When it comes to being a director in the horror genre, there’s a certain amount of resilience and fortitude needed to withstand the territory. Horror has always been incredibly divisive as content alone, often pulling in both supporters and critics on polarized sides of their respective tastes. Once you factor in a studio system that loves to label and categorize, a ratings system that seems to never work in your favor and a media landscape that refuses to acknowledge your work as anything more than brainless entertainment, and it’s a surprise that any filmmaker would willingly enter the genre at all.
However, the human condition will lead us to follow our subconscious desires, and for many filmmakers, those desires are embedded in the world of horror. Horror gives filmmakers a certain amount of narrative freedom to let loose the screws of sanity, mixing pure imagination with the attraction of annihilation. It’s in that realm where Adam Green carved out his name, spearheading the Hatchet films as one of the first successful horror franchises in a very long time, especially when considered all three films have been made outside of the studio system. And while Green has shown a ranged versatility in his projects such as FEARnet’s sitcom Holliston to his home video hit Frozen, he will still be known as the man who birthed the twisted and sadistic Victor Crowley. Green spoke to Diabolique over the newest, and possibly last, chapter in the Hatchet saga, Hatchet III, as well as the second season of Holliston and the status of his upcoming films, Killer Pizza and Digging Up The Marrow…
DIABOLIQUE: One of the best performances from Hatchet III comes from Zach Galligan, who shows a range and versatility than you couldn’t have guessed even from his charismatic appearances as “the boy next door” in his ‘80s genre films. In your opinion, what do you think convinced the semi-retired actor to board Hatchet III as his comeback role?
ADAM GREEN: Something everyone needs to know about Zach is that he’d never seen Hatchet or Hatchet II when we had approached him for this. So he started doing research on the role, and before he’d even watched the Hatchet movies, he said “yes” because of the fans. He saw the whole “Hatchet Army” thing, and how rabid the fan base is, and saw people with tattoos of Victor Crowley just from searches on the internet. He read the reviews and the message boards, and that’s what he focused on.
The great thing about Hatchet II was that the major critics loved it, like The New York Times, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. They all gave it great reviews, and that normally doesn’t happen. Hatchet did not get [those reviews], and Hatchet II did. But [Zach] didn’t care about any of that. He cared about the fans, and he said, “I can see there’s something special here. This fan base is insane, and I want to be apart of that.”
A lot of his questions throughout his process to me were like, “What about the fans? What do people like? What do they want?” It was so cool that that was his angle, and not, “Oh, this thing is critically acclaimed and it makes a lot of money, so I’ll do it.” He didn’t even watch the [original Hatchet] movies until he’d agreed to do it.
DIABOLIQUE: Your current project, Holliston, differs from much of your work because not only is it a television sitcom, but it gears more towards comedy with inspirations from the horror lexicon. When developing a sitcom, did you attempt to embrace the well-known tropes and conventions of the medium or did you set to outright subvert them with your genre elements?
GREEN: That’s a really interesting question because the whole point of Holliston was to do a traditional sitcom that looks, sounds and feels like something you’d find on NBC or CBS, like Two and a Half Men or How I Met Your Mother, but to do it for us. We wanted to do it the way that we’d want to see a sitcom, and until there was FEARnet, that never would have happened. The show had almost happened a lot of different times at major networks, and the first thing that would happen in the development process was, “Well, the two main guys can’t want to be horror filmmakers because nobody is going to want to watch that.” I’m like, “Are you kidding? Why wouldn’t they watch it?” “Oh, well, it’s horror. We don’t want to do that.” “But look at The Big Bang Theory! These guys are into mensa and NASA and Star Trek. They’re geeks, but you don’t have to like that stuff to enjoy the show and like the characters and the situations.”
