In 2006 I saw the first Hatchet at the Screamfest Film Festival in LA, and pretty much fell in love instantly with its mix of humor and slasher horror (that the hero was a guy who’d rather go on haunted swamp tours than get drunk at Mardi Gras didn’t hurt – that’s what I’d do!*). Over the years I’ve gotten to know many of the folks behind the film, even getting to contribute some PA work and end titles on the sequel (which I didn’t love as much, but was still solid). And I can say that they’re all pretty great and loyal folks who are a joy to talk to, so while I tend to generally hate doing interviews (I think I suck at it, frankly), I was more than happy to sit down with producer/writer Adam Green, director BJ McDonnell (who is worthy of our eternal love for being the camera operator on MacGruber!), and stars Kane Hodder (Victor Crowley) and Zach Galligan (Sheriff Fowler) for a while at Comic Con to see if I could get them to spill any secrets about the upcoming Hatchet 3, which sounds like it’ll be the most action-packed entry yet.
If you’re unfamiliar, the Hatchet films pick up right where the previous one left off; even though six or seven years have passed in between productions of the three films, they only take place a few days apart. So if the first one took place on a Friday, this one takes place on the Sunday on that same weekend - anyone who has read my piece on the Saw series’ approach to continuity would know how much I appreciate this sort of thing. There’s also been a strong continuity behind the scenes as well; Green wrote and directed the first two entries, and while the script is still his, he’s passed on directorial duties to BJ McDonnell, who was the camera operator on the first two films, and retained the skills of DP Will Barratt and several other key personnel.
Otherwise, they’re pretty much like most slashers (albeit with more male cast members than female): some folks head off to an area that they shouldn’t, and they’re all killed in horribly graphic fashion. What makes them special (to me) is that the FX are all practical and that the humor is character-based, not winking or meta. Also, for the most part, the characters are likable, another thing that is unfortunately rare in modern slashers as everyone seems to think that they should make their “victims” insufferable assholes that you want to die. No. We have to want them to live AND die – that’s the secret.
Also, please forgive this diversion from usual Collins' Crypt material, but since SDCC took up all my time/energy, it’s either this or a photo of my horror DVD collection.
Badass: Kane, will we be seeing you out of the makeup again this time? [Kane also played Victor Crowley’s normal-looking father in flashback scenes in the first two films]
Kane Hodder: ...can’t really say.
Zach Galligan: That’s going to be the answer to a lot of these questions: “Can’t really say.” [laughs]
BAD: Zach you’re new to the Hatchet family, but were you familiar with the first two films?
ZG: Not much, I did my research on it, was very impressed with what I saw. But when you join a franchise, it doesn’t really matter what’s been done before - it’s more “What are we going to do now.” So I took the first two in consideration, but I based any decision on what was in front of me. I really liked the way the dialogue flowed, I thought it was exceptionally well written, particularly for my character. I printed out the script and read the first 20 pages aloud just by myself just to hear how it sounded, and I was really kind of jazzed by it. That was an important factor.
KH: One of Adam’s strengths with writing is making dialogue compelling even when the subject matter isn’t. He’ll write stuff that’s about something unimportant, but the way he writes it and the way the actors have their own input makes it an interesting scene - even if it’s about nothing! I compare it to the “Royale with Cheese”-
ZG: I was just going to say that! I actually read for that scene, I tried out for the Frank Whaley part.
KH: He writes the same way as Tarantino does, making something interesting to listen to when it’s actually just nothing. [To Zach] I was up for stunt coordinator on that, didn’t get it either.
BAD: Well that movie turned out shitty, you guys dodged a bullet.
KH: [laughs] Yeah, what crap, right?
BAD: Robert Pendergraft returned for the makeup FX, did your makeup process change at all?
KH: Yeah, tremendously. He used a different material, silicone instead of foam latex. And that was fantastic for me, the application process every night, instead of three and a half hours only took one hour, and the removal… instead of an hour and a half, REMOVAL, mind you, not exaggerating, this time it was off in 20 minutes. The tradeoff is that the silicone is much heavier, so it’s a 15 pound piece on your head, 25 pound body piece… it makes it a little harder to work in. But the fact that I don’t have to sit in the makeup chair as long, I was happy to do it. Also, the facial expressions are so much more evident with the silicone, I think that’s the biggest plus. You can see subtleties in Victor’s face. I think it’s very effective.
BAD: Was the excessive heat a problem with the extra makeup weight? I hear the conditions were less than ideal...
KH: It was VERY uncomfortable.
