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When we last spoke with JEEPERS CREEPERS creator Victor
Salva earlier this year, the filmmaker was just gearing up to shoot his
psychotic paperboy thriller ROSEWOOD LANE (see item here).
Before that production makes its Screamfest debut next month, Salva will be
gearing up to shoot his second fright flick in less than a year, HAUNTED, which
aims to turn the haunted house subgenre on its head.
Salva gave us the
exclusive on HAUNTED, an update on his RATTLEMAN chiller (lensing begins April 1, 2012)
and a few ROSEWOOD LANE
pics to boot (that’s Salva, left, with actor Daniel Ross
Owens). Before we get into the
meaty details on HAUNTED, here’s the film’s official synopsis, courtesy of
DeSanto can touch you and see
exactly how you will die.
“His terrible gift landed him in foster home after foster
home, when he was a boy. Now, on his 20th birthday, Nick’s
institutionalized mother gives him staggering news. Nick’s
father is alive. Not dead as she has told him for many years. He is alive and
may know the origin of Nick’s terrible
“But what starts as a simple road trip to meet the father he
never knew, soon takes a nightmare turn when it leads Nick,
his best buddy Ryan, and Nick’s pregnant girlfriend Eve,
to a house that should no longer exist.
“A house several miles from where it should be.
A house that was ripped off its foundation in a flood
decades ago. A bizarre house, overrun with vegetation and unseen things living
in the walls. A house where Nick had hoped to find his father, but instead
finds himself and his friends, terrorized by a mysterious group of murderous
woodsmen known as The Axemen.
“Axemen guarding the strange old house and the shocking
secret of Nick’s father who lives
“HAUNTED is a terror-filled road trip, full of horrifying
twists and brutal surprises. A heart-stopping thriller about a young man and a
chilling old house that has survived decades, awaiting the return of its
“A house that not only contains the origin of Nick’s gift to
see death before it happens, but a dark family legacy, so horrible, it may have
already reached out to Nick’s unborn child.”
FANGORIA: Wow, you are jumping into your second film in less
than a year, with RATTLEMAN on the horizon. What’s with the sudden flurry of
it’s like the universe created a time for me, a difficult time to be honest,
these past few years, even before the movie industry went into a financial
tailspin. It was a period where suddenly the third JEEPERS film was on again,
off again, on again, off again, then it could only be a direct to DVD project, then it was going to be theatrical but
it had to be in 3D, then it was off again, and then on again…and it was also a
time where a terrific picture called THE SUMMONER I was developing for over a
year at Dark Castle suddenly got shelved for no reason. And another great
script, a World War II horror film called THE WATCH was on again, off again-all
these things contributed to creating a period following PEACEFUL WARRIOR where,
suddenly, there was nothing to do but write. I wrote and I wrote during what I
call my “down time,” and suddenly two of those scripts created during that
period, genre scripts, were suddenly sort of kick-started, I think, by the
appearance of my first film in eight years, ROSEWOOD LANE.
Though no one has publicly seen the film yet, the private
screenings we did hold created interest and confidence in what my partner and
friend (and director and cinematographer) Don Fauntleroy
and I have been planning to do for some time. Create our own production
company. HAUNTED is the second film where Don and I are teaming up, this time
with a very exciting, young producer, Charles Agron, to create what the three
of us think will be the first in a truly unique and startling horror franchise.
FANG: Is it easier to get a horror film launched these days?
SALVA: For me it has always been easier to get my genre films
funded. And why I have more genre films in my filmography than any other kind.
Primarily because in the business of making movies, when you do something like
JEEPERS CREEPERS and it makes money and even breaks a world box office record,
the industry takes notice. Back in 2001, JEEPERS CREEPERS II was greenlit the
same weekend the first JEEPERS opened in theaters-it was that fast. The film
had only played that one Friday, but the phone rang that Saturday morning and
the guys running MGM said, “We
want to do another one,” and so JCII was fast-tracked before the entire Labor
Day weekend receipts had been tallied for the first film.
When JCII was released and broke JC’s previous world record [for
largest Labor Day opening in movie history]-then, suddenly, I was a twice-proven
moneymaker in the genre of horror and suspense. I was a bankable director-in
that genre. Meaning, that like a successful actor, I was typecast suddenly into
one particular kind of film. The upswing, of course, is that studios and
production companies consider very seriously any genre script I have written.
