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An Interview with John Johnson, Director of Fear Fighter and Dr. Ella Mental's Mad Lab Picture Show

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2013

Films directed by John Johnson on (re)Search my Trash


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You have recently directed two "interactive horror movie games", FearFighter and Dr. Ella Mental's Mad Lab Picture Show. First of all, please explain the "interactive horror movie game"-concept for a bit!


Well, they are basically Choose Your Own Adventure-games. Except you can't die. No matter what choices you make when prompted you will still get and 80-90min movie. But you will see it from different points of view based on the character- and the situation-preferences chosen by the player.


So how does writing and directing one of these movie games differ from doing a regular movie, and are you sometimes afraid you'll simply lose yourself in the complexities of the multi-path plotline?


Yeah, it's exciting and overwhelming. See below picture of the paths of FearFighter. This was a board I used to see each segment and how it played out. This took a very long time to figure out. But once that math was done, I knew no matter how they moved through the game they would get the same storyline within reason and still keep moving along the story. As for the script, the story itself leaves it to an episodic structure which was a perfect fit for the game. That helped a lot going by segment to segment.


The many paths of FearFighter

How did you get hooked up with the movie game-concept in the first place - and having above two under the belt, could you ever be tempted to do any more?


I was approached by the company Flicksphere with the idea. They needed a couple films to launch their site. And I was just crazy enough to do it. And if the site is successful, I would love to do another one. I love all forms of story telling. And to have one so new to me, I wanna play more!


Let's go into more detail on FearFighter first - in a few words, what is it about?


FearFighter is based on my first feature film I shot when I was 15. The concept being there is a dimension where every fear thought up takes life and lives in its own little world. There is a hierarchy that controls them, but feeds them as well. Pulling in people from our world to do so. This story is about some guys that lose their friends to the world and have to go in to get them out!


To me at least, FearFighter seems like an hommage to 1980's low budget horror cinema - at all what you intended, and your (other) sources of inspiration for FearFighter?


Very much so. It helps that the first draft of the film was written during that time period. Also, films I love of that nature like Fright Night, Monster Squad, Waxwork 2, and many many more influenced me as a kid, a filmmaker, and as a writer. I love that era and style of film. And most of my work is a love letter as such.


FearFighter features about every monster in the book in at least one short sequence - so which scenes and monsters did you enjoy to shoot the most?


Well, werewolves are my favorite monster by far. And this flick has a wolfman! Quick as it may be, it takes the lead.


Do talk about your principal cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?


Talent mostly. Not only did they look and feel like the type of characters I wrote back in the High School Days, but they are so strong as actors they can handle and do anything I could throw at them. Bottom line. They make me look good.


What can you tell us about the actual shoot and the on-set atmosphere?


We shot over three months I believe. Taking on basically a segment every shoot. It was a long road, since we were basically making a 6 hour movie. But over the years, most of these guys have become friends working on many projects together. So fun was key for us. Kinda made the entire production an adventure with a great crew.


Dr. Ella Mental's Mad Lab Picture Show - why a horror host show, especially considering the multipath-nature of your movie games?


Well, Flicksphere needed a couple games to start. And production on a horror host is a pretty inexpensive and easy way to go. That's why so many stations did it as fillers on their networks. So I thought why not? As a writer I felt turning the horror hosting-world on a tilt would be epic! And I am very proud of the turn-out.


Do talk about Dr. Ella Mental herself for a bit: What inspired her creation, and what can you tell us about the actress who plays her, Mariah Johnson (any relation)?


Yes. Mariah is my wife and the head of all of my makeup FX. We are kinda a team. The character Ella Mental was made up to host the second season of Spade, a fan interactive web series I was working on at the time. And we liked her so much, we gave her her own show. Well deserved and is now one of Darkstone's most popular creations!


You of course also have to talk about the movies Dr. Ella shows, Night of the Living Dead and The Satanic Rites of Dracula, for a bit, and why those?


Public Domain to start. Free. Night of the Living Dead being the most popular public domain horror film of all time, and The Satanic Rites of Dracula because I am a HUGE Hammer film fan. It was cool to get that one out there and in the mix!


Dr. Ella Mental's Mad Lab Picture Show looks like it was heaps of fun to film - so do talk about the shoot for a bit, and were all of the skits scripted actually, or some of them made up as you went along?


Actually there wasn't much ad-lib in this production. It was a script hammered out by myself and author Matthew Warner. The only exception is Jarod Kearney (Mr. Budderbottom). We never knew what the hell he was gonna say. Still don't know what he said. Unlike FearFighter, we shot this entire thing in 4 days. It would have been 3, but I was sick throughout the production.

Will we see the return of Dr. Ella Mental anytime soon (or at all even)?


Feeling lucky ?
Want to
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?

The links below
will take you
just there!!!

Find John Johnson
at the amazons ...


Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)

Germany (East AND West)

Looking for imports ?
Find John Johnson here ...

Your shop for all things Thai

Something naughty ?
(Must be over 18 to go there !)

x-rated  find John Johnson at

YES! She hosted the fan interactive series Bath Salts, which just came to a close. But for Christmas Eve, we plan on her hosting a full film on YouTube! Very excited about this!


(Other) future projects you'd like to share?


We have a very successful web series on YouTube right now entitled Spooky Tales as well as an epic feature entitled Plan 9 (remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space).


Your/your movie games' website, Facebook, whatever else?

(Should be able to find everything goody like through there!)


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Yes. I have the power of flight.


Thanks for the interview!


Thanks so much for having me on your site!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD