'Chillerama' Interview - 'Wadzilla' Director Adam Rifkin

With Chillerama, the epic new horror anthology film from directors Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan hitting DVD & Blu-Ray on November 29th, FearNet thought that now was as good a time as any to track down all four filmmakers and talk to them individually about their respective segments in what is being described as a loving homage to drive-in B movie madness!

Going in chronological order, Adam Rifkin's 'Wadzilla' kicks off the feature. Having tackled everything from indie films (The Dark Backward) to action (The Chase) to comedy (Detroit Rock City), 'Wadzilla' marks Rifkin's first creature feature and full-on horror movie. Utilizing the style of the atomic age giant monster movies and featuring a lead performance by Rifkin himself, we talked to him about the influences on his slice of B-movie mayhem for Chillerama!

FEARnet.: For you, what were some of the films that influenced Chillerama?

Adam Rifkin: Well, there are so many, it'd be impossible to narrow them down. I mean, I'm a huge fan of the genre. There are so many subsets of the exploitation/grindhouse genre I can't just pick a few! When I was growing up, I got my education on monster movies and B-movies and exploitation films from a guy named Svengoolie. I grew up in Chicago and Svenghoolie was and still is the local horror movie host. And so, because of him I saw all the original Universal Monster movies like Frankenstein and Dracula and The Wolfman. I saw all the Hammer Horror films, I saw all of the Japanese horror films, the giant monster movies. All the 1950-60's atomic era giant monster movies like Tarantula. I also saw all the AIP movies like I Was A Teenage Werewolf, Burn Witch Burn, etc. I just loved them all. My love of monster movies and genre movies eventually evolved into a love of all kinds of movies. But my first love was definitely monster and B-movies. I drank them in as much as I could from the earliest days I could remember. I was probably 5 when my grandfather introduced me to Frankenstein and it was love at first sight from there.

You mentioned giant monster movies as one of the horror sub-genres that piqued your interest as a kid. Which ones were you drawing from when it came down to do your segment of Chillerama, 'Wadzilla'? Did you know that you'd be the director doing that particular sub-genre for this anthology?

Adam Rifkin: The four directors were sitting down at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset strip and we had all agreed to do Chillerama together & that we were going to divvy up the four movies and see which one each of us should do. Basically, we assigned 'The Diary Of Anne Frankenstein' to Adam Green – we kind of forced it upon him, firstly because we knew he'd do a great job, but also, he's Jewish so we thought you can get away with it without offending anyone. I mean, I'm a Jew too, but it seemed more of a fit for him. We agreed that Joe would do the 'Zom-B-Movie'. From the start, Tim wanted to do the teen angst movie. Originally it was going to be a vampire movie but that evolved into a werewolf movie and it was actually Adam & Joe that came up with idea of a "werebear". We thought that was funny. And I wanted to do a ‘giant monster attacking the city' movie. I had always loved those kinds of flicks. The movie that I took the most inspiration from was The Blob. I remember loving it as a kid, I still love it today and that movie to me is the quintessential 1950's weird giant monster movie. It starts out as a meteor that hits the ground and it's a small blob and it starts eating and becomes bigger and bigger, and eventually it's just a giant blob enveloping this diner that they're all hiding in. And it starred Steve McQueen! How can you get any cooler than that? It was also shot in Technicolor, so that was the movie in particular that I took a lot of inspiration from. That said, I took a lot of inspiration from all of them. I took inspiration from Tarantula and from Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman – just all those films.

I know that Will Barrett shot all 4 segments and he's been the director of photography on all of Adam Green's films. Was there anything specific the directors planned with him in terms of capturing the feel of the era that your segments all took place in? For example, making yours look like a 50's giant monster B-movie?

Adam Rifkin: Will is awesome and absolutely, we all agreed from the very beginning that each segment would look as much like an authentic movie from that era as possible. So Adam's looks like a 1930's Universal Monster movie in black and white. Tim's looks like a bubble-gum beach movie from the early 1960's. Joe's looks like a zombie movie from the late 70's/early 80's. It's got that vibe and look to it. And it was very important to us when we sat down to start prepping 'Wadzilla' that it looked like all those movies from that time that were shot in Technicolor, but like an old print in Technicolor. So it has a certain grainy, scratchy quality, but also the colors are very primary. If someone's wearing a blue suit, you only get one color of blue in the crayon box. You have a very limited color palette. Will and myself and the post house that did the final color correcting – we actually had to research how to create that Technicolor look but it's hard to recreate believe it or not. So what we did is we actually contacted Martin Scorsese's post production people because they had created that look for his movie The Aviator, so his people gave us the software to recreate that Technicolor look for our movie.

You guys got to premiere Chillerama in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Forever cemetery to a huge audience. After living with this idea for so long, what was it like to finally see it completed and screened for a packed crowd?

Adam Rifkin: It was the perfect cherry at the top of the sundae. The idea was hatched 12 years ago when  I was directing Detroit Rock City and Tim was one of the producers on Detroit Rock City and that's how the original idea came about to do this movie. We got busy over the course of the last decade with other things, and then when we met Adam & Joe, the idea was reinvigorated with the enthusiasm of all four of us & our mutual love of exploitation movies. We decided this was the time to do this movie. And also, the movie was done on such a tight budget. Even though all four of us produced the movie as a whole and helped each other out, we were responsible for our individual segments. It was a movie that took a lot longer than you'd expect because it was kind of a side project for everybody. We'd shoot a little of it here, a little of it there. I shot the first half of Wadzilla a year ago! And finished it a year later. So to see it finally come together after all this time and be something we can all have fun with and be happy with and then to have a premiere at the Hollywood Forever cemetery where 3000 people show up, laugh at all the jokes, scream at all the gore – it was so much fun. It was the perfect culmination of a dozen years of "wouldn't it be cool if…?"