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Touring October Country with Adam Green

Adam Green has a new—and unrated—film in theaters (Hatchet 2) and a Sundance hit (Frozen) on DVD. We talk horror with the Tribeca alum.


It’s that time of year again—when movie theaters seem just a bit darker than usual. For writer-director Adam Green, the season hasn’t been so much a perfect storm as a crazed maelstrom of activity. A few weeks ago his Hatchet, a breakthrough TFF hit in ‘06, was finally released on Blu-Ray. Joining it now on disc is Frozen, the critically acclaimed thriller that’s a quintessential “exercise in suspense.” But Green’s many fans are perhaps most looking forward to Hatchet II, and why not? It delivers exactly what its audience wants: ridiculously elaborate gore sequences, great one-liners, and plenty of clever in-jokes (including a hilarious addendum to Frozen).


Given how busy Green is these days, we’re grateful he could spend some time with us reflecting on the current state of the horror genre.


Tribeca: We're entering October, when everyone becomes an honorary horror fan. Anything you've been supporting as a fan yourself?


Adam Green: As a fan I’ve seen some great stuff this year in the “indie” world. I enjoyed the hell out of movies like Buried and Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil when they played alongside Frozen at Sundance, and most recently I loved watching movies like Monsters and The Loved Ones at FrightFest in London. As a fan, I’m thrilled to death at the recent announcement of Guillermo del Toro heading into The Haunted Mansion, and in London I also saw my first-ever “horror stage play” (which was truly frightening as hell) called Ghost Stories.


I think horror is alive and well, and most importantly, every one of the films I mentioned is from a new, or newer, filmmaker, and I find that exciting. If you haven’t seen those films yet, please do.  


Tribeca: Speaking of new filmmakers, why do they sometimes find it difficult to follow up on initial success? Any advice you'd offer to the Adam Green of 2005?


Adam Green: Unfortunately, part of the reason why it’s hard for some filmmakers to follow up on their initial success is that it’s next to impossible to get an original film made in today’s climate. Also, very few independent films actually go on to become financial successes due to lack of distributor support—and lack of an actual chance at the box office. Hatchet was put on 80 screens back in 2007, and it was pummeled by the remake of Halloween. But Hatchet really blew up on DVD worldwide and became quite the success. That’s the main reason why I was able to make more films.


I was also careful to make sure that my next few efforts were nothing like Hatchet because I knew—despite the fanboy love that Hatchet enjoys—the suits and decision-makers would never really respond to or “get” it. So I busted my ass to make Spiral while still in post-production on Hatchet. Spiral was a small arthouse drama—a completely different piece of storytelling. To come out of the gate with such a radically different one-two punch helped set me apart and showed that I was a diverse and capable director.  


If I could go back in time, the honest truth is that I’d tell myself to enjoy the ride more. I’m such a masochist and neurotic person that I’ve yet to enjoy a single victory in all this. I’ve been so fortunate and had so many wonderful wins, but I was always pushing myself and working on what was next. The past five years have given me more victories than most aspiring filmmakers will ever get the chance to have, and I feel like I forgot to show up to the party because I was too busy working.


My goal moving forward is to slow down and smell the roses. If I don’t, I’m gonna burn out in a matter of months.



Tribeca: Interesting to hear you say that because I think of you as someone who does show up at the party. You’re very active on the festival circuit, for example. What’s that been like?


Adam Green: My career was really born on the festival circuit, and it’s been something I’ve embraced and loved from day one, when Hatchet world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. For independent films, there’s no better way to get the word out.
I’ve been very fortunate that, so far, all my films have performed wonderfully at festivals, and having those reviews, awards, and responses has been instrumental in convincing distributors that there’s something special about each of them.
I also find that festival audiences can have some of the most serious fans out there. They can’t wait until movies are in general release so they seek them out at the first chance they can possibly get. Because of that, films tend to play in a way that’s even more fun. For instance, the audience response to Frozen at a general matinee show has nothing on the fun of watching it play five sold-out shows at Sundance to fans who stood outside in the cold for up to six hours just to see it “first.” For a filmmaker to get such immediate reaction and even get to do a Q&A right after a screening… it’s amazing.