So, yes, horror is easier to get funded for me. It is much more difficult for
me to get interest and financing for a dramatic script, and I have written
quite a few. I don’t consider horror my forte, though I certainly enjoy it and
could never perceive of a time when I wouldn’t want to make a good scary film
if the story and cast were there. I consider myself a filmmaker, one who would
love to make a Western, a musical, a comedy, even a documentary-but the funding
available to me is often only available in the horror genre. And times have
Drama, or even what I call sci-fi drama such as my film
POWDER, which was a sleeper hit for Disney back in 1995, today, sadly, I don’t
believe POWDER could get made. It simply couldn’t find the funding or make it
through the gauntlet of a studio marketing department that is simply thrown by
anything they don’t know how to sell because they haven’t seen it many times
FANG: Did the success of INSIDIOUS help sell this one
SALVA: What got HAUNTED set up so quickly was the belief in
the project by our young producer, Charles Agron.
Charles had the original idea for the
story-a core idea that was really terrific-and it was his relentless pursuit of
the financing for this picture that is ultimately the reason it is getting
made. I have never seen an up and coming producer work harder at trying to get
a picture off the ground.
FANG: What is the production company and is a studio
SALVA: There is no studio attached yet, which is my dream
scenario, being a writer/director, because with a studio or a distributor comes
the inevitable casting requirements, script notes, script changes, and suddenly
the picture is being directed by the marketing department, whose sole criteria
is to make a movie they can cut a good trailer for, or to make a movie they
know they can sell.
It’s all voodoo economics, really, because this is a
business where a sure thing can fall flat on its face, and a tried and true
formula that has worked in the past just doesn’t work now. And I think this is
why so many sequels and remakes fail. So I think HAUNTED will be a better and
stronger film because it has no studio attached yet. And the production
companies creating it, Charles Agron Productions in association with DonVictor
Films, which is Don and myself, can
focus on the movie, on getting the right cast and telling the story the right
way. My biggest financial successes, POWDER and the JEEPERS films, have been the
ones where I was left alone creatively. Writing my script away from studio
notes and then directing it the way I saw it when I wrote it.
I think most of the films we love, the truly memorable ones,
come from a single point of view-and that is the point of view of the
filmmaker. A single vision. A story told from a specific point of view and not
a film by committee. That rarely happens today.
FANG: What was the inspiration for HAUNTED?
SALVA: You would have to ask producer Charles Agron
for a specific answer to that question. This is a story Charles
has been nursing and developing for a while. Where it came from, originally,
only he knows. What I can say is, that the story Charles
had in mind, the idea he brought to me, and the reason he calls it HAUNTED, was
not just because the story is about a young man who finds a spooky old house
that we suspect is haunted. The story is much bigger and darker than that.
We charter new horror territory in HAUNTED. That is the one
rule I think must be kept in doing films in any genre. Bring something new.
Tell a tale and bring a fresh way to tell it. Build on the familiar and take us
from that, to someplace new. Some place exhilarating. And in the horror genre,
some place terrifying.
FANG: What sets this apart from other haunted house films?
SALVA: The great joy in being able to take Charles’ idea and
absolutely run with it was that I got to stop and think about all my favorite
haunted house movies (Peter Medak’s THE CHANGELING, Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING
and Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS) and
what I liked about them. But more importantly, I got to take a spooky old house
and up the stakes, bypass the normal, circumvent the expected haunted house
bits and replace them with unique and heart-stopping setpieces we haven’t seen
before in haunted house movies.
FANG: What are the tropes of the haunted house genre that
you want to avoid?
SALVA: Let me just say this, because I don’t want to give
away any spoilers this early in production: believe me when I say, you have
never seen a house like the house in HAUNTED. And I say that with a lot of
excitement, because of what we have in store for horror fans in this terrific
FANG: What lead you to Mississippi as a location?
SALVA: The same thing that lead us to Central
Florida for JEEPERS CREEPERS. For JEEPERS, it was an old,
abandoned church we saw in pictures the Florida Film Commission sent us. The
church seemed to be right out of our script and immediately made you see the
film. In your head. And it was thrilling. And suddenly, we knew what the film
was about and where we wanted to go to shoot it.
For HAUNTED, we saw a house, a picture of a house in Greenville, Mississippi-an
abandoned, antebellum house, overgrown with vines and stretching into the Mississippi sky, that
literally WAS the house from the HAUNTED script. Suddenly you could see the
movie. You got how scary the film could be-and how real.
