Your upcoming film When Death Calls - in a few words, what is
When Death Calls is an anthology of scary stories set around a main
story of a DJ telling scary stories over the radio on Halloween.
What was it that initially drew you to the
horror-anthology concept, and your
Well, I've always felt anthology horror films - as well as sketch
comedies - are lots of fun. It's always like going through a gift bag
full of surprises. Even if some of the things in the bag aren't that
thrilling there's usually enough there to make you happy.
As a filmmaker I enjoy them because they keep things fresh. This is my
second anthology - the first was Grave Danger - and it's kind of like
making a series of short films. By the end of shooting a feature you
start to feel creatively burnt out - you've been telling the same story,
working with the same people, seeing the same sets and the same costumes
week after week and you're just itching to do something new and
different. When you do an anthology, you devote maybe a weekend to a
specific segment then next week you're somewhere else working on a new
story with new people - it keeps it fresh.
As far as my own experiences with anthology films, I'll always treasure
the memory of being a teenager watching Creepshow 2 with a
packed house on a Friday night at the Franklin Theater. The last segment
where the dead hitch-hiker kept popping up to terrorize the woman in the
car - as well as the audience reaction to it - was such great fun.
What was the radio
show-based wraparound story of When Death Calls inspired by?
sure I have an answer for that, it was just an idea I had. Radio stations
and call-in shows have always been used to great effect in horror movies.
Much of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is centered around a radio
station, and then there's the psycho calling the radio shrink in Don't Answer the
Phone. Maybe those were sub-consciously
sources of inspiration for When Death Calls?
Well, much of what I do is inspired by old exploitation pictures from
the 60's through the 80's. It was a real magic time for these great,
inspired cult movies and I generally am just trying to make my own
entries into those type of films.
What's also great about anthologies is it allows you to do many
different things and I think When Death Calls runs the gamut
of classic B-movies, both in style and in content. One story is a
monster movie, one is a slasher movie, one is a very black comedy -
there's something for everyone and I think they all work.
can you tell us about your directorial approach to your film?
Well, I try to approach things from a practical standpoint. When you're
working with so little money it certainly inhibits what you can do, but
I tend to see that as a challenge and it makes things more fun. I like
figuring things out and making people wonder how I did so much with such
a small budget.
One of my biggest influences as a filmmaker is a guy most people have
never heard of called S.F. Brownrigg, although he is now starting to get
a little recognition all these years later. He most famously made Don't Look in the Basement in the 70's, and he also made
several really good, really creepy horror movies (as well as a silly
straight-to-video 80's comedy). Unfortunately he passed away many years
ago, but he did an interview with Fangoria magazine in 1989 that I read
back when I was sixteen, and what he talked about there was more
valuable to me as a filmmaker than anything I gleaned from any college
film courses I ever took.
Basically, he talked about making films with no money and how these
things could be done and how he did his films. It was a very practical
approach to making movies, and I read that article several times over
and used it like a blueprint for what I would someday do. That's kind of
my approach, very practical.
there are quite a few gorehounds among my readers: How far are you going
in terms of violence, blood and gore?
Sorry to disappoint
anyone, but I'm not a gore guy. I've always been a great fan of horror
movies, but it was never about the splatter. The story and the suspense is
what does it for me. I mean, if you are depicting violence I think you do
need to show it and let it have an impact on your audience, but I'm not
about blood and guts for entertainment. I like a horror movie to be like a
roller coaster ride - fun, exciting, thrilling, we jump, we scream, but at
the end we had a good time and we want to do it again. I wouldn't want to
go on a ride that would make me sick to my stomach or makes me feel dirty
or disturbed. That's not fun.
Jim Haggerty with Suzi Lorraine
A few words about
your leading lady, the lovely Suzi Lorraine [Suzi
Lorraine interview - click here]?
Wow, what can I say? Suzi Lorraine is the total package, a true movie
star. She's one of my favorites - an amazingly good actress, a consumate
professional, gorgeous, and on top of all that she's a really talented
writer. But beyond that she's an exceptionally sweet person, very patient,
very kind, very funny, very humble, and amazing to work with. When
Death Calls is the second film we've worked on together and I hope
it's the second in a series of twenty million. She's just terrific, I'm
very honored to have her in my films and even more honored to consider her
What can you
tell us about the rest of your cast and crew?
Well many of the folks involved have worked with me before. It's always
very gratifying that folks are willing to work with me again, it's an
acknowledgement that they enjoyed working with me and that they were
happy with what we did together.
Of course Dennis Newman is involved, who's been my right hand man since Grave Danger, we always have a great time together. He was
very instrumental behind the scenes and he had a very funny turn as the
cable guy in one of the more humorous segments. Of course Jae Mosc, the
Yellow Ape matinee idol is back. Other familiar faces on hand are Robert
Lincourt and Stephen Alan Wilson of From the Inside, Rebecca
Rose McCain, David Tapias, and others.
We also have some great new blood in this one. I think people will be
really impressed with Nathalie Bryant, really good actress in a very
challenging role, as well as Katt Masterson, Pooyah Mohseni, Steve
Arons, Darlene McCullough - it's a tremendously good cast. Maybe the
best group of people I've ever had the pleasure of working with.
$64-question of course: When will When Death Calls be out?
if I give you a general idea can I have $32? It should be out early 2012.
We started it quite a while ago and there were a lot of changes from when
we started to the present, but it's basically done now. At this point
we're just polishing it up as much as possible because we've been getting
a surprising amount of interest from both fans and distributors, so we
want it to be right. We usually release things in February to coincide
with my birthday, but since this year Tempe is giving a wide release to
From the Inside and Is This A Joke? in February we
may sit on it slightly longer to not let it be overshadowed by those two.
go back to the beginning of your career: What got you interested in
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
Well, I grew up wanting to make movies from a very early age. At about
seven years old I started studying the movie section of the newspaper -
I knew everything that came out and where it was playing and what the
reviews were like. I knew I wanted to grow up and make movies. When I
was a teenager I got a camcorder for Christmas and began making these
horrible little ten minute cop movies with my friends and family and
anyone else who crossed my path.
As far as I know, before you made your
first feature, you worked in the music industry for quite a bit, right?
I started out at Hunter College as a film major and they had no film
program at all. It was a great place to be discouraged from being a
filmmaker and even though I still loved watching movies, I was learning to
play guitar and was becoming more interested in music. I ended up
graduating as a communications major at SUNY Old Westbury on Long Island
and got a job at a music distributor after college.
can you tell us about your debut feature Slasher?
Well, that was the game changer. I was working in music, raising a
family, and was producing and hosting a heavy metal TV show on cable
access. At that point it dawned on me that I never made a movie like I
said I would when I was a kid. So using the cable company's equipment
and a cast made up of hammy colleagues from my job we made The
I had the title for a long time, it seemed so obvious, yet no one used
it. There was The Nightstalker,The
Prowler,The Ripper, but no "Slasher." I wrote the script
going to and from work on the bus on this mini-laptop I used for work
and every weekend for about three months we shot this crazy little
movie. The scheduling was insane, we were driving back and forth all
over Queens and Long Island using everyone's houses, as well as their
parents' houses, as well as my old college campus.
It was a crazy experience but I loved every minute of it. It really made
me want to keep doing this. This was my calling, this is what I was here
to do. And while there is much about that movie that makes me cringe
now, I still maintain it is the best movie ever made for $200 using all
non-professional actors and all non-professional equipment. While it
lacks a lot of finesse, it does tell a story, it moves at a brisk pace,
it has a beginning, middle and end, you can always see and hear what's
going on, and a lot of the acting is actually quite good.
few words about I Dream
of Dracula? And how exactly did you dream up that catchy
title (pun inevitable)?
It is a fun title, I always liked
that one. I Dream
of Dracula was a horror/comedy and was the follow-up to The
Slasher. It was kind of the antithesis of The
where that movie made me want to make movies, I Dream
of Dracula made me
want to give up making movies several times. It was a tough birth to be
sure, but it was a learning experience and I learned a lot from it. I am
also very pleased with how it turned out. I think it's a really good movie
and I think it's a fun movie.
According to my information, you
didn't make another feature after I
Dream of Dracula for six years. Why, and what did you do in the
That's not exactly true, I shot From the
Inside in 2004, about two years after completing I Dream
of Dracula. The post-production was a bit of a nightmare. The
editing was holding things up for a very long time. Two years later it was
still tied up and I had met my wife, so we decided to forget about it for
awhile and start fresh and make a new movie while trying to get From
The Inside done, and that was Grave Danger. Both Grave Danger and
Witchmaster General were
completed and saw the light of day before From
The Inside, which is why
that became known as my 'lost' film for a long time.
So what can you tell us about From the Inside?
Well, it was the lost film, it took forever to get through post and be
released, but it was truly worth the wait. I love all of my films, but I
have to say From the Inside may very well be my favorite. It's
a very dark, gritty thriller with a lot of twists and a very cynical
nature, It's probably not the kind of film I'm usually associated with but
it is really good. A great cast - the aforementioned Stephen Alan Wilson,
Robert Lincourt, and Jae Mosc, as well as Amanda Ladd, Dave Daniels,
Stacey Schwartz and Brian Haggerty, my uncle who is a theater actor. It's a
great thriller with some great acting.
Grave Danger was kind of a revitalization of sorts for me. I
was a bit bitter and disillusioned after the From the Inside
fiasco was holding that up and I really was in need of a new project. I
so wanted to do a new movie, but without finishing From
The Inside it
felt wrong. But I had just met the woman who I would end up marrying and
had fallen in love, so it was a time of new beginnings. It was something
we were going to do together.
It was also a nice way to transition back in. A little time had passed
since I filmed From
The Inside, and even though I believed it was good
I had no outside validation of that fact. I Dream
of Dracula and The Slasher
didn't find distribution right away, so I was a
little gun-shy. So doing Grave Danger was, like I said
before, less daunting than doing a full-on feature and more like a
series of short films.
It was then that I met Dennis Newman and Allon Scheyer and they would
become invaluable from then on. I also started trying to get some name
actors on board - Cathy St. George was a Playboy Playmate in the 80's
and would sign autographs at conventions, Vic Martino had been on The Sopranos and Kaye Bramblett was a veteran of the
classic Squeeze Play.
Besides those bigger names I discovered other amazing talents like
Katlin Owens, Bud Stafford, Debbie Kopacz and Jeff Cusimano who would
all work with me again.
Witchmaster General? And was the
similarity in title to the classic Whitchfinder
Honestly no. There was a movie called Wishmaster which I
thought was kind of a stupid title, but it reminded me of Witchmaster so
I started kicking that around. It was kind of a play on Postmaster
General, if anything.
The concept was to have a witchdoctor using voodoo to kill people. This
seemed like another practical low-budget idea. Instead of having to
simulate setting someone on fire, you set a doll on fire and somehow the
person far away feels it. I wanted a big star to do the role, and the
first person I thought of was Angus Scrimm of the Phantasm-movies.
Logistically that seemed impossible, so instead I set my sights on James
Avery who played the Dad on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. While
he wasn't very similar to Angus Scrimm he was a recognizable name/face
and with his large and imposing frame could be quite scary.
Unfortunately we never got it past his agent - not sure if he ever read
it or not.
Phil Lewis with Stella Kim in Witchmaster
Finally my music roots came back into play. I was always a big fan of
L.A. Guns and in my travels I managed to befriend the band, so I thought
the lead singer Phil Lewis might be interested. Again, very different
from the last two guys, but definitely had a certain something.
I sent the script to Phil and he was very excited. He came in and was a
total professional and did a great job with the role. It was exciting
directing my rock n roll idol from when I was a teenager. And I think
Phil got a kick out of 'this little guy that used to come to our shows'
as he says on the DVD extras, directing a movie.
In addition to Phil, Vic from The Sopranos returned, we had the great
Suzi Lorraine [Suzi
Lorraine interview - click here], Colleen Marie who was a 90's Playboy Playmate and Tatyana
Kot who had done this Nazi b-movie that was getting some attention. It
was an all-star epic, which is probably why it's my best known film.
For Is This a Joke? you
left horror for comedy? Why, and what are the differences between
directing horror and comedy?
Well, "s This a Joke? was an experiment of sorts. Back in
the 70's sketch comedy movies were big, stuff like The Groove
Tube and Kentucky Fried Movie, the former of which
spawned Saturday Night Live. I always loved these kind of films, but
there was actually a sub-genre within that which were films I call
'dirty joke movies' because they're just that - old dirty jokes enacted
by actors and that's it. There were actually quite a few of these movies
- Jokes My Folks Never Told Me, Up Your Ladder
(or just Up Yours as it was also known), If You Don't
Stop it You'll Go Blind and it's inevitable sequel Can I Do
It Til I Need Glasses.
Anyway, I was watching a bunch of these movies and I was telling my wife
how easy it would be to make one of these movies and how much fun they
would be. The problem was, these movies weren't funny because you always
knew the joke and knew the punchline. But my wife correctly pointed out
that people these days don't tell dirty jokes anymore because everyone's
so politically correct and younger college-aged folks probably don't
know these jokes. And as we were about to start shooting in high-def for
the first time it seemed like a fun project to test things out with.
So we started mining dirty joke books searching for jokes. We wanted
jokes that were funny, visual, do-able, and had not been done in any of
the previous movies in the genre. It would be an homage to those kind of
films. And I think it worked - it's got the vibe of those old movies.
There is a big difference directing straight comedy because comedy does
have to have timing where horror timing is different, so we tried to
find some new folks to work with and I think the cast we put together
really sold the material nicely. For me it didn't seem like so much of a
departure - except for From the Inside my films all have
humor in them, usually in the dialogue. And I've done stand-up comedy
myself, so I have that background. And I think my sense of humor is what
a lot of people like best about me, so it seemed natural.
Any other films of yours
you'd like to talk about, any future projects?
