Your new film Won Ton Baby! - in a few words, what is it
The quickest summary
of the film is that it is about a parasitic twin that murders and eats
people. For the most part, the film follows the story of
Madam Rachel Won Ton (played by Debbie Rochon [Debbie
Rochon interview - click here]), who has transformed her
former brothel into a restaurant. In 1975, she gets
impregnated during a wild night of sex and drugs, and gives birth to a
deformed daughter, Little Wing Won Ton (played by Suzi Lorraine [Suzi
Lorraine interview - click here]). Jumping
forward thirty years, the deformity on Suzi turns out to be a
cannibalistic, murderous, thieving fetus-in-fetu, or parasitic twin.
Once the doctor removes the baby from Suzi, all hell breaks loose.
So, of course, that’s when all the gore, blood, and twisted humor
that independent horror film fans will most likely enjoy kicks in.
What were your inspirations when writing Won
The first thing to
inspire me was Suzi’s idea for the story. She came to me
with the idea and things sort of took off from there. Obviously,
the first film we both considered was Basket Case. It’s
always been one of Suzi’s favorite films, so she’d want humor along
those lines. When writing a story about a mischievous baby,
I tried to keep in mind a lot of the films from the 80s that featured
little antagonists like Child’s Play, the Puppet
Master-series, Stuart Gordon’s Dolls, Gremlins, and even the
We draw a lot of
comparisons to It’s Alive, and though I love Cohen’s
work [Larry Cohen bio - click
think that’s largely because we’re both about killer babies. I
remember watching a lot of Peter Sellers films at the time as well, so
having one actor play more than one role appealed to me. Of
course, a Bubba Ho-Tep-influence also creeps in – both in terms
of subject matter and humor. And I also remember thinking a
lot about other indie “horror-comedy” films like Evil Dead,
Dead Alive, and, of course, anything by Troma.
Overall, I was drawing
from a lot of films because I wanted the film to be for indie horror
fans. I know that sounds rather cliché, but Suzi and I
really wanted to do something that was different, that would be fun to
make, and that would be enjoyable for fans to watch.
How would you describe your directorial
approach to the subject?
One of my pet peeves
with low budget films is when the acting is horrible, so Suzi and I were
very particular about casting, and then working with the actors during
rehearsals to get what the film called for. There are so
many talented out of work actors, that we didn’t feel we needed to
settle, so we sifted through literally thousands of headshots and
resumes that were sent to us. I think it really paid off as
everyone gives a great performance in the film.
Visually, we wanted
something similar to the 1970s or early 80s. We knew we
wouldn’t have access to a high end camera, but it’s amazing the
quality that you can get with today’s technology. Since
this was my first attempt at a feature, I relied pretty heavily on our
cinematography, James Fazzaro, to get the shots we needed. Overall,
I think we did a hell of a job.
A few words about the actual
Won Ton Baby, meaning the special effects creation?
The baby is a latex
puppet designed by Paul Mafuz. Basically, it’s a demonic
muppet. Any blinking or other movements you see that you
can’t get on set, we added digitally thanks to our compositor James
Our fx team, in
general, did a great job. Our FX supervisor, Ingrid Okola,
has won an Emmy for her work on a soap opera - a job she landed because
she did such an incredible job on a train wreck scene when she was
called on as an extra artist for the gig, so we knew we were in more
than competent hands with her at the head of the project.
far did you go in terms of gore and violence, and was there ever a line
you refused to cross?
As Joe Bob Briggs
might put it, the film had two severed heads, five mangled bodies, one
dead mouse, and some intestinal chewing. We had plans to
push a little farther, but had to cut some scenes out due to time
constraints. I don’t know if I ever consider there to be
boundaries someone should refuse to transgress when working on a horror
film. When you work on a horror film, you’ve already made
the conscious decision to work on a genre that is generally considered
“unacceptable” by various people and for various demographics.
To put a constraint on yourself and say, “Oh, well we can’t
go THAT far because that would be TOO far” seems counterintuitive to
me. What is too far? How is the “too far”
meant to interact with the audience? Is it meant to make
them uncomfortable and why? Serious horror is about pushing
down on people’s pressure points, so I didn’t see why a
“horror-comedy” should be any different.
How would you describe Won Ton
Baby!'s brand of humour?
definitely an element of camp to the film that comes being a fan of John
Waters, but probably the humor that comes in some of the juvenile antics
of the baby that’s reminiscent of some of Troma’s early films. I
was born and raised in New Jersey, and both Troma and Kevin Smith movies
were the films that many of my friends were into, so I’d say the New
Jersey ethos before Jersey Shore came into existence is where a lot
of my humor comes from, which, of course, gets reflected in the film.