And so we went off to Greenville,
met the wonderful people there, saw the house-and learned that it is actually
known to be haunted!-and decided it was Greenville,
Mississippi that would be the
home for our story.
FANG: Will this be another quick shoot, like ROSEWOOD LANE?
SALVA: HAUNTED is a much more ambitious film than ROSEWOOD.
It needs, and will have, a bigger budget and a bigger shooting schedule.
FANG: Who are you eying for the cast?
SALVA: Part of the pure joy of making genre films is that
there is no real cache in booking big stars or known actors (regardless of what
the distributors and studios claim). For instance, in JEEPERS, while being pressured
to hire kids from the WB who had some popularity with kids from TV, but weren’t
necessarily right for the parts, I ended up being able to hire who I thought
were the best two actors for the roles. Gina
Philips and Justin Long
had bags of talent and had some credits, but not a great deal of visibility at
the time they came in and read for JEEPERS. Thanks to my executive producer, Francis Coppola,
who insisted to the studio I be able to cast the film with anyone I felt was
right for my script, we got two great performances from two really terrific
actors. And it made JEEPERS CREEPERS all the stronger and even scarier for it.
HAUNTED is again a film where I am being allowed to cast whoever
fits into my script. And it is an ensemble piece, so the casting is even more
important. We are looking at some name actors, but also at some very new and
very fresh talents and faces. And that is always exciting for me.
on ROSEWOOD LANE
getting into Screamfest. What are the distribution plans after that?
LANE makes its world premiere October 15 at Screamfest LA.
There has already been some studio interest, but the picture hasn’t really been
screened yet for studios or distributors. The Screamfest premiere, where I will
attend with the cast and do a Q&A, that screening will start to tell the
tale of how ROSEWOOD LANE
will be presented to the public. We are all hoping for the best possible
scenario for its distribution, but at this point only time will tell.
FANG: What’s the status of RATTLEMAN?
SALVA: THE RATTLEMAN is scheduled for production directly
after HAUNTED finishes post. And I am in talks with the incredible Doug Jones
to play the title role. The terrifying man-thing, known as The Rattleman. So it
is kind of a triple-header this year for me.
Starting with ROSEWOOD
LANE, which is a unique kind of suburban thriller,
different from the kinds of scares of say a JEEPERS film, and now HAUNTED, a
true horror film in the classic sense, and perhaps, more of a horror film than
any I have yet contributed to the genre. Then following that, and coming full
circle so to speak, with THE RATTLEMAN, which plants me firmly back in my
CLOWNHOUSE/JEEPERS CREEPERS universe, back home to a wonderful and original
monster movie, which I will be happy to tell you more about as production
FANG: After the nongenre PEACEFUL WARRIOR, are you
comfortable with this new run of horror films?
SALVA: I am first and foremost a film lover. I have been
since I was a very young kid. And I was lucky enough to be exposed to just
about every genre of film there is, thanks to a great friend I met around 18,
when I thought all there was, were movies about sharks, spaceships and monsters
from the Black Lagoon.
Am I comfortable with this run of genre pictures ahead of
me? I have read so many biographies about people who were lucky enough to work
in this business, people who were really wonderful at what they did, and yet
lived and died with a chip on their shoulder because they always felt they were
destined for something grander. Bernard
Herrmann, for instance, thought he
was basically slumming by writing music for films-as he wrote some of the most
beautiful, terrifying, glorious music the movies have ever heard. He was a
deeply unhappy man because he felt he deserved better than his position in
biographies like his, helped me appreciate where I am in my life and my career,
and to be happy with it. I am not a horror guy, in the same way I am not a
science-fiction guy, or a drama guy, though I have made films in each of those
genres-and absolutely love all of them.
I am a filmmaker. And horror and suspense films were my
first love, and I can’t imagine a time, when I would say, “No more genre films.”
But like most writer/directors, I believe I have a wide range of storytelling
talents and hope I can go on adventures in every genre in the time I am here,
and not just the one genre where I have created the most revenue.
Three horror films in a row-I am categorizing ROSEWOOD LANE as a
horror film, but it is really in the suspense/terror genre-that is a long haul
for me, over a year and a half, of navigating through a lot of darkness. But I
look forward to each of them, the same way I look forward to whatever the
future holds for me and the stories of mine I get to tell.
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