If the Alamo Drafthouse were a bar, directors Adam Green and Joe Lynch would be the salty regulars whose names everyone knew – pictures of their debauched antics would proudly adorn the walls. These filmmakers cut their teeth to the sounds of cheering genre fans in the hallowed arena of Fantastic Fest; Lynch with Wrong Turn 2, Green with Hatchet. Ever since their Fantastic Fest premieres, the Drafthouse doors have been open arms to these two passionate and insanely creative geeks. Without venturing too closely to the vocabulary of cults, Green and Lynch are our kind of people.
To wit, the Drafthouse invited them to host an evening of cinematic mayhem dubbed A Very Green & Lynch Christmas. Our duly appointed masters of ceremonies would be presenting a showcase of their early work, current collaborations, and hints and teases at their upcoming projects. All through the night, they would be answering questions and providing humorous anecdotes about long, long ago and behind-the-scenes shenanigans. They would be giving away fabulous prizes and auctioning off still other prizes of even higher calibers of fabulousness; a date with Adam Green himself was even on the block! All proceeds from the evening would go to the American Legion Hall in order that they may install an elevator for disabled veterans. Here’s a breakdown of what we saw…
Road to FrightFest – Favorite Horror Themes
The evening began with a short spoof of Twilight Zone: The Movie. This represented one in a series of short parodies made by Green and Lynch leading up to 2008’s UK Fright Fest. While on a road trip, the two play a name-that-tune game with famous horror themes that devolves into a pit stop and an immensely unsettling transformation. It perfectly set the tone for the evening.
Trailer & Additional Clip from Knights of Badassdom
Next up was the trailer and a single clip from Lynch’s upcoming sophomore film, or at least sophomore solo film, Knights of Badassdom. Knights of Badassdom is about a group of live-action role players (or LARPers) who manage to accidentally conjure a real-life demon. The film boasts a cast that includes Trueblood‘s Ryan Kwanten, Firefly‘s Summer Glau, Community‘s Danny Pudi, Steve Zhan, and Game of Throne‘s Peter Dinklage back in medieval, if homemade, attire. The trailer was exciting, charming, and made us all want to don capes and take up plastic swords against our ancient foes.
Chillerama – “Zom-B-Movie” and “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”
Next were selections from the anthology horror film Chillerama in which Adam and Joe, along with Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan, crafted neo B-movies woven together into a story about the last night of a old school drive-in theater specializing in schlock. We watched Lynch’s offering “Zom-B-Movie” and Green’s “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein.” Lynch’s segment is the wrap-around story that connects all the others. Green’s “Diary of Anne Frankenstein” presents a decidedly different view of a familiar tragedy. These are not vignettes for the faint of heart, but the Drafthouse audience devoured every second.
Adam Green and Joe Lynch are currently working on a sitcom (??) for FEARnet called Holliston in which they will star. The series follows a pair of aspiring filmmakers stuck in a small town, and even smaller lives, on the east coast. The show pokes just as much sitcom convention as it does steadfastly uphold them. Funny stuff.
Jack-O Commentary Snippet
The evening ended on a high note that could not possibly be more appropriate for the Alamo Drafthouse. The guys brought a long-forgotten slasher film from the mid-90s called Jack-O to share with us just before we departed. Why would anyone subject themselves to this stinkburger? Two words: audio commentary. Jack-O features what will most likely go down in history as the most hysterically uncomfortable audio commentaries every recorded. Director Jack Latshaw is in a constant combative state with producer Fred Olen Ray who recognizes how bad the film is and decides to make the commentary his own personal Mystery Science Theater track. In the film’s last few minutes, the two get into a heated argument that results in Latshaw storming out. The spark that ignites the powder keg? Two more words: shit pickle. I was in tears laughing at this most special of special features.
Before the event got started, I had the good fortune of speaking with Adam and Joe. Sitting in the empty theater, as sound cues and projectors were being tested, I asked them about the event, the Alamo, and what’s on deck for these two next-wave horror luminaries. It was like having a conversation with old friends, so much so that I’m fairly certain Joe would probably mock me for using the word “luminaries.”
Considering you guys have had some of your warmest receptions here at the Alamo, how does it feel to be back?
Adam: Fucking amazing
Joe: It feels like family, it does. When I started working on Knights [of Badassdom] I thought, “this is the ultimate Fantastic Fest movie; the ultimate Drafthouse movie.” Everything I do is just an excuse to come back to Austin and hang out at the Alamo. It’s just such a wonderful communal experience. You can go to a movie on a Sunday night, like we did, and every show is sold out and the crowd is great. Everyone loves film and they’re all there to experience it together…and eat potato skins.
Adam: And they want to see the movies. Just last night, the excitement in the line about whatever is was the people were going to see, you don’t get that everywhere. What I love about Fantastic Fest especially is that sometimes you go to these festivals – even the bigger ones like Sundance – and they put you in this room, you go out and do your thing, and then they give you maybe five minutes to do autographs and stuff. They keep you so separate, whereas here, as soon as your thing is done you’re sitting in the audience making friends and talking to people. They treat you like a normal person. Once your bit is done, you get to go be a fan too. It’s not always like that. And just the honesty you get from people; the immediate feedback, the comments you get. The questions you get here are usually really smart. Normally with Q&As, the questions are like, “what was the budget?,” “how many days did it take to shoot the movie?” But here you’ll get really specific and really interesting stuff, which is what I’m most looking forward to tonight. Normally you’re here to show a specific movie and talk about that movie. We’re showing a bunch of different stuff, but also just sharing stories about how we got started, our careers, funny stories. It’s a very unique. If wasn’t us, I would love to come and see this with someone else.
Joe: I’d love that, that would be nice.
Adam: Well, we get to do it sometimes, with the DGA or the WGA. We just went to one that was Spielberg, Abrams, and Cameron.
Joe: And it was Abrams and Cameron doing the moderating. It was a Spielberg tribute, but they were there to show their favorite clips of Spielberg movies and go, “tell us about it a little bit.” It was amazing because it was like watching a master class between these three guys who are obviously very big in the industry right now, and they’re very inspirational both past and present, and they’re all just up there shooting the shit. It was the first time I ever heard Spielberg say “fuck.”
Wow, that would blow my mind.
Joe: It punched me in the gut. We looked at each other like, “did Spielberg just say clusterfuck?”
Adam: But it was so normal, and where it would get the most interesting was when they would just get caught up in conversations with each other.
Joe: They were just geeking out.
Adam: That’s when you learned the most, that’s when you got the most interesting information. Whereas when it’s a festival, and you’re there to promote a specific movie, there’s an agenda you have to follow and talk about. So what we’re hoping to accomplish tonight, on a much smaller filmmaker level, is to bring those same types of personal and off-the-cuff stories that you don’t normally get to hear. So hopefully people leave feeling good about giving to the American Legion Hall, which is the main thing. But also, there are so many aspiring writers, filmmakers, and artists who come to things like this so you always want them to leave feeling good about it and not so beaten down.
Joe: Even if it’s just like, “if those two schmoes can do it, so can we.” Because Adam is right, the DGA does a lot of these Q&A things. I was at one were they did Hugo with Scorsese and Cameron and it was just…[makes geekgasm sound]. It was so inspiring just to see these two guys shooting the shit talking about depth of field and what lens they used.
Adam: We don’t know what that stuff means so we won’t be talking about that.
Joe: Not at all. But hearing Scorsese going like, “man, that was really tough,” and you’re like, Scorsese thinks that’s tough? When you see a good movie you’re inspired, but when you hear a little about the process of it, as a filmmaker or an aspiring filmmaker, it gets you excited to get behind the camera.
It sort of humanizes the gods and makes it not seem like such an impossible task.
Joe: Yeah. And it’s like what Adam was saying before, the Drafthouse loves making the communal experience in such as way as to include the filmmaker. The fact that we’re all in this together tonight means that hopefully, aside from the fact that there’s a really cool stage up here [at the Ritz], there won’t be too much of a boundary between us and the fans, the family, and the friends that have come out here. Yes it’s for a good cause, but to me I feel it’s one big family gathering. We all get to sit around and talk about our favorite movies.