Well, once When Death Calls is done I'm planning to do a short film with
this great actress I've come across named Risa Cohen. It's very different
from anything else I've ever done, it's a very character-driven piece and
I'm very proud of it. I can't wait to start working on it.
your films are of the horror variety in some form or another. Is this a
genre especially dear to you, and why?
I've always been
drawn to scary movies, but as I said before, it's more the story and the
suspense. When I grew up watching Friday the 13th-movies, the
tale of a boy drowning and his deranged mother taking revenge on negligent
camp counselors drew me in a lot more than the body count or the special
effects. I like all different types of movies, but I guess horror is
always my first inclination.
You usually also
appear in front of the camera in your movies. What can you tell us about
Jim Haggerty the actor?
Well, I always like to have at least a little cameo in the movies I
make. Hitchcock used to do that, and I think it's good fun. I've
actually been trying to branch out a bit more as an actor. I'm in quite
a few bits in Is This A Joke? and I have a pretty big role
in When Death Calls, I think I pulled that off, but it was a
trial by fire - I was acting opposite Rebecca Rose McCain who's such a
good actress you can't screw around. You really have to bring your
A-game when you work with someone that good. It was intimidating, I
almost chickened out, but I think I sold it OK. You'll have to let me
know when it comes out.
But I'd like to do some acting in someone else's movie so I can focus
more on the acting and not also be carrying the rest of the film behind
the scenes. So if anyone out there has a project, drop me a line.
A few words about your
production company Yellow Ape Productions, its slogan "Movies
for the Midnight Hour" - and how did you come up with this ingenious
I don't know if it's necessarily ingenius, it's just what we do. Way
back when, before DVDs and cable were so all-encompassing and movie
theater admission was cheap, there was what was called the 'midnight
movies,' movies that would play at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays for a
less mainstream audience. I like to think that the movies we make would
all fit comfortably into the old midnight schedules if we were around way
back when. And I think we accomplish that.
Of all the aspects you work on on your
films, directing, writing, producing, acting, photography and whatnot -
which do you enjoy the most, what could you do without?
That's tough. I love the whole creative process. I have always loved to
write, everyday I have an idea for a movie, I have far more ideas than I
have time to write them or money to make them. I also love directing,
seeing your idea come to life into something real right before your very
eyes is something that everyone should get to experience. It's the most
amazing thing. I enjoy acting too, but not as much as the writing and
Photography and the more technical stuff I can live without. I don't
know all the technical stuff and I find it boring. I prefer to surround
myself with smarter guys who know all the camera tricks to help me get
what I see in my head on film. I love working with the actors, but not
really the machinery. But I guess it's a necessary evil or we'd be doing
who inspire you?
S.F. Brownrigg as I mentioned, George A. Romero, Martin Scorsese, Ridley
Scott, early John Carpenter, John Landis, Wes Craven, Martin Brest,
there's tons of guys who've done great stuff. But I'm not so much a
director groupie either, it's more a case by case basis. I don't think
there's any director who I've seen everything they've done. If a movie
doesn't interest me, I don't care who directed it.
For example, Scorsese - I like when Scorsese makes the kind of films
he's best at, gritty movies about bad people doing bad things. Sure, he
can do other things and that's his right, but it's not always something
I'm interested in. If he's doing a concert film of The Rolling Stones or
a documentary on Bob Dylan that's cool, but The Age of
Innocence? That's just not something I would want to watch, so it
doesn't matter to me that it's from the guy who made Goodfellas and
Your favourite movies?
In no particular
order: Alien, Night of the Living
Blues Brothers, Star Wars, Midnight Run, Airplane!,
The Hills Have Eyes,
The Groove Tube, Death Race 2000,
Don't Look in the Basement, The Devil
Bat, The Departed, Frankenhooker, The Cannonball
Run, Zombie, Kentucky Fried
Movie, The Ape Man,
Assault on Precinct 13, Machete,
First Blood, The Terminator, Lady
Doctor Detroit, 2001: A Space Oddyssey, Planet of the
Escape from the Planet of the Apes... I don't know, there are
so many and probably so many I'm forgetting.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Ah, I don't like
to be a negative jerk - there's enough of them floating around on the
internet. It's tough making a film, I respect anyone that's taken a shot
at it, even if it ended up being something I didn't like.
film's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Please drop by
www.yellowape.net and pick up some of our films. I believe you'll all
enjoy them. Also, please drop by our Facebook page and LIKE us - we're new
to the mighty Facebook and are really trying to get our fanbase numbers up
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
No, I think we covered it. I don't think I've ever talked this much
about myself, you were very thorough. If anyone's still reading I just
want to say thanks very much and thanks very much to the folks at (re)Search
my Trash for your interest. I hope I didn't bore anyone with
my long answers.
for the interview!