Tonight we begin filming HATCHET 3 in the swamps of Louisiana. It’s 5:30am and I’m watching Rileah sleep soundly next to me while I pace around this hotel room and panic with the “first day” jitters. You’d think by now I’d be over all of that, but the truth is that it never really goes away. As any working filmmaker can tell you, the night before any major production starts is always the same: difficulty breathing, lots of sweating, panic attacks, huge highs, dire lows, and a mountain of self-doubt. Even though I may not be in the director’s chair tonight, yes, I do indeed still feel all of those things. While there are many instances where the original director and creator of a franchise eventually steps down and just takes a paycheck and ”producer” credit on screen while in reality having nothing to do with the actual movie creatively… I can assure you that HATCHET 3 is anything but one of those instances. I wrote this movie and I designed and came up with what you’re going to see happen in it. I invented this world and created the characters and the mythology of its universe. I’ve been the face of it all since day one and I will continue to be the face of it until the day I die. My name and reputation will be used to promote it. I hand picked the new person who is sitting in my director’s chair. I’ve been involved in every decision made. The thing about the HATCHET films is that no matter what the specifics of the scenario may be, so long as I am involved they are still my movies and my responsibility to deliver to the fans. So no, I can’t sleep perfectly tonight and not worry because “it’s BJ’s problem now”. I love and care way too much about this franchise. Franchise.
I want HATCHET 3 to be the best of the three films. We’re taking a lot of things to new levels as this installment is the action-packed third act to my story and, if we do the script justice, I know that the fans are going to dig the hell out of it. Though I may be worried sick about some of the dangerous stunts and other potential shooting hazards we are contending with, I can admit that I have been able to sleep slightly better because BJ McDonnell has done an absolutely phenomenal job so far and there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that he is going to knock HATCHET 3 way out of the park. But we’ll get to that.
Looking back, I am blown away by how far all of this has come. Are we really about to shoot a third Victor Crowley movie? Nine years ago, Will Barratt, Sarah Elbert, and I flew down here with nothing but a mini DV cam and our own ambition while we set out to shoot a “mock trailer” for my screenplay, “HATCHET”. At that point, everyone in town had passed on making the film, the most classic rejection being the one from a major studio that said “this movie will never get made because it’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel, and it’s not based on a Japanese one.” Many of you will recognize that slogan from HATCHET 1′s film festival tour posters. Sure, it took balls to take a major studio’s rejection and make it the tagline for my film, but back then I didn’t even think about the possible repercussions that could stem from doing that or know any better. I did it because I thought it was not only an accurate statement about where the horror genre was at that time, but also a perfect way to show that the film had a huge sense of humor about itself. Little did I know that so many others around the world would respond to what we were doing and that a decade later, here we would be, about to embark on the third film together. It’s insane to think that THIRTY years ago I was dreaming up “Victor Crowley” (then, simply called “Hatchet Face” by my demented eight year old self) and to now be pacing around this hotel room nervously all night while I ring my sweaty hands out of sheer love for what I’ve worked so hard to create.
So if I still love HATCHET so much, why ever did I choose to replace myself in the director’s chair? The answer is complicated, but in short… it was just time. It’s important to recognize that the HATCHET films are “cult films”. That means that they are made and held together by the love of the people who make them and then supported and celebrated by the very fans that we make them for. Sounds simple and pure, but these films don’t have the budgets or the enormous studio marketing campaigns and releases of something like say the SAW sequels had. Making these movies is a daunting task and releasing them takes an enormous toll. I can honestly say that the experience of the first two likely took a few years off of my life. From the struggles of campaigning around the world to raise awareness for HATCHET 1 (I toured with that film for 18 months before it found a decent distribution scenario in North America) to my MPAA battles and public crucifixion when HATCHET 2 was assassinated from theaters within hours of it’s release… I had hit a point where the last thing I ever wanted to talk about again was “Victor Crowley.” I always ask people to remember that as much as HATCHET may be my first baby, it is only one of many children that I have and that I am going to have in my lifetime. For example, though I am down here in New Orleans overseeing every frame of HATCHET 3 which in itself is a 24 hour a day job, I am simultaneously writing Season 2 of HOLLISTON (my TV show which I have gone on record again and again as saying is my most dear, favorite, and passion of passion projects) and writing and re-writing KILLER PIZZA, the MGM movie I am writing for producer Chris Columbus (my childhood screenwriting idol). Had I directed HATCHET 3, it would have meant walking away from both of those projects in order to do it right.
Now I’ve heard bands talk about how they begin to distain playing their “hit songs” night after night in concert and I never really understood that. I mean, don’t they understand that if it weren’t for those “hit songs”, there would be no concerts to play and no audiences to play for? Shouldn’t they be grateful that they ever had a hit in the first place? Believe me when I say that I am beyond grateful for the way fans have embraced HATCHET and for what my “Victor Crowley” character has done for my career. I never take it for granted and I never will. But having been there and having done that twice now, a third round in the exact same scenario just wasn’t the right thing for me to do both as an artist and for my own personal mental health. Something had to change. I was beginning to develop a love/hate relationship with HATCHET. When SPIRAL came out (just four months after HATCHET was released) it literally got buried in the hype and excitement of “Victor Crowley”. To this day it’s still devastating to know that SPIRAL is my least seen film. Joel David Moore and I made that film before HATCHET was even finished with post-production but instead of coming out of the gate with a one-two punch it was more like “Wow, HATCHET!” followed by “Hey, let’s keep talking about HATCHET!” When my film FROZEN premiered at Sundance in 2010 I was so excited because I felt like it was my best film to date and something that truly showed what I was capable of as a filmmaker. When the movie ended and the Egyptian Theater erupted in applause I took the stage for the Q&A with tear-filled eyes, so proud to discuss how we had made such a difficult film and all we had accomplished. What was the first question from the audience? ”What can you tell us about HATCHET 2?” The next question? ”Will there be a HATCHET 3?” Again, I’m grateful that anyone would care so much about anything that I did, but at the same time it was beginning to feel like anything else I ever created would have to live and exist in the shadow of “Victor Crowley” even if what I was doing was completely different and (just my humble opinion) a much better example of what I am capable of.
