Your new movie Dollface
- in a few words, what is it about?
Dollface is about a group of college students who discover their History
professor had almost been killed by a serial killer ďCrinoline HeadĒ in
the mid 90s, and decide to research it as part of a mid term assignment, and
return to the scene of the crime. Once they arrive they discover
Crinoline Head is more than a legend.
being a slasher movie, is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of
your favourite slashers?
Yes, I love slasher films. Itís
what I grew up watching and so thatís naturally what I tend to write.
Sleepaway Camp was one of my all time favorites. I also was a
big fan of the Friday the 13th films. Besides slashers I am also a
huge John Waters fan, so I tend to have a mix of comedy and horror in my
is a sequel to your 1995 film Crinoline Head - so how true does it
remain to the earlier movie, what inspired you to make a sequel almost 20
years after the original, and was Crinoline Head ever intended to
spawn a sequel from the get-go?
Fans of the original
Crinoline Head have told me they loved Dollface. I made sure I kept
the crazy kills like they were in the first film, and there are a lot of
throwbacks to the first film. Those who have never seen the first
film would not catch them, but those who are fans of the first film
would. The drag queens, the celery, the charactersÖ You
donít have to see Crinoline Head to enjoy Dollface
hope people will go seek it out after they do. I did not plan on
making a sequel to the film, although the ending left open the
possibility. After I completed my film The Cabin that did so
well for us, I thought it was time to do my next feature. I
saw that VHS collectors were paying a lot of money for original VHS copies
of Crinoline Head and I just decided to write a sequel. I had
always wanted to show a young Crinoline Head and explain what happened to
him as a child and I originally planned to shoot that with the first film,
so really Dollface is a prequel and sequel in that aspect. When
I was writing it, I wanted to make it a film you could watch on its
own, without seeing the first film, but at the same time it is a sequel so
I wanted it to be true to the time difference, and made it take place
almost 20 years after the first. I wrote in the surviving character
Paul, who was the history buff college student in the first film, is now a
history professor at the college he once attended. His students
would be the new victims and I went from there. When I originally
did Crinoline Head, I just wanted to do my version of an 80s slasher
and not make it self aware. I wanted it to be a stereotypical horror
film, but not make fun of itself. I wanted to leave that to the
audience. I think thatís why so many of the hardcore fans really
Other sources of
inspiration when dreaming up Dollface?
For Dollface, I knew I had to step up the scare factor of our killer Crinoline
Head. So besides the crinoline skirt he wears on his head, I wanted
to create a doll type mask to hid part of his face. I wanted it to
be like a cracked porcelain doll. Michael Smith to made the mask for
me came up with some drawings and we went from there. Besides the
look, he also grew a lot over the past 20 years. So John Kap was
cast as the killer. Standing 6í8Ē, he brought Crinoline Head to new
movie features some highly creative kills - so do talk about those for a
bit, and how were they achieved?
As in the first film, the
victims are killed in very different, creative ways. I made sure I
was able to do this with many of the kills in Dollface
donít want to give away spoilers, but I tried to make the kills fit the
characters. In the first film I used celery as a weapon, a toilet
full of shit, a New Kids on the Block sleeping bag, etc... so in Dollface, I
had to make sure they were the same type of creative kills. The
human piŮata was a fun one, and the pop a squat one, crab trapsÖ
How would you describe
your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
I know there are comedic elements in the film, but itís not self aware.
So we are very serious when shooting the film. I donít want
the cast to know they are in a funny situation and I donít want them to
poke fun at themselves, I want them to take it serious. So with
that said, I give the cast a lot of freedom to interpret the scene as
their character was. I donít do a ton of rehearsals cause I like
the natural instinct of the first take, so I donít want it to seem too
rehearsed or memorized. We did end up doing a lot of takes, but
mainly that was from me ruining shots. I was also the director of
photography and camera operator and I would laugh at takes and have to
reshoot. Especially with Debbie. She cracked everyone up.
It was hard to keep a straight face.
features a scene-stealing guest appearance by genre fave Debbie Rochon [Debbie
Rochon interview - click here] - so what was it like working with
her, and how did you get her even?
Debbie Rochon, Nicholas A. Sweezer
Debbie was so fun.
I had worked on two pervious horror films with her in the past (Hellblock 13 and
Head Cheerleader Dead Cheerleader) so I reached out to
her and told her about this character I had in Dollface. After she read
it, she said she would LOVE to do a part like that. She is normally
the sexy vixen in the films she stars in so I think she welcomed something
she had really never done before.
What can you tell us
about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?
of the main cast had really not had a ton of experience, at least in
feature films. I tend to cast based on my perception of the
character in the people I meet. I have actors read many parts of
different characters when I audition them and I usually cast them on how
much I think they are like a particular character. I think everyone
nailed their characters. Gunner Willis turned out to be so funny in
his role, and he brought a lot to the character that was not originally
written. Leah Wiseman also provided some great resting bitch face
that I did not plan on her having, but once we are there shooting, and I
allow them the freedom, they really start to develop their characters.
Jason Vail, who I also used in The Cabin, is just an amazing actor.
I think everyone was really impressed with him when we started
shooting the classroom scenes. The actors and extras really got into
his storytelling. Kirsten Ray was great too. She had a Drew
Berrymore-esque feel to her that I loved when I met her. She also
has a great scream! Lizzie Maers made the ultimate bitch as well. Everyone
was perfect in my eyes.
Leah Wiseman, Christian James, Kirsten Ray,
also have to talk about your middle-of-nowhere-locations for a bit, and
what were the advantages and challenges shooting there?
shot the majority of the movie in Charleston on a piece of waterfront
land. It was perfect cause there was once a house there that burned
down so I made that work with the story. Luckily we had a trailer
there that was also in the film, where Debbie lived, that doubled as a
production trailer. It was super hot during the summer so having
that was a plus. One thing is that it was really not on a lake, but
an inlet to the ocean. So while we were shooting we would see
dolphins in the water. One time we were shooting the kids first
arrive and I wanted Christian, who plays David, to take off his shirt and
dive in the water. We were about to shoot and suddenly where was a 5
ft shark between the dock and the shore, there just swimming around.
So we nixed that idea. It was crazy. We also shot
in Columbia, SC at the University of SC where I went to school. So
shooting a movie in the film school that I went to was pretty cool. But
their air conditioning was not working so it was kinda miserable that day.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was like summer camp for the cast. I am always running around super
busy and stressed but the cast had a great time. My sets are very
laid back and very productive. I spend a lot of time planning out
every shot way before we ever begin production, so I have everything under
control there. I have worked on so many miserable sets in the past
and it just brings everyone down, so I make sure there is no drama and
egos when casting my films. Seriously, one person I cast I recast
before I even saw her again, but from her diva attitude when I spoke to
her on the phone, I could see what she may be like to work with and
was all ďbye FeliciaĒ.
your movie only about to be released, anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of Dollface
So far the reviews and audience reaction has been
positive. We have done really well at film festivals and I think a
lot of that is from what the audience thinks they are going to see vs
what they actually experience. They donít except the comedy
elements, and crazy kills, and just some of the things the characters do
and say. They see itís just more than a typical slasher and leave
laughing and happy. I love that.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
am finishing the screenplay now for a film called Family
Possessions. I describe it as a paranormal/slasher/ whodunit.
Itís a more serious type of horror film than Dollface, but Iím
the writer so there is bound to be some comedy in the characters.
I plan to have an IndieGoGo campaign to help raise some of the funds for
the film, so follow the FB page to keep updated. I like to have
really unique perks to get the horror fans involved.
got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any
education on the subject?
I want to film school at
University of South Carolina and worked on tons of movie sets while in
school and after as well. I also used to act before I went to school
so I had experience on sets. I actually shot Crinoline Head while I
was still a student at USC. I worked on Die Hard 3 one semester that
I took off, and after that, I took a summer independent study course and
shot Crinoline Head as the subject. I got an A. Back then I
shot on 16mm. This was when digital filmmaking and digital editing
really had not taken off yet. So Crinoline Head and my second
feature Generation Ax were both shot on film. In 2013 when I did The
Cabin, that was my first time shooting digital. So that was really
an experiment in shooting and color grading for myself, which I just
What can you tell us about
your filmwork prior to Dollface?
Crinoline Head, Generation Ax Ö both shot-on-film feature films, and then I did a
series of roller coaster and theme park documentaries in between 2001 and
2013 when I came back to horror with The Cabin. I also worked on
movie sets like Renaissance Man with Penny Marshall and The Program with
James Caan, lots of TV movie sets (especially Lifetime movies) so I had
the experience. I just preferred doing my own projects instead.
have been making indie movies for about 20 years now - so how did you
experience the indie scene changing over time?
Back when I
did Crinoline Head and Generation Ax, there was no social media. There
was barely internet, so you really did not have a way to market your
films. There were no horror film festivals like there are now, so
you were forced to send VHS screeners of your films to magazines and
distributors in hopes of getting it seen. Lucky for me Fangoria saw
Crinoline Head and gave me a 4 page spread in the magazine. Back
then, if you were in Fangoria, you had made it. That helped with
distribution and my next film too. Now you have
everything at your fingertips. You can shoot a movie and have it
online for the world to see in the same day. Itís a different day
now. And the technology of digital filmmaking now makes it so much
easier to get amazing shots that you could never get with a 50 lb ArriFlex
16mm camera. Itís really mind boggling to think of what I could
have done if I had what I do now, with my early films.
films seem to be invariably of the horror variety - a genre you're at all
fond of, and why (not)?
Yeah, horror is just something that
#1 I enjoy and #2 it just comes naturally that my stories are horror
related. And in the indie scene, horror is about the only genre that
can compete with other films with big names because horror IS the star.
You can have a major release in theaters with no stars at all, but
because itís a horror film, people will go. Try that with a comedy
or a drama. If there is no A list actors, people wonít go. Thatís
great for low budget horror directors however.
How would you describe yourself
as a director?
I am really easy to work with. I have
a direction I am going with a scene or character but I give my actors the
freedom to improvise as well. Now if it sucks, I will totally tell
you but I allow you to explore your character and scene to see where we
can take itÖ as long as it gets us to where I wantÖ haha I think
my casts from all my films agree that I am pretty easy to work with.
I like to joke with the actors and make everyone feel relaxed.
I mean, we all end up friends after the shoots so thatís good
right? Plus most of my cast feels really comfortable walking around
naked in front of me, so they obviously donít feel threatenedÖ :)
Filmmaker who inspire you?
Waters, John Carpenter, and pretty much anyone that can get a film
done my themselves.
Older: Heathers, Halloween,
Friday the 13th,
A Nightmare on Elm
Newer: The Strangers, The Conjuring.
... and of course, films you really
Not into zombies so much. Or vampires.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
is my production company.
is my new film.
is my web site.
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
I am also one of the founders of
the Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest and in 2016, we will be having our 3rd
festival starting on Friday, May 13th. Subs open now on FilmFreeway
and we have the most badass trophies out there. Also we will
have a Dollface reunion with pretty much the whole cast at
Fear Fete in
October. Be sure to check it out!
Thanks for the interview!