Yeah, I know- I’m a bad blogger. It’s not often I ever get the chance to write in these days and even now, I’m at the ArieScope office at 4am as it was the only time I’d have this week to write more than a few words in to you all. So what have I been up to? Working, working, working- but that’s nothing new.
The year started off running as HATCHET 2 began principal photography on January 5th. We shot for about 3 weeks on a sound stage here in Hollywood, took a break for FROZEN’s Sundance debut and my promotional duties surrounding the film’s release, and then the HATCHET 2 team regrouped for a few nights at Disney ranch and a week down in New Orleans, wrapping at the end of February. What was supposed to be nothing but a good time getting the “band” back together again (we kept referring to the shoot as our ‘victory lap’) turned out to be the hardest shoot I’ve done to date. I know you’re thinking; “Really? A harder shoot than FROZEN? How could 3 weeks on a comfy sound stage have been tougher than the top of a mountain in the dead of winter?” But let’s back up a bit…
When HATCHET became the success that it was, the immediate response was “Let’s do the sequel.” For those of you who have followed the story of HATCHET closely and watched the special features and commentary, you know that a sequel was always in the cards from before we ever shot the first one. I gambled a lot with how I made the first one, believing in my heart that the movie would work and that eventually I would get the chance to make the second installment. For instance, in the original HATCHET I never really explained “what” Victor Crowley is, I purposely held stuff back during Marybeth’s flashback sequence of explaining his origins and there were several “unfinished business” moments in the film. Like when Victor Crowley is about to take off Shawn’s head with the shovel and randomly stops and shares a look with Marybeth (watch it again and look closely) or the “love it or hate it” abrupt ending to the film when Victor Crowley has Marybeth by the throat and the movie just cuts to black. Or how about why I insisted on having an actor as notable and talented as Tony Todd answer the first voodoo shop door, only to have him on screen for less than 2 minutes? There were reasons for all of it as you’re about to see this Fall. Even in the making of the first one, my crew and I were discussing death sequences for the sequel and we even introduced one key weapon in the first one (it is merely sitting idle in Crowley’s work shed) that is put to great use in HATCHET 2. Seems like a lot of plotting and scheming for a slasher flick, but in my effort to create a new slasher world and a villain the fans could rally behind, I wanted to do it right. Too often we see sequels made that are merely a cash-in. Sometimes you can tell when you watch them that the filmmakers were grasping at straws to come up with a sequel and it becomes merely a rehash of the first film, note for note, with the same set-up over and over again. I am proud to say that HATCHET 2 is not one of those films. It truly is the “next part” of the story and I am proud to say it trumps the first film in every way. It’s a bit more serious (you’re gonna be surprised but it may even move you in certain parts), it’s a lot darker in tone, the violence makes the first one look like a PG13 studio film, the story is much more involved than the first film which was mainly just a set-up for great fun and gore, and once again you’re going to see that we’ve made some ground breaking achievements in special effects. I’m also extremely proud to say that once again, we did it all the old school way. Effects created with latex and silicone, all done in-camera and not with computers after the fact, and all created by true artists and not CGI programs. In short- I’m damn proud.
So why the long wait for a sequel if I am saying that I always wanted to make it? The truth, as you may have read in interviews before, is that by the time the first HATCHET came out I needed some serious time away from Victor Crowley and the whole slasher thing. For most of you, you hear about a movie right before it comes out, you see it, and then you’re on to whatever is going to open the following weekend. It’s 90 minutes of your life. But as a writer/director- these things take years and years. Especially for HATCHET which I had thought up 20 odd years earlier at summer camp and waited my whole life to make. Forget all of the plotting and scheming that went into it, but from the time I wrote the script (2003) to the day it came out in theaters (September 2007)- it was an epic journey. Being an independent film I had to literally campaign to get it noticed. Every film festival that would play it, every horror convention, every public appearance I could do- I was out there spreading the gospel of Victor Crowley. As you know, it is not often a little indie film like this makes it all the way to a theatrical release – but we did it. Was the theatrical release great? Hell no. Was it even supported with marketing or even given a chance to succeed? Not at all. But we GOT IT and that’s all that matters. On September 7th I was able to go to my favorite theater, buy a ticket to the movie, and watch it with a sold-out audience of screaming horror fans. And more so than any of the stuff that comes along with this career- THAT is what it’s all about and THAT is why we do this.
But I needed a break before I could go back for more. I needed to do other things. For those that follow me religiously, you know my roots and my beginnings are actually based in comedy. I like family films like E.T. and MY DOG SKIP. I want to do more than just HATCHET films forever. So instead of doing the surefire thing and jumping right back into the swamp, I walked away and made other movies. I co-directed the arthouse psychodrama SPIRAL with Joel David Moore (a film I am insanely proud of but that got buried in HATCHET’s shadow as the way things worked out it literally came out mere weeks after HATCHET did), I produced the disturbingly awesome GRACE for newcomer Paul Solet (a film that I am also insanely proud of as I feel like I got to “pay it forward” and use my success to help launch a new career that I believe in), and I wrote and directed the suspense thriller FROZEN (my best and proudest work to date on every level and a movie that is really not “horror” at all but more a survival drama filled with terror). And that’s just the stuff you’ve SEEN on the screen. In the midst of all of that there’s several dozen web-series and short films (JACK CHOP, SABER, THE TIFFANY PROBLEM, THE TIVO, 10 FRIGHTFEST SHORTS, IT’S A MALL WORLD series, WINTER TALES claymation series, FAIRY TALE POLICE and more) plus a handful of new feature scripts that are being put together as I write this and a few studio gigs that I landed such as writing the animated AQUAMAN movie (which will never see the light of day, sadly) and two TV pilots (which also never got shot). I even sold out for a few weeks and directed a network TV pilot that I really didn’t love but thought I could LEARN to love simply because I had so much respect and admiration for the folks producing it. Lesson learned: Just because you love the people making something doesn’t mean you should let anyone convince you to make it, too. So long story short, I made the most of the three years between HATCHET 1 and HATCHET 2, and by the time I sat down before my computer to write HATCHET 2- I was fucking IN IT and I was on fire with excitement to pick up where I had left off. I assure you that had I made HATCHET 2 in 2007 that would not have been the case.
Which brings me to where this blog started and the hardest shoot I’ve endured yet. My crew and I went at HATCHET 2 with a vengeance. We wanted this movie to be the ultimate slasher sequel and our ambitions out weighed the amount of time and money we had ten-fold. There was never a moment of settling for something like we had to do every single day on the first film and each day on the shoot that was spread out over two months, the core group of us who had been there since the beginning came at it with everything we had. But as is always the case, there were obstacles that we couldn’t have expected. The biggest one being that our sound stage consisted of a living environment of plant life and within days, we were growing our own grass, mushrooms, and other things- all that became toxic in a matter of hours. The air on that stage was not healthy and once a crew member came to work with the swine-flu… it was over for all of us. When the DVD eventually comes out you’ll hear and see the stories and watch us make the film while wearing surgical masks. You’ll watch HALF of the crew fall sick with horrible flu symptoms. I’m not sure if any of the behind the scenes cameras caught it, but you may even witness some of the projectile vomiting that was taking place between takes. It was fucking awful and it was brutal.
But even through all of that and even though this was supposed to be nothing but fun and wasn’t- the movie turned out fucking amazing. On the positive side, I think that the challenges put many of us on our A-Game and really motivated us to fight harder. It shows in the footage and while behind the behind-the-scenes it was not a fun experience… the movie itself sure as hell is and that’s what matters. As I said earlier- I couldn’t be prouder or happier with the movie. But damn what a tough shoot.
We just picture locked HATCHET 2 a few days ago, which means that the hardest part of it is over for me. For the next two months we do all of the fun stuff like color grading, sound design, and score and I’m told that (in the U.S. at least) you’ll be seeing Victor Crowley back on the big screen in September. Over the summer you’ll start seeing exclusive pictures pop up on-line, trailers, contests, etc- but for now everything has been about making the movie. Which brings up another question I have been getting from a lot of you… “why the radio silence?” Normally my productions are like an open book and people can follow along and see and hear everything. Well, I’m actually just doing what I can to try and help make this as fun an experience as I can for the fans of HATCHET. Believe me when I say that I adore the various genre websites and I appreciate how kind they’ve been to me and to my films over the past decade. It’s so cool to know that they are excited and supportive of another dose of HATCHET. However, I feel like in many ways there is now TOO MUCH information available to the fans and that by the time a movie comes out, they’ve read everything there is to know, seen half of the movie in clips on line, seen all of the photos, and for the most part- they’re just not as excited as they would have been going into it cold. That’s why I didn’t circulate scripts to everyone on the crew and why no one really has any details about the plot yet. That’s why there are still no exclusive pictures available and that’s why we only allowed reporters to visit the set on the days when we were shooting dialogue scenes. Believe it or not, I’m just looking out for YOU. Watch the first movie again before the sequel comes out and go into this one having no clue what to expect. You’ll have a great time- I guarantee it!
So now what? Well, I still have much to do on HATCHET 2 and I’ll finally be getting back out there to see and meet all of you while I tour to promote both HATCHET 2’s theatrical release and FROZEN’s upcoming DVD release this Fall. (If you didn’t see FROZEN in theaters- shame on you! But I know with the distributor we had it wasn’t exactly easy to find it in a theater near you or to even know it was playing.) I sadly just had to cancel on Texas Frightmare Weekend due to my HATCHET 2 post-production schedule and a wedding that came up… and no one is more bummed about that than I am. There’s nothing I hate more than having to cancel on an appearance and it’s been 3 years since I’ve done a convention in Texas. While I’m grateful for how busy I am and while I’m fortunate that my movies just keep on rolling at a time when the industry is a tough place to get anything made… I do long for the freedom of seeing all of you. I start shooting something new in just 13 days (sorry, no details yet!) that is going to see me teaming up with some old friends and some new ones, I’ve got a couple big things in the pipeline that are so cool I don’t dare jinx them, a new movie on the horizon that looks like it will shoot this Fall, I just finished a new script, some new “just for fun” shorts I’m putting together for the internet, and I’m getting married in just a few short weeks… so yeah. Busy, busy, busy.
Tomorrow Kane Hodder and I record an all NEW commentary for HATCHET that will be on the Blu Ray release this September. On Saturday May 22nd we’ll be appearing at the WEEKEND OF HORRORS in Los Angeles and showing footage from HATCHET 2 for the first time ever. If you live in LA and call yourself a horror fan- you don’t want to miss this panel. Can’t. F’n. Wait.
So long for now and as always, leave a comment below and I’ll respond to any questions you have the next chance I get. It’s only April and it’s already been one of the most exciting years yet. But you ain’t seen nothing yet…
Victor Crowley lives.