(HATCHET 3 camera slate, 2012.)
With HATCHET 3 I was able to create a very unique and wonderful scenario for myself and for the HATCHET fans. Not a day goes by where a fan doesn’t ask me why I’m not directing it. Even crew members ask me daily if it’s “weird” to not be the one in the pilot’s seat this time around. Of course it’s weird. But it’s also awesome in a whole new way that has reinvigorated my spirit and my love for the HATCHET series. It’s like I get to play “God” with my own amusement park and pick and choose the right people to make it all happen under my careful guidance. The greatest thing about having BJ take over my seat is that he has been with this series since day one. He has been right beside Will Barratt and I on set for every frame we’ve shot and he loves and cares about this series just as much (if not more) than even the most diehard of HATCHET fans. It’s not like there is some “outside director” in charge who took the job because it is a pay day, another feature credit, or an easy gig directing a film in a series with a pre-existing cult following. In fact BJ never even asked me to be considered to take my place when I announced I would be stepping down from directing any future HATCHET films. I asked him. And if you knew what BJ makes to camera operate on the big studio movies he works on in relation to what he’ll be make directing HATCHET 3, you’d know that just like me, he’s here because he loves it and only because he loves it. He is family and he is someone that all of us have collective faith in. BJ’s even been on-screen in both of the other HATCHET films. In HATCHET 1 he’s the guy who almost gets hit by the “Scare Bus” as it makes it’s way through the streets of New Orleans. (Little known trivia fact, it’s actually my voice that says “Hey, what the fuck?” as BJ throws his hands up in the air.) In HATCHET 2, BJ got his head split in half by “Victor Crowley’s” hatchet during Reverend Zombie’s flashback story. I’ve read so many fan letters and comments questioning my decision to step down, and all I can say time and time again is “trust me.” I’m still here and you’re not only in good hands, but two of the very same hands that brought you the first two films. So tonight when we prepare to roll on our first shot and I pass the torch to BJ (it’s not really a “torch”, but one of our stunt hatchets for the production), I’ll be doing so with great pleasure and total glee. Much like with 2009’s GRACE, I am so grateful that I am in a position to give someone their chance in the director’s chair that they have been aspiring and working so hard to get in. Again, I truly believe that this stands to be the best of the three films.
(Adam Green, Will Barratt, BJ McDonnell; HATCHET 2, 2010)
When Will, Sarah, and I returned from that New Orleans “mock trailer” trip 9 years ago, our lives had changed forever, whether we could see that at the time or not. Once combining forces with Cory Neal (and his business partner at the time)- the movie really came to life and became a reality. Two years later, there we were on the eve of our first day of shooting- just like we are this morning. In fact I can guarantee you that literally 7 years ago today, I was going through the same thing I am tonight. The pacing, the nerves, the sweat, the fear, the excitement, the sadness… it’s an endless cycle. But as the great Tony Todd (“Rev. Zombie”) said to Dave Foy (“Chad”) on the set of HATCHET 2, “That feeling in your gut? The one that makes you feel like you’re gonna throw up? Once you loose that it’s over.” After everything we’ve all been through together, the highs and the lows, the amazing victories and the brutal defeats… I’m proud to say that I still feel like I’m going to throw up. And I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.
While so much has stayed the same over the past decade, so much has changed. We’re no longer making a movie for ourselves. Now there are legions of HATCHET fans around the world that we are making the movie for.
(Cory Neal, Sarah Elbert, Will Barratt, Adam Green, Scott Altomare: On the eve of shooting HATCHET 1, 2005)
And best of all for me personally? This girl sleeping soundly next to me is the same girl who stood by me and believed in me through it all. Who had the patience to forgive me when all I could focus on was my work instead of what really mattered most. Who donned the hideous “Young Victor Crowley” make-up for not only the original mock trailer but also on-screen in the first two films. Who did the key make-up on both HATCHET 1 and HATCHET 2. Who not only held my hand as she triumphantly walked down all of those red carpets with me but who also picked me up off of the ground (literally) when I was heart broken by a major set back and felt like I couldn’t go on or take another defeat.
(Adam & Rileah, San Diego Comic-Con 2010)
That girl is now my wife. She’s able to sleep soundly right now because she believes in me… and Will, and Sarah, and Cory, and BJ, and everyone else who is leading this juggernaut of a ship 10 years later. She’s able to sleep soundly because she has faith that everything will be just fine when we roll cameras tonight. So perhaps instead of watching over her and worrying, I should take a page out of her book and finally get some sleep myself. It’s show time tonight! And I’m surrounded by nothing but love, both from my family on set and from fans around the world who are cheering us on to another victory in this saga.
Picture is up, people! Lights, camera… zzzzzzzzz