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Monday, June 16, 2014

Boobs, Blood And Back Story: Michael Hall’s Vision For “Kids Get Dead 2: The Kids Get Deader”

“Kids Get Dead 2: The Kids Get Deader” is getting close to the premiere of this high energy, rock ‘n’ roll , slasher sequel. The premiere is set for 10:30, June 21st at 304 Bowery, New York, NY. “Kids Get Dead 2” is a return to the classic midnight movie slasher genre featuring horror hostess Peaches McNeil. You can check out my review of the film here. Below is Michael Hall’s Director statement discussing his vision of boobs, blood and the focus on back story for “Kids Get Dead 2: The Kids Get Deader”.

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Where did the idea for this film come from? Why a sequel?

The 80’s had a great tradition of slasher film sequels and it seemed like a natural progression to extend Kids Get Dead. USA's Up All Night with Rhonda Shear was a very influential show for me growing up. It really was my introduction to horror and exploitation films. This, along with Tales From The Crypt and The Twilight Zone, really inspired me to include hostess segments in my films. All those cheesy puns and whacky characters still make me smile to this day. In addition to being a little love note paying homage to hosts of the past, I think it adds a great dynamic to a horror film genre often forgotten.
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Tell us a bit about the script writing process?

In addition to the boobs, blood and rock ‘n’ roll I wanted to delve a bit further into the back story, the how and why these novels are able to predict the kids getting murdered. The specific motivation of the killer doesn’t really interest me. I don’t need to know how he tortured animals, wet the bed or had an abusive step father. That’s boring! To me the killer represents pure evil and those explanations only take away from his mystique. In Kids Get Dead 2: The Kids Get Dead Deader the real bad guy is the author, Charles Carver. Everyone in the movie is a character in his book and he has written himself into it in order to interact with his lead character. The idea of creator and creation sitting down for a one-on-one fascinates me. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., one of my favorite books, deals with similar themes. The “creator” writes a letter to the one free-willed human explaining to him his existence. It adds a great thought provoking subplot to round out all of the comedy, sex and violence.

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I have been working and writing with Robert J. Huntley for nearly 12 years. When I have an idea we sit and brainstorm for awhile, tossing around things that make us laugh therefor setting up the basic story structure. From there I like to write out a full step sheet scene-for-scene and plan out the whole story. This is where I inevitably get stuck. Rob likes to say that I write Mad Libs and he fills in the blanks. As the script revisions go back and forth while we iron out the details we tend to latch on to specific characters. I think our conversational style then seeps into those character interactions. Much of the dialogue really becomes he and I playing off each other so it's very hard to decipher who wrote what.

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What was the shooting process like?

Principle photography on Kids Get Dead 2: The Kids Get Deader lasted around 20 days. A typical day on set was about 12-14 hours and particularly grueling for our cinematographer John Gebhart. I wanted a very fluid look to the film with a lot of movement so he shot nearly the entire film with a hand held rig only using camera sliders to add little nuances and tripods for very specific special effects. Proper planning when shooting with a limited budget is key as is good food and a positive atmosphere to keep up the cast and crew moral. Many of the cast and crew were already friends or had previously worked together, some for many years. Working on a film set is a lot like being on a pirate ship and we fell into a family dynamic very quickly.

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Can you tell us about some on set experiences?

Stunt Double:
Sam Albertsen, who plays Steve in the movie, donated a kidney to his father shortly before we began shooting. He was insistent we not delay the shoot on his account and powered through his scenes. When it came time to “rip his guts out” he was wrapped in plastic wrap to keep the fake blood out of his stitches. He was still in rough shape and some of the physicality of getting thrown around would not have been safe so we planned to use a stunt double. That stunt double ended up being me. Now Sam is a slim fit guy and I ‘m ... not. So, I do a few takes getting slammed on the table covered in blood and I felt pretty good about my “performance”. After the third take I notice everyone kind of stops and stares at me. I then hear the cinematographer John Gebhart say, “Okay great. This looks great. But do you think we could do one more? And could you maybe suck in your gut a little more?”. I laughed so hard and said, “Sorry John, this is all I got!”.




Fake Blood:
imageRich Catino did a wonderful job with his custom fake blood recipe. I think we used something like 15 gallons of fake blood during the course of shooting. We had a separate minty store bought mixture that we used whenever anyone had to put it into their mouth. It actually tasted pretty good, like something you’d put on ice cream. The blood got everywhere! At first it wasn’t so bad but as it would dry the syrup would get incredibly sticky. Body hair also made the experience extra special. There was hours and hours of fake blood clean up but surprisingly nothing got stained and it all washed out.



Shower Scene:
You absolutely can’t do a shower stabbing scene without mentioning Alfred Hitchcock. We story boarded many of the shots as an homage to the classic Psycho sequence. That was a particularly intense day of shooting as well. The bathroom was very cramped, hot, steamy and difficult to shoot in. The window was blacked out and the door was shut so it was like a little hot box for 14 hours. By the end of the day John Gebhart(cinematographer) was running his camera in nothing but a bathing suit. Actress Megan Krache was a real trooper as well. She never complained even when she had to lay in the tub covered in blood for several hours while we did the toilet drowning sequence.




Practical Effects:
I love practical FX and we use them whenever possible. There is just a certain magic both for the actors and the audience when there is a real element in the picture to interact with. Most of the visual FX in Kids Get Dead 2: The Kids Get Deader started out as practicals with motorized tubing to pump blood, prosthetic body parts, etc. When I wanted some of the FX to be more over the top I really embellished them or added more blood to the shot. The Killer chopping off Monica’s head was done practically at first by using a black T-shirt to mask out her body then using creative lighting to compliment the fake head and her actual body dropping. From there Andrew Waffenschmidt, our visual FX supervisor, added just a little bit of extra blood splatter and a severed neck piece to complete the shot.

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For budget and safety reasons blowing up the car was done completely on the computer. Instead of using computer generated images for the smoke, flames and debris, the explosion was pieced together using practical elements composite and animated onto the master shot. Another safety issue was the use of guns in the film. Even using squibs and blanks can be very hazardous so instead of taking that risk Andrew composites muzzle flashes, barrel animations, stray cartridges and impacts on the computer. Many of my favorite FX centered around the prosthetic torso we used in many of the kills. It was incredibly lifelike and although only slated for one effect we ended up re-using it, stabbing, gutting and slicing it over and over again. Having that physical element to the effect really makes it more tangible and gruesome in a way a computer generated image just can’t do.

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Why release on VHS?

The outpouring of fan requests to release Kids Get Dead 2: The Kids Get Deader kind of surprised me at first. After talking to several of these fans and exploring their online tape-trading and collecting groups it became a no-brainer. There is a thriving niche of VHS enthusiasts and I think our film is the perfect fit for those who want to experience an authentic slice of slasher film nostalgia.
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