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An Interview with Pete Jacelone, Director of The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2019

Films directed by Pete Jacelone on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man - in a few words, what is it about?


The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man is a fictitious, yet historically accurate account of when American serial killer John Wayne Gacy met Dean Corll.


With The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man being about real life serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Dean Corll - what fascinated you about these two men exactly, and did you do any in-depth research on them prior to writing your script?


John Gacy and Dean Corll are particularly interesting serial killers because despite their horrific past-times of seducing torturing and murdering teenage boys, they were both incredibly well connected and well liked in their respective communities. Gacy from Chicago was a prominent business man who used to dress up as Pogo the Clown and entertain children at charity events. Dean Corll from Texas owned a candy factory and was known to give away free candy to neighborhood children. Dean Corll was particularly interesting because he befriended two teenage outcasts (David Brooks and Wayne Henley) and paid them $200 each for every teenage boy they brought to him to kill. Eventually they participated in some of the crimes and helped Corll dispose of the victims.


There is a lot of information about these killers out there. In addition there have been multiple films and documentaries about them. But no one had dared to depict the murders in any sort of detail or realism. Nor, in my opinion, has anyone attempted to depict them in the way we do in our film. By utilizing many actual quotes and situations (as described in interviews and court records) we have managed to weave a fictitious story laced with uncanny and disturbing factual detail.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man?


Since an early age I have been interested in horror and intrigued with the subject of sociopaths and serial killers. If you think about it, serial killers are TRULY the stuff of horror. More so because, unlike vampires, zombies, werewolves, and other inhabitants of horror folklore, serial killers are REAL, and walk the earth in surprisingly great numbers. Some psychologists believe as many as 1-2% of the world population demonstrate sociopathic behavior. Although not all sociopaths are serial killers, the most conservative statistics indicate there may be as many as 50 active serial killers prowling the streets of the United States at any given time - all potentially performing unspeakably horrific murders of innocent men, women and children. As a film maker, I have always been particularly interested in serial killers that target men and boys, perhaps because it shatters the stereotype of the "innocent, helpless female victim" that has monopolized horror films for years.


What can you tell us about your co-writer (and star) Edward X. Young, and about your collaboration during the writing process?


Edward X Young has been my friend and filmmaking colleague for years. Through the years we have often talked about doing a film about serial killer Dean Corll. Ed, being from Texas himself, recalls his own experience as a teenager and learning about the murders committed by Dean Corll. He himself, being an outgoing attractive teenager, could have easily fallen victim to Dean Corll's perversities. Perhaps that is why Ed had often discussed his longing to play the serial killer in a film. Several years ago I had developed a short story involving the meeting of Dean Corll and John Gacy. Although it never actually happened, it is believed that some of John Gacy crimes may have been inspired by Dean Corll, and it is theoretically possible they COULD have met around 1972, just prior to Corll's shooting death by one of his accomplices in August of 1973. Anyway, initially the story was sort of a three act short, but after hours, actually months, and even years of discussion, we eventually managed to expand the story to feature length. I think in the end, Edward truly embellished the character of Dean Corll. He gave the character his own unique spin, but I do not think anyone could have surpassed Ed's enthusiasm nor the perverted nuances he managed to infuse in his portrayal. Equally so, Jeremy Woodworth, also our good friend, and known John Gacy/Pogo the Clown impersonator at local horror conventions, could not have been better cast as John Gacy.


Do talk about The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man's approach to horror!


Because of the known social popularity of these men, it is assumed they were likeable people to be around.

They were probably generous, and funny, and genuinely fun. We tried to portray that in their on-screen personalities. In addition, we asked ourselves, if these personalities with so much in common were to meet, what would they discuss. Well, you or I might discuss film, or the arts, what do you think they would discuss. Given their respective heinous perversities, I am sure their discussions would be nothing less than vile and repulsive. So we tried to portray that as well. In addition we tried to use the actual quotes of these men (derived from court records and interviews) when ever possible. Regarding their crimes -- we strived for realism whenever possible.


The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man is also a darkly funny movie - so what can you tell us about your film's brand of comedy?


I think given my above comments regarding the presumed likeable personalities of these killers combined with their utterly perverted crimes easily sets the stage for some dark humor. It was never my intention to make light of the real crimes that transpired nor to be disrespectful to the actual victims of those crimes. As a filmmaker it was merely my intention to re-tell a story of their crimes that would enlighten, entertain, and appropriately disturb people watching it. Based on people's initial reactions, I believe we succeeded. Many people thought the movie was very funny. But many found it overly offensive.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


In telling this story, I tried to take a natural approach to directing. I did have an initial vision of course.

Typically what was written in the final script was my vision. But I tried to allow the actors to embellish their characters and give them true personalities. I often try to cast actors in roles similar to their real personalities. In addition, especially in this film, I encouraged actors to research the crimes, and if appropriate, the actual personalities, killer or victim, they were depicting. If they did their jobs, and were really into it, then directing them would be easy. It became more of a job of blocking and/or calling shots vs directing the actor's actions. That was at least the way I tried to work this picture. It seemed to work.


Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


Except for the main characters of Gacy and Corll, the movie was almost exclusively cast through NY Backstage web site. I posted a casting call describing the project and got literally hundreds of submissions. I then requested the ones I liked to submit video taped audition re-enacting some of the scenes. That request tends to eliminate all but the most interested applicants. Then I make a point of speaking  to each of the actors who submits a video. Out of them, I picked those who were really enthused about the movie and understood all of the required emotional and visual demands. As it turned out, most of the actors I picked did considerable research on the crimes and/or their specific characters. The actors that played David Brooks and Wayne Henley (Seth Leighton Hale and Eric Fleising), the infamous teenage accomplices of Dean Corll, thoroughly researched their characters by reading and viewing video tapes of their respective interviews. This resulted in unprecedented realism in every actor's portrayal.


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


To me as a filmmaker, it's all about having fun. Of course we are all pretty serious about what we are doing, especially me, I suppose, thus must pay close attention to the schedule and the scenes at hand. Being low budget, I need to accomplish what I must accomplish that day no matter how long it takes. But on the other hand, if it's not fun, I won't do it. As you know a lot of the material in this movie is pretty intense, and some of it downright disturbing. So when we are taking on a tough scene, everyone must get into character as is appropriate. But after "cut" is called, there's typically a lot of laughing and joking going on.


The $64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?


As of my writing this, there are no scheduled screenings of the film. But I believe that will soon change. We are slated to screen in NYC in the spring - date TBA. In addition, I strongly anticipate the movie will screen at various film festivals and select screenings throughout the country. It is unlikely the movie will be available for purchase either digitally or on DVD until late this year or early 2020. If you want to see the movie, you'll have to stay tuned and look out for local screenings as will be announced through social media.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man?


As of this writing, the film has screened twice. The first time was a "pre-premiere sneak peak" at midnight in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Reels of the Dead film festival as part of the Days of the Dead horror convention. And the second was our official cast, crew and special guests premiere in Chatham, New Jersey. It has also been reviewed a few times.

Opinion has been mixed. Mostly good I think. What I would say "appropriate" for a movie of this nature. By appropriate I mean most people find it funny, disturbing, offensive, realistic, and at the very least entertaining.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


First and foremost, we are working on a sequel to The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man which will introduce another true life American serial killer to the mix. One who is perhaps even more perverted and brutal and bloody than Gacy and Corll combined. I know, that may sound impossible. More on this soon, I promise.


Meanwhile I'll be finishing a project I started about a year ago called Sins, about a psychopathic priest (I just love psychopaths!). The movie also addresses some of the topical controversy surrounding the Church these days. The movie will feature lots of perversion as well as murder.


Besides that, I am constantly working on short films, film essays, and character studies involving my "fictional" insane asylum The Lawrence Psychiatric Institute.


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?


I remember sitting in a car in a drive in movie (remember those?) as a teenager with my best friend watching a double feature of Night of the Living Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and thinking "Wow, I would love to make a horror movie some day." Ten years later I made my first shot-on-video movie: Psycho Sisters, which I co-directed with Gary Whitson [Gary Whitson interview - click here] of W.A.V.E. Productions. With no formal film making education or training I would go on to produce or direct a dozens of features and shorts using common sense methods which I feel actually worked to my advantage in creating some unique and different if not twisted films.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Killer Clown Meets the Candy Man?


My first film was SOV Psycho Sisters (1995), which, a few years later (1998) I remade on 16mm film with producer Mike Raso [Michael Raso interview - click here]. Other films I produced include DUCK! The Carbine High Massacre (1999) (co-produced with William Hellfire [William Hellfire interview - click here] and Joey Smack as Todd Russell). I subsequently directed Dead Students Society (2000), The Erotic Mirror (2002), BEEF: You Are What You Eat (2007) Sculpture (2009), Creepy Clowns: The Lunatic'ler (2016), and Chad's Dental Nightmare (2017) as well as numerous short film productions.


Having made indie movies for more than 20 years now, how has the indie film world changed over time from your point of view? And how have you changed as a director?


As an filmmaker and artist, I think the technology has definitely changed: digital vs video tape. Cameras are more accessible. And with that there are a lot more "filmmakers" out there. That's why I constantly aspire to make more "films" - I mean movies actually shot on film, as I'm sure do most filmmakers.


But the biggest change, I think, is in terms of distribution. It's much tougher these days. In the "old days" Netflix would often pick up low budget indie projects. In addition distributors would pay actual money, sometimes in the tens of thousands of Dollars to distribute a low budget indie film. No more. More often than not, a distributor will ask the filmmaker to pay THEM for the privilege (?) of distributing their film. Of course there is always hope that a film unique and different enough will get noticed and picked up big time as was The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.


Recently I have figured out a way to generate decent income self-distributing films online through digital streaming and/or digital downloads. But ultimately, I make films because I need to. I need to fulfill my desire to tell stories and affect people's emotions. I've always tried to do that, first through art, then music, and now through film.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I guess I have to say I'm pretty laid back. I do it mainly because it's fun, and fulfilling. I love the whole process: Thinking of an idea, then developing it into a story. Then writing a script and finding actors to play the parts. Then making it happen by filming it, then editing it, then ultimately screening the finished project. To me it's all fun. Of course, it takes some degree of determination and talent, I suppose, to make it happen. But to me, if I find the right cast and crew, who are dedicated to the project, and who at least in part share my passion, it's easy to make it happen. Directing becomes more about pulling it all together than telling people what to do.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Hitchcock - because he seems so weird and didn't seem to care about what others around him were doing, especially in terms of his unique brand of horror.


Your favourite movies?


The original Frankenstein - did you notice there is no music in that film? It's images alone carry it.

Night of the Living Dead - nice twisted ending.

The Exorcist - wow, good horror. A brilliantly and almost perfectly constructed film.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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Hmm... I'd like to think that every film has some redeeming quality.


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


Anything else you're dying to tell us that I have merely forgotten to ask?


Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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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