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Comics 101 for 10/06/2005
Kane Hodder on The Devil's Rejects and my review of the film
For all of this month and just in time for my favorite holiday, Halloween, Comics 101 will be featuring articles of the more macabre variety as we focus on the theme of "horror" (one of my favorite genres of comics and film). So here each week in October, sink your plastic fangs into a horror flavored Comics 101 feature!Last year on October 16th and 17th I attended the Motor City Comic Con in Novi, Michigan. I had a great time selling my Star Wars artwork, signing autographs and plugging my latest projects. Usually at these conventions, I'm just as much a fan as anyone else when it comes to meeting other artists, writers, creators and celebrities and this particular show was no different.
Saturday afternoon, while taking a break from my table for some lunch in the complimentary suite provided for guests of the show, I found myself sitting down for a bite with none other than "Jason Vorhees" himself, actor and stuntman Kane Hodder of the Friday the 13th series of films. Since space was tight in the room with the other tables filled and seeing how he had just sat down across from me, I chose to let him enjoy some of his lunch before I went into fanboy mode.
About three bites of chili later I couldn't hold back. "You're Kane Hodder aren't you?" "Yes", quietly replied the seemingly seven foot tall burly, beared man in the custom made "hockey mask" jersey. I had told him, "You know, they mispelled your name on your banner and in the flyers for the show. Aren't there two D's in your last name?" He then mentioned he had noticed and how that might end up hurting his autograph sales somewhat but it really wasn't too big of a deal. The initial intimidation of who I was sitting next to seemed to wear off after breaking the ice now. Then the conversation began to get more interesting as I found out the guy is just as big a horror movie buff as I am.
"What have you been working on lately?" I asked. "I just finished the House of 1000 Corpses sequel with Rob Zombie". "The Devil's Rejects?!?", I replied. "You're in the movie? What did you do for it?"
Turns out Kane was stunt coordinator for the film as it just wrapped principal photography last June or July. He's not "in" the film per say, director Rob Zombie didn't want demean the film with throwaway horror cameos, including himself or Mr. Hodder... at his own profound disappointment. I told Kane I'm not sure how that reasoning could quite apply since Rob's first film featured some of the most well known character actors and icons of horror films gone by - Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part Two and The Night of the Living Dead and The Blob remakes), Karen Black (Trilogy of Terror, Children of the Corn IV), Sid Haig (Galaxy of Terror), Dennis Fimple (Fangs and Creature from Black Lake), Michael J. Pollard (American Gothic, Sleepaway Camp III and Split Second) and Irwin Keyes (The Exterminator movies, Bloodrage and Disturbed).
Though he expressed how fun it would have been to have had a walk on role, he still was very enthusiastic about the film's production. It seems Kane is a huge fan of Rob's first film and was ecstatic when he learned he would be shooting the sequel on location in and around L.A. making it easy for him to work from home. "It's gonna blow the first film away, I loved the first film too but it's even better than that one." I asked him what the budget of this one might be. "Around nine to ten million I think," was his reply. Though low by today's big studio standards, we both conceded that for a hardcore horror flick that's plenty of money to play with. Especially with someone as talented as Zombie behind the camera. He did make it sound that Lion's Gate Films were doing a great job and had no intention of dropping the ball on this one.
Kane did note, however, that some of the cast would not be returning for the sequel. From what he understood both Karen Black, who played Mama Firefly, and Robert Allen Mukes, who played Rufus or R.J., from the first film wouldn't be returning because he believed they asked for too much money for their participation in a sequel. He told me Karen's character was replaced with the blonde actress, Leslie Easterbrook, from the Police Academy films and that Tyler Mane, Sabertooth from X-Men, had replaced Mukes as Rufus. But favorites Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon and even Matthew McGrory as "Tiny" would be returning to their roles. Supposedly, Matt looks even more larger than life in this film since, according to Kane, Rob employed numerous camera tricks and effects to make his character seem even more fearsome and gigantic this time around. Kane described how Matt's health condition prevented him from barely being able to walk throughout production but that he admired working with him on the set.
I told Kane even as fearsome and maniacally entertaining Moseley was as "Otis Driftwood" that Sid Haig as "Captain Spaulding" really stole the show for me in the first movie. "He's in this one even more, he has a really big part in the film", he mentioned. When I poked him about the sequel's plot, noting that I had heard it's in the Natural Born Killers' vein this time around with the family on a homicidal killing spree road trip, he seemed to concur promptly.
I then asked him how he enjoyed working with the cast, who was his favorite and if had any good stories from the set. "William Forsythe (Raising Arizona, Stone Cold, Extreme Prejudice and Dick Tracy) steals this movie." According to Mr. Hodder, he is the "sickest, most vulgar character out of all of them." Forsythe plays the sheriff chasing the family of killers and "he's even more demented and twisted then they are".
As he tells it, there was one incident when Forsythe walked off the set very upset. He really had to prepare to get into his character before each scene because of how mentally twisted and morally deprived he was supposed to be. When he arrived on set and told Rob's Director of Photography he was ready to shoot the scene as scheduled the DP was blowing him off and at the last minute was changing the lighting and other camera set ups while ignoring the actor. It got to the point almost a half hour later where he just couldn't take it anymore so Forsythe walked off the set. Fortunately, Rob showed up and brought him back but not before ridiculing his DP himself for the near disaster.
Another interesting and fun moment on the set also involved Forsythe's Sheriff "Wydell" character. At one point in the movie, Wydell is holding a prop gun point blank to Brian Posehn's head (famed comedian and probably most recognized as the backwards mail clerk in NBC's Just Shoot Me) who plays another seedy individual in the film. While rehearsing the scene, there were problems with the prop gun going off take after take and Brian reluctanctly declared while on his knees looking up at the deranged sheriff, "Just shoot me." Whether or not they immediately realized the irony of the statement it none the less stirred a few laughs from the cast and crew present on the scene.
The conversation turned to his work as Jason Vorhees and I mentioned that the new Friday the 13th DVD boxed set had just been released. He had indicated he enjoyed doing the commentaries for them so I look forward to checking those out some time soon myself. Having recently seen Jason X, I told him I was pleasantly surprised at how fun the movie was given the just about ludicrous concept of Jason killing teens in outer space. He seemed somewhat disappointed when I brought this flick up and he mentioned the movie would have been better received had they released it on schedule. Instead, it sat on the shelf for nearly two years after production and most of the die-hard horror fans had either seen it online already or were picking up bootleg copies of it at comic conventions prior to it's release.
I asked him what he thought of Freddy vs. Jason and he we both agreed it left much to be desired. "It was a Freddy picture with Jason just thrown in there," was his assessment. He wasn't the biggest fan of director Ronny Yu, someone who had no history with either horror franchise and had never seen any of the previous films, but was adamant that a different actor with a different body build play the part of Jason. I asked Kane how much pull Sean Cunningham, creator, director and producer of the Friday films had with New Line and Kane stated, "He was producer in name only. He fought as hard as he could for me to get the part but he could only do so much. He only had so much power." We talked about how the horror fans tried to rally for him online and most seemed displeased that the actor most famous for bringing the Jason character to life wouldn't be ressurecting him for the film. When I asked him about the possibility of him reprising Jason for Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash which at one point was rumored to be on the verge of being greenlit by New Line, he denied that he would have involvement with the prospect more or less stating that the producers don't see him as necessary to the project as the fans do.
All in all, Kane seemed like a really cool, down to earth guy. He seemed very enthusiastic, letting his guard down a bit, when talking about horror movies and genre actors with me and it was great how his eyes would light up ever so slightly any time we talked about his experience working on The Devil's Rejects. If you're attending a comic book or horror convention anywhere in the country and he happens to be a guest you owe it to yourself as a horror fan to stop by his table and say hi. He's the real deal.
Movie Review - The Devil's Rejects
This week's feature contains minor spoilers in my review, so tread lightly if you would like to read my thoughts on this movie. In short, Rob Zombie has taken his characters and storytelling skills to the next level. I loved this film. If you get a chance be sure to check it out on DVD when it's released November 8th.I was able to check out an advance screening here in Columbus back in July when a friend of mine who writes for a movie review website hooked up me and my pal Justin with his press passes. He knew I was a big fan of Rob Zombie and his first film House of 1000 Corpses.
Bottom line, I loved The Devil's Rejects. At times I thought I was watching a classic, lost Peckinpah film. Granted, the film has it's flaws but it's so visceral and gritty and stylish that they can be easily forgiven. There's never a dull moment when Bill Moseley is on screen. Watching him at work is a twisted thrill. He really could have carried the film on his own though Sid Haig was great and has almost too many darkly humorous moments to list. This film has so many classic horror cameos and performances I lost count. It's great to see the always reliable Ken Foree actually get decent screen time here too.
Probably the most important character of the film is the revenge driven sheriff played by Bill Forsythe who is always brilliant in his roles and is no exception here. He's intense without being too over the top. He balances the nuances of his character well though I felt he did the best he could with his slightly underwritten material. Justin and I both thought he needed another important character moment to believe in the credibility of his character when he finally slips off the deep end. This is so important because he's the key link to the audience and through him we need to properly experience the catharsis of the horror through his actions. It isn't about when he finally succumbs to the level of the Rejects that we should justify his actions more but we should further allow ourselves to question the morality of his choices and lose ourselves in the grey area of right and wrong which I think is the overall point or theme of the movie. His somewhat incomplete character arc was the first flaw of the film for me but it comes so late into play that it's almost forgivable.
The second flaw of the film was Sheri Moon Zombie, aka Baby. Her original performance in House worked because of the campiness of certain scenes she was intergral too. In Rejects though, she's unfortunately out of her league since Moseley, Haig and Forsythe act circles around her. She does a competent job though and still definitely makes great scenery. I think it was the no holes barred realism of the story, the on location road shoot and gritty feel of the principle photography this time around that just made any of her inadquecies as an actress that much more noticable.
But Zombie, as a storyteller, as a director has really matured here. This is raw stuff, he doesn't pull any punches and his love for the Rejects is infectious. He does a great job of making you empathasize with the bad guys without ever justifying their condemnable acts. They are rejects in every sense of the word, out of place and out of time, outlaws who live by their own rules, not normal society. Make no mistake, this isn't a horror movie, it's a western with horrorific violence and it's all about the showdown between evil and more evil. Anything wholesome or good is destroyed or left to rot. There's just no room for anything inbetween. In fact, the only true wholesome moment comes when the killers pause to stop for ice cream and it only further blurs the distinction between what is good and what is truly evil in this film. Actually, this was also probably Sheri's best scene.
I also haven't seen a movie with a soundtrack so perfectly utilized by a director since Quentin Tarantino. Zombie perfectly encapsulates a specific era of 70's film through editing and music, actually using the lyrics of certain songs as a storytelling device that few directors seem to do or take adavantage of these days. Just after the prologue when the opening credits roll to the Allman Brothers track of Midnight Rider, I knew this was going to be a great film. And any movie that can perfectly end on the entire track of Freebird, a song that has been so played to death it's become somewhat of a joke to the general public like Stairway to Heaven, then I must applaud it. This movie only had ONE ending that served the story and it did not wimp out. I realized while watching this movie for the first time in a long while I had no idea where the characters on this journey were taking me and I really enjoyed and respected it for that fact.
Western, horror, crime, exploitation, splatter, it's all here like some unholy almagamation. These were the kind of movies I loved watching and finding in the video store as a kid and this film embraces these genres with wide open arms. I don't think this movie is for everyone, horror or western fan regardless. But if you could tap into the quirkiness of House of 1000 Corpses and find a twisted delight in relishing for the depravity of the characters and the situations in that film, then be prepared to experience the absolute next level in Rejects to an almost completely satisfactory degree.
I'll see you next week for another Comics 101 Halloween feature!
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