FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS | BOOTH'S BLOG Exclusive Interview With Journalist, Producer And Director Calum Waddell
By James Whittington, Sunday 21st April 2013
Way back in 2008 we spoke to journalist Calum Waddell about his work reporting on the horror entertainment world. Since then Calum has begun to work on creating acclaimed extras for DVD and Blu-ray releases of cult movies. More recently Calum has produced and directed the cracking documentary Slice And Dice: The Slasher Film Forever so we decided it was time to catch up with this talented fellow.
HC: Have you always been a fan of the hack n' slash genre?
CW: You bet I am mate! In fact, I grew up with these films. I still remember renting all the Friday The 13th movies when I was just ten years old and lapping them up because they are really just live action cartoons. They always reminded me of Road Runner - if Road Runner has a hockey mask and went about killing several coyotes in increasingly daft and inventive ways. So my love affair with slasher movies goes well back and I still get suckered into seeing the remakes - even when, usually, they disappoint. But what can you do? I was bitten by the proverbial hack n' slash bug a long time ago [laughs].
HC: What was the first movie of this genre that you saw and what did you think of it?
CW: I think it was Happy Birthday To Me back when I was four years old. I'm not making that up. I know that will horrify a lot of people but there you go. I remember vividly enjoying it - especially the opening chase in the car park which had my little sweaty palms grabbing the floor in suspense. Yes, I even remember sitting on the floor to watch that one [laughs]. It was a scary little rollercoaster ride for me and, to this day, I still rate Happy Birthday To Me highly. I would love to work on a special edition of it. Then, from there, I saw Bloody Moon - although it was on fast-wind so my older brother could show me the juicy bits - and Halloween, which scared the absolute hell out of me.
HC: How did your documentary come about?
CW: We were working on a Spanish slasher film called Pieces for Arrow Video back in 2010. Alas, we didn't really have any idea of what to do for it because we were not going near Spain and Lynda Day George still refuses to speak about the movie. We emailed her and tried to get to her through mutual friends and eventually it was apparent that nothing - not even my Scottish charm - was going to change things. So we opted to do a little featurette - just a wee 'how to survive a slasher movie' thing which would be quite general. Well, Pieces got knocked back in Arrow's distribution cycle and we eventually found other things to do for it, including getting its great star Jack Taylor onboard when we bumped into him purely by accident at the Sitges Film Festival that year, so we thought we would expand this slasher idea as a wee personal side project and just see how it all went. Thankfully, it went well, and two years later we had enough footage to begin to edit into a feature length project. But we never knew what the outcome of this would be - Slice And Dice really was just myself, Naomi and a film camera. It was a no budget labour of love.
HC: You've managed to interview a huge selection of talent, how did you manage that?
CW: It was mainly people that I knew from previous contact with them as a journalist. There were a few exceptions though - Corey Feldman we got at a convention and he was just really kind to us and gave us some of his time. It was very flattering. But really, I generally only asked people I knew or felt reasonably comfortable emailing to ask for their involvement. I am as shocked as anyone we got so many great faces in there! The first person we filmed was Emily Booth, in London in June 2010, and the last person we filmed was Eduardo Sanchez, of The Blair Witch Project, who we got at last year's Edinburgh Film Festival.
HC: Who proved to be the most enlightening interviewee?
CW: I'm not sure I would want to place any one person at the top of the pedestal because each personality gave us such amazing sound-bites! I know that is a copout - sorry!
HC: Was there anyone you didn’t manage to get hold of?
CW: Well, of course, we would have loved to have had John Carpenter and Wes Craven involved but it becomes tricky when this is just a side project and you don't really have a firm plan for it or anything. We never Kickstarted this or anything - it was done on our own time and frequently our own buck too. But in terms of the cultier world, it certainly would have been nice to have had Lynda Day George onboard! And Robert Englund, of course, who is a legend. We almost had Mark Patton, who was in A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2, but he had to cancel his trip to Scotland for an autograph signing due to illness. He was sad about it too because we have Robert Rusler, his co-star in the movie in there, so having Mark would have been great.
HC: Will you be making more of the same?
CW: Absolutely! Our next documentary is an all-female one. It is called Scream Queen and it is all-women and no men. That is kind of why Slice And Dice only has three female faces - because we were shooting this other feature at the same time. We have some amazing names for Scream Queen - from legends like Lynn Lowry, Elvira, Michelle Bauer, Brinke Stevens, Patricia Tallman, Debbie Rochon and Sybil Danning to newer blood such as Elissa Dowling, Danielle Harris, Irina Voronina and Christa Campbell. We also have the great Lisa Wilcox, who battled Freddy in A Nightmare On Elm Street part four and five, and Friday The 13th femmes Melanie Kinnaman and Adrienne King, both legends of the great hockey-masked franchise. My partner Naomi Holwill is editing, filming, animating and everything else - just as she did Slice And Dice - so it is a real 'girl power' look at the challenges, compromises and also the accomplishments of being a female in a genre so often associated with masculinity or the stereotypical 'final girl'. Myself and Joe Venegas, who is our co-producer, are the only guys involved [laughs]. Naomi and I felt it was about time the genre's women got the sort of love letter documentary that they deserve.
HC: What's the best slasher franchise?
CW: Artistically I think it is A Nightmare On Elm Street - the first one is an absolute masterpiece, both aesthetically and thematically, and there are some great sequels in there too: three, four and New Nightmare being the highlights. I also love Friday The 13th though because, except for the truly awful remake which I still cannot believe they messed up, each instalment is just a lot of mindless fun.
HC: What makes a good slasher movie?
CW: I think suspense. Gore can be great but I love to be scared and the original Halloween is just brilliant for that. And Black Christmas too. Neither one of these has a drop of blood, or explicit violence, but they are both terrifying and well crafted classics - and the original Psycho still holds up as being creepy, don't you think? I think if you want to go down the route of 'the gore the merrier' then maybe it is best to have some humour in there - like Scott Spiegel's Intruder or Adam Green's Hatchet which are both wonderful. A formidable killer works in your favour too - Jason in the Friday The 13th films, who becomes more of a cartoon as the franchise goes on and is all the more enjoyable for it, and Leatherface as well. I think Joe Spinell is excellent in William Lustig's Maniac, so I'd definitely say fans should check out that one. And I like the sense of being placed somewhere that is just totally alien and disconcerting - the summer camp in the first Friday The 13th and Sleepaway Camp, the farmhouse in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the mine in the original My Bloody Valentine, the old shack in J.S. Cardone's seriously underrated The Slayer, the deserted ghost train in The Funhouse or even the disorientating hallucinations at the end of The House On Sorority Row, which are brief but effective. Then you have Scream, which works as both a homage and a genuinely electric and fast-moving serial killer shocker. So many things make for a great slasher movie but I still think it all starts from suspense. I should probably also add surprise. You need a good surprise don't you? The twist endings of Psycho and Black Christmas, kindly Mrs. Voorhees in Friday The 13th, the great gag that is the entirety of April Fool's Day - the 1986 film and not the horrible remake - and the final unveiling of Scream...
HC: Is there a place for the slasher movie at the moment?
CW: Absolutely. Hatchet has spawned its own franchise, and rightly so, and Dave Parker, who is interviewed in our documentary, created a fantastic modern spin on the genre with The Hills Run Red. I think Final Destination and Saw owe their lineage to the slasher movie and now we just need to wait and see if another big studio series will explode in the way that they did. The remakes are still drawing in crowds, such as the last Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I think the older and more seasoned fans would rather see an inventive new take on the genre - such as Hatchet or The Hills Run Red - than another lavish retread of familiar characters from yesteryear. Or maybe the way ahead is to do new spins on films that are less well known - My Bloody Valentine 3D was good fun in that regard because it was not a direct rehash and it was made by someone who loves the genre. I think that showed in the final feature. But, hey, as long as the audience is there - and it clearly is - why not have more slasher movies?
HC: In your personal opinion, what is the finest slasher movie made?
CW: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the most intense slasher film ever made and it also an incredibly well made piece of moviemaking. And I love A Nightmare On Elm Street. I still rate the first Friday The 13th highly too. Halloween and Black Christmas as well. And Italian films like Blood And Black Lace and Stagefright... argggghhh too many! Do I need to just pick one?
HC: So what are you working on at the moment?
CW: We just got done working on an amazing slasher film from the 1980s for Arrow Video - Motel Hell, which is now getting a lavish special edition. I even recorded a commentary with the director Kevin Connor for that. And we have also just wrapped editing on the Foxy Brown extra features for Arrow and also work on Knightriders, Baron Blood and Deranged. We have lots more Arrow to come - it is always such an honour to do featurettes for them on films that Naomi and I both feel very strongly towards. We were like children in a toy shop when we got the last batch because there were so many personal favourites - Naomi is a huge fan of Foxy Brown and Knightriders, for instance. We've also done two hours of new stuff for Synapse on their USA edition of Demons and two hours of new stuff for Demons 2. These will be out later this year. We finished our work on Grindhouse's Cannibal Holocaust and we're just waiting to hear when that is coming out - I think fans will want that edition for the commentary we recorded with the stars Francesca Ciardi and Carl Yorke alone! It is really insightful and even quite funny. We have lots more Arrow upcoming too and, of course, Slice And Dice is available on May 13th on UK DVD with lots and lots and lots of extra features. We hope anyone who buys it enjoys it!
HC: Calum Waddell, thank you very much.
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