ZG: Yeah, the conditions were pretty rough. Usually you hear actors complain about this stuff, and they’re not well founded… I think they’re pretty well founded here. Mosquitoes just eat you alive, you put stuff on and they just don’t give a shit, they come right for you. I mean, I was bitten on the palm of my hands! Any place where there was skin, they were trying to extract blood.
KH: At one point there was an actor on the set - not a main character, just a day player. And he was standing there with one of those little battery operated pocket fans on his face, and he goes “God, I’m so hot!” You’re fucking hot? I got 40 pounds of makeup on mother fucker!
BAD: The first two Hatchets mix humor and horror quite well, much like Gremlins which to me is the best of that type – does this one follow in that vein?
ZG: For me the best way to play comedy is to play it straight. The people involved in the situation don’t think it’s funny at all. So yeah, I think my character gets so frustrated at times, he gets pretty frazzled – hopefully people will find that funny.
KH: And Victor’s hilarious. He’s funny as hell [laughs].
BAD: What’s the difference between Adam and BJ directing?
KH: Well BJ has been involved since the beginning, on both the Hatchet films, so he was the most logical choice to direct when Adam decided not to. He knows the characters and the main storyline; he’s well versed in it. There aren’t many people that have been involved with all three movies. BJ was always creatively involved as well, helping Adam plan the shots… it was a good choice, I think he did a great job.
BAD: Zach, you play the ex-husband of Caroline Williams’ character – did you get to work with her a lot?
ZG: Just one scene but it’s a pretty pivotal one. She’s just another thorn in my side, making this day the most miserable day of my life. So the question is, will it be the LAST day as well? Of course, I can’t say anything about that. But Caroline... our relationship has some real significance to the way the film turns out.
BAD: Talk about working with Derek Mears.
KH: Who? Derek WHO? [laughs] I can say that… and I mean this literally, when fans watch the movie, and you see the scene between Derek and myself, people are going to be shocked. It’s jaw dropping, honestly. That’s not bull shit, it’s a great scene.
BAD: I know you can’t say anything specific, but might there be some kills in here that will replace a few of your existing 10 favorite kills? [Kane has a custom-made clip reel of his ten favorite kills from his career, blending Jason, Crowley, BTK, etc, which he plays at conventions.]
KH: YES. I believe they could replace some, yes. A number of them! [laughs] Definitely won’t disappoint there.
(At this point I switch tables to talk to Adam and BJ. Kane remained nearby and even choked me during the interview with them. My sunglasses were flung off the top of my head in the process and are now very warped. Sometimes I love my “job”.)
Badass: So let’s talk about when you got THE call from Adam.
BJ McDonnell: It actually wasn’t a phone call. I was doing a movie called That’s My Boy in Cape Cod, and Adam was there to see family, and he called and said “Hey we’re in the same town, lets hang out”. And I said “Cool, let’s play putt-putt golf”, and we went to Friendly’s for ice cream. So we’re talking, and Hatchet 3 comes up, over kicking ass on the putt-putt pirate ship. And then he proposed it, and I was like “Man, I would love to do that, I would be honored, I’d kill it”. I understand how the politics go, I understand if they want someone else, but just for him saying that I was up to direct Hatchet 3 was an honor. I was like “Man, let’s kick ass! Let’s do it.”
Adam Green: And it’s important to know, he never asked once. He never said “Hey man can you consider me?” He never brought it up. To me that means a ton, because everyone wants something. BJ never asked for anything, it was a complete surprise to him when I brought it up.
BAD: How did you approach the kills? Did you design them together?
BJ: When he actually got a moment to sit down and start going over it... he already had a storyline in his head, so whenever he had a minute, we collaborated what he wanted to do, what I wanted to put into the Hatchet films that I thought were important. It was a great collaborative effort over time, and we came up with a script that we both thought was so kick ass. It’s just like the other movies – we’re always collaborating, it’s a real family vibe. We talk to each other like family.
BAD: Have you released the kill count?
AG: Not yet, mainly because it’s Comic Con and there’s a new announcement every 30 seconds so we want to hold back. I can definitely say he kills a LOT of people in this one. It’s so fucking messy and crazy… we actually have to go through the edit and figure it out, how many are actually on-screen. This time around there’s a SWAT team that goes after him, so there’s heavy artillery, guns blazing… It’s not a bunch of redneck hunters that don’t even believe in what they’re going into. Victor Crowley is on steroids in this one; there’s a lot of wire work, so much stunt work, instead of slamming someone against a tree. If you think of the three movies as one movie, the first one’s the fun setup, the second one is the darker second act, the realization of the story, and all that – well this is the action climax. This one just starts and keeps going. There’s still character development, there’s still the funny stuff, and there are people in this movie that no one knows they’re in it yet. We haven’t released the full cast, because I want there to be some surprises. You always know everything before it comes out. We didn’t need to explain where it is, what it’s about.
