Quantcast ICONS OF FRIGHT presents TIM SULLIVAN'S SHOCK N' ROLL ISSUE 2: TOM HOLLAND "MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS"
Gun to my head, it would be FRIGHT NIGHT. Yup. Freddy truly scared me. Pinhead freaked me out. Jason and the Living Dead's Return were bloody good fun. But with finger to the trigger forced to choose my favorite 80's horror show, without hesitation my answer would be FRIGHT NIGHT. Could anything be cooler? Well, maybe Charley Brewster, but I wouldn't want to wrestle Evil Ed over that one. Or maybe I would...

In an era where androgyny and style ruled the radio and the MTV, writer/director Tom Holland dished up Jerry Dandrige, perhaps the smoothest, sexiest vampire to ever stalk the crimson screen. To a young horror fan still in the coffin circa 1985, Dandrige's invitation to Evil Ed was a no-brainer; I would have gladly let him wrap his turquoised leather coat around me and forever joined his army of the night.

This past week, 23 years later, I finally got the chance. For real. You see FRIGHT NIGHT, along with its creator, is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. After a decade in the shadows, Tom Holland has returned to take his rightful place at the Masters of Horror table. PSYCHO II and CHILD’S PLAY alone would be enough to earn Holland that seat, yet add to that the valentine to 60's/70's horror with it's 80's time capsule picture frame that is FRIGHT NIGHT, and you've got a guy who should be as much a horror household name as Craven, Carpenter and Cronenberg. But out of sight, out of mind as they say, and for awhile there, Tom was not around.  But the vampire has moved in next door again, thank God. And with a vengeance. WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM, his standout episode of MASTERS OF HORROR has just been released as part of a killer "skull" set from Anchor Bay. CHILD’S PLAY has been re-released in a 20th anniversary birthday edition. And FRIGHT NIGHT has taken its show on the road. Beginning with a reunion convention panel in  Dallas, March of this year, the "rebirth" truly culminated the week of September 15th here in LA - a week that will forever be burned in my memory as FRIGHT NIGHT WEEK- or- the week I got to sit in close quarters with Jerry Dandrige, Charley Brewster, Evil Ed and Billy Cole. Bite me now, please. With a sold out Midnight screening at the Nuart Theater serving as the anchor, FRIGHT NIGHT's cast and crew got back together to celebrate this film with the fans that have made it a Horror Hall of fame classic. The love for the film kept flowing like blood from a bat bite- websites and webmasters crossed party lines and joined together in unanimous articles and interviews of praise and reminiscence, talkbacks and emails exploded on the web with unique and personal stories yet all with the same prevailing theme - FRIGHT NIGHT is a true classic, an underrated classic, and a seminal, inspirational monster movie that cannot be forgotten by those on whom its been imprinted.

As a 'thank you" to FRIGHT NIGHT aficionados (and an "F you" to studio decision makers who have not given the film the proper home video presentation it deserves), Tom Holland and company gathered for not one, but TWO exclusive audio commentaries (three if you include one he did for CHILD’S PLAY) that will be made available as free audio downloads here at Icons of Fright. Pirate commentaries we call 'em, with everything you ever wanted to know from the people you wanted to hear it from. Tom Holland. Chris Sarandon. William Ragsdale. Stephen Geoffreys. Jonathan Stark. FX artist Randall Cook. Just press play and geek out.

When I first saw FRIGHT NIGHT, it rocked my world. And if you told me that one day I would be breaking bread with the folks behind the scenes, part of a car pool driving to a secret location to do an after hours commentary, then hosting a midnight screening that lasted till 5 in the morning highlighted by Stephen Geoffreys doing his best Evil Ed lines, I would have said, "Sure. And one day I'm gonna produce the KISS movie or remake a H.G. Lewis flick." But dreams do come true. "You gotta have faith, Peter Vincent." Right? Hell, yeah. So to all the faithful, enjoy this celebration. Sit down with me and Tom as we discuss FRIGHT NIGHT and all things Holland that go bump in the dark. And if you are really, really lucky and keep that faith (and write lots of emails and blogs to those in charge!), FRIGHT NIGHT just might return to a midnight screening near you- cast, crew and coffins included. -Tim Sullivan (9/1/08)


TIM: You’re looking quite fit, sir!

TOM: Yeah, I dropped 20 pounds.

No way! Me too. Just finished this 4 week Detox Cleansing program. Was not fun.

I hear ya. I’ve been going to a trainer twice a week, playing doubles tennis twice a week. And I changed my diet and I’m swimming almost every day. And if I’m not doing those things, I’m walking the dog for 45 minutes.

(Laughs) I guess you’re back for the renaissance of Tom Holland.

Yes, I’m fightin’ ready to get behind the camera again.
Well, it’s really good to have you back, Tom. When Mick Garris told me you would be joining our little Masters of Horror dinner group, of which I still feel like an apprentice, I was absolutely thrilled! It was so great to have you there and to put the person to the artist. The guy who made FRIGHT NIGHT!

Thank you.
And I’m going to go on record and maybe put myself in the line of fire by saying that although I am a huge fan of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and HELLRAISER and POLTERGEIST and so many awesome others, for me, my favorite, and what I consider to be the quintessential 80’s horror film, hands down is FRIGHT NIGHT.

Thank you very, very much. That’s unbelievable.

I think the film holds up better then ever. It was exciting to see your cast & crew reunion in Dallas. I’m so excited we’re doing it again here in LA.
I’m thrilled we’re doing it here again in LA, and at the Nuart no less.

Were you aware of this adoration of FRIGHT NIGHT?

I didn’t know it had become as large or as big as it is. And it still continues to grow. I saw that for the first time, really in Dallas, because it’s going multi-generational. Parents are sharing it and showing it with their kids. I guess today it’d be a PG-13, back then it was an R.

Just cut out the boobs and you got PG13!
So now you’re getting 3 generations that have seen the film. And in some ways it’s been like a right of passage between generations within families…

And even if you don’t have a family like in my case, loser bachelor that I am, it’s definitely a film that you want to share and pass down. In fact, whenever I meet young horror fans, I always tell them if you haven’t seen FRIGHT NIGHT, go see FRIGHT NIGHT and then come back and talk to me. You know, if you want to be a playwright you have better read Shakespeare. FRIGHT NIGHT is just that iconic. And it’s as much a product of the 80’s as well as a beautiful, nostalgic look back at the 50’s and 60’s horror films in the wonderful character of Peter Vincent.
That was the intention. Peter Vincent was named for Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. They were the horror films that I grew up with. It’s a love letter to the fandom from 1985 to being a fan in the 50’s and 60’s as a kid. And ya know, the genesis of it, I had been hired to write a remake of THE WINDOW. Not REAR WINDOW, but THE WINDOW, which was a short story by Cornell Woolrich, which was the progenitor of REAR WINDOW and also CLOAK & DAGGER. Remember CLOAK & DAGGER?

Yeah, of course! With Henry Thomas and Dabney Coleman!
Now when I was writing CLOAK & DAGGER, I suddenly had this idea, wouldn’t it be great if a teenage horror fan became convinced that the new neighbor next door was a vampire? And of course, nobody’s going to believe him, because he’s a horror fan!

Like THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF.
And I kept looking at it and looking at it, and I couldn’t really quite make it work. I still didn’t have a story. I’ll never know how, but I was with a friend of mine called John Byers, who used to be head of the story department at Columbia. One of the readers. And John was one of the first super fans that I knew. And we were talking, and I don’t know, out of the talk it occurred to me that if I was a demented movie fan and became convinced that a vampire was living next door, well who would I turn to?
Peter Vincent, the great vampire killer who’s the host of a late night horror movie show on an independent television channel! The minute I had that, the whole story fell into my head. And I couldn’t stop writing. I wrote it in about 3 weeks. And I was laughing the entire time, literally on the floor, kicking my feet in the air in hysterics. Because there’s something so intrinsically humorous in the basic concept. So it was always, along with the thrills and chills, something there that tickled your funny bone. It wasn’t broad comedy, but it’s a grin all the way through.

Being from New Jersey, I grew up watching CREATURE FEATURES. What’d you watch?

Well I watched that. And I watched the ones with Vampira. Zacherly, yes. The guy coming up out of the coffin not quite as suave as he would like to be! And that was the Peter Vincent character. If you look at the opening scene with Peter Vincent on the TV, he’s pounding the stake in and he has it turned the wrong way!