I also have always loved shows like Beavis and Butthead,
Celebrity Deathmatch, South Park, Robot Chicken, and pretty much
anything on Adult Swim, and I think that comes through as well.
Your film has been
described as a horror film in the grindhouse tradition. Is this something
you can at all live with, and some of your genre favourites?
Sure, I can live with
it. For better or for worse, without the era of the
grindhouse theaters, horror wouldn’t have taken the turn that it did
in the 70s and 80s. Being marginalized as it was allowed
directors like Wes Craven to experiment with themes they felt were
significant and worth delving into without the blowback from a major
studio. Could you imagine trying to pitch that to a studio head in 1972?
“So, after the mother bites the guy’s penis off, you intend
to have the father of the raped and murdered girl chase the patriarch of
the gang of rapists around the room with a chainsaw? Yeah,
I think we, here at Universal, are gonna have to pass on this one.
But best of luck to you, Mr. Craven.”
favorites would depend on your definition of “grindhouse”. I’d
have to include films like The Last House on the
Look in the Basement, I Spit on Your
Grave, The Last House on the Edge
of the Park, Cannibal Holocaust, and a lot of Jack Hill’s films.
few words about Suzi Lorraine [Suzi
Lorraine interview - click here], who not only stars in the film but was also
involved in writing and producing Won Ton Baby!?
Suzi’s an incredible
talent. She’s sick, twisted, and incredibly funny. I
am also in awe of how much she accomplishes – but I think a lot of her
success comes from never sleeping. We met ten years ago and
have been friends ever since, so I’m beyond delighted that my first
feature film has come as a partnership with her. To have
that padding of a friendship to absorb the blow of any disagreements, I
think, has been really beneficial to us.
Debbie Rochon with Lou Martini jr
film also stars genre veteran Debbie Rochon [Debbie
Rochon interview - click here]. A few words about her, and
what was it like working with her?
Debbie’s one of my
heroes. Working with her on the set was incredibly memorable.
I have not met anyone who is more professional on a set and more
helpful to up and coming filmmakers. She’s unbelievable at
working with her director and cast to get the best possible performance,
and somehow always maintains her sense of humor. We pulled
some seriously long hours on the shoot, and no matter how late we went,
Debbie not only gave her best performance, she was always a huge support
to the other actors on the set no matter how disgruntled, hungry,
unshowered, and dehumanized they felt. Without her, this film
wouldn’t be half as entertaining as it is.
Gunnar Hansen with Debbie Rochon
Of course, you also
have to say a few words about genre icon Gunnar Hansen, who makes an
appearance in Won Ton Baby!!
Gunnar was great.
He plays the doctor that removes the baby from Little Wing (Suzi
Lorraine), and was a lot of fun to work with. He came right
in and built a rapport with the other actors. You’d think a
guy of his physical stature (and of some of the roles he’s played in the
past) would intimidate folks, but he’s a really nice and down-to-earth
What can you tell us
about the rest of your cast and crew?
I’m really proud of
the group of people we got together for the film. The music
was composed by Mars of Dead House Music. He did a
phenomenal job nailing the sort of 80s horror/B-movie soundtrack I was
looking for. He and I talked a lot about the exact style we
were looking for long before the film was ever shot, and he happened to
be a fan of Richard Band’s, so we were right on the same wavelength
from the get go. Our editor, Ken Yankee, has done a great
job as well. He’s been nominated for two Emmys for his
television work, so I knew that between him and Mars alone had a great
post team in advance.
As I said above, the
casting is something I’m really proud of as the rest of the cast was
landed almost entirely from stage actors and comedians from New York
City. Harry Terjanian of Upright Citizens Brigade voices
the baby and also plays one of Gunnar’s assistants. Harry
is one of the funniest standup comics I’ve come across as I first came
across him when casting for a short film. Nick Raio plays
Detective O’Reilly and is a fixture of collegehumor.com – most
people would recognize him from the web series Street Fighter: The
Later Years where he played Guile. And, of course, our
male lead is played by Lou Martini, Jr. who is most well-known for his
role as Anthony Infante from The Sopranos.
I also have to credit
my wife, Jen, who busted her ass on the set design. She
transformed an Italian restaurant into an Asian one for every night we
shot at the restaurant. She also created a beautiful
brothel bedroom and really brought the apartments of each character to
And finally, again, I
can’t credit the fx and makeup team enough. Ingrid Okola
is the best person to work with ever.