That would always go. The “imaginary alien in the closet” would have to go, so by making a show with FEARnet, we’re able to make a horror-celebrating sitcom. The show isn’t scary and a lot of the fans of the show now aren’t horror fans. The horror fans were the front line, and that’s where we were really worried because we had to stay true to the tropes of a sitcom. Otherwise, what was the point of doing a sitcom? We didn’t know if the horror fans would accept that or if they’d like it, or if it’d be too weird for them. But seeing these people, whether it’s Joe [Lynch] or myself, or the horror icons that guest star on a sitcom, we didn’t know if they’d think we were making fun of sitcoms. But not only did they embrace it, but they embraced it extremely passionately and right out of the gate, so we got a second season order instantly, like right after the second episode aired, which doesn’t always happen. It’s unheard of.
It was also very hard for my crew because it was the same people that make my movies with me. I’ve worked with the same people for 15 years now, and we were used to doing features. So even stuff like basic coverage, you have to do it like a sitcom. And sometimes it’s like, “Oh, you know what’d be cool? If we had this awesome shot, where-” and they’d say, “No, you can’t do that. That’s not how it works. It’s got to be performed like a play. You have to have your wide shot, your medium and your close, when applicable, and that’s how you do it.” So it was very hard the first season, especially, because the feature sensibilities want to go elsewhere, but you’ve got to stay true to [sitcoms].
Now with the second season, we were used to it, and there’s this level of confidence from the first episode [of the second season] where you can see just how confident the cast and the crew are, because the first time around, we were nervous. We were like, “We’re not sure if it’s going to work. This could be the biggest mistake ever, despite that this was my dream project and what I came into [showbusiness] to do. What if people just reject it?” And now that it’s been embraced and we know what’s working, there’s just so much confidence behind the performances. And the thing people embrace the most, and this is also speaking of the horror fans, was the sentimental stuff, and the fact that we portrayed horror fans as real people with real feelings, who get beaten down and have to try to pick themselves back up again, and go through heartbreaks and “the girl who got away.”
If anybody out there feels like they know what it’s like to be at that part of their life, it’s [horror fans], and that’s why we’re a community. That’s why you don’t see action movie conventions, necessarily, or romantic comedy conventions, but you do see horror conventions. And to everyone who’s ever been to one, you could go there knowing nobody and leave with 15 great friends by the end of that first day. We are very, very close knit and a very accepting group, so that’s what they like about the show. The fan mail that we get isn’t, “Oh this was my favorite part,” or “Oh this is funny,” it’s like ‘thank you’ letters, and they were long, like four pages, six pages, ten pages of handwritten letters of people sharing with us the thing that they’re trying to do. And very few of [those people] wanted to be filmmakers. One girl wanted to be a ballerina, and one was a tax accountant who only wanted to make partner or something, and how he’d sort of given up and just accepted, “Oh, I’m never going to be the partner, and I’m just going to be the underling,” and I motivated him to keep trying.
On that level, that’s great. That’s what I’d hoped people would get out of it, because there are a lot of people with feelings who are like that. We struggled with Season One because sometimes we’d debate in the editing suite, between myself and the network, where’d we’d say, “Oh that sentimental moment here, do we blow through this quicker? Do we cut it? Are our fans going to watch this? Is it too sappy?” But no, not at all. So, with the Christmas special especially, which was very sentimental and emotional towards the end, and a lot of people ended up crying when they watched it, which I thought was great.
The second season isn’t like the special, which was a very unique thing, but there are moments of heart that sneak up on you throughout, and that’s what makes the show. You can have all the jokes and references and gags, but that’s not a series. That’s not going to have longevity, but if you have characters that people can be invested in and care about, that’s when you have something special that can keep going and going. I hope this show goes forever and that we never stop making it. It’s so much fun to do and it does not get in the way of making movies, since as you can see, Hatchet III is coming out, and a week after season one opened, Chillerama came out. Joe Lynch is making Everly and I’m making Digging Up The Marrow.
But the fan-response to Holliston has renewed my faith in fans and humanity, since they’re the ones driving the ship now because FEARnet’s not openly rated. It’s not about numbers, it’s about the fans, and they listen to everything the fans say. From Twitter, Facebook and the fan mail that we get, they look at that and they listen. They want to be a network for horror fans. It’s not just old horror movies with screaming and blood and guts, they’re looking for a little bit of substance that you can’t get somewhere else. I can’t thank them enough for being willing to roll the dice and try this, because Holliston could have been a disaster.
DIABOLIQUE: On Holliston, do you ever fear that the more ridiculous aspects of the show will affect the natural progression of story and character?
GREEN: Well, I think the ridiculous elements are what drew fans into the show. If you ever see the commercials that FEARnet made, they never show the moments of levity, heart and honesty. They show the ridiculous stuff, and that’s what drew people in. I think people were surprised by the fact that these were three-dimensional characters with real problems and real feelings. That’s what’s keeping us going. That’s why we have a second season and hopefully more. Even Oderus is an imaginary alien friend that I have, but in sharing with him and with Joe, and having told the rest of the cast what his arc is in Season Three, if we get a Season Three, I think people are going to be very moved by what happens to him.
It sounds implausible and it sounds like a ridiculous thing to even suggest, but these are real people. There’s an episode this season, I think it’s the second-to-last episode, where [Oderus] moves out of the closet because he feels I take advantage, like all I do is ask him for help and I never help him with anything. That’s the beauty of [Holliston]: you can take a ridiculous situation that’s laughable but you ground it in honesty. Lynch always says it best when we’re rehearsing, “It doesn’t matter how silly or ridiculous this is, because if you can find the truth in it and play these characters from a place of real honesty, like when we geek out over John Landis or I get too close to Danielle Harris and do everything that a fan can do wrong at a convention, then you’re still a real person.” There are real people out there who do want to see [Danielle], and aren’t in the industry and want to be something more, and that’s really why I think the show could go forever.
This is where it kind of gets weird: there were three shows that we watched and studied. They were All in the Family, Seinfeld and Taxi. Taxi is all about people in purgatory, because everyone who works there thinks they’re going to go on to do something else. One wants to be a boxer, one wants to be an actor, and Judd Hirsch’s character just doesn’t know. Everyone thinks they’re just there to fuck around. With Holliston, every character [is like that]: Lance Rockett (Dee Snider) wants to be a rock star, Laura [Ortiz] wants to be an artist, Corri [English] wants to be a country singer. It’s all different things that don’t necessarily trade in horror, but it’s about the fact that these people have a journey that they’re on and a dream they’re chasing. It sucks when the world tells you, “Maybe don’t do that,” and chances are that they odds are against you, but I think because the show is based on my real life, I always try to say to other aspiring filmmakers that I’m living proof that you shouldn’t worry about the odds.
Don’t worry about the doors that are going to slam in your face, all the “no” that you’re going to get, and the hate and the negativity that surrounds this stuff. It’s the only business that you can do something and everybody has the right to completely and publicly shun you and attack you personally. It’s hard. It’s really hard. But if you don’t let that disenchant you and change who you are, and you just steer the course and only worry about you. A lot of people in this business get bent out of shape when something good happens for somebody else, like, “Why did that guys movie get made? Why is that guy so popular and I’m not?” Fuck that. You can’t worry about that. That has nothing to do with you, and be fucking happy for that guy. He probably worked his ass off to get there, too and hopefully they’ll be happy for you one day when you get your chance.
Horror is the only world that’s like that because there’s a very communal existence here whereas in the comedy world, which is where I came from originally, they’re dicks, man. They’re miserable people and very competitive. You think it’d be the other way around, but the horror crowd is very sympathetic and there’s a lot of heart there. So, I don’t think the ridiculousness could get old or passé cause it’s all grounded by very real people, as you’ll see throughout the second season especially. I mean, season one was only six episodes where we introduced everything and set the tone, so that was just a sample. But the Christmas episode, especially, proves that this show could go for a long, long time. There’s a lot of substance there, and when this season is over, I would be surprised if fans weren’t really looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen next. I mean, you can watch each episode as a standalone, and enjoy Holliston for what it is, but there is an underlying story that’s kind of like a movie. Each season has a beginning, middle and an end, even though it’s serialized, and it just sort of keeps on going. So as long as we keep it honest and real, I think the silly will be a welcome, fun part of the show.
DIABOLIQUE: Outside of Hatchet and Holliston, your work has been within centralized, structured narratives in that they’re very conclusive and difficult to expand beyond the presented story. Do you prefer working with open-ended tales or do you rather prefer singularly represented stories?
GREEN: I think I prefer a centralized narrative goal, but it really depends on the story. With something like Frozen or Spiral or [the Green-produced] Grace even, people have talked about being open for sequels. [Grace director] Paul Sollet and I disagree, because Grace was that moment in time with that story, with a beginning, middle and end. With Hatchet being a slasher movie, especially being reminiscent of what slasher movies used to feel like in the ‘80s, the goal was always to do more of them and to have people still live because there’s a plan for that. And obviously, something like Holliston is designed to go for a long, long time.
I have six seasons ready to go; they’re not all typed out but the storylines and the arcs and where we’re going to go and the only people who I tell that stuff to are Joe, Corri and Laura. They’re the only ones who get any input on the scripts with me. If the network has notes or whatever, which they usually don’t, I’ll definitely listen to those, and contemplate and consider them. But it’s really just the four of us. I write every episode myself, but they all have input. I slipped at one point this season, and I mentioned something that was going to happen that sent both girls home crying because they’d gotten so upset with me. I thought that was actually kind of funny, but, yeah, it depends on the project.
On a movie like Frozen, there has been talk about a sequel because the movie made a shit-ton of money. So, of course, [AnchorBay] was like, “What if we were to do a sequel?” I don’t know what that sequel is, necessarily. That doesn’t mean that sequel couldn’t happen, but I don’t think I’ll be the one writing and directing it, and I don’t think you’ll see any of the cast coming back, necessarily. I don’t know what that movie would be. It’s not a reality, by any stretch, but it’s been discussed.
I don’t know. E.T. is my favorite movie of all time, and I’m so glad that E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet (or Nocturnal Fears) never came to fruition because sometimes sequels can ruin the first film. I mean, how many times have you seen that happen where there’s a movie you loved and the sequel comes out, and it’s so bad that it almost, in a way, tarnishes the original? You don’t want to see that happen.
DIABOLIQUE: You’ve spanned through many subgenres of horror through your work, including horror-comedy with Chillerama, survival horror in Frozen, atmospheric suspense in Spiral and old-fashioned slasher horror in Hatchet. Is there any genre or subgenre that you’ve not yet approached that you would like to work with in the future?
GREEN: Well, my favorite movies growing up were things like The Goonies, E.T. and Back to the Future, so I really do love a good coming-of-age story like that. I think that some of the more timeless ones are like Stand by Me, and I do have some scripts for things like that, but I’m waiting for the right time to do that. A lot of the stuff that I write isn’t just because they say, “Write what you know.” Everything I do is very, very personal, and you can see me as an open book in all of it. With Holliston, it’s exceptionally personal because it’s my real story, to some extent. I think if you can be willing and not afraid to put yourself out there, even though you know you’re gonna get judged and criticized, that’s when you can make something that’s special, and it touches people differently than on the level of just watching a movie where it’s 90 minutes of entertainment and then it’s over.
I would like to do some of that stuff that’s a little more serious. I have this project called Killer Pizza that Chris Columbus and his company, 1492 Productions, is producing. I don’t know when, or if, it’s even going to get shot. It’s a big budget movie and it’s kind of like The Monster Squad and Ghostbusters and The Goonies in a way. It’s kids fighting monsters and stuff, but at the core of it is a coming-of-age story about a 16 year old boy. I’m really excited about that one and I hope that, one day, it does get made. But because it’s a studio movie, it just takes forever and ever, so you never know.
That’s what I love about the independent side. You can usually just do it and get the movie made without interference. I’ve always written on the studio side. Most of my income from when I was starting out was from writing pilots for television, usually sitcoms or comedies that half of them never even got shot or I’d be punching up somebody else’s script anonymously. That’s how I was making money so I could afford to do something like Hatchet. On Spiral, I never got paid at all. Zero! I did that movie for free, and I did it because I loved it.
