ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Exclusive Interview With Director Jeff Burr - Part 3
By James Whittington, Monday 31st May 2010

Jeff BurrWriter, producer, director Jeff Burr has been behind some of the most inventive horror movies from the last twenty years. He gained notoriety in 1990 when he unleashed (well tried to anyway) Leatherface, the third instalment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. Recently on Horror you may have caught his movies Werewolf Reborn and Devil's Den. Jeff has also made memorable contributions to the long running Puppet Master franchise and produced some pretty cool kids TV shows so we thought it was time we tracked this man from Georgia down to see exactly what inspires him to make such a diverse range of movies. In this, the third and final part of an exclusive interview, Jeff talks about his TV work and his plans for the future.

HC: You spent some time on the TV series, Big Bad Beetleborgs, how different was that to movie production?

JB: I have done relatively little true television...just two episodes of the 90's version of Land Of The Lost and 3 episodes of Big Bad Beetleborgs. Land Of The Lost I felt I made more of a directorial contribution...I did "Gladiators" and "Future Boy". It was a total kick to get to meet Sid and Marty Kroft (as they were childhood icons of 70's TV) at the season wrap party, and I felt I did something with those episodes. Beetleborgs used a good deal of stock footage from the original Japanese show, and they were done in 11 days for three episodes...so it was very hard to break the formula. There is one shot that I am proud of in those three episodes. A slow motion shot of two kids who have just turned into vampires running down a suburban street, capes flying in the wind. It was a good experience for me to direct TV, you use different directorial muscles, and the cast and crew of both shows were a lot of fun. Robert Hughes the producer for Saban, and Randy Pope, the producer for Krofft, both were great to work for. Both gentlemen and straight shooters, increasingly a rarity in this business!


HC: Are children a harder audience to please?

JB: I don’t think children are harder to please, but of course the trick in making a so-called kids movie or show is to make it for adults, and then utilize the kid in you. You can never condescend to kids, they will sense it and be totally turned off. They are a very smart audience, so you have to work on multiple levels...the best kids movies work for adults and kids. I would love to do a children’s movie one day that I have control over, and I think it would be more like Time Bandits than Hannah Montana. But I think the answer to your question is all audiences are harder to please in 2010! They feel they have seen everything already, so there is a certain cynicism that is ingrained...and an unconscious hostility. They are sitting there with their arms folded, saying "entertain me, motherf*****" and if they aren’t into it in the first five minutes, they have already checked out and are texting friends saying the movie sucks and emailing the IMDb with a 2 rating! But weirdly, most of the audience doesn’t seem to want something really different, just the proverbial new wine in old bottles, and if the audience isn’t willing to experiment, you can be damn sure the executives aren’t going to hire experimental directors! And that’s really the only way the medium really grows! So, it is a combination of filmmakers and producers playing safe and the audience passively going along with it.

HC: Is it hard to approach movies such as Puppet Master Parts 4 and 5?

JB: Well, again, Puppet Master 4 and 5 were totally compromised from the get-go, with limited prep because Charlie Band was going to direct the film as the first theatrical Full Moon feature for Paramount, and then something happened, and that fell apart, so he took the script, split it in two, padded it out, and made two direct to video sequels instead! One of the problems of those movies, in my mind, were on one level, they were like kids movies that would be G rated, and on the other hand they were R rated horror films, and in reality, they were neither. So I tried to make mine as snappy and stylish as I could, given the circumstances, and it really was like TV in the sense you had a crew that had been making these movies for a few years, and you were the new guy. So there was certain clashes with various departments when you wanted something they weren’t used to doing, not to mention budget problems and cash flow problems during the making of them. They were shot simultaneously, and 4 was edited quickly to come out fast, and 5 languished for a long time, with nothing being done, and then it was hurry up we have to have this to replace some other film that isn’t ready! I love part 5, not for any reason other than the people in it...most of them were my friends, so that was and is a fond memory of the making. And I got to work for a day with Ron O’Neal, and Kaz Garas, star of The Last Safari! (A film my brother and I had seen as a kid and loved) The funny thing about those movies is that no one, and I mean no one, understood the script and thought it made any kind of sense at all, Puppet Master logic or dramatic logic or just plain readability! Maybe it was the equivalent of directing a film not in your native language! And lastly, in all seriousness, the movies got a bad rap because quite frankly we were following a movie that was a lot of fun, very imaginative and inventive, and different than the others...namely Puppet Master 3, the best of the sequels, written by Courtney Joyner and directly with crisp efficiency and style by Dave DeCouteau.

HC: The pressure to keep the loyal fans as well as the executives happy must be pretty intense, how did you cope?

JB: You didn’t have time to cope, or to think...all I did on those movies was to put the maximum amount of energy into them as I could, and style, and fun. Jason Adams, who played Cameron, and Gordon Currie, who played Rick, really got into the spirit of it and were great to work with, as was Chandra West. And it was obvious that the puppets were the defacto stars, so I put a lot of attention into making them more human-like and different than previous films. As for executives, the only one that was around fairly often was Albert Band, who was a great guy to talk to...he truly loved films and of course he knew everybody. He was one of the writers of Huston's version of Red Badge Of Courage, and of course he produced some spaghetti westerns such as A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die, and a cool little Richard Boone thriller I Bury The Living. He chided me about shooting too much film (we were shooting 35mm and editing on film, so there was a work print made) but was pretty good. It was only during editing that I had some interference that irritated me. The character Dan Zucovic plays, the Delivery Man, who delivers the totems to the lab and to the hotel, smokes a post-coital cigarette lovingly after the delivery. It was a good character action, and was shot very stylishly. Charlie cut it out because he felt it promoted smoking! Never mind the other deaths!

HC: They must be difficult movies from a technical point of view?

JB: They were a little difficult, but the main thing was the time involved in setting up the puppet's mechanisms and trying to hide the cables in the days before wire removal! But it was great to be able to work with David Allen who had made one of my favourite little horror movies Equinox, and his assistant at the time Chris Endicott. They were game for anything, and tried to get what I asked for and go the extra mile. David was a true artist, and so talented in his chosen field. I had been a fan of stop motion for many years, so it was a thrill to work with him. These films, you must realise, were shot in 25 days for both films, with additional days for puppet unit/doubles. So they were on some level put together with spit and chewing gum, even though they looked relatively lavish, compared to other low budget films of similar time and money. MAYBE the whole budget for both movies was 1 million, but that is probably way inflated...and I mean combined, not for each!

HC: Tell us about the family friendly Frankenstein And The Werewolf Reborn, that’s a classic Euro horror title don’t you think?

JB: The Werewolf Reborn was a pilot for a 'Goosebumps' type TV show that Charlie wanted to do for Nickelodeon or a similar network at the time. It was shot in 7 days, and for about $25,000. How do I know that? I carried the budget over there, for Charlie, in cash, to be delivered to Vlad Panescu at Castel Studios. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon in Romania, and we started to shoot on Monday morning. In that time, I cast the Romanian roles, picked the locations, talked to my DP (the great Viorel Sergevici) rehearsed with the American actors, and drank a little palinka (local drink) to steady my nerves. The script was written by Neil Stevens, who has gone on to write some Hellraiser sequels, etc. We did our best, tried to inject as much style into it as possible, and it was great to work with Robin Downes, Len Lesser and Ashley Cafagna. At the end of the day, it was supposed to fit an hour slot (so be about 50-ish minutes) but it got padded out to 70 minutes for the eventual video release. The post production on that film was barely there, as Full Moon was going through money problems at that time, so the colour timing was never done properly, and all the post suffered horribly from lack of money. But it was a good exercise for me to make the film, and made me determined to do my own film in Romania, which I loved shooting in. It took some years, but I finally got to make Straight Into Darkness there in 2001. The Frankenstein part of the video was directed under similar circumstances by Dave DeCouteau, a little later, using standing sets from Kushner-Locke's version of Beowulf, directed by Graham Baker.

HC: You’ve also made a few appearances in a number of movies, which one has been the most memorable?

JB: I would say my most memorable acting experience, by virtue of it being the longest, was in a movie made in 1991 called Ghost Gunfighter aka High Tomb, made by Chuck Williams, and not coincidentally, starring him! We shot in a little town outside of Benson Arizona, and it was a total blast. Dave Parker (who has just become a major director with The Hills Run Red) was on the shoot, my brother was on it, Stacie Randall was on it (who had just done Eddie Presley for me), and it was just so much fun. The script was imaginative for what it was, and the production values were quite good. The movie was made for lunch money. Now, please keep in mind I am talking about the experience of making it, not my job in it! I hope I didn’t hurt the film too badly! But it is a lot of fun and always educational to act in films, as you get the creative rush but not the monkey on your back! It is always interesting to see how other directors work, and you can pick up things, both good and bad, to use and to never do, when you act for other directors. So, any directors reading this...hire Jeff Burr for a role!!! (but of course hire the ones I already told you to hire first!)

HC: Your most recent movie, Luger Of The Black Sun is a great title, what’s the movie about?

JB: That movie is about three years in the making, that's what it’s about! No, it is a very strange, crazy movie shot in Romania in the summer of 2006 and in London in 2007, kind of in the vein of The DaVinci Code, dealing with an ancient evil, the Iron Guard in Romania in WW2, Nazis, media manipulation, and Richard Lynch as a Ted Turner/Richard Branson-esque mogul. There is a trailer on www.youtube.com and a website www.lugeroftheblacksun.com that will explain a few more things. It was put together by a first time producer/actor/writer named Gary Douglas, a very energetic fellow who will find the money to finally finish the movie. The effects work on the film has taken time, as there is very little money and a lot to do (things never change! There’s never enough money!)

HC: Are you happier behind the camera or do you enjoy the writing process more?

JB: I view the process as a holistic one, it is all related and one system affects the other and are totally interconnected. All I know is that the films I love are made by a handful of people on the creative level, and the more people you have to please in regard to executives, test screenings, producers, etc the worse the movie gets. So when I write, I am directing the film in my head, when I am directing the film on the floor, I am synthesising my original ideas with the hundreds that are thrown out on a daily basis, always keeping in mind the film that I know I am making, and when I edit, I am refining, clarifying, and bettering the original idea, rewriting, basically, by dealing with the film as it is, not as I thought it was supposed to be...and that is where some great discoveries happen...because when you juxtapose one piece of film with another that maybe wasn’t planned, and add some sound that you never originally thought of, something magic, true alchemy, happens! And that’s why editing a film is so important...and that is why the last three or four films that I have been involved with I have taken my name off of, because if you are not allowed that editorial process, the film is much less than what it could be. One-way to say it is this...there is no such thing as a perfect film (OK, maybe Citizen Kane, 8 1/2, 2001 are the exceptions that prove the rule) so every film has mistakes or flaws. I just guarantee you that my flaws are more interesting than any producer's flaws or executive flaws!!!! As for happiness, here is a true Hollywood statement. Making a film is an awful, miserable, soul crushing, frustrating process. The only thing worse is not making a film. (I think it is Billy Wilder or Stanley Donen who said that, and I am paraphrasing)

HC: So what’s next for you?

JB: I am working on a few projects...one of them is a documentary on TV directors from the 50's -70's, and it is called Inside The Tube. It has been amazing interviewing these guys, very inspiring, and they are so underrated. A sample guy is William Hale, who made some amazing films for television. If you ever get a chance, check out How I Spent My Summer Vacation aka Deadly Roulette. An amazing directing job that so few people now know about! And I have a horror film that I am thinking about, and am writing a film now I have to make...so I damn well better get it made! Hopefully it will be something totally different than what people might expect. And lastly, I would just like to thank you for this interview and I would like to thank any fans of my work out there for sticking with me...I know it has been a rough ride, but I really am working to honour your interest in my films...Thank you so much, and for anyone who is interested, please come to www.jeffburr.com!

