally get it out there at some point. Unfortunately, I have no control over it at this point, because I was the director for hire for that, but like any director should, I poured my heart into that film. The company that was doing it had a lot of financial problems and it’s affected the film. We’ll see what happens. Don’t worry though, you will see TRUE Badassdom someday.
Right on Joe, thanks so much for talking today.
No problem Jerry! I love Icons of Fright, I’ve been reading the site for years, and I’m so happy that Rob G passed the reigns over so well. Take care.
Season two of HOLLISTON makes its premiere Tuesday, June 4 at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on FEARnet.