That’s what the Drafthouse is all about. So let’s talk about some of the stuff we’re going to be seeing tonight, starting with Chillerama. Obviously you guys are fans of anthology horror films.
Joe: What’s an anthology?
It’s basically when you film a bunch of random shit and then host a screening of it at the Drafthouse.
Adam: [To Joe] Oh, like how you made Wrong Turn 2.
Joe: Ah, good point. And everything you’ve done.
Adam: Hey, one of my things had a script, ok?
Joe: Yeah great, the one you didn’t direct.
It was my intention to inspire a fist fight between you two.
Joe: Oh it’ll happen, don’t worry. By the end of the night we’ll probably have our own Fantastic Debate.
If we’re lucky. So tell me a little about the origin of Chillerama.
Adam: Well, it started about 12 years ago. When Adam Rifkin was making Detroit Rock City, Tim Sullivan was one of the producers on that. The two of them started talking about their love of monsters, B-movies, and Famous Monsters of Filmland. It really started with, “what if we made the movie version of Famous Monsters of Filmland.” And then they promptly forgot about it for a decade. And then, there are these Masters of Horror dinners that they hold every couple months in L.A., which for the past few years Joe and I have been lucky enough to be invited to those. It’s still the weirdest thing.
Joe: You sit there like a total fanboy. I mean I look around and I’m surrounded by Guillermo del Toro, Joe Dante, John Landis, Wes Craven, and, wait, why is Michael Mann here? Doesn’t matter, this is awesome. But Rifkin was there and Sullivan, the guys who had gone before us. For us it was, we were the guys on the one end of the table who couldn’t fucking believe we were there. We were more the Masturbaters of Horror. But we got to know them. I’d always been a huge fan of Rifkin’s work and they asked us to hang out one night. We started commiserating about all of our favorite b-movies, why we love going to the movies, and the drive-in culture that seems to be dissipating. We all realized there were a lot of creative juices flowing at that table. That’s when they presented to us the old Famous Monsters of Filmland idea that developed into Chillerama. Rifkin had all these different scenarios that he had kind of plotted out with Tim. Almost like doing things the Corman way, we were then assigned our projects.
The Corman way? So in other words, the posters were already there, you guys just had to come in and create the movie?
Joe: That’s exactly it. Rifkin actually had posters for each one. So he says, “Green, you’re doing [The Diary of Anne Frankenstein] because you’re Jewish. Sullivan, you’re doing the gay one because you’re gay. Rifkin you’re doing Wadzilla because,well, you want to do a giant sperm movie. Lynch, you gotta do everything else.”
So your task is just creating the wrap-around story? That’s not important at all to an anthology film, right?
Joe: I could have just slapped something together that would have been half the length, which I’m sure some people would’ve been very thrilled with that. But because we’re such big fans of the anthology horror genre, a great anthology has a wrap-around that invests you all the way to the end. I always think back to the Creepshow one. Even though you don’t have much with Tom Atkins and the kid, and it’s mostly the comic book, it’s the comic book that started the thing off. At the end, obviously Tom Atkins gets his comeuppance, but it’s earned because you’ve been following what the kid has loved for all these years and now you’re like, “stick it to the man!” But it had a coda to it. So in doing this drive-in zombie thing, I can’t just at the very last second have three minutes of zombie chaos and then no one gives a shit. By having the wrap-arounds have a little more weight to them, it’s that very sneaky way to make the audience care a little bit about the people watching these movies. They’re watching the movies that you are, we’re all in it together; again the communal experience. Now you take those people whom you related to and throw them into the worst scenario possible, and hopefully the audience prays that they make it out alive. Having that coda felt like a great way of being a little bit more unique with the anthology horror genre, but also being able to allow it as a device to propel Green, Sullivan, and Rifkin to do whatever they wanted. If you go to the Alamo Drafthouse, you’re going to be able to go to a double or triple feature that the programmer has designed. The movies may not have a lot in common, but they have some kind of throughline. So being able to have my segment as a connective structure to allow these guys to do whatever they want was the most freeing part.
