While four directors share credit for the segments that make up the anthology flick Chillerama, it's director Joe Lynch that had the most work cut out for him. Not only does he helm Zom-B-Movie, the fourth and final episode in the flick, but also all of the wrap-around segments that tie the entire movie together!
It's the last night in business for the Kaufman Drive-In movie theater and Cecil Kaufman will be screening his favorite films for the patrons. But the kids in attendance will soon be at the forefront of their own horror movie when zombies rise from the grave and take over the drive-in with one thing on their mind! (And it ain't brains!) I caught up with Lynch to talk about how he got involved in Chillerama and how the project inevitably turned into a love letter to Troma, the NY based Film Company where he originally got his start in film.
From what I understand, the origins of this project started with the four of you guys at the Rainbow Room discussing "wouldn't it be cool to make an anthology film?" Is that how Chillerama all began?
Absolutely. If you want to go further back – Green and I met Sullivan and Rifkin at one of the Masters of Horror dinners. I had been a huge fan of Adam Rifkin's since The Dark Backward. It was one of the first indie movies that I went out to see. So between that and The Chase and Detroit Rock City, I was just a huge fan of his work. I was just so excited to sit down with those guys to talk shop. So when we all met up at the Rainbow, it stemmed from us talking about all these movies that we loved and how they don't do a lot of those types of movies anymore, but also – the thesis of the movie, which was why don't people go to movies anymore? And it seems, at least in LA that the only way to get people to go out anymore is if you have a repertoire film. Something at the New Beverly or The Aero or the Nuart. Yes, I own Evil Dead 2 on Blu-Ray or Pink Flamingos on Laserdisc, but it's really about going to the movies and sharing that experience with people. We were talking about what a shame it is that people don't make movies for audiences to go out anymore. And that's where the idea of us doing it together sparked from. I know that Adam and Tim had been trying to make Chillerama, or at least an anthology for years, but Chillerama itself didn't come to fruition until we all looked at each other and went "we can do this." We all have 3 or 4 fans between the four of us, so if we can get those 12 fans to see this movie, then we're on to something! (Laughs)
Each director tackled their own horror sub-genre with their segment. When you guys were working that all out, was it a given for you to do an homage to late 70's/early 80's zombie movies?
The process of going over it and deciding who was going to do what took a couple of weeks and a lot of fried mozzarella at the Rainbow! Adam and Tim had come up with a sales pitch with a handful of titles. And this sales pitch also had a bunch of fake posters that Rifkin had designed himself for Wadzilla and there was a female werewolf prison movie that he'd come up with. They also just had the title The Diary Of Anne Frankenstein and I think something called Undead Drive-In or Zombie Drive-In or something like that. That spun into Zom-B-Movie. We figured Green would get Diary because he was Jewish. That just made sense. And I would get the zombie one. I didn't balk at the idea of taking the biggest amount of the film, but it was really up to me how big or small I wanted the wrap-around (segments) to be. Because we thought the drive-in would be the cognitive device to why we were watching these films. The problem with a lot of anthologies is "is there a structure to why we're watching these films"? And we thought everyone's gone to a drive-in before or a double-feature. In that situation, you're at the whim of the programmer of the theater as to what you're watching. That's where the idea of Cecil Kaufman came from, which was from an older script I had written coincidently enough about a monster at a drive-in for the last night that this drive-in was going to be open. Knowing that I was probably never going to make that script, and just the fact that it would've been way too uncommercial to make anyways, I figured why don't I take all the things I loved about that script and apply it here. What was great was it fit right in. Before Cecil commits suicide on the last night of his drive-in being open, what if he showed all his favorite movies? What a great drive for a movie and a character. The death of cinema is going to be the death of this guy, so why not go out with a bang? No pun intended. And really that's how it all just fit together.
You had Will Barratt shooting who is director of photography on all of Adam Green's movies. So how closely did you (the directors) work with Will in establishing the look of the era in which your segments took place? The 3 of you had done plenty of shorts for Frightfest and the annual ArieScope Halloween shorts. So did doing those help when it came time to shoot Chillerama?
Of course, absolutely. I'd always wanted to work with Will (Barratt) on everything I've done, and this was just a perfect opportunity since I've seen firsthand his work and his work ethic, which is one of the best and most positive I've ever seen from anyone on a crew. He's just so gung-ho, enthusiastic and he always figures out how to make something work. Knowing that, and knowing the gorilla style that we were going to have to apply to this based on the time and budget, Will was really the most positive reinforcement to making this happen. Between him and production designer Travis Zariwny and Robert Pendergraft who did the FX, everybody had worked with ArieScope before so it felt very comfortable. They'd applied this work ethic to short films, then why not apply that to something a bit bigger? Now, with Green, he had been making short films with that crew for years, so the shorthand that he had with those guys was pretty evident. The fact that they were finishing their days with 4 hours to spare, that's a great testament to their work. I had never officially worked with these guys before. Zom-B-Movie and Deathication was about 53 minutes of content, it's almost a feature. There was a lot more that needed to be done, plus the practical location, we had a lot of extras, a lot of FX, and a lot going on. Me having my idea of doing these long one take shots that were evoking the movies I had grown up with, Will never said no and that was amazing to me that he and the rest of the crew really jumped into this full force, especially after working on Wadzilla and Werebears. It was a tiring experience for everyone, which is how it is on indie films. When it came time for Zom-B-Movie, the crew was exhausted from doing those other segments, so it really took my enthusiasm and Will's energy and positivity that got everybody going. Deathcation was about 50 pages and we shot that in 9 days. It was a testament to that idea that if Roger Corman or Lloyd Kaufman or any of these guys we grew up watching could do this, we could do it too. What we have now is a lot more technology at our hands that allows us to do things faster.