What can you tell
us about audience reaction to Won Ton Baby! so far?
been really surprised at all of the love we’ve received. We
knew going into it that the film was going to be a niche film and that
people will either love it or hate it. Independent,
low-budget horror-comedy is a highly narrow focus, and yet the film seems
to really work. Without exception, we continue to have people
come up to us after screenings to tell us how original a concept the film
is and how much they loved it. At our most recent screening,
I had one fan tell me he loved it because the characters were so likable
for him whereas, for him, a lot of horror films have nothing but unlikable
characters nowadays. I thought that was an interesting
comment because it speaks to what we were aiming to do – which was to
make the film enjoyable and entertaining for those who grew up as genre
fans in 70s and 80s. What has really taken me by surprise was that when we
announced we were working on a script to a sequel, the room erupted with
$64 question remains of course: When and where will the film be released
to a wide audience?
don’t have a street date just yet, but later this year the film is set
to be released by R-Squared. Fans can check out their website
at rsquaredfilms.com. In fact, they just released Alan Rowe
Kelly’s The Blood Shed, which several people have recommended I
You have also recently completed Guy
with a Camera. What can you tell us about that movie?
GWC stars Harry
Terjanian as Guy Hart – an aspiring photographer. I’ve
had a lot of friends who have wanted to become either models or actresses
over the years, and there’s been this ongoing phenomenon called
“GWCs” or “Guy with camera.” It is what it says it
is. A guy with little to no equipment other than his camera.
So these guys will hire models to pose for them, and will either ask
upfront for a nude shoot or try to coax the young model out of her
clothes. In some cases, it’s just some guy with a fetish
he’s acting on. In other cases, these guys can force women
into situations they rather not be involved in. I decided this would be
excellent fodder for a film – especially if we could chart the
involvement of one “photographer” who is just starting out and trying
to climb the ladder of the independent photographer/GWC realm. So,
I hired stand-up comedians and improvisational actors to make the film
based on some loosely scripted scenarios. What the actors
wound up providing us with some hysterical sequences.
and you have written and produced Legend of Suzi, a short starring Won
Ton Baby!'s Suzi Lorraine [Suzi
Lorraine interview - click here]. A few words about that one?
was on the Legend of Suzi set where Suzi approached me about the
idea for Won Ton Baby!. Suzi and I first worked
together years back on a project that wound up never being finished.
We remained friends for years after that, and I always felt bad
that the thriller/suspense we tried to work out didn’t get finished.
I felt especially bad since it contained some really strong scenes
for Suzi that showcased her acting. A couple years ago, I was
collaborating with my friend Jamie Shuali and we were talking about
shooting something on Super8, and I thought it would be great to offer to
Suzi a role in a short film directed by a female artist. So I
wrote up the script with Suzi in mind, and when we offered the project to
her, she was delighted. Fortunately, the film just got picked
up for the compilation DVD Cult Volume 1, put together by Devanny
Pinn [Devanny Pinn interview -
can you tell us about your filmmaking experiences prior to Won Ton
Baby!, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?
I first became
interested in filmmaking in high school. I took a film
course and, at the end of the year, we had to make a film as part of our
final project. I wrote the script, directed the film, gave
myself a cameo, and then edited and dubbed it with a two VHS recording
deck that our teacher allowed us to use. I was fascinated
with the process at once, but I felt it was too late of a start to do
anything substantial with it. I had always been a writer
and was going to be going to college for accounting, so to add
filmmaking and directing into the mix felt like there was no time in
life to accomplish anything. When I went to college, I
continued work on a film here and there but my only serious aspirations
were as a writer and an accountant. When I got out of
college and realized just how much I hated the life of an accountant,
filmmaking became attractive again. I went back to school,
took film classes and worked as an editorial assistant at Cineaste Magazine which exposed me to filmmakers I never would’ve come across
otherwise. Fast forward a few years and now I have a
feature film that’s played at international festivals, a couple
feature scripts in preproduction, and am in a doctoral program for
literature and film. To make the drastic career change was
really frightening and intimidating, but my friends and family have been
both extremely supportive and, at times, have served as catalysts to go
forward with it. I’ve read about guys like Wes Craven (who came from a
conservative family and was originally a college professor) and Tobe
Hooper (who was also a professor), it’s really helped. It’s
also been a huge help to talk to filmmakers and people who have been in
the business for a while at various levels. Stuart Gordon,
Mitch Kapner, Michael Granberry, and Michael J. Hein have all lent me an
ear and given me really valuable advice. And, obviously,
Debbie and Suzi have been really supportive and helpful as well. When
you can build a support network, things don’t feel so intimidating and
you don’t feel as isolated in what you’re doing.
who inspire you?