So Adam, your thoughts on being assigned The Diary of Anne Frankenstein because you’re Jewish?
Joe: That’s racist!
Adam: Originally, when they brought this up, Joe and I both said “no, thank you.” Right now in Hollywood, there are 500 people talking about making an anthology together. Every five minutes someone says, “we’ll make the next Creepshow.” Look, you’re never gonna make the next Creepshow and, what’s different about this anthology? The first time we talked about it, I was just leaving to start Hatchet 2 so I didn’t have time. But the idea of it being a celebration of a century of cinema and doing a noir movie, that’s what started to make it seem different. And I do short films all the time so I didn’t think it would be that big of a time commitment. Cut to two years later and it was not easy at all.
I gather that’s more of a commitment than you had anticipated.
Definitely. So they brought me the title, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein, I thought, “who the fuck is ever gonna wanna touch that title.” I said to them, “well, what is it?” They responded, “we don’t know, that’s your job.” Then I began to embrace the idea of it being my own Universal monster movie, but the version that never came out…for good reason. I contextualized it as if they had a great actor to play Hitler and he got sick or died right before the shoot, and they just grabbed the gaffer and told him to play Hitler even though he couldn’t speak German. And once the whole thing became about doing a Mel Brooks type thing and making fun of Hitler the whole time, I was much more comfortable with it. There’s no concentration camps, there’s no serious subject matter about the war at all. It’s funny because, on the page, everyone expects that one to be the most offensive and it’s probably the tamest out of all of them. It’s total straight comedy which is what I started doing and what I was really happy to get back into. On a more personal note, when I shot Diary of Anne Frankenstein, I had just come off of Hatchet 2 which was supposed to be the victory lap for myself and my crew. The first one had turned into this big thing and now we could go do the sequel that we’d always talked about when we made the first one; it was going to be fun. But it wasn’t fun at all, it was the most brutal awful shoot.
Joe: I was on set one day for a slight little cameo I did. Walking on that set, not only was everybody sick and walking around like zombies, but there was this tension in the air. I was like, “wow, I thought this was supposed to be fun.” I mean it was great because Adam got it all done in the very small amount of time he did, but it was obvious that it was a grueling process.
Adam: Yeah, it was really hard. So I was coming off of that and I was really disenchanted with directing in general. Usually that happens the first time you see a cut of any movie you make. I thought I was going to die at that point. I had been going so strong since [Hatchet], it had been one movie into another one. I needed a break, but now I had already enlisted in doing this stupid fucking Diary of Anne Frankenstein thing. But five minutes into shooting that I realized, “oh my god, that’s why I like doing this.” It was the most fun, rewarding experience. Joe would get texts at like one in the afternoon saying: hey, we’re done for the day.
Joe: I hated those texts. Originally, it was supposed to be five days of shooting for you, right?
Adam: It was supposed to be five twelve-hour days, and we ended up doing four half days. It was going so fast and it was so fun.
Joe: I was getting all these texts like, “oh, we’re having a great time,” and “I think we’re going be done by one” so I would just text back, “fuck you, asshole.” But I will say, and I can say this for the entire production, having ArieScope on this and to watch the family spirit that ran rampant through Adam’s productions now on my segments as well, there was just a shorthand that everybody had that was so gratifying. It was long hours, the food sucked, and barely anybody got paid, but everybody was having a great time doing it. After doing Knights of Badassdom, which is a much bigger movie, to hang out with your friends and make something we’d never seen before with no rules to govern us was so gratifying. It made me realize again that I love making movies. Yes, this content might not be for everybody, and my grandmother will probably never seen it, but you can tell just by watching it that there is a joy to the process. Because the movie is about movies. Cecil Kaufman (played by Richard Riehle) in beginning talks about the love of cinema and why everybody goes to the movies, and the characters in the movie are talking in movie quotes. That’s how we do it, we talk in the language of cinema. So to get that on screen, as difficult as this side project was, it was still so much fun to do and we’re so proud of what we did with what little we had.