I’m forever grateful to the programmers who have believed in my films and given them a shot. I pay them back by continuing to bring them movies, attending even if I’m not presenting, being on juries, etc. I am very loyal to the people who have supported me.
Tribeca: Unfortunately, for every loyal fan it seems that the genre has anti-fans, too. And I don’t mean the non-fan, which is of course fine, but someone who’s dismissive but should know better. They see only generalities, or can’t distinguish a film that's dark and violent from one that’s also mean-spirited. Your thoughts?


Adam Green: This is something that irks me daily. When Hatchet hit theaters, a major newspaper panned it by saying, “It’s just a bunch of teenagers having sex, doing drugs, and getting killed one by one.” Now if you’ve seen Hatchet, there are no teenagers in it, no one has sex, no one does drugs, and they get picked off in TWOs. This brilliant ”critic” had made up their mind before they even saw it and couldn’t even take the time to get their digs straight.
But such is the fate of working in this genre. A movie like Hatchet isn’t going to win over a person who doesn’t like slasher films, no matter how you slice it. And that’s precisely why the diehards have embraced it like they have. It’s a movie for “us.”
But you bring up a great point that there’s a difference between “fun” and “mean-spirited.” I was appalled when the MPAA slapped Hatchet with an NC-17 but gave the torture-porn movies all “R” ratings. Hatchet is completely all in fun and there is not a frame of it that’s realistic or depraved. Audiences walked out laughing and smiling. [The MPAA] castrated Hatchet for theaters and then tried again with Hatchet 2, but this time we found a way around them to get the largest UNRATED release of a horror film in over 25 years.  



Tribeca: In 2007 you told me this was "the most unforgivable decade in the history of horror," and backed it up with lots of examples of lack of imagination in the genre. I'm hesitant to ask, but do you still feel that way?


Adam Green: I still feel like Hollywood is in a slump with the genre. It’s so hard to get an original genre film green-lit, and now even the indie world is leveled because of a poor economy and an industry where movies just aren’t selling like they used to. Between illegal downloading and other digital bootlegging, the projections for a movie’s profits are way down, and you now need a miracle just to score a decent budget to make a film.


On the mainstream side they want only safe bets, so the pre-packaged titles and remakes still rule their mindset. On the indie side we’ve seen some absolutely amazing work over the past few years creatively, but sadly very little of it gets a chance against the current trends. I mean, we live in a world where “Random Remake of the Month” gets 3,000 screens and $50 million in advertising while movies like Mike Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat go straight to video. That’s unforgivable, and I hope audiences start to realize they’re in control. Support the things you want and skip the things you don’t want to see. Hollywood will eventually listen as it’s only after your wallet.


Tribeca: Finally, what's the difference between "horror" and "terror"... and which one is Hollywood better at?
Adam Green: Horror, to me, deals with things that are fantastical, violent, gory, or just plain old disturbing and shocking. Terror is something that sneaks up on you more and really gives a slow chill up your spine. For instance in my own work, I think Hatchet is as “horror” as a film comes, with its unstoppable monster/villain and its ultra-violent gore and jump scares. But Frozen is definitely a “terror” film because it’s filled with suspense, anxiety, emotions, and a sense of realism that pulls you in on an emotional level, not just a visceral one.
I honestly feel like Hollywood has a pretty good combination of both, and I personally like both, as we’ve seen in my work. However, some recent remakes have been too afraid to pick a side and commit. If you want your film to be fun or horror—go there. If you want it to be scary and full of terror—go there. But when a film walks the line because it wants to please everyone, then it’s a waste of my time. Have a point-of-view, a style, and a tone—and then GO THERE.


Hatchet 2 opens Friday, October 1. Find tickets.


Find Hatchet on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Find Frozen on DVD and Blu-Ray.


Watch the trailer for Hatchet 2:



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