Too many to really
list, and for different reasons. I love a filmmaker like
Spike Lee for his way of tackling race in films like Do the Right
Thing and Bamboozled. I also love Todd Solondz,
John Waters, and the Coen Brothers for their dark sense of humor. Then
someone like Paul Thomas Anderson I love because of his aesthetic and
character studies. Hitchcock is another love
of mine, and many of the horror directors who followed him in the 70s
and 80s like Romero, Craven, Carpenter, Cohen, Gordon, Garris, Hooper,
et al. have always been favorites of mine for various reasons.
But I also admire
filmmakers like Lloyd Kaufman and Paul Naschy [Paul
Naschy bio - click here]. Lloyd’s
survived the indie horror film market for a very long time now, and no
matter what anyone wants to say about Troma, Lloyd’s always been a
huge supporter of and advocate for independent media. Although
Naschy didn’t necessarily make the same schlock as Lloyd, I admire his
dedication and love for the genre. Despite much of the crud
that gets made and has gotten made over the years, Naschy’s films
still entertain me.
Then there’s a whole
slew of indie horror filmmakers I’ve come across over the past couple
years who inspire me because of what they’re willing to dedicate to
the genre and to the fans. People like Michael J. Hein of
New York City Horror Film Fest, Jimmy O. Burril, Anthony Sumner [Anthony
G.Sumner interview - click here], J.D.
Lifshitz, Stacy Ponder, Shannon Lark, and the Soska sisters [Soska
twins interview - click here]. As
a result of attending the New York City Horror Film Festival each
November and from working as Director of Media and Distribution for
Viscera Film Festival I’ve come across a lot of filmmakers who are
under the radar. Anyone willing to follow through on their
creative impulse and see a project through to completion is worth
admiration on some level.
Your favourite movies?
Again, way too many
to try to list all of them. I tend to go through fads of
favorite films and then watching them to reinforce my favoritism. For
awhile I was on a string of Sergio Leone films and Hitchcock films. Just
recently though, I’ve been watching a ton of Elia Kazan films – Splendor
of the Grass, East of Eden, On the Waterfront, Streetcar Named
Viva Zapata! – and all of them are so good I’m beginning to wonder
if the guy ever directed a “bad” film. I feel that way about a number
of directors actually. Tarantino, John Waters, Paul Thomas
Anderson, Romero, to name a few. If I had to create a short
list, I guess I’d go with Day of the
Dead, Apocalypse Now, The
Godfather I & II, Magnolia, Rojo
Sangre, Cronos, Shadow of a
The Big Lebowski, Un Chien Andalou, Wes Craven’s New
Nightmare, Un Chien
Andalou, and Stuart Gordon’s The Black Cat.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
Hmmm… it might be
cliché to say remakes, in general, are deplorable, but I’ve seen some
I’ve liked such as Last House on the Left, The Crazies,
and The Hills Have Eyes. It’s when a film is stripped down to
basics and remade into empty calories that I get bored
I just find it
difficult to watch a film that had a massive budget that feels wasted.
For example, I just finally saw G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra,
and I think that was quite possibly the biggest waste of money I’d
ever seen. The dialogue was awful, most of the characters
were poorly cast, and even the fight sequences were missing something.
There was so little in it to redeem it for me. But
what do I know, they’re making a sequel aren’t they?
Your/your film's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Our website is www.wonton-baby.com
and our FB page is www.facebook.com/wontonbabyfranchise
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten
I also have to mention
that we’re currently working on Won Ton Baby in Midnight Snack,
which is a short stop-motion animated film by Michael Granberry and his
company Red Hatchet Films in collaboration with my company Morgue Art
Films. I originally met Michael after we hired him to do
some composite work on Won Ton Baby! Unfortunately,
his harddrive crashed and he couldn’t finish up the job for us. Fortunately,
however, he and I kept in contact. We finally hit upon this
idea for the short spinoff which reimagines the baby’s overnight stay
at the hospital. Michael’s dayjob is working as an
animator for Robot Chicken as well as for Frankenhole, so
the work he’s been putting together has been absolutely incredible.
We’ve also been talking about a couple other projects on the
side. In particular, we’ve been discussing a short film
adaptation of a short story by a well-loved horror author, so I’m
expecting we’ll see more out of our working relationship.
Furthermore, my wife
has her first short film in postproduction and is scheduled to be
released sometime this year. It’s titled Loose and
is a twisted rape revenge film starring Deneen Melody [Deneen
Melody interview - click here] and Jesse Hicks.
Jen also got some tremendous performances out of Casandera
Lollar, Damon Cagnolatti, and Charlotte Schioler (who also plays a role
in Won Ton Baby!) I helped to write the script while
Jen directed, co-produced, and handled the production design. We
used a 35MM adapter and had plenty of time to shoot the short, so the
footage has looked fantastic so far.
Thanks for the interview!