I'm glad you mentioned Lloyd, because you got your start in film back in NY working for Troma and obviously, Chillerama has a Troma influence on it…
Oh yeah! Lloyd's even on the poster! Which was never really talked about. Obviously, we got Phil Roberts who is this amazing poster artist and illustrator. When he showed us the initial design, we were like, "Holy shit, is that Lloyd?" He had no clue and we had no clue. I had written the part of Cecil Kaufman, not for Lloyd to act in it, but with his spirit in mind. When I worked with Lloyd, I never met anyone that could take every aspect of film, an appreciation of cinema to heart. You can talk to about Sam Fuller and Fellini in the same breath as you can talk about Re-Animator or Cannibal Holocaust. He loves all film. That's what blew me away about him and I tried to infuse that into the character Cecil Kaufman, which is obviously named after him and the Kaufman Drive-In is my way of giving back to Lloyd. He's still mad at me, because he's not officially in the movie, but that's his fault completely! He'll say it was "scheduling difficulties" that prevented him from being in it. He was probably in some crack house with a whore, which I understand! That's the Lloyd way. If I couldn't have Lloyd in the film, I knew I would have his spirit in the film and also just that sense of nostalgia that I felt watching films like The Toxic Avenger or Sgt. Kabukiman or Troma Wars. I wanted to apply that feeling to at least Zom-B-Movie. But if you look at the whole film, it has that ramshackled scrappiness that Troma fans know and love. Seeing the movie in New York with Lloyd there was such a delight because not only did he get a standing ovation when he walked into the theater, but after the movie he loved it and said "that was one for us". It was full circle for us, because I started out with Lloyd and being able to do this as a love letter to him was a nice way to say thank you.
So, considering that Chillerama is a loving homage to B-movies, what are some of your all time favorite B-movies? Which are the ones that influenced you the most as a filmmaker?
If we're talking about B-movies that I saw at the drive-in, my biggest influence was the night I saw Beastmaster and The Black Hole. I don't know who thought of that double-feature, but I remember being in a drive-in for Beastmaster first, then The Black Hole and then they played Beastmaster again. Now, I had no clue that Don Coscarelli was the director of that movie when I was a little kid, and again in a full circle kind of moment, it was amazing to be at the Hollywood Forever cemetery with Coscarelli at the drive-in to see our movie. It's funny how things work out that way. But watching Beastmaster at the drive-in still reminds me of that amazing experience of going to the movies and being there with a bunch of people. I remember there was a guy running around at the drive-in with a blanket around his head and if you remember Beastmaster, there were these creatures in that that would shake you & envelope you and turn you to bones – there was a guy there running around in a freaking blanket doing that and as a kid it scared the shit out of me! You just don't get that at theaters anymore. In terms of the movies that influenced Zom-B-Movie, I tried to mimic the movies that I loved in the 80's that pushed boundaries. Things like Re-Animator and Evil Dead 2 and Street Trash. Those were the movies to me that took sex & violence and mashed them up in a way that you could still have fun, but it's still dangerous. The other 2 films that influenced Zom-B-Movie were American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused, because you're encapsulating an ensemble of characters and putting them in a situation that happens on one night, which both American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused do so well. And then you're sort of weaving in and out of conversations. The thing that I loved about going to the drive-in or the New Beverly or just going to the movies with a bunch of good friends is that feeling of synchronicity when it comes to watching movies. You quote movies, you quote each other. Movies become a conversation piece and it's not the same anymore. And I wanted to capture that. Whether you like that or not – I've read reviews saying that we couldn't make up our own dialogue, we stole from a bunch of other movies, well then you don't get the point. The point is we use cinema as a communication. It's a way to communicate with other people using lines or knowing that that person knows what you're talking about. Every character in the film uses film as a way to communicate with each other. That's my entire life. That's your life. We're used to using that as a springboard for communication. To me, it was exciting to use that as a device here. I've had this stupid phrase in my head for 20 years now, "when there's no more room in hell, the dead shall fuck the earth." I thought to myself I have to do something with that! I have to apply that somewhere! When Chillerama came around, that was it!