BJ: Everyone knows, there’s no need to go through that stuff again.
AG: So we get through that stuff faster, and then we introduce people and you say “That must be the main character”, and then nope, they’re gone. It’s very unpredictable. We got so many good people, we got Derek Mears as the head of the SWAT team, which is awesome. Until they saw Holliston they didn’t realize he was a comedian. And from that we got Jason vs Jason, that’s the last icon for Crowley to kill! Even Chucky’s creator he’s now killed! This was the last one we had to nail. So many great actors, Zach Galligan is fantastic, and I was excited for Rileah – in the other 2 she’s always beneath the makeup or applying makeup, and now she gets to act and play a character. It’s not the biggest part in the world, but for her it meant a lot because she’s been part of this legacy but was mostly doing makeup in a trailer. And then Cody Schneider, who is going to steal the movie.
BAD: Is he basically playing himself?
AG: Yes! Schneiderman as a police officer!
BAD: Talk about the swamp, I hear the conditions weren’t ideal...
BJ: New Orleans in the swamp is one of the most brutal things ever. The conditions we were put into, the snakes, the spiders, the alligators, the rain, the mud… these little bugs crawling on you, you wake up with these little bites all over you. It was more challenging with the conditions than anything. That was like the biggest drawback: you set up for a scene and it rains. You’re allotted a certain number of days to do certain things and there’s no room for error, so that was the biggest challenge. Luckily, the rain held up for us sometimes, but then it would rain during the day and make our sets muddy, we’d have to fix em up. Out of all the films I’ve ever done, the conditions on that were absolutely insane. It was tough.
AG: For me Frozen the conditions were worse. For me the bigger challenge was when you’re directing you’re sort of shielded; you’re on set doing your thing. But [as producer] there’s so much politics and bullshit and problems, I felt like I actually worked harder on this than the others. I was beaten down and frazzled by the end of it; it was a very hard movie to produce. Some of that stemmed from the fact that we shot the whole thing in New Orleans to push the budget further with the tax incentive. A lot of it will look like the other two, which weren’t really in New Orleans, but some of it you’ll be like “HOLY FUCK they’re really in the swamp”.
BJ: We went really big on scope on this one as best as we could to show off the swamp.
AG: Even the aspect ratio changes, it starts 1.85 like the others and then goes to 2.40. Also, there’s a lot of great crew down there, but because there were 7 movies shooting at the same time down there and we were the low budget one, there were some crew members that were not so good. Normally it’s like a family, but here it wasn’t. I’m not saying anything bad about everyone there, but I’ve worked with the same people my entire time, and there’s a reason for that. You get one person that doesn’t have that attitude and it started affecting everything. And in order to protect BJ, I had to deal with a lot of that shit so that he wouldn’t have to. But there were some really great people too, Jay Hinkle our production designer…
BJ: Dave Nash, our pyro guy… he was badass.
AG: Hinkle worked on Chinatown, Blade Runner... he did it because he was so excited that a crew person was getting their shot, since it rarely happens. There are a lot of really great people down there.
BAD: Did you operate camera, or did you have to pass it off to someone else this time?
BJ: I had to let go of operating. I did jump on the Steadicam, and there were a couple times I did certain dolly shots, which we’ve never really had before on a Hatchet movie, we’ve never had a dolly! We even had condors on this one! So I did a little operating, but I had to push away from that to concentrate on what was going on in the story itself.
AG: It’s pretty normal for a director to operate a little bit. And especially because he’s so comfortable with the Steadicam with what he wants to do, it’s easier to just do it rather than explain it to someone else, and it helped us move faster.
BAD: Will there be a shot of blood hitting a tree?
BOTH: Let’s not answer that one yet. [everyone laughs]
AG: In the second one we made fun of it when we had that one shot where we held on it, and on this one we sort of do something a little different with it. From a writing standpoint no one is better at making fun or criticizing me than ME. It’s always funny when someone tries to rip me apart, I’m like “If you don’t think I can do this way better than you…” We know what we’re making, and we know when to poke fun, there’s some really funny inside stuff – not “inside” like that you need to know us or whatever – but if you’re a fan of the movies you’ll get the jokes. But there’s blood hitting things, for sure.
BJ: Tons of it.
*But I’d live. And I wouldn’t be in Gone.