Fan favourite Adam Green speaks to Joey Keogh about fans, flicks and the importance of being treated like a normal human being at festivals.
Adam Green has always been a horror fan’s filmmaker. Without the buzz of shock-merchant Eli Roth or the sex appeal of the Soskas, he’s remained mostly under the radar, for the past ten years or so, much to his credit and enduring appeal. He’s on our level. He’s one of us, as it were. Holliston, his hugely successful TV sitcom and favourite thing he’s “ever, ever, ever done” is, more than anything else, his way of showing us all that if he can do it anyone can.
“There’s nothing special about me whatsoever, I swear to god” the disarmingly humble Green assures me, extremely jet-lagged and fiddling with an untouched pot of tea. “And if I can do this, whatever it is that somebody wants to do, they can do it” Speaking at his seventh Frightfest in eight years, Green was preparing to premiere Hatchet 3 (the final instalment in his goretastic, old school slasher series), along with three, carefully-chosen episodes of Holliston.
Little did he know, not only did the movie absolutely kill it but, upon returning to the festival in 2014, his follow-up, the game-changing, near-perfect Digging Up The Marrow, shocked everyone into submission. A mockumentary about the search for monsters, the flick stars Green himself as a sceptic opposite Ray Wise’s grizzled, former cop.
The screening sold out, with Marrow receiving a rapturous response that helped the writer-director-star push for a distribution deal upon returning to the States – one that suited his often strange (by industry standards) approach to releasing movies. When it came to Hatchet 2, for example: “I put it in my contract that it had to premiere at Frightfest, which is not easy to get from an American distributor, like why would we do that?…they paid for the movie, and they’re like ‘we want to world premiere in America’ but they eventually gave me that”
Although it’s a decision that probably left the distributors flummoxed, it appealed to his core fan-base in ways money simply cannot buy. The Hatchet series, Green believes, was born at the London festival. He credits the screening there as: “the first time it was shown for the people it was made for” Although it’d received great reviews previously, “that was really when it all blew up and then every festival was calling for it”
Relentlessly friendly and willing to talk to pretty much anyone who approaches him, Green first made a name for himself by producing his own content, with his company Ariescope. He earned mainstream approval with the brutal, effective, and downright chilling Frozen, but remained firmly on the outside, often by choice, hence why he feels so comfortable at Frightfest, explaining “you can be the filmmaker one minute and do your thing, and then you can just be the fan… you get treated like a normal person”
The Hatchet trilogy is oddly remarkable, because each instalment improves on what came before it – something that is virtually unheard of in modern horror. Green explains that, because they always had the three films in mind, it was easier to ensure the quality was consistent. Unlike the majority of sequels, which are rushed into production, to profit off the buzz, “it wasn’t like “oh shit, the first one did really great so now we make another one”
Put simply, Green had a story to tell, one that he’d been working on for most of his life, and he was going to make sure it was done right, or not at all. When the time came to say goodbye to Victor Crowley, something he describes as incredibly emotional (“It’s like saying goodbye to a thirty year long friend”), Green shocked fans by handing the reins over to his camera operator from the first two films, BJ Mc Donnell.
Thankfully, Hatchet 3 still feels like an Adam Green film – not least because his name is above the title – and, more importantly, a fitting end for his monster. Acknowledging that Mc Donnell was definitely the man for the job, and that he made it is his own, while still remaining true to his original vision, Green alluded to only one instance when he had to put his foot down, on the opening title sequence for which the debut director wanted to use score.
At the final hour, with no money left, Green insisted a metal song would have to be used, in keeping with the theme of the previous two flicks, and called upon his buddies in Gwar for help. They graciously gave him their hit “Hail Genocide!” free of charge, chuffed to be included in such a “bad ass” film. Considering front-man Dave Brockie has since passed anecdotes such as this have a poignancy that chimes well with Crowley’s end.
Following an early screening of the flick, Green was approached by audience members who were shocked at how emotional they’d become, and how confused they were at their own reactions to the material. Green notes “everyone was like I never in a million years would’ve thought I would’ve been invested in a fucking Hatchet movie!” which, naturally, he loved as someone who’s come up against fusty critics who didn’t quite get the appeal of a gory, reference-heavy “silly slasher” movie, as he describes it.
Much of the filmmaker’s appeal comes from how he speaks to genre fans on their level, shunning the pedestal on which more well-known filmmakers choose to position themselves (you’d never catch Eli Roth shooting the shit with a couple of fans, for an hour, outside a Garfunkels in Leicester Square, for example). When Hatchet 3 rolled around, Green ensured the Frightfest screening was the only one he attended personally (“Hatchet was born here and… it’s going to die here”), giving one of his trademark lengthy speeches prior to showing it, with a separate Q&A following the screening of Holliston – a show that is particularly noteworthy for being renewed almost immediately after its season one premiere.
Much like Green himself, the enduring appeal of Holliston is that it features genuine, realistic horror fans as its core cast, as opposed to the caricatures that often represent us in the mainstream media. Green describes the show as a sitcom specifically geared towards horror fans: “it’s about two guys, who want to be horror filmmakers, and there are little moments of gore, there’s a lot of horror cameos and stuff, but at the core of it, it’s humanized horror fans”
Holliston is often described as The Big Bang Theory, if the creators of the biggest sitcom in America actually knew anything about nerds – to his credit, when prompted about this comparison Green very diplomatically suggests that, although he loves the show, “It doesn’t feel like it was written by people who are really those people. And therefore it can come off as condescending, whereas Holliston you can tell we really love this stuff”.
The premise is simple; Green and long-time friend, and fellow filmmaker, Joe Lynch star as struggling twenty-somethings, who pay the bills by producing content for an ad agency run by Dee Snider’s stuck-in-the-eighties Lance Rocket, alongside Corri English and Laura Ortiz as the long-suffering ex-girlfriend and girlfriend, respectively. The actors retain their own names, because the characters are based on the real people, which offers another layer of authenticity to what already feels like a glimpse into the (albeit, slightly surreal) lives of a group of real people.
It’s a refreshing take on the typical sitcom model and, although its future is in doubt following the untimely death of Dave Brockie (who starred as his Gwar alter-ego Oderus Urungus on the show), and the fact its host network FEARnet has shut down, Holliston is still more popular and well-loved than even Green ever imagined it could be. Fans of the show respond to with lengthy emails to its creators, detailing how “it’s identified with them, or how they’re never going to give up on their dream” because of it, further solidifying Green’s position as a horror fan done good.
Regardless of whether he ever gets the recognition he deserves, the future is bright. After a difficult year, during which his marriage broke up and, of course, he lost Brockie, Digging Up The Marrow received arguably the most positive reaction of any of his work yet. The self-confessed workaholic could probably use a break right about now, but given the constant stream of people wanting to chat to him, and the amount of projects he’s got planned, that seems highly unlikely. And rightly so, we wouldn’t have Adam Green any other way.