Feb 5, 2008

Interview with John R. Hand

I recently got an interview with the director of the pseudo-surreal nightmare that is Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare.

SS: Hello, John. I noticed the way you filmed Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare looked inspired and original. How did you decide how you wanted it to look and feel?

JRH: Well I definitely wanted the film to look and sound like it came from another planet. At first I was just going for a kind of vintage or retro vibe because I'd seen some films where all the press kept pushing the whole vintage/retro/seventies angle and I'd just watch these films and I knew these people hadn't seen an issue of Cinemagic, just totally lifeless to me. I mean I'm sure they were fine people and artists but come on, vintage is more than just some grain and endless digital scratches. So part of it was the know-it-all in my thinking I could do better. Then another part of it was my love of films like Begotten, films which exists in another world. So I think a certain set of happy accidents along with my experimental tendencies pushed what started more as a kind of homage to eurohorror into something a little stranger.

SS: In the one scene where Victor went to his friends with the formaldehyde, his friend said, “Wait a minute” and I began to count the seconds. It strangely was close to exactly one minute. Was there anything behind that or just a goof?

JRH: It wasn't exactly a goof, I mean I purposely directed Billy to just kind of take this very odd pause and let the music play out behind him in order to build a little atmosphere. He also turns the volume down by rotating it clockwise, which usually turns the volume up. Even that still makes sense to me. That was a horrible night man, because I'd spent all day dressing up that room with all kind of texture, character stuff, in-jokes, etc., and there was supposed to be about three or four other actors coming down and giving this very seedy vibe to the whole thing along with these little vignettes which you could see Victor to and kind of help to build his character, but I didn't know these people so I also invited my friend Wade to come along to kind of corral these people that I didn't know. Well that wasn't a problem because none of them showed up and I just basically put Wade in the costume and he played the role. Then I dubbed his voice using the voice of my cameraman Brian, just to give it a strange, otherworldly feel. Wade is also wearing a very large shirt in the scene which was actually a movie prop I bought at an estate sale - it was a shirt that Tyrese wore in 2 Fast, 2 Furious, which someone won from a Starz movie contest or something, at least that's what the certificate of authenticity states. I'm sure they probably had a couple dozen replica shirts so who knows if that exact shirt was used in the film but if you study the shirt it really looks like a movie prop because all the identifying tags and everything have been carefully trimmed off and if you look as some press photos of Tyrese from the film and then watch my movie it's pretty clear that they're the same style shirt.

SS: Did you borrow anything traits/habits from yourself to fit the character Victor?

JRH: Victor has a few of my character traits in that he's this kind of introverted little guy. He's also incredibly paranoid - throughout the film he's constantly glancing around, wondering if someone's watching him. I don't think we're ever really sure if someone actually is or if these heat video displays are just his internal idea of what the people watching him are seeing. I'm kind of glad you picked up on some of that in your review because it seems like most people can't even get that and I don't even think it's that hard to grasp. Basically the film is this - it's just one guy's descent into madness. I think I'm a little paranoid, I used to be morose, but I think I brought a lot of that paranoid energy to the core of the role and to the core of the film itself.

SS: How did you decide on the origins of the beast? Was he brainwashed of sorts?

JHR: I think many people are little unclear of the who/what the beast is. It's pretty laid out in a very logical way by Victor at the end of the film during his little heatgram monologue but if you read every synposis or review you find that each critic kind of interprets the plot a little different, which I think is neat, because this is not necessarily a true-blue expermental film - it DOES have a plot, so it's kind of weird that there's this strange leeway in the plot for different interpretations. Some people think the monster is even Victoria. Anyway, my story on this is basically Victor's - he's just some guy that Victor found that he was able to revive and control. I don't think he was really brainwashed per se, but he didn't really have any higher brain functions beyond those sparks of memory which comprise that weird black-and-red experimental film sequence. There's kind of an Astrozombies vibe to the beast, and he was also supposed to have more a presence until that head I built was much too large so I kept cutting him back, also he was supposed play prominently at the end of the film and I cut that all out as well when I found the chemical burn technique for the photos.

SS: Any word on the next project you will do, do you see it being released under Unearthed, and will it be filmed in Super8?

JRH: I'd like to work with Unearthed again but maybe next time I'd have to be under a decent budget. They're always looking to move into production so who knows, stranger things have happened. I really like Super-8 but right now I've just getting my camera and lighting equipment together for this new film I'm making and I'm shooting in HD, 1080p, just because you can't get such quality along with the shots that you can get using these lightweight HD cameras. Basically the camera I've got is about twice the size of my tiny little Chinon Super-8 camera but it's shooting 1080p. It's just incredible to me.

SS: The film is obviously inspired by Frankenstein but I couldn’t help but noticing similarities in Buio Omega. Anything behind that?

JRH: I was heavily inspired by that film, which actually for me provided that initial spark to put together thing film. Some people it's Spielberg or Kevin Smith. For me it's Buio Omega. Of course you've got the superficial similarities, like the guy with his girlfriend who dies and then kind of comes back her sisters, other certain elements, but as I said at the beginning I took my initial ideas to such a strange place that it doesn't really resemble Buio Omega anymore. Also, I was interesting in taking that sketch of an idea, the guy with the girl, and then exploring the psychosexual identity of guy - did he really even love this girl, or did she even exist beyond his tangled delusional framework? That's why the whole scene with the guys in the alley has this really strange sexual edge to me, like it's this character confronting his masculinity against the cold blue night - blue, the color of a kind of emotional sleep. My next film's going to be really blue, by the way. I think there were number of additional scenes which could've fleshed Victor out a little more but by the end of the film I had run out of steam and also I was always looking for things to cut out of the film in order to make the film feel a little more vague and internal, not to confuse people but so that some people might even relate to better. Some people, I guess, maybe not everyone, but that's okay.

SS: Many thanks for the interview John. Best wishes for your directorial future. Any final words for our readers?

JRH: Well I just hope people like the next film I'm making. That's about it. You know, you say that this film is ripe for a prequel or sequel and I'd like to tell you that I'd love to do a sequel maybe a decade or so later but this time i'd be like an Italian horror film in a castle with my midget friend that I give birth to who hits people with a hammer - he doesn't really kill anyone, he just hits them with the hammer and laughs like a maniac.

Check out John R. Hand's debut film FRANKENSTEINS BLOODY NIGHTMARE from Unearthed Films.

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