So I’m very fortunate, and I’m fortunate that because these movies have done so well that I have my own company and my own studio and my own family and my own crew. Instead of going to work everyday, I see my best friends and we’re on a little island, doing our own thing, and I’ve got a fan base that supports that. 99% of the world of filmmaking would love that, and they don’t have it, so I’ll never take that for granted. And on set, I’ll always have that moment where I’ll say, “Why couldn’t we have $20,000 to do this light?” or “I wish I could have one more day.” You’ll always go, “Fuck, I wish I had studio money right now to do this thing the way I wanted to do it.” But the creative freedom is great.
DIABOLIQUE: Aside from Killer Pizza, do you have anything else genre-related in development?
GREEN: With Killer Pizza, right now I’m just waiting to hear what the plan is going to be. It was through MGM, and I’d gone through many, many, many drafts of that script through the development process. Ultimately, it came back around to where it started, and thankfully, 1492 Productions ended up taking the script back. So I’m really, really grateful to them for doing that. We’ll see what happens. It could happen this year or it could happen in 8 years. I have no idea.
But hopefully, we’ll have that, and we’ll have Season Three of Holliston, which we’re praying for. Then, I have this project called Digging Up The Marrow, which I’m already in-production on. It’s a really unique project because it was myself and Alex Pardee, who is one of my favorite artists. His artwork really inspired me, and I almost set my career in a new direction for a little bit. I’d never been so inspired by artwork before. I’d seen a Monet a couple times before and was bored out of my fucking mind. I was like, “That’s boring, guys. I don’t care.” Show me the cover art of a Megadeth album or a Metallica album and I’ll freak out over it for an hour. Show me a Monet or a Van Gogh and I don’t get it. I guess I’m not a very cultured guy, I guess.
But I like what I like, and Alex’s stuff really inspired me. He told me he was a fan of mine and I was a fan of his, and I asked, “Where does this stuff come from? Where is this stuff born? What is the process?” So we started by saying, “Let’s make a documentary about monster art.” I hadn’t seen one before, and there were so many artists and filmmakers that we could talk to, but through those discussions, we started talking about fans. [We talked about] the scary and creepy stuff that fans had sent us at some point or that we’d experienced. [Alex] had a guy come up to him at a signing, lift up his shirt and slice his chest open with a straight razor. Paramedics had to come because he was bleeding out everywhere, just because this guy thought Alex would think that was cool. And I had a guy sending me messages that he’s found real monsters, he knows where they are and he just wants a guy to tell his story to prove to the world that they’re real.
We were laughing about that and then I thought, “What if we respond?” So then the movie went into this whole other direction. It started out that we were making a documentary, and now it’s more like we’re making a feature narrative. What’s great is that there are no rules to it. I don’t want to label it a mockumentary, and it’s definitely not a found footage movie. We really don’t know what it is. We’re just letting it take us on this journey. And at the end of the day, I think it’s going to end up being a fictional feature narrative that started out in this place of reality.
It’s really weird, and it’s really cool, and there’s only ten of us working on it. We don’t really talk about it, and whenever we’re shooting stuff, we don’t let people see what we’re doing. Who knows how it could actually end up, but I hope that we finish it this year, for sure. It’s really cool to have something where we don’t know what it is yet. So that’s really what’s next. After, Hatchet III opens, I’m going to my parent’s place for “work rehab” because I’ve been working two years straight without a break and it damn near killed me, but then I’m going back and filming the bigger set pieces for Digging Up The Marrow, so that should be done this year.
Hatchet III is in limited theaters now, as well as VOD, while Holliston can be found Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on FEARnet. For more on Green and his projects, visit ariescope.com, or follow Green on Twitter: @Adam_Fn_Green. For more about Green, his future projects and Hatchet III, keep your eyes on DiaboliqueMagazine.com!
– By Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine and Fangoria Magazine. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.