Right! And the blood hits his face and you can tell it wasn’t meant to and he’s desperately trying to maintain character.

I made it as hokey as I could, because that’s what it was like! It was all being done with a one wall set, somebody wafting fog in from a fog machine. And during that time, I saw all the movies that AIP and Hammer made. That’s what I grew up on with horror.
So this was definitely a nod to the late 50’s, 60’s color British, gothic Hammer films rather than the Universal classics.

Yes, you had the demented silliness and wonderfulness of Vincent Price in things like THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. But they were movies with a wonderful affection in them in their hokiness.

It wasn’t cynical.

No, it wasn’t cynical. And that’s what FRIGHT NIGHT is. FRIGHT NIGHT is the next step up because I made it real. There was no cynicism in it. There’s only love for the fans, and love for the horror movies of that time.
Well, that’s what’s really interesting, because Billy Ragsdale’s character Charley Brewster…

Charley Brewster. Every young man.

…yes, in many ways, represents you!

Oh yes. Of course! Couldn’t get laid to save his life either! (Laughs)
To me, the heart of FRIGHT NIGHT is Roddy McDowall and Roddy’s character Peter Vincent. There is poignancy in his performance that is something he also channels in another film you wrote, CLASS OF 1984, where he’s the teacher and oh-so-earnest about what he does, stuck in a high school where no one wants to learn, and maybe he should’ve and could’ve been a collage professor.
And in FRIGHT NIGHT, here’s a guy that could’ve been doing Shakespeare and could’ve been an Olivier, but just like Cushing and Price, got niched! Here, however, the kids do believe in him. Charley Brewster does believe in him, and yet his character doesn’t seem to feel worthy of the respect of Brewster.

That’s exactly it, yes.Peter Vincent is the Cowardly Lion from THE WIZARD OF OZ. That was the image that Roddy used.

Interesting.

And what makes it so heartwarming is that Peter Vincent rises to the challenge. The kids belief in him eventually makes him believe in himself. Having written CLASS OF 84, I knew that Roddy had that quality, that Roddy could tug at the heart strings. Now the truth is that when I first went out with it, I was thinking of Vincent Price, but Vincent Price was not psychically well at the time. What’s fascinating is, that after the movie was over, I was actually invited to Roddy’s house for his famous Wednesday night dinners. And I met Vincent Price there with his wife.

Wow!

So there I was with both Roddy and Vincent.

Did Vincent ever see FRIGHT NIGHT? Do you know if Vincent Price ever knew this character was an homage to him?

Well… Yes. And I was a little bit embarrassed by it. He said it was wonderful and he thought Roddy did a wonderful job. Thank God he didn’t ask why he wasn’t cast in it. Ya know?

That’s pretty amazing though…

Yeah, pretty fucking amazing to have dinner at Roddy McDowall’s with Vincent Price.

I never knew that Roddy and Vincent were close. Roddy had done a lot of science fiction films, PLANET OF THE APES and a little bit of horror, NIGHT GALLERY... But FRIGHT NIGHT is really what cemented his place in the genre.

Roddy was such an extraordinary individual. He was a walking repository of Hollywood history, the oral history of Hollywood. And I’ll never know why he didn’t write it down. I asked him, and he point blank refused to do an autobiography because he knew everything. I mean he knew EVERY thing about his generation, because he’d been doing it since he was 6 or 7. And he’d been in the theater, the schools for kids at FOX and at MGM, the sets... He’d grown up on them. And he said he just knew so much, all the stories that nobody would ever dare tell, and he didn’t want to be the one that did. The other thing that I never understood was, in his will, he specifically forbade a memorial service.

Really?
Which I thought was terrible, because he gave no way for his friends to discharge their grief. And Roddy had a legion of friends. I mean, Roddy would go to the motion picture home and sit with the silent movie stars and with stars like Mary Pickford towards the end. He not only knew the stories about his generation, he knew the stories about the silent movie stars because he had befriended that generation. Roddy was like a professional friend! And he also collected all the memorabilia and he was so in love with the art of filmmaking that… Hell, when they were closing MGM, like 2 days before they closed it and sold it to Sony, he took me around the lot and through the underground pipes that ran beneath it and told me what happened on this stage and that stage. He showed me right outside the Thalberg building where Katharine Hepburn met Spencer Tracy for the first time. So much knowledge…
You know the first fan letter I ever wrote was to Roddy McDowall. The first non-kiddie film I ever saw was CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. That was my first PG movie in ‘72, and then when they did the PLANET OF THE APES TV show in ‘75, I wrote my fan letter. I just adored him. I finally got a chance to meet him in ’96 when I was working at New Line Cinema. He did a film for them called THE GRASS HARP based on the Truman Capote book and I was at the premiere, and it really struck me, because he was at this premiere all by himself. He had come early and was sitting in the theater sort of alone, and I went and I sat with him and I told him how much he meant to me, and about the fan letter. I even recited the “Beware the Beast man” speech from PLANET OF THE APES, geek that I am, and I just kept thanking him. And he just kept holding my hand saying, “No, dear boy. Thank you. Thank you.”
I always knew he was everybody’s friend, and I had heard about those famous dinner parties. Everyone had nothing but kindness to say about him. But I always somehow felt though, that when the dinner party was over, or the premiere ended, he was perhaps alone. And that always… made me sad.

I was not privy to that side of his life. However, he was with the same person for years and years and years, and that person left him, and then he went on to another guy, he had another affair with a guy who was much younger at that point, a very, very nice guy. And that lasted a number of years too. Like 8 or 9 years, and then he left him too. So, I never knew. What I got from Roddy was that he was definitely not a player. He was into one person relationships. But whoever it was, they ultimately left him. I think he was just too kind and too good to people, if that makes sense.

The thing I sensed from him, which is why his performance as Peter Vincent is even more poignant , is that he never really knew that this beloved place, Hollywood, which he loved so much and where he shined the light on so many others, I never really felt he thought that he himself was worthy of having the light shined on him. He was a very humble person.

Yes.

And even not having a memorial is like saying “Guys, it’s all about you, it’s not about me.” And I just pray that Roddy’s listening, watching us in spirit at this upcoming FRIGHT NIGHT screening and that he finally realizes just how much we love him.

That is a lovely thought and I hope you’re right. And I think you’re right.


Going back to what you’ve said, I think it’s very revealing of a person who could’ve gotten millions for a tell-all book, that he never did. It’s almost like he documented things, perhaps, specifically just to keep the dark side buried? He was such a fantastic photographer. And his books capture an insiders look of the industry that no one else can get. Speaking of that, I heard a rumor from Jonathan Stark that he actually shot 16 mm footage on the set of FRIGHT NIGHT.
Yes, he did. And I think also stills but I can’t remember, but the question is where’s the missing 16 mm footage that Roddy shot?

I’m going to become INDIANA JONES and track it down like the lost arc.

Wouldn’t that be something?
And then maybe that would finally give Sony the motivation to give FRIGHT NIGHT the special edition that it deserves and that the fans want!

The Blu-Ray with some commentaries and some extras! Frame it in the perspective of its release, 1985.
Yes. Cause as you know, at that time, horror was all about guys in masks with knives. There was sort of a nihilistic, sadistic streak to it. And although FRIGHT NIGHT did not shy away from the blood and the guts and the eroticism, at the same time it was really old school classic monsters; vampires, and it was romantic. Romance – I can’t say that there was any romance in any of the “slasher” films of the 80’s, but there’s definite romance in Jerry Dandrige.
When Charley Brewster goes for the first time to see Roddy, and Roddy’s walking out of the studio after having just been fired, Roddy says “They don’t want vampire killers anymore. All they want is maniacs running around in ski masks hacking up young virgins!” (Laughs) That was exactly how Roddy felt about it.
I can just imagine an executive just looking at this script and looking at what you wanted to do and saying “Roddy McDowall? AIP/Hammer homage? No, bring us the HALLOWEEN 34. Bring us FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 46” So how the hell were you able to push FRIGHT NIGHT through an industry, which at the time was primarily slice ‘em and dice ‘em.
I was a red hot, screenwriter, and like said, I had this fellow named John Byers, who was my great champion at Columbia. It slipped through and it slipped through because of a lovely man who’s no longer with us called Guy Mackelway. He ran Columbia, and Columbia at the time, FRIGHT NIGHT was their lowest budgeted film, the last film of their slate. It didn’t matter to them. They all thought that their huge hit of 1985 was going to be something called PERFECT with John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis!

(Laughs) Oh my God!

And that was where all their attention was. And FRIGHT NIGHT got made, and they never even came to the set. I was left alone. It was totally my film without studio interference.

And this is your first directorial film.

It was my first directorial film. I had like 9 and a half million dollars. They had a wonderful production manager at Columbia at the time. A gentleman named Shell Shwager. And they had just finished GHOSTBUSTERS, which was an enormous hit for them, and they had Richard Edlund under contract. So everything the FX guys learned on GHOSTBUSTERS they gave to me on FRIGHT NIGHT.
And the team was just great. Edlund, Steve Johnson… brilliant FX guys. And of course Randy Cook who went on to become a 3 time Oscar winner for LORD OF THE RINGS. So you see – I was given people and talent that could only come from a major studio that had just gone through a major hit like GHOSTBUSTERS. It was like the stars were aligned to help a first time filmmaker.
FRIGHT NIGHT has so many memorable FX gags. One of the greatest is Jerry Dandridge scraping the banister with his finger nail. That was fucking genius.

That was Chris Sarandon’s idea, and I said let’s do it and somebody in the FX department came up with the idea to spray the banister with wax.

Really?
That was a wax coating on the rail and Chris was able to glide his nail over it like he’s peeling off an orange.

And the majority of the FX were done on the set.

They were mostly all done in camera, except for stuff like the shadow shifting, when Chris jumps off the railing and turns into the bat, that’s Richard Edlund in post.
But for the most part, it was foam rubber monsters on the set.

That’s the brilliant sculpting of Randall Cook. He sculpted that. Now Randy ended up being a CGI guy, but in those days, what was brilliant was he could make the Goddamn bat and bring it to set. That’s where the talent is with so many of those guys, in the conception and how they draw it and then how they sculpt the face. You had to sculpt the body parts for Evil Ed as he transitioned from werewolf back into human.
For, the top shock shot in FRIGHT NIGHT is… Can you guess?

Amanda Bearse when she turns with that mouth?
Exactly. When she lifts up into camera view and we see that fucking mouth for the first time. In fact, I must admit, that was the prototype that Vincent Guastini and I used to design the ghost in DRIFTWOOD.

I love Vincent.

Me too. Well, Vincent came to me and said “How ‘bout if we base it off that Mr. Sardonicus type grin in FRIGHT NIGHT.” And its’ so effective in FRIGHT NIGHT, and all done in camera in one shot where we see it before Charley does. Brilliant!

Well, that was my idea, and we took that on the fly. I blocked that out and I saw that moment there. And they had, I don’t remember if it was Steve Johnson or Randy, but the make-up FX were able to give her that mouth on the fly out of what they had in the box. So that was just blind luck. And that’s every guys worst nightmare, ya know- the female mouth with fangs!
Yup. And I guess I also ripped you off in MANIACS with Peaches, the girl with the metal mouth piece or Penis Fly Trap as we affectionately call it. Damn. See how FRIGHT NIGHT has seeped into my subconscious? I’m ripping you off in every film that I do!
Rip-off, homage. It’s all about being inspired by the things we love. And that’s something else that makes FRIGHT NIGHT so different from many horror films today and from horror films then. It has heart. You are, hopefully, if not moved to tears, at least deeply touched when Peter Vincent tells Charley in his apartment that he just can’t go and help him, because he’s not Peter Vincent. It’s not even his real name, and he finally admits that he’s a total fraud. And the other is when Peter is so moved himself when Evil Ed starts to transition back into this beautiful boy.

It’s tragic. It’s not their choice that they’re monsters. They’ve become monsters because no one loved them. Just like the original Wolf Man, or Frankenstein or Phantom of the Opera.

Yes. I’m echoing those movies. I’m not echoing HALLOWEEN. I’m not echoing slashers. I’m making fun of the slasher movies standing squarely on the old Hammer vampire horror films and the old Vincent Price AIP films.

In the 80’s, for whatever it was going on in the zeitgeist, monsters became child molesters or victims of child abuse. In the case of Freddy, he was a child abuser. In the case of Jason, he was an abused child. But the classic monsters –the Mummy, King Kong, the Creature, the Hunchback, they were all misfits whose denial of love turned them into monsters, which sums up Evil Ed. And probably Jerry Dandrige as well. We don’t really know how Jerry Dandrige became a vampire. But we do know that he gets Evil Ed’s pain.

They both live on the fringe. In the shadows.

Your conception of the vampire was really not like anything done before. It’s not Christopher Lee, it’s not Bela Lugosi. If anything, the closest would be maybe Barnabas Collins of DARK SHADOWS in terms of it being tragic and romantic.

Yes, and it was also tying squarely into the notion of the GQ vampire. I was trying to contemporize him and make him the hot dude next door. The guy that’s getting all the girls.
And the guys as well, in the case of Evil Ed.

(Laughs) Not just Evil Ed. I mean, we all know Jerry Dandridge has a very odd relationship with his assistant, Billy Cole.

It’s so funny because myself and a lot of my friends who grew up gay in the 80’s but who were in the closet at the time all talk about how FRIGHT NIGHT spoke to them, and I know it wasn’t something that was intended by you …
Well, a little bit. Especially Evil Ed. Evil Ed is the quintessential outsider. Whether he’s gay or not…

He’s very much like the Sal Mineo character in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.

Yes. He’s Plato, the name of Sal’s character. Speaking of which, the guy who plays the cook that you see in the disco scene who’s yelling when the guys run through his kitchen. That is Stewart Stern and Stewart Stern wrote REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. He also wrote SYBIL. His credits are endless. He’s the man who mentored me.
So six degrees of separation from Stephen Geoffreys to James Dean. Both rebels and misfits, and all welcome under the cloak of Jerry Dandrige.

Absolutely. And as a horror fan, I could surely relate. In my youth, horror films were for the outsiders. There wasn’t the fandom that there is now! I mean, if you loved horror films, you were strange back in 1970.

Absolutely, and if you were gay, you had 2 strikes against you! Its so funny, because when I finally moved to Hollywood and came out in Hollywood, I surprisingly found acceptance of who I was not in gay Hollywood, where unfortunately there can be a lot of backstabbing and shit talking, but in the horror community, which seems to be the most non-homophobic community I’ve ever experienced.

It’s true, Tim. I can vouch. Horror fans have always known what it’s like to be the outsiders. And so I played with that theme of the outsider in FRIGHT NIGHT. Call it being gay, call it being a horror fan. Whatever. Bottom line is, what I was doing was adding subtext wherever I could. I had the wonderful background and experience of having been in the actors studio in the late 60’s in LA when Lee Strasberg was still alive. I learned from Lee, but I also sought out Stella Alder when she had her summer classes here in LA.
Her script breakdown classes were all about the emotion that you could find in a piece of material by using the given circumstances of the script and then extracting from there and building in as much emotional life for yourself as an actor as you could. And it made me not afraid to do histrionics. I think that they’re terrified of that today. We’re talking about heart, and now you’re living in an age which is cynical and which relies on irony. And it’s cheap cynicism. And it’s emotionally bankrupt. It has no idealism.

Today, idealism is mocked. I mean, look at Barack Obama’s defining acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention. So potent, and surely one that will go down in history. And yet a week later you’ve got Sara Pallin snorting “Oh, Obama, why don’t you just pack up your Styrofoam Greek pillars and go back to Hollywood.” Since when is idealism Styrofoam? But that’s politics. Not art. And I think all artists need to be idealists.

Yes, but there also are other artists that are business men. You’ve dealt with them on some of your films.

See, but I don’t consider those artists, I consider those people exactly what they are – bean counters.

Yes, and often there is no room for heart among the bean counters. And you could certainly accuse FRIGHT NIGHT of being smaltzy by today’s standards. And it is, if having heart means being smaltzy. But it works. And because it works, it ultimately is not smaltzy and it is not cheap sentimentality. But people are so afraid expressing sentiment. Everything right now seems to be all about holding emotion at arm’s length. I tell you, you see more emotion in your film DRIFTWOOD then you do in 99% of the, quote, “extreme” horror films being put out. I was shocked when I saw that film. You don’t see that anymore. It is an ironic age.
It’s the self awareness, like the SCREAM movies. In the 80’s, FRIGHT NIGHT was a valentine to those movies…

Yes, it was a valentine.

And then the SCREAM movies were almost an apology for those same films…

They’re post-ironic. You’re talking about Kevin Williamson?

Yes.

Kevin Williamson, yes. There’s nothing wrong with that and I think the first one is brilliant. But it’s ironic and distancing. It’s not about love, it’s about being afraid of love.

You know it’s interesting because I never really thought of it, but honestly SCREAM and FRIGHT NIGHT are 2 movies about the very same thing, but from 2 very different view points. The protagonist in FRIGHT NIGHT, Charley Brewster, loves these movies and believes in these movies, and believes that faith and friends can conquer the darkness, whereas in SCREAM, the character played by Jamie Kennedy, who works in the video store, also loves movies but has a cynical view of everything that’s about to happen. The whole point is the smug superiority of knowing what’s going to happen next or how the trick is done, ya know, “Well, this is the part where we go down the stairs and the monster is there, so we’re just not going to go down the stairs”. Where in FRIGHT NIGHT, Peter Vincent is saying, “No Charley, it’s just a trick.” And Charley’s, “No! NO tricks! You really are a vampire hunter!”

(Laughs) Yes, yes. Arguably, that makes FRIGHT NIGHT very old fashioned.

It does, it makes FRIGHT NIGHT very old fashioned. And to remake FRIGHT NIGHT is almost impossible, because it’s a movie so of it’s times. To me, the danger of remaking FRIGHT NIGHT is to do it in a way that for business reasons would remove the heart, and literally I’ve heard through the grapevine that that’s kind of what they want to do. Kind of what they did with PROM NIGHT, making it PG-13. Like... DISTURBIA…

Which, of course, is FRIGHT NIGHT with a serial killer and rather than a vampire. Yes.

And so, I can see from a business stand point like “Ok, well let’s do DISTURBIA and put in a monster and make it PG-13 because that really worked for PROM NIGHT.” But it just to me says that the people who would do that don’t understand what FRIGHT NIGHT is about.

Of course they don’t. (Laughs) Sony’s doing the PG-13 stuff because they can’t get young boys anymore, because the young males have left and they’re on the net. So they’re not watching mass TV advertising on network TV anymore. They’re not watching network TV. So, they’re doing soft PG-13 horror for young girls that still watch mass advertising on television, and then they’re getting very weak audiences. It may just barely cover their P+A, but they’re making their killing on their DVD sales. That’s the business model you can see working at Sony for PROM NIGHT or for WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. That’s THE GRUDGE and THE RING.

It’s a horror film with training wheels. The bridge between HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN.

You know, I went and had lunch with the powers that be at Sony and they shined me on. I mean, they told me they weren’t going to do it, and you looked in their eyes, and you knew they were lying.

And sure enough, a couple of weeks later in the trades. PROM NIGHT makes $50 million dollars and now the executives think they know more about FRIGHT NIGHT then the guy who wrote and directed it from scratch. But these are the same types who thought PERFECT was going to be their big film back then, which was a completely calculated business decision. We’ll get John Travolta and we’ll get Jamie Lee Curtis and we’ll promote aerobics and ROLLING STONE, and we’ll get the song to be done by Berlin who just had a big hit in TOP GUN. And they over thought it and over analyzed it and created something that audiences recognized as false versus you did something from the heart that you did quietly.

Which ended up being the 2nd biggest grossing horror film of 1985.

It was. After NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2.

And poor Guy McElwaine, my champion at Columbia, was worried that his tenure there was going to be known for FRIGHT NIGHT and not for anything else. There’s that old attitude where Hollywood thinks horror is akin to porn.

Yeah, I know.

And I have never joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. And the reason why is because I asked some dear friends to sponsor me back when I first started directed, and one of them said to me “Oh, I can’t. You just don’t make our kind of films.” They fucking said that to me. And I mean I never encountered as much snobbishness as I did from members of the academy about my genre. And it pissed me off so much, I never filled out the application. And I think that’s still the attitude. Horror’s the ugly stepchild of Hollywood.

Just look at Paramount in 1980. The profits of FRIDAY THE 13TH paves the way for ORDINARY PEOPLE to be made. ORDINARY PEOPLE wins the Oscar but makes very little money, but Paramount is embarrassed by FRIDAY THE 13TH. As Robert Englund said, he’s still not allowed to sit in the commissary next to the A list actors. That’s how he feels.

Robert Englund said that?

Yeah, Robert said to me, “We make the money, but we’re not allowed to sit in the same commissary as Meryl Streep.”

I’m thinking you don’t want to.
I’m still reeling here thinking that somebody would had the audacity to say, “You don’t make our kind of movies” to the guy that wrote the sequel to PSYCHO. Would he have said that to Alfred Hitchcock?

No. But I have to tell you, before I wrote PSYCHO 2, I looked up all the reviews and I can’t tell you how badly Hitchcock was castigated, assaulted and brutalized in the reviews for PSYCHO. The worst reviews in the world. It upset him so much, he actually thought of withdrawing the film from theatrical release, recutting it and releasing it as a television show.

No way.

God’s honest truth. I have in the back of my garage all those original reviews for PSYCHO somewhere. They were horrendous. But the other film that got that reception as well was BONNIE & CLYDE.

Yes, yes.

I mean, when you have big artistic moves, and I’m not saying that FRIGHT NIGHT is, that I’m not saying, but when you have films that have big artistic movements like, major shifts in audience taste, the reviews are often quite vicious. So don’t pay attention to mainstream reviewers.

It’s not like they’re having ORDINARY PEOPLE conventions anyway, so fuck ‘em.

Speaking of conventions, like I said that FRIGHT NIGHT reunion in Dallas was where I realized for the first time that FRIGHT NIGHT was passing down through generations. Because that’s where I would have fathers and mothers stop by at the booth and tell me that they had watched it together with their kids when they had reached a certain age, say 12, 13, 14, and that they felt comfortable showing it to the kids, whereas they wouldn’t have with, say, FRIDAY THE 13TH or HOSTEL or whatever. But they felt comfortable with FRIGHT NIGHT because the movie has heart and because it has moral values, bite my tongue!

God, moral values! That’s really scary!

But, it’s an affirmation of good! An affirmation of doing what’s right! And so, there are moral lessons there to pass down to your kids, but it’s hidden! Just like in the old EC comics that I grew up reading.

And later directed when you did several of the TALES FROM THE CRYPT episodes for HBO.

Oh yes, yes, yes. That’s what I grew up on. Of course I wasn’t allowed to read those, so we used to run out behind the bushes with TALES FROM THE CRYPT and VAULT OF HORROR, the short story comic books with the twist ending that was considered so vicious that it would rot your mind.

I grew up reading the reprints of those stories, the brilliant writing of Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines. And theyreally influenced my own screenwriting to a degree I wasn’t aware of until I recently started re-reading them and realized my whole staccato pulp style of writing is very much from that. But the irony of it all is these books were so reviled, they were going to corrupt kids, but people never looked at them, these are moral fables. The bad guys always got it. People did awful things and then awful things were done to them that were poetic justice.

Yes. Cat got your tongue, and yes, literally the cat did. Total O. Henry type moral fables. And they were more moral than the people witch hunting them!

So after FRIGHT NIGHT becomes a hit, you follow it up with another studio film that has also become an iconic classic- CHILD’S PLAY. And in doing so, you introduced us to Chucky, who, back in 1987 when it was released, became the first new “movie monster” since Freddy Krueger. And now, 20 years later, ranks right up there with the most famous of movie maniacs. How did CHILD’S PLAY come about?

Well, that was a struggle. The original script was written by a guy named Don Mancini, and for me it just didn’t work. It didn’t seem enough for a feature film, it was more like an episode of TWILIGHT ZONE. And yet it had the wonderful idea of a killer doll. And I had been in love with killer dolls since the first time I saw Richard Matheson’s killer doll in TRILOGY OF TERROR.

With Karen Black, the Zuni fetish doll!

That has to be one if not the most brilliant horror television show ever done, and it was directed by Dan Curtis, who did DARK SHADOWS and Dan did steadicam before they even had steadicams. So he went hand held! He put that Goddamn camera from the doll’s point of view down on the floor, on a skateboard! And he made a 6 inch doll the scariest fucking thing I had ever seen. So I knew it could work. And I was saying this in interviews back in 1987, I knew because of what Dan Curtis did with TRILOGY OF TERROR, I knew you could take a doll and turn it into something that could absolutely terrify you. Add to the fact that they had animatronic dolls which were just coming out for the first time, all of a sudden you had a computer chip and that meant the doll could speak, it would also mean the doll could have a choice of several things to say. In other words, it was technological reasons coming along that could have the doll do life like things and you still wouldn’t believe that it was anything more then just a doll. You were setting up the same situation of disbelief that you had in FRIGHT NIGHT, that you had in CLOAK & DAGGER. If you watch all 3 films, there’s Davey in CLOAK & DAGGER, which is where no one believes the little boy in CLOAK & DAGGER that he had an imaginary friend. That was Jack Sledge.

They’re all variations on THE BOY CRIED WOLF. I never really thought of it but you’re right.

In a sense, they’re all the same script. I took a run at re-writing CHILD’S PLAY, I couldn’t do it. I think that I gave it the title. It was called MY BUDDY, I think? (*BLOOD BUDDY was the actual title)

Was he called Chucky?
No, that was because I created the character of Charles Lee Ray. And when I created that, I had Charles and off of Charles I had the nickname of Chucky. That’s how Chucky came into being, but that’s because what I used as the prototype of the doll was a “My Buddy” doll.

Is that a real thing?
Yeah, at the time, it was a doll that looked like a baby. It was a baby size. And it looked so much like a real human baby that it was creepy. And that was what I used and gave to Kevin Yagher to design the doll off of. I couldn’t use the name “Buddy” because of the Buddy doll, the standards and practices wouldn’t let me, and so at the last minute - I had to change it! And that’s how I came up with Charles Lee Ray, and Charles Lee Ray of course is 3 famous murders put together. Charles Manson, Ray the guy who shot Martin Luther King, and I forget who Lee was.

Lee Harvey Oswald.

Yes, thank you. That’s who it was. It was a compilation of those 3 names. So that’s where the name came from.
CHILD’S PLAY is grounded in more of a realism then FRIGHT NIGHT. The fantasy world, the style of the film just feels more adult versus the teenage point of view of FRIGHT NIGHT.

Ok, yes. Ok, yeah.

Not a criticism, just an observation! After FRIGHT NIGHT when you did CHILD’S PLAY, were you going for more of a mystery sense?

I had a terrible time with that script trying to break it. I was on it, I couldn’t solve it, I left it. I went away and did another movie. And then while I was gone, another director came on and I think had another rewrite done. He wasn’t a writer/director, it was the guy who directed THE STEPFATHER. What’s his name? You know who I’m talking about. He directed SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, I think. Anyway, he couldn’t get anything out of it and he left it.
And I came back on it. And I came back on it, and I still couldn’t make the damn script work, because in the original, there’s nobody to root for or care for. What happens is the doll is the alter ego of the little boy, the little boy falls asleep, the doll gets up and kills people the little boy doesn’t like. His dentist, his school teacher. But there’s nobody to root for! It wasn’t commercial. So it was figuring out how to solve all of that. And that’s how I created Charles Lee Ray. Because I needed somebody to put the blame on!

Right, because you didn’t want to blame the kid.
No, you didn’t want to blame the kid, and you wanted to get the mother – because you can’t get a more primal motivation, you wanted the mother to have to save the little boy. So that led me to create Charles Lee Ray and have him put his soul into the doll so that the doll was murderous and a serial killer to begin with and the mother has to save her son, the little boy from the horror of the doll. Who, stretching disbelief is a serial murderer trapped inside the body! And then of course, the serial murderer then at the end is trying to transfer his soul into the little boy. Now this comes off as being influenced by a film that was very popular at the time and I thought an excellent film by Jack Shoulder called THE HIDDEN!
THE HIDDEN! Yes!

So, you have an echo of THE HIDDEN there. THE HIDDEN was a huge success in 82 or 83.

I think it was 86? It was between FRIGHT NIGHT and…

It was before CHILD’S PLAY and I had seen it and I’d liked it enormously.
Very good for the idea of passing from one –

They did it again in Denzel Washington’s FALLEN.

That’s right. What I also like…

Which is a direct rip-off of THE HIDDEN. I love the way we all rip each other off. What do we say? It’s an homage. But what really inspired me in CHILD’S PLAY was the Dan Curtis production of the Richard Matheson short story.

Right. But also, there’s a huge – again, earlier before we started the interview we were talking about how influenced we are by brands. And I was saying about how when I was a kid, when I finally moved out of the house on my own and started buying my own stuff, I had normally went and bought the products I grew up with. I got Skippy Peanut Butter because that’s what my mother got.
I got Crest tooth paste because that’s what she got. It was like the first time I realized, I don’t need to buy Skippy, I can buy Jiff! It was like a rebellious moment for me. And you realize how you said before, we’re branded! And in a way, a lot of that is the subtext of CHILD’S PLAY. The idea of the doll – at the time, CABBAGE PATCH DOLLS were so big and every kid had to have them. And parents would wake up and wait up all morning to have that doll. And if you didn’t have it, you weren’t good enough for the other kids.
The little boy is glued to the TV watching the advertisements. He has to have a GOOD GUY doll. “Friends to the end.” “And it’s the end, friend!”

(Laughs) Because in a way, our obsession with brands and what’s force-fed to us literally does destroy us. In many ways. I always got that out of the film. Especially at the time with the obsession with CABBAGE PATCH DOLLS. It was kind of cool.
Well, it’s primal. The way to emulate it is, we all looked at our play things when we were little kids, and all wondered what would happen if they came alive. There is that great sequence in POLTERGEIST where the doll, the clown under the bed. And that was also in my mind. I knew because of that, and because of TRILOGY OF TERROR and, I just knew if we could make the doll work, there was huge appeal in it. Everybody though I was nuts.

Did you ever think Chucky would grow up to have a gay son? (Laughs)

Probably never occurred to me. That is not me.

You’re very loyal to people you work with.

I work with the same actors, yeah.

You had Roddy McDowell in CLASS OF 1984, now, did you always know you wanted Chris to be in CHILD’S PLAY having worked with him?

Yeah, I wanted Chris to be in anything, because Chris is a brilliant actor. Terribly warm, supportive guy. Now if he’d only show up for the midnight screening!
Well, we’re going to get him. Going back, when you did FRIGHT NIGHT, prior to that you were red hot. You were red hot because you’d written some really amazing scripts from THE BEAST WITHIN, which is again another one of those BOY WHO CRIED WOLF stories, I remember seeing that at the time…

Listen, I think that’s a very undervalued film.

That’s a very undervalued film. It’s a teenage Jekyl and Hyde. But it’s also…

Very fucking weird for it’s time!

Adolescent angst at it’s worst! It’s also is another film that can be looked at as a total metaphor for being gay, THE BEAST WITHIN. When you don’t acknowledge that side of you.
What’s really inside of you, yeah.

What’s really inside of you. And then you follow that up with CLASS OF 1984. Again, movies that I went to see at my local drive-in and worshipped and read about in FANGORIA and could not wait for them to come out on DVD so I could watch them again and again. Especially CLASS OF 1984. And then, you hit the paydirt. You were either the most bravest person I know, or most crazy person I know to agree to do a sequel to PSYCHO, which at this point is now a classic. 1982, I remember it was 22 years later. How did you get that gig, and were you intimidated?
I was intimidated almost to death. I’d never been more scared in my life. I knew how suicidal that potentially was.

Did you seek it or did it find you?

It found me, but I took a lot of deep breaths before I agreed to do that, before I had the nerve to attempt to do that. That was, believe it or not, that was my lawyer at the time, a man named Peter Dekom had a client named Richard Franklin, and Peter had liked THE BEAST WITHIN and recommended me to Richard Franklin. And Richard Franklin was an Aussie director. He was coming over here.

He had just done PATRICK.

That’s right. And ROAD GAMES. And he’d graduated USC and he had been mad for Hitchcock to the point of searching him out at Universal. Richard was probably, he’s passed away now, Richard was probably one of the 2 or 3 leading Hitchcockian scholars and he was a film director. He read my material through Peter Dekom, he really liked something that I wrote called THE CRYSTAL TOWER, which is an ethereal story and he had me in at Universal. We got along, and for reasons that I’ll never understand, he took a chance on me. Like THE BEAST WITHIN too. But THE BEAST WITHIN had not been a success! And everybody was pushing all these bigger writers on him, and for whatever reason we just got along, and he said to me, “Do you want to do it?” And I took a deep breath and said “I’d love to”, because PSYCHO was my favorite horror film. If every generation has a horror film that makes them into a fan, or is a transformity of experience, PSYCHO was mine. I watched it when I was like 13 or 14 hiding under the seats between fingers over my eyes. I mean, PSYCHO was still the most frightening film experience I’ve ever had.
And I had never seen anything like that before. And it changed the face of horror and it made, in fact it changed the face of film, because montage had never been used like that before.It was as big a film in its way as BONNIE & CYLDE was or 2001. I was absolutely – I knew I was going to get savaged by the critics, because in the time between whenever the original had been released to 1982, PSYCHO had grown in critical stature. When it first came out, it was pillared and savaged as I said earlier. So I worked so hard plugging all the holes and making that as logical as I could. And I had a great, great teacher in Richard Franklin. And he and I sat and watched almost every Hitchcock film. And we constructed visual set pieces. I think there were 5 or 6 in PSYCHO 2, which echoed what Hitchcock did. That was one of the most deliberate scripts – and if I may use the term, the brilliance of the concept was, one of the things that made PSYCHO echo was that you felt sorry for Norman Bates.
You somehow knew that it wasn’t Norman’s fault. That he had been tortured by his mad mother. And that was the dramatic challenge of writing PSYCHO 2, to fulfill that promise. And so PSYCHO 2 is the story of a man desperately clinging to his sanity as everything around him spins madly out of control. And you have all these murders happening and he is desperately trying to believe that he didn’t do it and make sure that he doesn’t fly off the handle. And in truth, everybody that’s setting him up, it’s the relatives of his dead victims, they’re madder then he is. They’re doing all the killings, and at the very end, irony of ironies, they have successfully driven him mad, and he kills his mother. But he doesn’t kill until the very end of the film. And all the way through, you think he is, or at least it’s very ambivalent. So, it’s dramatically a very satisfying film.

Absolutely, and again… heart.

Your heart’s breaking for Tony. Or Norman I should say.
Your hearts breaking for Evil Ed, your hearts breaking for Norman, your hearts breaking for the mother in CHILD’S PLAY as she’s desperately trying to…

Save her little boy.

And again, like you said, heart, heart, heart.

They don’t do that anymore.

I remember when PSYCHO 2 came out, 1982 – Again, there was a lot of skepticism at first. It could’ve seemed like a calculated cash-in. I mean, here it is, arguably the father of the serial killers, Norman Bates who spawned Michael Myers and Jason. And I remember, I went and saw it, and I was just so blown away. I was 18, I remember it very well. It was an Autumn, I went and saw it on a Saturday afternoon. And I just was so blown away by the craftsmanship. I actually liked it better because I had seen PSYCHO so many times that it had become a little stale to me. Just because I had seen it so often. And it had been imitated so often. Here was PSYCHO 2, it was something new. I could not believe it was Norman Bates and seeing him in new scenes and in new situations and yet, it’s as if it picked up where it left off. Just the little subtle touches, like when he goes to give her the key to the hotel room and he pauses over the key to the room that Janet Leigh was in, and then he goes and grabs something else…

Deliberate. All that was deliberate.

… that was just so thoughtful. Once again, like with FRIGHT NIGHT, knowing what the AIP Hammer fans wanted, you knew what somebody that loved Hitchcock would want out of a PSYCHO 2 movie. If anybody had done it who was not in love with PSYCHO, or Hitchcock it would’ve been a disaster.

It would’ve been a disaster.

But isn’t that what we’re talking about with remakes of movies like PROM NIGHT? So, the love, the heart was not only in the characters, but the heart was also in the people making the film. You loved Norman Bates.

Well, it’s… we have to… because we’re surrounded by business men that could be selling cloths, or dresses.

Or your mother’s dress. (Laughs)

(Laughs) It’s incumbent upon the creative community, which I assume I didn’t agree. Because I loved it, to follow thru and to do the best I can. For as long as they can, until they get corrupted by the money. By the MV and by the system itself. But that’s a whole other discussion.


It’s another discussion. Do you remember when Anthony Perkins read that script for the first time? Were you waiting, biting your nails?

Yes, yes, because that was the big one. If he said yes, I knew it would transform it. You know it started out as a cable movie?

No, I did not know that.

It was not a feature film, it was for Oak Communications, which was one of the first cable systems out of San Diego, and they provided the financing. It was going to be a cable movie for them.
Wow, that’s pretty ahead of its time. There weren’t that many made-for-cable movies in 1982.

No, this was like just the first one. And they were providing part of the financing, but they were going to put it on their cable show. So I wrote the script and then they got Norman! And the studio still didn’t figure out that anybody was interested. They were still going to release it as a cable movie!

So, what did Anthony say about the script?

He thought it was… He wanted to do it. Well, because it was his…
Let’s just pause for a minute. Here you are having been transformed by PSYCHO…

That hasn’t happened yet. We were all sitting around, wondering if… we all thought it was going to be a cable movie. When Tony signed on, it was still a cable movie.

But still, give yourself a pat on the back! Anthony Perkins who created the role of Norman Bates read your script and was willing to put the dress back on.

Actively wanted to do it. And he knew. He knew.

And he had been running from Norman Bates for decades.

It ruined his career! But Tony who was an evil genius. Tony was a mixture of light and dark. He really was.

A lot of us are. (Laughs)

Tony actively wanted to do it, yes. He had no idea that it was going to be a transformative performance. He did like 3 or 4 days on the movie, and then went away while they did the shower sequence, came back and did another for days. Maybe he worked 2 weeks on the whole damn thing.
PSYCHO 2?

Yeah! Hitchcock shot it with his television crew.

Oh, you’re talking about the original.

The original. Tony told me this! He had no idea that it was going to be this enormous hit, or that it was going to change his career or that it was going to be a milestone in feature films. I mean, Hilton Green said it best. They all went to see it in the theater in Universal after it was all cut together, and they thought “Well, it’s OK.” They saw it without music! What transformed that movie was Bernard Herrmann’s score! So anyway, Tony realized by that point that Norman Bates was his signature character, and when he read the script, he said “I could kick the living hell out of this.”

And he did.

And he did. Well, then he got it. Now Universal still thinks they only have a little cable movie. We did that movie for direct without overhead for something like 3.8 or 3.9.

Wow.

It cost nothing and it made…

Were you there on the set?

Oh yes. Yes. So anyways, Tony agrees to do it. Universal, because they don’t know, still thinks its going to be a cable movie. And all of a sudden, the word starts to get out to the news companies. And these guys start getting a gazillion requests for interviews. And news starts to go out about Tony Perkins going to do Norman again. This worldwide growing interesting in this movie with people who want to see it, finally at that point, Universal realizes they have a feature film.
Literally, it wasn’t until the reaction to Tony doing Norman Bates again that made Universal wake up. And even then, they thought – it’s true of so many of these films, these sleeper hits – they thought that it was a cheap little horror film. It was, but it made over a 100 million dollars worldwide and it cost them 3-4 million dollars. And Tony Perkins had to sue them for accounting to get his back end because they were claiming it ran in the red. And that’s the only time I’ve ever received any money for any of my profit participations. I got a deferment of 35,000 dollars because Tony Perkins sued Universal.

Wow. Now, the reviews were good!

The reviews were – I think people were so surprised. They were shocked! They had expected a total piece of shit.

Just something that has blood and guts. And I gotta tell you, in the end when he finally smashes her with a shovel…

Stunning.

…stunning! One take. Beautifully done. You literally are exhilarated thinking “Yes, he’s back, he got his revenge.” I remember being in the audience and just being like, the only other time I felt that was at the end of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS with “I’m having a friend for dinner.” I was like “Fuck yes!” He had the last laugh. In a way it’s tragic because he’s completely succumb to his madness, but at the same time, it’s like “No, you can’t fuck with me because I’m smarter then you.”

Finally, Vera Miles has succeeded. She’s driven him totally mad. But she’s dead by that point!

He’s finally become Norman Bates.

He’s finally become Norman Bates again! Yeah, yeah, yeah!

A beautiful score from Jerry Goldsmith.

The best!

A score that deliberately tried not to be Bernard Herrmann, and brought a sensitivity to the proceedings that you wouldn’t expect.

Let’s do a minute on Jerry Goldsmith. Probably the best. The range of what he could do, a gentleman. Somebody that, the nicest, classy – old Hollywood classy. I mean, he was the giant among them.

He was following the footsteps of Herrmann, he must have had a little trepidation as well.

He must’ve been scared to death, but you’d never know it. I have to be honest, I was in such awe of Jerry Goldsmith that I just, ya know… he was one of the guys that I loved…

You listen to that score and if you didn’t know it was from PSYCHO 2, you would not think it’s from a horror film, because it’s so elegiac. It feels like it could be from a movie about a guy who was always in love with this girl, who never actually got her and loved her from a far. It’s just so sad and melancholy and beautiful.

That film was forgotten. That film was now 26 years ago.

More time has passed now then the time between PSYCHO and PSYCHO 2.

It’s stunning to me because back then when I started that film in 82, I thought 22 years was a life time. I hate to tell ya!

Speaking of music, let’s also give props to Brad Fiedel.

Yes, let’s give props to Brad Fiedel.

Because his score for FRIGHT NIGHT, which I am pleased to say I have a bootleg, because it never was released commercially…

I don’t know why not?

I don’t know why either. The songs were but they were never put on CD.

They were put on vinyl.

Underground markets sell a CD that took the songs off a cassette and somehow got Brad…

Let’s give credit where credit is due. That was a man named David Chackler, who was my music supervisor on that and on CHILD’S PLAY. And he is the one that pointed me in the direction of Brad Fidel, I of course listened to the score on TERMINATOR and said yes, please God, get him! It was one of the first electronic scores. Before that, you had Purple Tangerine or whatever it was that Billy Friedkin had used…


Tangerine Dream.

Tangerine Dream, but there was nothing that had the variety or the orchestral effect of what Brad did on TERMINATOR, which was mind blowing. Then David Chackler went and David Chackler was the one who brought me those choices for putting together the hit song album that reflects the movie.
Which was great because sometimes you see a film where you have the score and then you have the songs. And there so disbarred. But Brad’s music, it flows. I even think he did the song “Come To Me”.

That’s the great erotic scene.
That whole scene. The scene in the dance club where it’s primal, and then suddenly, it’s like all of the sound goes out and it’s like them together.

It’s also when he bites her and on her back, the blood goes down. Because that’s taking the virgin and piercing the hymen. There’s a lot of symbolism. I don’t know how the fuck I thought of all that stuff! It was all deliberate.
What I love is, I don’t know if you realize this, but every time that Jerry Dandrige is biting the neck of a woman, her back is to him and he’s looking at Ragsdale.

No, I didn’t know that.

Which is very homo-erotic. He’s not facing the women as he seduces and bites them. The one in the window?

Yeah, that one he’s looking right at Billy.

With Amanda? It’s almost like he’s taunting him. It’s very interesting. Very interesting, and that music, again “You can’t run from the beast inside of you”, I love that stuff. “Armies of the night.” Ya know, Sparks and Devo. What great music.

That’s David Chackler.

So, ok.

You know what it really is? It’s the kind of support that the studio can give you if they’re behind you. I don’t know if that stuff is still possible, because their business is going through such convulsions and such changes.

Well, it’s finding the next thing that you – you have all these amazing scripts, done all these amazing films. Then you really kick ass on TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which is where all the A list guys were going. Then you kick ass on some Stephen King, LANGOLIERS, THINNER. Then we don’t hear from you for a while. What happened? Where’d you go? I know you told me in the past…

I got Bells Palsy.

I don’t think a lot of people know this.

Bells Palsy is when one side of your face… It’s a virus, it destroys one half of your face, almost like there’s a line right down the middle.

Literally like Two-Face from Batman, THE DARK KNIGHT.

Yes, and one half of your face loses all of its muscular tone. And you can’t keep your eye lid open. You can’t keep food or water in your mouth, because the lip loses all muscular control. And the truth is it happened to me when I was in production on THINNER. They didn’t get me to a doctor. It took 36 hours to get me to a doctor because it might’ve caused me to shut down the work. If I had gotten to a doctor immediately and gotten a steroid, it would’ve minimized the damage. As it was, it didn’t happen. And I…

This is something you could catch? I’ve never heard of this.

Yes, yes. It’s like a stroke, is what it is. It is not a stroke, but the effect is like that, you’re paralyzed, but it’s facial. And ya know, you don’t have to put this in, but to be vain, I mean, it just, psychologically… I looked like Quasimodo.

I have to say I’ve always remarked that you’re a guy that looks like you could be easily in front of the camera as behind it.

Thank you.

And I know you were an actor, and what can I say? You have that matinee look. And it must’ve been very tough for you.

It was very, very disturbing. And I also felt as though the production didn’t give a damn about my physical health. What they cared about was not losing a dime on production. Otherwise, they would’ve shut down for a couple of hours and gotten me to a doctor and/or brought a doctor to the set. And I didn’t know what was happening to me. I mean, you knew something was wrong. Ya know? Anyway, if you hit Bells Palsy with a steroid immediately, it’ll minimize the damage by 90 percent… If you don’t get it for a couple of days like I didn’t, then you’re stuck with it. And you’ll see people, you’ll see the effect of it.

You can see it in Joe Mantegna. Joe has it. One eye sags. If you look at him. I’ll tell you who else, Ralph Nader has it. Very badly. Some people have it, Bells Palsy, and have almost no effect, other people really get wacked by it. And I got really wacked.

It took you out of work.

It took me about a year, a year and a half to physically start to recover some strength in my face. I was wearing an eye patch because I couldn’t control the eye lid. I had to eat through a straw, because I couldn’t keep any food or liquid in my mouth. And you know, it was just psychologically very destructive. I became very self-conscious of how I looked. And I suppose it is the final word in Rossies, or ya know, vanity. But it made me get publicity shy. And also, ya know…

Did it make you feel like some of the outsiders in your films? The denizens of the dark.

Yeah. So, so I just didn’t work for a while. And then of course I found out, the office studio, because I had been turning everything down, then the offers stopped coming. And then it…

They forget about you quietly. If you take a vacation, you come back and somebody else is sitting in your director’s chair.

There you go. There you go.

I can sympathize, because I had injuries. On DRIFTWOOD. The infamous injuries. You spend a year on a roll, and you’re very lucky to be able to do one after another, and then next thing you know you have a physical injury and you’re down for the count for a year and a half. Same thing, you don’t really want to be seen. But part of what we do is going out there and pimping our product and meeting the fans. If you don’t really feel like doing that, you get derailed a little bit.

Well, I looked ugly. I mean, I… My whole face sagged. I mean, if you look at me now…

I can’t tell at all, there’s not a trace.

Well, when I’m tired I lose control of the eye lid and the eye lid will sink. I have, I was on the symposium at the DGA on digital day about a month ago, and they had a picture in the DGA magazine and I sure as hell could see that the left eye was, ya know…

But you beat it, that’s what’s amazing. How the fuck did you combat that. I’m sitting here…

I did physical exercises. I went and I got those electric things in the face that make the muscles contract.

They did that with my hand. Did you do acupuncture?

Yes, I did acupuncture. I’m not sure to be honest with you that any of it did any good. I just think that over time, I ya know… it repaired as much as it was going to. I’m still dead here and I’m dead here. I can’t do a full smile. I mean, this side pulls back farther then that side. The bag under here is bigger. The Labelle fold, there’s more sag here. There’s more sag here.

You notice it, but nobody else does.

Well, anyway… It was a terrible… Well, anyway.

But you faced it, you dealt with it and you beat it.

Yes. Yes, and I have… I have the first short, I started a new internet series called 5 OR DIE.
In a way, and again this is not a knock to my beloved other friends in the horror industry, but you were more of a studio A list horror guy. And so it was such a treat to have you come and be at this Masters Of Horror dinner. I remember when Mick Garris said, “Tom Holland’s coming.” We were all so thrilled, because you were sort of a mystery man. Ya know? There wasn’t a lot of press about you as there was about a lot of the other filmmakers.
In fact, even during the day of FRIGHT NIGHT, you let your work speak more for itself, I always felt. But now… welcome back. I hope you realize how much people love you and love your films and want more stuff out of you. And I think again, Mick Garris being the patriot saint of horror that he is, WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM is fucking great.

Thank you. Thank you.

Recently now that the boxed set has come out on DVD, a lot of the reviews are always pointing to that one as one of the top 3.
I didn’t know that.

Yeah, they rate them. Websites gives A’s and B’s to different ones, and yours consistently gets the A plus.

That once again is in the story. All these things we’re talking about. All the work that I’ve done, it pretty much all has a beginning, middle and an end. And I do strive for some kind of emotional completion, and that includes WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM.

Which was also a short story.

Yes, a wonderful short story, by…? I can’t remember. David J. Schow did the screenplay. The writer is, big horror novelist.

John Farris.

John Farris! But I mean, the, the… the hour show catches that story. Catches enough of it, ya know? And that’s very nice to know that it’s appreciated.

Yeah, the idea of… there’s even an element of THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF in that story as well, a little bit.

Flash to future filmmakers and current filmmakers, 80 to 90 percent of it is in the script.

And you’re a writer/director, which I think is really key. You never directed anything you didn’t write, have you?

Uh, yes. I did FATAL BEAUTY with Whoopie Goldberg. And then I did THE TEMP.

That’s right. Now, so you’re kind of like sleeping beauty for a couple of years. Sleeping Quasimodo in your mind.

In my mind! (Laughs)

So, you come back and you’re diving in. Rip Van Winkle. Technology’s changed…

Boy has it ever.

What would you say are the biggest differences now in the genre or in this industry versus to when you were doing THINNER?

The cost of production, because of digitalization of the medium has dropped the cost of production like a stone. It is more open, filmmaking is now more open to the average person then it ever has been before. Everybody today could be a director with a camcorder.

And the method of deliver…

You have an open distribution system on the internet. Now there are problems with all this. You still have to market. How do you get people to watch or even know it’s there?

How do they even know it’s there if they’re not first click on the internet?

Well, ok. But I mean, let’s say you’re on the internet, there is now such a plethora of media material out there. How do you differentiate and how do you get people to look at your work. That goes to these huge marketing machines that these 6 major corporations that control the media industry have, but we don’t have. So we have to depend on things like this, both you and I.

Because the person I’m talking to readers is Tim Sullivan, the filmmaker that’s done 2001 MANIACS and DRIFTWOOD also. So it’s a problem we all share. For all you aspiring filmmakers out there, we’re all in this together. I think a new fandom, or a new world of fans is opening up on the internet. And that’s why I’m doing this, and that’s why you’re doing this too. We’re able to, for the first time in our lives, because of the internet, we’re able to be more in direct contact with our fans then ever before. Somewhere in there has to be creative freedom and the ability to finance your own films that we’re both searching for. Either that or I’m a fool!

Either that or your Peter Vincent looking for your Charley Brewster. (Laughs)

There you go, there you go.

Only you believe that you can do it, and I know you can. And you just proved it with 5 OR DIE. Talk a little bit about that. I know it came about because of the strike.

I did that because of the writers guild strike, I did a short, I think it’s terrific. It’s on STRIKE TV, which is on soft launch right now, it goes hard launch by the end of September. You’re be able to go on the internet, they’ll be other professional product on there. And you’ll be able to watch my short, and if enough people watch, hopefully I’ll be able to get decent advertising streams, some revenue going. The revenue hopefully will pay for doing more episodes. Or it won’t! But what you’re starting to see is people making attempts at emerging business models. What is so wonderful about this, and so threatening to the powers that be is it’s cutting out the middle man, ie: the distributor, ie: the studio, ie: suits and people who give you notes.

I’m all for that, and it’s also cutting out all the people who decide to do special edition of CHILD’S PLAY and not contact the director to be a part.

Well you know what? To decide to do a remake of FRIGHT NIGHT and not have anything to do with the original.

Or decide not to put out FRIGHT NIGHT, or just dump FRIGHT NIGHT as a movie-only title and charge people 40 bucks for it. So in following in those footsteps, it’s so exciting to know that we’re going to do our own damn commentaries, and we’re going to get the people involved. Sarandon and Stephen Geoffreys. We’re going to do CHILD’S PLAY, we’re going to do FRIGHT NIGHT, and we’re going to give it to the fans as a valentine and a gift and a thank you, and ya know. Maybe somebody will take note of that and think “Shit, maybe we should have asked the writer and director to participate in a commentary track” or “maybe we should include the people that created these stories and characters and include them in the process.” And I’m saying that so you don’t have to. (Laughs)

But I’ll tell you, if… if things like 5 OR DIE can bring back some money, or DRIFTWOOD can bring back some money. Through distribution on the internet, where there is ad support or paid downloads, then it’s a new day.

It really is, and the thing is, I’ve reshuffled…

And I crazy in thinking about this?

No, you’re not crazy and not only that but its, technology is always changing. And the new generation grows up with the technology that… you didn’t grow up with or I missed. My last year of NYU is the year they replaced the Steenbecks for the AVIDS. That was 86. So here I am having learned a physical craft of touching film and cutting film and suddenly everything I’ve learned, the technology of how to do it has changed, but the theory has not. That’s the thing we have to remember. I don’t have the time…

Hold tight to that, the ability to tell a story and to do a montage is another thing.

That’s the other thing I want to say to you, Tom. Yes, any kid can get Final Cut Pro and an HD camera and shoot something, but the storytelling, the heart, that is something that not everybody has. And for me what’s exciting, through My Space, through the wonderful opportunities to go to the conventions and have one on ones with the people who watch our films…

Yeah, you’ve been developing your own fanbase bigger then, by far then I!

You have to brand yourself these days. And when I say brand, going back to brand, this isn’t a cynical thought. It’s a reality. The bottom line is, when I first started with MANIACS, Tim Sullivan alone could not get this movie made. I had to have “an attachment”. That was Robert Englund. With DRIFTWOOD, the attachment was Ricky Ulman from PHIL OF THE FUTURE. With HOOD OF HORROR, the attachment was Snoop Dogg. DETROIT ROCK CITY, the attachment – KISS. I want to get to a point where I’m the attachment. So I can come to somebody with a script and say “this is my story” and people seem to find the writer/director, there are some people out there that are actually interested in seeing it, so I don’t have to spend half my year attaching things. So yes, you go out there, and you interact with the people. In a way, if we were an indie band – Bruce Springsteen when he first started, when he put out an album, he’d play every place. From the biggest place to the smallest place. I feel now that every time we make a film, it’s like we’ve got to tour behind it. I view myself as the same way I view myself as an indie rock band. And every film I make is my latest album and I gotta go out and tour behind it, then I come back and take my experiences on the road into my next film. And I listen carefully to what was liked about my last film and what wasn’t liked. It’s just like when a band puts out a new album and they play their songs and they can tell which songs are going over and they play them over, and which songs aren’t and they never play those again. And that’s how I really look at it. And so, at this point, I feel having gone out there and played the songs for the fans, I kind of know what they want. That’s why BEVERLY HELLBILLYS is really going to be exactly what the first one should’ve been. And I think what’s next for Tom Holland is very exciting because I think it’s going to be taking a little bit of the past, and taking the technology of today, but hopefully never losing the heart that makes Tom Holland what Tom Holland is…

Thank you.


CHILD'S PLAY
Commentary Track with Writer/Director Tom Holland, moderated by Tim Sullivan. (Right Click & "Save As")

http://www.iconsoffright.com/childsplay/CHILDSPLAY_Holland_commentary.mp3

FRIGHT NIGHT Commentary Track with Writer/Director Tom Holland, Stars Chris Sarandon (Jerry Dandrige) & Jonathan Stark (Billy Cole), moderated by Tim Sullivan. (Right Click & "Save As")

http://www.iconsoffright.com/Frightnight_Commentary/FRIGHTNIGHT_Holland_Sarandon_Stark_commentary.mp3

FRIGHT NIGHT Commentary Track with Writer/Director Tom Holland, Stars William Ragsdale (Charley Brewster), Stephen Geoffreys ("Evil" Ed Thompson) & FX Artist Randall William Cook, moderated by Jeremy Smith (Mr. Beaks from Ain't It Cool News.com) & hosted by Tim Sullivan. (Right Click & "Save As")

http://www.iconsoffright.com/Frightnight_Commentary/Fright_Night_Commentary_1-2.mp3

VISIT TOM HOLLAND AT: WWW.MYSPACE.COM/TOMHOLLANDSDRIVEN
VISIT THE "5 OR DIE" MY SPACE PAGE: WWW.MYSPACE.COM/5ORDIE
VISIT TIM SULLIVAN AT: WWW.MYSPACE.COM/NEWREBELLION
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