That’s the passion that’s allowed you guys to resonate so deeply with Drafthouse audiences. So now that Chillerama is in the can, let’s talk about some things you guys have coming up. Adam, you’re doing a documentary?
Adam: Yes, Digging Up The Marrow. We’re making that right now, but it’s going to be a long process. Alex Pardee, who I think is the greatest living urban artist out there, he came up to me at a convention and handed me a pamphlet with a note that just said, “thank you for the inspiration.” I didn’t know it was him. I didn’t know what he looked like, I’d only seen his art. I ended up reaching out to him and we just starting talking about our love of monsters. We talked about where the ideas for monsters come from; people who claim they’ve really seen monsters and things like that. We didn’t know what we were going to do, but slowly we started putting it together. In particular, one person reached out to us who we both thought was crazy and we thought about the possibility of centering it around this guy. So it’s been a very experimental thing. My original goal was to have a cut of it done by summer, but then [Holliston] got picked up and that’s been very involved. Then I gotta get shooting on Hatchet 3 started in April and then I’ve got Killer Pizza which I’m doing for Chris Columbus. So Digging Up The Marrow is a side project that Alex and I have been working on together. The greatest thing about where I’m at in my career is that I don’t have to chase projects anymore. I’ve been offered things I don’t want to do, and the fact that I have my own company that can get stuff made means I can experiment and have fun. Chillerama was definitely an experiment. But now I’m making a sitcom which is what I came here to do originally, I came here to make this TV show. It’s funny that now everyone knows me as the horror director and now I’m starring in a sitcom, but that’s what I got into this to do. And then to do something like Digging Up The Marrow, I’m very lucky that I get to do that. There are other people out there pounding the pavement just trying to get a fucking job. They don’t know what the movie is, they may not want to do it, but they just need that next job. So I’m very lucky. I’m really excited about Digging Up The Marrow, but what’s cool is that I don’t really know what it’s going to be yet. That’s sort of the joy of making it.
I can’t wait to see what that turns out to be. Joe, I’d like to get an update and some insights on Knights of Badassdom if you’d be so kind.
Joe: Sure! We’re finishing film now, and the Drafthouse has been nice enough to let us show some clips. We’re actually showing one clip tonight, we don’t want to give too much away. When we went to Comic-Con with it, we were trying to figure out what we wanted to show. But everybody knows it’s about LARPing.
It’s a documentary as well, right?
Joe: (laughs) Yeah, it’s Darkon 2, just with a much bigger cast doing dramatic recreations of it. We’re in post now and hopefully it’ll be done very soon and we’ll be out by early-mid next year.
Adam: I’ve seen it. Well, I haven’t seen the completed movie as it’s not completed yet. Obviously I’m biased because I want to see him succeed, but what they did right was that they’re not making fun of LARPing. They fucking loved it, owned it, and believed in it. That’s why the movie works so well. You’re not on the outside laughing at people, you actually get it, see the joy in it, and kind of want to do it yourself. Then the whole thing takes a crazy turn into this fantastical fun thing, and it’s been great that they’ve been holding back on that.
Joe: Yeah it’s like Spielberg with Jaws, you don’t want to let Bruce out too early. I’m not saying there’s a giant shark in the woods killing LARPers.
Adam: It’s a Sharktopus.
Joe: Yeah, it’s a (stops mid-joke), oh, God, that’s awful. I wanted to make The Goonies for grownups. I know Amblin is a really hot thing to tag onto your movie right now, but those were the movies we watched other than Excalibur, and Conan the Barbarian, Chimes at Midnight, and The Lion in Winter. We didn’t want to make a flat out comedy, we wanted to make something akin to what Ghostbusters did. They shot a film that looks like a serious drama, or a thriller, or a horror movie.
It’s a movie about entrepreneurial businessmen…with ghosts.
Joe: Exactly! But even though you have really funny people in it, you treat everything around them as real. That’s what makes the difference.
A hodgepodge of Goonies, Ghostbusters, Excalibur, and live-action role play? Sounds pretty badass indeed.