Jeff Burr, thank you very much.


MORE ARTICLES
Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Expanded Edition)
Posted in Reviews, Thursday 17th October 2019

Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Expanded Edition)
Sacred Bones
Double Vinyl

Halloween 2018 was a box-office hit and gave the franchise a much-needed tension injection. It saw the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode and that of original director John Carpenter though he wasn't in the chair for this one. Instead he, alongside his son and godson, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies created the score and delivered an atmospheric piece which retained whispers to the past without drowning in them.

The soundtrack album was a hit as much as the movie was debuting at #12 on the Billboard Albums chart and #2 on the vinyl chart, on its w...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted in Frightfest, Interviews, Wednesday 16th October 2019

Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...

HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?

PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...

SHARE: READ MORE
Dare you experience Kraken Screamfest: The Director's Cut?
Posted in News, Tuesday 15th October 2019

This Halloween, London braces itself for The Kraken Rum to deliver a unique bar and horror experience like no other, commissioning legendary horror mastermind Neil Marshall to direct every detail of the night. The Kraken Black Spiced Rum is joining forces with the esteemed Hollywood Director to present 'Kraken Screamfest: Director's Cut' - promising to bestow fresh new nightmares on even the most devoted fans of the horror genre.

Neil Marshall, famed for classics The Descent, Dog Soldiers and Game of Thrones, will be terrifying those brave enough to step inside the real-world creation of his darkest imaginings. Everything from the decor and the staff to the Kraken Rum cockt...

SHARE: READ MORE
Superb supernatural comedy Extra Ordinary to have UK cinema release on 25th October
Posted in News, Tuesday 15th October 2019

Wildcard Distribution is bringing the Irish supernatural comedy Extra Ordinary to UK cinemas on 25th October. The film will play exclusively in key cities around the UK with Odeon Cinemas.

Extra Ordinary stars comedian/writer/actress Maeve Higgins (Naked Camera, Inside Amy Schumer), Barry Ward (Jimmy's Hall, MAZE), Will Forte (Nebraska, McGruber, Last Man on Earth), and Claudia O'Doherty (Trainwreck, Love, Inside Amy Schumer, Long Shot) and tells the story of Rose, a sweet and lonely small town driving instructor who must use her supernatural 'talent' to save the daughter of a local man from a washed up rock-star looking to use her in a satanic pact that will reignite his fame.

The film wh...

SHARE: READ MORE
"It's the most zombified time of the year!" Anna and the Apocalypse is coming to Blu-ray
Posted in News, Thursday 10th October 2019
Anna and the Apocalypse Bluray cover

What better way to celebrate the festive season than with a zombie apocalypse Christmas musical?

Anna and the Apocalypse is set for its UK Blu-ray debut on 2 December in a feature packed double-disc edition, courtesy of Second Sight.

It's Christmas time and the sleepy Scottish town of Little Haven is under threat from a zombie apocalypse, forcing Anna (Ella Hunt) and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But even zombies can't stop the teen drama: will Anna's best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) reveal his true feelings for her, or will her smu...

SHARE: READ MORE
Terry Pratchett's Discworld comes to vinyl for the first time this November
Posted in News, Thursday 10th October 2019

Terry Pratchett's Vinyl Discworld is a 15LP vinyl audiobook box set featuring seven classic stories, which will be released on Friday 29th November.

Following the very successful Good Omens, Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy releases on vinyl, Demon Music Group presents Discworld featuring the following stories:
Mort
Wyrd Sisters
Guards! Guards!
Eric
Small Gods
Night Watch
Bonus non-Discworld story Only You Can Save Mankind

41 Discworld novels were written, set on a fictional flat planet, balanced on the backs of four elephants, which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle. It is estimated that more than 80 milli...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted in Interviews, Thursday 10th October 2019
CHILDS_PLAY_Universal_2D_BD_Pakcshot_UKIt was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.

HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?

LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.

HC: W...

SHARE: READ MORE
13 nights of scares as Horror Channel presents a Haunted Halloween Season
Posted in Features, Tuesday 8th October 2019

For thirteen nights, from Saturday 19th October to Thursday 31st October at 9pm, Horror Channel presents a Haunted Halloween Season, a supernaturally spooky selection of the scariest movies, including the UK premiere of the ghostly chiller The Unspoken and the channel premiere of the terrifying thriller Pay The Ghost, starring Nicholas Cage.

Other highlights include Damiano Damiani's diabolical prequel to The Amityville Horror - Amityville II: The Possession. James Watkins' spine-chilling remake The Woman In Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ti West's The Shining slacker-style indie sensation, The Innkeepers. the 2008 US remake of The Eye, starring Jessica Alba and box-offi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Chris Bavota, co-director of Dead Dicks
Posted in Interviews, Sunday 6th October 2019
ChrisBavota_DeadDicks

Horror is the perfect genre for getting across very serious issues. Dead Dicks, which is showing at Grimmfest today does exactly that by looking at the sensitive subject of mental health. Here co-director Chris Bavota talks about this intriguing movie.

HC: How did you and co-writer and co-director Lee Paula Springer first meet?

CB: In case people don't know, Lee and I have been married for almost 10 years and we have 2 young daughters. Making movies somehow came as a natural evolution of that but wasn't really a part of our lives until about three or four years ago. We originally met back around 2004 through a mutual friend and honestly, we didn't really ge...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Robi Michael, writer and director of Every Time I Die
Posted in Interviews, Saturday 5th October 2019
Robi Michael

Grimmfest 2019 is well underway and one of the stand out movies so far has been Every Time I Die from director Robi Michael. Here he chats about this gripping movie.

HC: Was there one person or movie that you saw that made you want to be a director?

RM: Hard to think of one person or movie, because as long as I remember, it was clear to me that all I want to do is make movies - I was in love with films and decided to pursue it from a very early age. I was too young to realized what it takes to make movies or what is the job of a director. I can say that an early big influence in story telling is the legendary graphic novel writer, Alan Moore. Books like "Watchmen" and "V for...

SHARE: READ MORE
Arrow Video FrightFest announces line-up for Halloween 2019 event
Posted in Frightfest, News, Thursday 3rd October 2019
FF19-Halloween logoArrow Video FrightFest continues on its highly acclaimed and hugely successful Twenty Bloody Year rampage with a fear-packed journey through Halloween traditions, religious deviance, unstoppable maniacs, warped fairy tales, terrifying board games and the very rules of horror themselves.

The popular Halloween all-day event returns to the Cineworld Leicester Square on Saturday 3 November and the 12-hour monstrous marathon embraces four UK premieres, one European and one International premiere.

The day kicks off with the European Premiere of Josh Hasty's Candy Corn. With an impressive all-star genre cast (including Tony Todd, who exec-produces), an innovative iconic killer...

SHARE: READ MORE
"We are all aliens until we get to know one another". Space 1999 lands on Horror
Posted in Features, Thursday 3rd October 2019

Imagine it is the 1970s, the space race has been won and news of trips to the moon are fading from public interest. But you want to see more than just people playing golf and taking rock samples there. You want to see the human race make a base there, to use it as a launch pad to help reach further into space and maybe one day we could populate it.

Step forward Gerry and Sylvia Anderson who in 1975 gave the world one of the finest and most adventurous Sci-Fi TV series ever made, Space 1999.

The premise is straight forward and smart: It is the (then) future and a base has been built and manned on the moon. Tragedy strikes on September 13th 1999 when an nuclear explosion causes th...

SHARE: READ MORE
Articles Archive: 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
3-Headed Shark Attack
3-HEADED SHARK ATTACK
Saturday 26th October
6.40 PM
Flight 7500
FLIGHT 7500
Thursday 24th October
9.00 PM
Space: 1999
SPACE: 1999
Tuesday 29th October
8.00 PM