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An Interview with Robert Henderson, Director of Kruel

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2015

Films directed by Robert Henderson on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Kruel - in a few words, what is it about?


There are several ways to answer this question: On the surface it’s about a creepy neighborhood ice cream man, who terrorizes a young woman, but really the movie is about how people respond when they make a mistake and violate the trust of someone close to them.


I would not exactly call Kruel a slasher movie, but It certainly contains quite a few genre elements - do you at all agree, and if so, your thoughts on the genre?


Totally agree that it does not fit in a single genre, I wanted to try to make an “old school” horror movie but I find myself most inspired/intrigued by thrillers and/or dramas that test a person’s true character.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Kruel?


I would say Jaws and Halloween were good baselines for what I had hoped to accomplish with this movie. Both films had strong character development which made the audience care more about the scary/violent elements of the story.


How would you describe your directorial approach to your story at hand?


For starters, have a solid story, but then bring in the right combination of cast and crew to push the story to another level. My favorite part of this whole process is collaborating with everyone to create something unique.


Who came up with Willie's creepy makeup, actually?


My wife Colleen, also a producer, brought up the idea of having Willie in makeup. I came up with the design hoping to have something that was not over the top creepy but could enhance Willie’s unstable personality.


I think one key element of your movie is its small town setting - so what can you tell us about your locations, and your overall thoughts about small town life?


That came about in large part to the “neighborhood” feel of our current home town and everything that goes with that (good and bad). Even though we are on the outskirts of a larger city, there is a true sense of community. We had great support from many of our friends that enabled us to make this picture.


Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


Well for starters, Kierney Nelson was flat out amazing. Although she had limited experience, it was clear when she was on the set, everyone responded with even better performances. JT Chinn was absolutely brilliant as Willie Kool. Although I was confident from the beginning that he could do the part, I think he exceeded everyone’s expectations with his performance. Adam Vernier was our most experienced cast member and it showed in his strong performance. Seriously the rest of the cast were wonderful (and I don’t say that lightly) I could literally name each one of them and explain how much they contributed to the final product.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


The shoot was an amazing experience. Due to budget constraints we put several of the crew members up in our house during the shoot. Many of them were talented musicians/artists and even after long days on set, we would sit around and play music and sing songs. There was a true sense of family with almost everyone involved in the production. No matter what happens with this movie or our next productions those memories will always have a special place in my heart.


A few words about audience and critical reception of Kruel so far?


Very interesting question: We have not had many true reviews yet. The screening we had last summer was amazing. Although in was a “homer” audience, I believe the overall response exceeded expectations. The fact that 2 distribution companies liked the movie enough to acquire the rights and put it out in the marketplace with no “big” name actors attached I think says a lot. I did receive my first negative review recently and it was interesting how that affected me: His issues with the movie seemed to be in direct contrast with what many others seemed to like most about the film. It helped me have a better understanding of how diverse people’s taste can be and how it’s important to stay focused on what you think is right and not try to please everyone.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I’m working on several projects right now. The most exciting is a project that is being written by a very talented professional writer that I hope to bring to the screen next year.


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I studied acting in college and then had some great experience working with a Hollywood production company as a young man. I ultimately got into the business world and raised a family but when I had a chance to jump back into my true passion, I jumped.  It’s been an amazing ride ever since.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Kruel?


I guess I basically answered that with the previous question. I did work on a movie directed by my brother 20 years ago. It was a great experience at the time and it made me more committed to one day returning to the industry.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I hate to use the term “old school” but I think that is probably the best way to describe my vision and technique. I want the story and actors to be the focus and my job is to ensure the actors are able to perform in the best, most creative environment possible. I’ve learned a ton from this first movie and I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned on future projects.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, John Ford and Hitchcock.


Your favourite movies?


In no order: Unforgiven, Fargo, Gladiator, A River Runs Through It, Vacation, Rio Bravo, Dances with Wolves, Schindler’s List, When Harry met Sally.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Feeling lucky ?
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x-rated  find Robert Henderson at

Eraserhead (after going through the experience of making a movie I realize how difficult it can be and I really hate to slam any other project but this movie is that exact opposite of what type of film I would want to be associated with), Cadyshack 2 (ditto).


Your website, Facebook, whatever else?


Working on this… I know this is something necessary in today’s marketplace but I’m still a little behind. We do have a Facebook page for Kruel: We should have our website up soon, too.


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Honestly you asked some great questions – the only thing else I would say is that as much as I enjoyed the experience of making my first movie, I am even more excited to see what you think!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD