Hatchet II director Adam Green discusses his new sequel on VOD, the MPAA, Killer Pizza and much more
Director Adam Green had a problem earlier this year, a problem that a few other filmmakers could relate to this year: the MPAA wasn't a fan of his movie. In Adam Green's case, that movie was Hatchet II and, after getting an NC-17 rating for this outrageous, hilariously over-the-top horror sequel (a process he was all to familiar with because of his first Hatchet movie), Adam Green decided to do what few filmmakers have ever done: bypass the MPAA. Instead of ceding to their wishes, he decided to release Hatchet II unrated, securing AMC Theaters to release the movie exclusively, which resulted in the widest unrated theatrical release in over 25 years. It was only released on 58 screens, although it was very impressive nonetheless. Sadly, the ride came to an end just a few days later when AMC pulled the movie from all its theaters, an action they never really fully explained. I was one of the fortunate few to see it on the big screen and I truly loved it. For those who weren't able to see this in theaters, fret not because Hatchet II was just made available on video on demand (VOD) formats on December 1. I was fortunate enough to speak with Adam Green over the phone about his fantastic movie, this whole MPAA ordeal, the impending DVD release, future projects and much more. Take a look at what he had to say below:
I was actually at the Hatchet II premiere at the end of September and there was such an amazing energy in that room it seemed.
Adam Green: Yeah, a lot of people said that. I thought so too, but I knew most of the people there, so maybe it's always like this at your own premiere. I've had several at this point, but it's never been that fun. It was really a good time. I keep trying focus on that instead of what happened a few days later with the movie getting pulled. It was a good time.
Coming off that amazing premiere, it really did feel like it could be this historic, game-changing event, and then just a few days later...
Adam Green: It depends how you look at it. In some ways, it was a historic, game-changing event because no one has been able to do what we did and it did happen. In other ways, as much as it's disappointing to see that the movie did get pulled for bullshit reasons that nobody will come clean about, the fact that they pulled it, made it even bigger. If they were smart, they should've just let it go, because it was only going to do so much. It was 58 screens, there were no television commercials, it would've taken people weeks to find it, and we knew that. Then we wake up on Monday and find out it was gone, it was pulled. Now they just made it so much bigger. Before it would've just been the horror sites and maybe some entertainment sites talking about it but now it was on CNN and everywhere. Then you have the other side who say, 'It's all a publicity stunt,' and, if this was a publicity stunt, it would've been the stupidest publicity stunt somebody could ever do. The people who say that don't understand the business and how much I had to put in just to get that movie on those screens. I'm hearing from so many filmmakers that they're not disenchanted by the fact that the movie got pulled and they're not scared and they're not going to back down and, if this ever happens to them, they're going to fight back. That's really the message here, that this movie was never intended to fight with the MPAA. It's not a controversial movie. It should be rated R, but they wouldn't give us an R, they kept giving us an NC-17. Then you have to censor your movie like they tell you to. They will say that they are just a guideline and they are not a censorship panel, but their guideline dictates the life of a film so they are a censorship panel. I'm hearing from lots of people who are saying that they're inspired by what happened and they're not scared. Now you have The Weinstein Company suing them over a couple of shit ratings, so people are really starting to step up. I just think it's hilarious that it was Hatchet II, of all the movies out there, that was the one and that it was me, who is kind of irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It's still a victory and it's still positive and I think that might be what is pissing them off even more, is they wanted to see me crumble when the movie got pulled. It's going to make a shitload on DVD and that was always the plan, so we're happy.
It definitely hasn't been a good year for the MPAA with Hatchet II, The Tillman Story and Blue Valentine, most recently, which received ratings that most thought weren't worthy of such ratings. Do you think these instances could help make things change and do you see the MPAA changing anytime down the line?
