THE COLLECTOR: ICONS INTERVIEW!
On July 31st, THE COLLECTOR, the directorial debut of Marcus Dunstan will hit select theaters across the country. And as a genre fan you should take note. This indie flick was written by Dunstan with Patrick Melton, the duo whom have scripted not only the FEAST trilogy, but also SAW IV, SAW V and SAW VI. (They've just been tapped to write SAW VII) We got the chance to chat with them about all of the above, including the humble beginnings of THE COLLECTOR prior to the movie's premiere last night in Hollywood. Read on for our exclusive chat with Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton!
Robg.: Where did the story for THE COLLECTOR come chronologically for you guys? Was this something you wrote after FEAST but before SAW IV?
Marcus Dunstan (Director, Writer): This was actually written before FEAST!
Patrick Melton (Writer): This started as a short film – to go way back, when I was in film school, I had to come up with ideas for short scripts for this Kodak endowment thing, where Kodak gave LMU all this money to make a short film and so Marcus and I had written “ROLLED BONES”, which was the first script before FEAST in 1999. And so we brainstormed together and we came up with this short script and it’s called THIEF, what if a thief broke into the house of a serial killer? We wrote the script and it didn’t get made for that thing, but afterwords, we decided let’s make this on our own & Marcus wanted to direct it. It was going to be a 10 minute short, but then we won PROJECT GREENLIGHT. So then it went on hiatus.
Robg.: Well, you guys were busy for a couple of years after that! (Laughs)
Patrick Melton: Right after (the first) SAW came out, everybody wanted that million dollar idea. Like a horror movie that you could make for under a million dollars, and you can make it in a contained location with a high concept. We had this idea and we ended up pitching it in a meeting to these guys who ended up producing this. They bought it in the room, with the agreement that Marcus would direct it. We finished the script, but the problem was the company said they didn’t have enough money so they were going to go halves with another company. Marcus didn’t have an appropriate reel so we couldn’t sell him as a director. So the company gave us $5000 to shoot the trailer to the movie, which would be stylized to show off Marcus as a director. So we did that. All the Gulager’s helped, Jon Gulager shot it. Clu Gulager was in it, Diane Goldner was in it, Tom (Gulager) was in it. It came out really good, and we started taking meetings showing people the trailer along with the script. Bob Weinstein ended up seeing it, watched the trailer, closed the door to his office and said “You’re not leaving this office until I get this movie.” So we sold it to him. A year or so later, we started shooting in Streetport, Louisiana with Marcus directing and we finished it. Edited it for about a year and then they watched it. (Marcus starts laughing) And said, “We love it! But… we don’t have any money.” Because all their money was in HALLOWEEN 2 and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS…
Robg.: (Sarcastically)Those pesky movies that no one’s going to see!
Patrick Melton: Right! So we said, “What if we bought it back?” And they said sure, as long as you give us what we spent for it then sure. Mickey Liddell watched it, really liked it, bought it back and here we are.
Robg.: Now let me ask you - I know very little about the movie beyond the initial premise. And you had this story for a while, but the general misconception is obviously - you guys have done the SAW sequels and THE COLLECTOR has “traps” in it. So, what can you say to genre fans that don’t know anything about the movie? How is this different from what we’ve seen in SAW IV, SAW V or SAW VI?
Marcus Dunstan: The difference between this and a SAW film is we’re coming from a point of a thriller intersecting with a horror movie. SAW has always taken place within the horror realm and has embraced that. Whereas we wanted to take James Caan from THIEF and have him accidentally break into The Tooth Fairy’s house from MANHUNTER. (Both Michael Mann movies, by the way!) Tactics to catch a cat burglar in your home, if you’re not going mano y mano from scene 1, it involved setting up some kind of snare. Perhaps setting up some kind of compromising position for that thief to have to endure. So we kept this as close to the vest and what you can really make from anything already in your home as possible. These things, if they are implements used in the movie, we built them ourselves in the living room. If you see razor blades? I cut my fingers on them for real to make sure they worked. And it’s just based on very intimate fears, things that are around your home, because we didn’t want this to be specific elaborate traps at all. We’re trying to create a villain that is the land equivalent of a shark. If you go into the water, a shark might get you. If you’re on land, you’re on this killer’s territory and everyone’s vulnerable.
Patrick Melton: The big difference too is I think the tone is very different. The SAW movies are wonderful because they almost seem like you’re going into a different world with the heightened reality, while this one, we tried to keep it much more grounded with things that are in your house. Thing that can be put together quickly that aren’t sort of too fantastic.
Robg.: It’s kinda like Nancy at the end of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Rigging the booby traps!
Patrick Melton: (Laughs) That’s so funny you say that.
Marcus Dunstan: I gotta say one thing. You’ve got to stay through the credits on this one, because we’ve rewarded the person that does! A little something extra.
Robg.: In terms of the SAW movies, you guys have both gone on record saying that SAW VI is one of your favorites, and probably the best one you’ve done. It seems you guys went into SAW IV, V and VI with an overall story arc. Now you guys are doing SAW VII. So is it interesting, challenging or different to start from scratch with SAW 7? Or are you continuing some of the threads that appeared in your trilogy?
Marcus Dunstan: A lot of SAW IV and SAW V really hinged on SAW VI coming together. And the way 6 did, it completely recharged our batteries creatively. 6 recharged us and it gave us new ground which we hope to mine more horror from.
Patrick Melton: What we were really trying to do was, we finished 6 and we were done with 6 before we even started thinking about SAW 7 to be honest. 6 ends and we wanted to end that arc from 4, 5 and 6. Those three, 4, 5 and 6 all make sense tying the stuff from the first 3 as well. And it ends! You could leave SAW VI and say ok, I’m done, I’m happy, I’m completely fulfilled. Now, with 7 we’re definitely turning the page a bit. It’s a new chapter. But you’ll see, and we can talk more in depth when you see 6, but you can where it’s going to go, but there is definitely a closure at the end of 6 and with 7, it is the beginning of a new trilogy. It’s the third trilogy for the SAW films.
Robg.: Is there any criteria going into PART 7 either from Twisted or Lionsgate, or are you guys free to go whatever direction you want?
Marcus Dunstan: No, there’s always been a bible and a cannon and an ultimate end game for them, so we have to respect the rules that have been established, and we have to respect the tone. Other then that, it is earned. Earn the audience.
Robg.: You’re both writers, and now Marcus is directing, but you also made a fun little cameo in Adam Green’s Halloween short film THE TIFFANY PROBLEM. Any chance we’ll see you acting in front of the camera again soon?
Marcus Dunstan: (Laughs) Based on my appearance in front of that camera, I think I’m going to have to do a little changin’ before I make any more appearances! (Laughs)
Robg.: I seriously just want to thank you guys for FEAST. That first movie was probably one of my favorite genre pictures since EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN. Just the same kind of energy, so I’m always indebted to you guys for writing FEAST!
Marcus Dunstan: Aw, right on! We didn’t want to let any Gulager’s go untouched in THE COLLECTOR. Diane Goldner’s in it. Jon Gulager helped us with some shooting. Tom Gulager was the 2nd unit director when we were shooting for 24 hours a day! Clu Gulager recorded some beautiful narration for us. So everyone (from the family) is in this one.
Robg.: This is more of a fan to fan inquiry. HELLRAISER is up next to be “rebooted” and there have been several writers brought in and you guys were amongst the bunch to take a crack at it. What was your take on it, and what’s made this new HELLRAISER so difficult to crank?
Marcus Dunstan: The treatment for it was beautiful, and what it did was… it just gave scale to what was only hinted at in the darkness and the shadows of the first entry. We didn’t want to go back and repeat that story if at all possible, because that first story was wonderfully told. So, it wanted to grab darkness and appreciate it much like a PAN’S LABYRINTH would. And Pinhead’s become more then just that ending guy that gives a few lines. He’s become a figure in horror cinema, so we wanted to respect that, and re-announce that and make it bigger. The problem with that first treatment? It was too darned expensive. It just was.
Patrick Melton: Our thing was – everyone knows Pinhead. You show Pinhead, people know exactly who he is, the average person - they may not know exactly which movie it is or they may not have seen a HELLRAISER, but they know him. We were trying to build up his backstory and make him a true supervillain. And so, a lot of the story had to do with fleshing out his backstory, which is revealed more in PART 2. We were combining elements of 1 and 2 and building up Pinhead as a bigger character. Because not only in his past life, but also in the time he’s spent in hell. Giving him an end game, an end goal, and making him much more active as opposed to just torturing people. I don’t know, it was just maybe too much minutia for Dimension. At the end of the day –
Marcus Dunstan: Sometimes when you’re a fan of a movie, you want to put a hell of a lot more in it then necessary. You want to see the dream version of it, when… maybe it needs to be sheer, severe and slick. And that might ultimately be the HELLRAISER that comes out. I don’t know.
Robg.: Besides THE COLLECTOR and SAW 7 obviously, what’s next? Anything you’re excited to tackle?
Marcus Dunstan: Well, I’d love to direct an adaptation of a graphic novel called DEAL WITH THE DEVIL by Mike Miller. It’s just a brilliant bad-ass plot and I think it would make one hell of a movie.
THE COLLECTOR is now playing!