Tom Atkins' name is one familiar to many longtime horror fans. It adorns the credits of films as diverse as The Fog, Night of the Creeps, Maniac Cop, Creepshow, and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, just to name a few. And, love it or hate it, My Bloody Valentine 3D is cause for celebration, if only because it marks Atkins' return to horror after twenty years working in other genres. But don't worry: after co-starring in Valentine and reminiscing about some of his favorite roles with us yesterday, I think we can expect to see Tom drenched in stage blood again very soon.
Are you a horror movie fan? What did you think about My Bloody Valentine 3D?
I thought this movie was so fun. I hooted and hollered the whole time I watched it. I had a wonderful time. I saw it with Fred Dekker – he wrote and directed Night of the Creeps many years ago – and we just hollered and screamed. It was a "feel-good fright." It's not like being tortured in Saw or one of those type of movies.
I used to be a bigger horror movie fan when I was younger. The older I get, the less of a fan I am. I'm not sure why. I think it is because of these modern torture-horror films. They are so… I don't know, you feel like you are in a locked room and you can't get out. They are too scary. It's not so much that I don't like horror movies anymore, I just don't like most of the movies coming out these days. My Bloody Valentine 3D is scary but fun. I liked the first The Ring – that one was wonderfully frightening. And I like the ones I made, a long time ago.
Which was your favorite to make?
Night of the Creeps without a doubt. The setup of the movie was an homage to older horror movies, and it had a little bit of everything for everyone in it. Two young kids as the heroes, with the flame thrower as their main weapon; me as a grizzled old detective who is so jaded. I had so many good lines in that movie. "Girls, I have good news and bad news. The good news is your dates are here." [high-pitched girly voice] "What's the bad news?" "They're dead." And then the zombies came up the sidewalk to take the girls to the prom – it was just a hoot.
How did you get involved in My Bloody Valentine 3D?
The director, Patrick Lussier, had seen many of those old horror films I had done, and was a big fan. He knew that if he could talk me into playing Jim Burke, he'd be a happy camper. And he did. He prefaced it with, "You have one of the most horrible deaths in the film," and proceeded to tell me that the entire lower half of my face was going to be ripped off and thrown into the back row of the audience. I was game for that – it sounded like fun! That was a big selling point, but so was Patrick himself. I wasn't familiar with his work, but we had an instant rapport. That doesn't happen very often. We sat down over a cup of coffee in Pittsburgh and we talked as if we had known each other all our lives. It was very easy to say yes to Patrick. And I am grateful for it. I had a wonderful time, and I think Patrick did a great job of putting the movie together.
How does shooting in 3D compare with traditional 2D shoots?
I found it to be pretty much the same. The equipment looked different, but my job as an actor was pretty much the same. I didn't have to do much ducking around to avoid cameras or any gizmos or anything. I didn't find shooting to be all that different, but it was stunning to watch at the premiere. From the first frame – with the Lionsgate logo – I was just floored. And then the first axe killing, where that guy's eye just flies into your lap!
Do you have a favorite kill from the movie?
Mine! Me trying to hang on to that pick axe while it is through my lower jaw. Judging from the screams and hollers from the audience, I think it was their favorite, too. I had to do a head cast for that – a grimacing, scared face.
Do you have any stories to share about any of the actors?
I met everyone before we started shooting, except Betsy Rue [Irene]. I met her at the premiere, and what a hoot she is! Her dad was there with her, and he said, "I didn't think she should do it, but what the heck, if you are going to go for it, you may as well really go for it." That was her attitude, too. She was wonderful. Her dad told me that, at home, they always have to tell her to put some clothes on – I guess she is always walking around naked.
Had you seen the original?
No, I never have.
You have had such a long and varied career. Do you have a particular genre or medium you prefer to work in?
I hadn't been in a horror movie for a long time, and this was a treat. It made me fall in love with horror all over again. I wouldn't mind doing a bunch more! I just love being an actor, though I think I prefer film to stage and television. You get to travel to all sorts of great places, and you get better money for not quite as much work as with stage.
What scares you?
Right now, falling out this hotel window! It's really high. I do have a fear of heights. But truly, I am more scared that something would happen to my son or my wife.