Adam Green: No one event is going to make things change, but all of these little things are putting pressure on them. There are eyes on them. The fact that what happened with Hatchet II was on CNN, all of these people who had no idea what Hatchet II was and had no idea what was going on, got the story. Now more people are going to see Kirby Dick's documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated and asking questions. The Weinstein's are actually full-on suing them. Others have sued them before but not as public like that. It's usually a quiet thing. I am all for a guideline for letting people know what they're seeing because I'm actually quite the prude when it comes to horror films, which is why it's hilarious that I'm the guy. When I go see a movie and there's a vicious rape scene or animals being hurt or children in peril, if it's part of a bigger-picture story, and it's a little movie, I can go with it, but you can tell, as a horror fan, when they're just grasping for straws to try to shock you and make a disturbing movie, and that's not what this is. It's a plague on our genre, it's why we have a bad reputation and there should be somebody to sit there and say, 'Look, if you have rape that goes this far, sorry, no. If you have this that goes this far, no. But how does Hatchet 1 have to get everything cut out of it when you can't take it seriously. That's my problem with them and that's everybody's issue with them, there's no standard. They need to point to a book and say, 'These are the rules, this is how it is,' and not just this committee who won't tell you who they are. Everytime I ask them they say, 'No, you're not allowed to know who they are.' What? That doesn't make any sense.
It's almost like The Wizard of Oz.
Adam Green: It is very much The Wizard of Oz, which is, unfortunately so Hollywood. It looks so glamorous from the outside but once you get into it, you realize how small it is and there are only really a couple of people who are doing everything. Then you see who they really are and it's a little disappointing. Maybe, with all these little things happening, 15 or 20 years from now, it will be a little bit different. I don't think that we should get rid of the MPAA, I just think it needs to be structured and very clear-cut how they make these decisions. I can tell you that Hatchet 1 had no problem anywhere else in the world. Only here.
I loved Hatchet II because it was so bizarre and hilarious and just outrageous. I think people are going to look back years from now and say, 'Really? There was a ratings controversy over this?
Adam Green: They're going to say that when it hits on VOD (Laughs). They'll probably be very disappointed. People will go, 'Yeah, everybody come over, we're going to watch this fucked up crazy shit.' They're going to watch it and they'll go, 'Really?' I hope people let their voices be heard and say 'Why could this not be R?' That was the point, which is the other reason that this is funny to me. You read some of the things online where people are like, 'He's just all about the controversy.' This is the last thing that I need. Between that and how Frozen was just absolutely raped from us from the torrent sites, it's just been a really hard year. All you want to do is make the movies and do your thing, but there's all this other bullshit you have to try to deal with. When I talk to film schools, I say that directing is what they see on the behind-the-scenes on set, with the guy planning shots with the actors and creating. That's like 5% and the rest of it is just garbage, and it sucks. Nobody wants to hear that part of it.
One of the things I really loved about that movie is that, even more than the first movie, is this who's who of horror luminaries. There's Danielle (Harris), Tony (Todd) and Kane (Hodder) in the bigger roles, but also these smaller parts with John Carl Buechler, Marcus Dunstan, even Uncle Creepy. What was it like to bring this big horror fraternity together and shooting this crazy movie?
Adam Green: That's what really makes it fun, coming to set every day and telling the crew who is coming that day. They don't usually know, the crew, because most of of them weren't allowed to read the script. It gets so hard with the internet to know who's actually going to share it, so it's fun to see the crew light up when they would see who would come up each day. To me, these movies are, at the absolute core of them, just a celebration of horror. That's it. It's a celebration of a time when it was fun and there were villains and all the other things. To have these people show up, with the audience these movies are made for, they really appreciate it and get a kick out of it. It's just cool. When I was making Hatchet 1, I already had that shot in my head where Victor Crowley and Reverend Zombie, Kane Hodder and Tony Todd, rush at each other. I was like, 'Man, if my eight-year-old self could see Candyman and Jason go at it, that would be great. Everybody is worried about the technical stuff, we don't want Tony to get hurt, Kane is swinging the hatchet at him, mud is flying everywhere and the kid in me just wants to go jerk off in the bushes because I'm so fucking excited about what I'm watching. When you see it in the theater and everyone is cheering and laughing and having a good time, and then you'll get some critic who goes, 'This movie is garbage.' Take your best shot, man. I just saw Candyman and Jason fight. I'm so happy right now. It's cool that people dig that stuff but I wish there was more stuff like this. But, in some ways, that's what made Hatchet popular, the fact that no one is really doing this, at least on a mainstream level.
The movie is coming out on VOD tomorrow, but you had said after it got pulled that you were trying to get it out on DVD as soon as possible. Is there a date for that yet and can you say anything about what might be included on the DVD also?
Adam Green: They're still working on narrowing down the actual date, but I would say it's probably early next year. Maybe February, maybe March. The problem with the DVD and Blu-ray is that when you have a theatrical release, there's a 90-day window that you need to abide by. I don't know why that still counts when your theatrical release was just a few hours (Laughs). But they can still say, 'You can't go to DVD for 90 days.' Therein again is the absolute proof that this wasn't a publicity stunt, because if it was, we would've had it on DVD months ago. It'd be like, 'Oh no, it got pulled.' 'Don't worry, you can get it at Best Buy.' In terms of behind-the-scenes, I've only seen a couple of things so far, but it looks really good. Still, I don't know what they're including and what they're not. I know there's talk that, way down the road, of doing a boxed set with two of them, even having the movies cut together as one film with a deleted scene that no one has ever seen before that's actually a great scene. It was a character that died off screen in Hatchet 1 and everybody was like, 'What?' We actually shot that. I've always been trying to think a few steps ahead at what is going to be cool for that fans. What I don't want to do is have an Evil Dead thing where every few years it comes out again where there's nothing different except the box. There is a plan for a while and we're purposefully holding back some things. But the DVD is going to have commentaries, effects, it will have everything you want, but there's even better stuff way, way way, down the road.
I think both movies cut together would be really awesome. I think the fans would love that.
Adam Green: The issues we now face with that is we switched distributors between the two. They would have to work that out, which they would be foolish not to. It's free money for both of them. So, if they're willing to do that, and have a version where both movies are cut together simultaneously, what I would be excited about is for people to see that it actually was a three-act story, the way it's written. A lot of times people say that the pacing of the first one is fast and the pace of the second one is slow, but if you put them together, there's three acts. We're actually showing them back-to-back together, at the New Beverly in L.A., which is the first time I've ever seen them played like that. We've never done that before. The other problem, of course, is that the character of Marybeth is now played by a different actress (Laughs). So we'll have to figure out how we want to address that. Maybe we should just have him pull her under the water and have her come up as Danielle Harris.
Most times, when you replace an actor who's playing the same character, you get a lesser actor. This time you get a horror icon like Danielle Harris. You upgraded.
Adam Green: Yeah, that whole thing was really weird. I had Hatchet II planned and we do a Hatchet III, I already know what's happening. If this is it, then this is it and that's why I ended it the way I did, because I wanted some finality for myself. When it was becoming evident that it wasn't going to work out with bringing Tamara (Feldman) back, we didn't really want her and things weren't good, it was like, 'What do we do? Do we change all these things that were already set up? All because this girl is making bad decisions with her life right now?' Or do we replace her? That's when I called Danielle, because if you're going to replace her, lets go bigger and better. When we said we were replacing Tamara Feldman, there were the purists who went, 'What?' Then when we said we replaced her with Danielle Harris, they went, 'Yeah!' I did a Q&A in London and someone asked, 'Why did you replace the actress? I don't like when people do that?' I said, 'What was the other actress' name?' He couldn't answer (Laughs).
It was reported back in May that you were doing a movie called Killer Pizza. Are you still attached to that or is there anything you can say about that project?
Adam Green: I am going to be turning in my first draft to all the producers in about 10 days, so I've been working on that throughout all of this. It's a really, really, really big movie so it's been fun, especially because things like Hatchet II or even Frozen, that I know I'm doing independently before I'm even writing them, I write them to fit a certain budget parameter. With Killer Pizza, it's just so huge and big and gigantic and there are scenes in there out of like Clash of the Titans. It's been really fun to sit and write that stuff and now is the part I've been looking forward to the most, because I turn in the script and get notes from Chris Columbus. If someone could've told the kid in me that the guy who wrote The Goonies and Gremlins is going to be giving me notes on a movie... I just can't wait. Normally, you dread the notes process, but I'm really looking forward to this. I hope he just tears it apart because I want to learn so much. I'm really excited to turn it in.
Is there anyone you have in mind for the cast or is it still too early?
Adam Green: No, in fact, if you've noticed, I haven't used the word 'directing' yet. It's been discussed and alluded too, but right now, my contract is to write that movie and that's what I'm doing. For now, I'm just focusing on the task at hand and we'll see what happens.
You said you already had an endgame figured out for Hatchet III. Is there anything you can tease us about what we might expect from that, if it does come up?
Adam Green: I don't want to tease too much because I don't know, really, what's going to happen with it. At this point, if I had to make a decision today, I would be all for them doing Hatchet III, but I would not be writing or directing it. I'm not even available for the next few years, with all the other projects I have lined up. From the first one to the second one, I need to go off and do other things so I can come back to this and love it. If they want to wait awhile, maybe after a few years I'll change my mind and I'll be ready to do it. That's why I don't want to definitely tease or promise anything, because if I'm not the one writing or directing it, it's not my place to say and paint somebody else into a corner like, 'Well, Adam said...' Hopefully it's even better than the second one. Everybody is going to have their preference between the two, but what I feel, at least, is undeniable is that the second one is a better made film than the first one. I hope the third one raises the bar even more. I hope they don't use any CG, I hope they stick to the groundwork that we all worked on and I hope the same crew all comes back again. We'll see. I know Kane is ready to go. I mean, I think he's already wearing the overalls. Every now and again I'll get a text that just says, 'When?'
Is there anything else that you're working on that you can talk about?
Adam Green: Another project that I'm just finishing right now is called Chillerama. It's an anthology movie with four directors doing four segments. I have one, Joe Lynch has one, Adam Rifkin did one and Tim Sullivan did one. That's going to come out probably closer to the end of next year. Right now, that's all we can really say. The titles have been released, for the segments. Adam Rifkin did one called Wadzilla, Tim Sullivan did I Was a Teenage Werebear, Joe Lynch did Zom-B-Movie and I did The Diary of Anne Frankenstein. It was a 1940s black-and-white German movie where Joel Moore plays Adolf Hitler. We shot it in London this past summer and it was kind of a surprise. Nobody knew what hit them. I haven't heard a crowd laugh so hard in a long time. Everybody in mine is German-speaking, they're all fluent in German, playing it dead seriously, and Joel is making up his own thing through the whole movie. Shooting it was hilarious because the whole cast didn't know what he was saying and he didn't know what they were saying (Laughs). He was just making up his own language. If there were Oscars for short films, for actors, I swear, he would at least be considered. I know people have been waiting for us to work together again.
Yeah, exactly. I really loved Spiral.
Adam Green: Thank you. Yeah, unfortunately it kind of got buried in the shadow of Hatchet, because it came out like three months later. Nobody really found it, although now, because of Avatar and because Zachary Levi is so huge, now all of the sudden sales of Spiral are really going up.
Finally, what would you like to say to your entire Hatchet Army for supporting you all these years and to anyone who didn't get to see Hatchet II in theaters about why they should check it out on VOD?
Adam Green: Well, first of all, thank you for giving me all these opportunities and this kick-ass life that I have now. It's amazing. It sucks that not everybody got a chance to see Hatchet II the way it was supposed to be seen in theaters, but they will still see the movie in its full form. The on demand is the right version. We're not going to do that bullshit where we put out one version and then, two months later, it's like, 'Here's the unrated one.' Everything is straight-forward. The best thing to do is to try to watch it on a big screen, really loud, with as many people as you can and just have a good time, like people did have in the theaters, for those lucky enough to see it in theaters. That's it. Unfortunately, with these movies, the audience is a major part of it, they're a pivotal part of the soundtrack, people laughing, cheering and clapping. That's what makes the movie so fun. The people who torrent the movie and watch it on their fucking phones and their laptops and they say it sucks, they didn't really see it. It's like going to a sporting event and being the only guy in the stands. It's not really fun. So, hopefully, people try to make a little bit of an event out of it, even though it's their own homes, and just have a good time.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you, Adam. Thanks so much for your time and best of luck with anything else you have coming up.
Adam Green: Awesome. Thanks for having me.
You can watch Adam Green's wonderfully outrageous romp of a movie Hatchet II on video-on-demand formats right now, and we'll be sure to keep you posted with any future DVD or Blu-ray details as soon as more information comes in.