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An Interview with Geno McGahee, Director of Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2021

Films directed by Geno McGahee on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Itís about a writer that cannot produce and is sort of lost in life moving back in with his father after the death of his mother. He thinks that the return home and reconnection to the family will break the writerís block. He soon meets up with a love interest and some campers and some killer scarecrows. There are some secrets revealed and the writer must find his inner strength to contend with the monsters in the woods and some unexpected turmoil to survive.

 

To what degree is Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth related to your original Rise of the Scarecrows from 2009, and what made you revisit its concept after all these years?

 

The 2009 film was shot in 2003. It took that long to get distribution for it. When it came out, it actually put me on the map more than any other film. It was on Netflixís new streaming service and got some attention from some major websites, leading to the onslaught of reviews and they werenít pleasant. I was very young and didnít take the criticisms as well as I do now.

 

So, after quitting film from a production standpoint in 2014, more or less, and contending with tons of negative experiences with some unscrupulous filmmakers, I decided that I wanted to come back one more time. While I was deciding, I noticed a scarecrow mask in my office looking at me, and it made the decision clear. I wanted to make a Scarecrow film that was better than the 2003 one and make one that people just donít trash.

 

It is not a sequel. Itís sort of a reboot or different universe sort of film. Initially, my thought was to make it as sequel but I ended up starting anew with many nods to the first for sure.

 

I've described Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth as a "mix of slasher movie and folk horror" - would you at all agree, and if so, could you elaborate on that blend a bit, and what drew you to both genres?

 

I agree! Part of my agenda was to create a world, an atmosphere that felt small town and relatable, and add some slasher elements. I didnít want this to be a mindless slasher film. I wanted people to feel the town, the characters, and then as they become part of the town, the scarecrows come in and in a big way. The third act of the film is really action packed and I think it made it worth the wait as the viewer now knows all the characters and the town.

 

Other sources of inspiration when writing Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth?

 

Iím a HUGE fan of the Friday the 13th series, especially number 6 and 7, and that was sort of the feel I wanted in this, and you can notice some nods to the series. The scarecrow ripping through the tent, one of the characters fist fighting a scarecrow, Friday the 13th, Part 8-style, and much more was a direct tribute to those films that meant so much to me as a child and even now.

 

My other inspiration was my instincts. It drew me to this film and producing it was a necessity. I knew that it was going to be made because the universe asked me to do it. It was all I thought about for 10 months leading into the production.

 

Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth does have its violent bits - so do talk about the gore scenes in your movie, and how were they achieved?

 

Three people were responsible for bringing the gore to the film. Matt Hebert was largely responsible for the approach to the bigger kills like when one of the characters was hanged from a hook and when another was chopped in two with an old saw.

 

Jesse Delta Ariel Waegelein-Hall was heavily involved in the gore and made the features of the scarecrow when he loses his mask. She and Hebert really did an amazing job.

 

Lastly, Rick Caride, created the masks and was another essential person in the gore process. Heís worked with me on many other projects, and this trio of terror proved unbeatable and added so much to the film.

 

A few words about Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth's approach to horror?

 

My approach to horror is to tell the story from my heart and mind, and not to go after whatís trending or any gimmicks. Sink or swim, Iím making the film the way that I want to, and if the people love it, great. I hope they do love it. I want them to love it. If they would rather see sharks or clowns or shark clowns, then my films arenít going to check those boxes.

 

Thankfully, Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth has been doing really well and Iíve gotten a lot of positive messages and reviews.

 

Do talk about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand!

 

To a great degree, I go with the current unless there is something glaring or something that I need. A lot of the time, the actors and actresses will approach the character in a certain way I didnít expect, and I let it go a little to see how it grows. If I donít like it, Iíll pull them aside and guide it.

 

I am energetic and have a blast directing and talk too much by nature. It works well in the field. I feel at home on set, and when itís all working well Iím so full of joy and energy. I need it when we go to 5 AM shooting a scene.

 

What can you tell us about Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth's key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

When I decided to return to film, I had three people in mind. I needed a strong foundation to build this film on, and I stacked the deck with my first three choices of Brent Northup, Eric Michaelian and Lorrie Bacon. I followed up by choosing the rest of the cast as carefully as I could. I made it a point to make a film that didnít have any glaring stuff wrong with it.

 

Sharon Marr, Jesse Delta Ariel Waegelein-Hall, Nathaniel Cook, Tom Hebert, Martin Du Plessis, Matt Hebert, Aaron Schacht, Phil Godeck, Brandon Macey, Bayindir Citak, Pawel Watracz, Justin Hortie and all of the rest of the cast were chosen as carefully as I could have. This film had nine months of planning behind it. I left nothing to chance.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

I love these people. These people are my family. I have NEVER had a film like this before where everyone just immediately clicked and worked hard and had fun. Like any other film that you shoot on a mountain in the rainiest July in history with the worst tick season in history, we had our fair share of stress, but we had plenty of rainy nights of drinking and laughing and just understanding that we canít control the weather and we just needed to regroup. This was the most understanding and talented group Iíve ever had the honor to work with.

 

One thing I want to mention too is that Gregory Hatanaka/Cinema Epoch kept the morale up by feeding us so well and showing continued support.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth?

 

Premiere night was sold out and the audience reaction was amazing. If I could bottle a moment in time, it would be the time when the cast and crew were on stage and the audience was all smiles. It was super meaningful and made it all worth it. Beyond money and beyond anything else, that premiere night was as good as it gets.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Iím filming a Christmas drama/comedy called A Christmas Invitation that is going into production in March of this year and will be a reunion of sorts with my Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth-team. I love Christmas movies and I always wanted to make one. So itís happening. Because my 2014 anthology Scary Tales: Last Stop has found legs and is getting huge traffic now, I might think about another anthology after the holiday film.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

I encourage everyone to find me on Facebook. Iíll befriend anyone that isnít a catfisher or somebody that tags me and 200 others in consistent posts. If youíre cool and you like my films and films in general, please find me on Facebook. Rise of the Scarecrows: Hell on Earth also has a Facebook page. I encourage people to find my other films on Tubi. I also want to give a mention to Amityville Cop, a film I wrote that was directed by Gregory Hatanaka. Really great stuff.

 

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

 

I want to give a mention to a co-producer and cinematographer, Pete Baez. We really worked together well and he has so many projects of his own coming down the line soon. I want to thank the musicians including Frank Palangi, Joe Becker, Sonora and Gary Steinour for their contributions. Matt Hebert, another co-producer, put his heart and soul into this one and really raised the bar on this film by his actions and contributions.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thank you! I canít thank you enough for the interest in my films and the interest in my Scarecrows.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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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
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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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
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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
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD