Interview: John Carl Buechler (FX Makeup Artist)

Hey acolytes old & new! The Black Saint has returned after a long Samhain weekend to regale you with some more interviews from the Creation Weekend Of Horrors a few weeks back. I recruited so many new acolytes into my Army Of Darkness over the Samhain weekend & indoctrination was a bit taxing (on them, not me) but they persevered & are serving me as I type these words to all of you. Let’s begin with makeup maestro John Carl Buechler shall we?

“Friday The 13th Pt. 7″ among many others. How are you today Mr. Buechler?

JCB: I’m doing very well today? And you?

TBS: Having a great time! I want to start with “Hatchet 2″. Knowing all about your involvement in “Hatchet”. Did you play a part in the sequel?

JCB: The 1st 20 minutes are all about me. It’s the John Buechler show, I am Jack Cracker! The guy who finds the heroine in the swamp in the beginning..

TBS: Holy crap You’re right! I knew that..I knew that. Ok, maybe I didn’t know it then but I know it now. You were great!

JCB: Thanks.

TBS: Now I don’t know if you were aware of this but I saw “Hatchet 2″ last weekend. It opened on a Friday in NY & I saw it on the following Saturday & then…BOOM! It was pulled from theatres with no explanation given. My take on that is that studios can’t release unrated movies theatrically because they can’t put ad’s up for them in local newspapers, they can’t advertise on TV or radio either. So nobody but the hardcore fans even know it exists let alone know it’s being released. So do you know what happened?

JCB: I heard about it getting pulled from theatres. That’s not true about unrated movies being unable to get advertising. You can’t get NC-17 7 you can’t get X but you can get unrated films in the newspapers, etc..

TBS: Really? There was absolutely nothing in the newspapers or radio/tv leading up to the release of the film….

JCB: That’s the problem. In these days if you want to release any movie theatrically it has to have the support, it’s not just prints. It’s ad’s & marketing. You can’t be competitive otherwise. You’ll be swallowed up by everybody out there screaming the names of their films. And unless you make about ten grand a screening, they don’t want your product in theatres.

TBS: There were only 4 people in the theatre when I saw it….

JCB: Who knew it was there? Who knew it was there? What’s the point? The fan base for “Hatchet” is huge. There’s a groundswell of people who want to see that kind of movie. Unfortunately the majors aren’t going to push it & the small people don’t have deep enough pockets to do it properly.

TBS: Have you been in touch with Adam Green (Director of “Hatchet” & “Hatchet 2″) since it got pulled from theatres?

JCB: No, I haven’t spoken to him. I saw him last at the premiere in Hollywood.

TBS: No one is really saying why it was pulled. What do you think happened?

JCB: I could only presume that it has to do with the amount it was making per screen. There are certain contractual obligations that a film has to fulfill in order to hang around for awhile.

TBS: But it was only in about 10 theatres in NY I think. There’s only so much a film could make in 10 or less theatres without any promotion whatsoever in it’s opening weekend.

JCB: But it’s an issue of per screen. What’s the average per screen? It has nothing to do with how many theatres it opens in.

TBS: My point is if you only give it 2 days..in actuality I thought it was only getting a token release before a quick DVD debut just to get the word out that it existed at all. But even with films released with that strategy in mind…they played at least one week. I never heard of a film getting pulled after 2 days because of bad returns at the box office.

JCB: The fact of the matter is I was not a fly on the wall with the exhibitors. I was not there when the decision came to pull it. I can’t speak to that, but I don’t know. It was a shock. I made a little “Jekyll & Hyde” movie with a small crew & it played in the deep South for a couple of weeks, and it didn’t have anywhere near the support that “Hatchet’ has. I think that you gotta do more than launch a movie. You gotta stay with it. You gotta get it into the mainstream even if it’s unrated.

TBS: It’s interesting that you say that because the week after “Hatchet 2″ opened, the remake of “I Spit On Your Grave” opened. Once again, no ad’s, no commercials, nothing that I saw to promote the film anywhere. But that hung around for at least a week.

JCB: I tell you it’s a mystery…that’s a mystery.

TBS: And I saw it at a private screening a few weeks ago & it was no more violent than “Hatchet 2″ was. And it added multiple rape scenes to the violence as well but there was no outcry for it to be pulled & I’m pretty sure it hasn’t made much at the box office either (For the record “Hatchet 2″ made $52,604 at 68(!) theatres in it’s 2 days of release. “I Spit….” made $89,881 as of Nov 1st in 12 theatres since it’s initial release).

JCB: Look, I directed “Friday The 13th Pt.7: The New Blood”. There’s been no movie that’s been more castrated than mine by the ratings board. Every great effect I created..well almost everyone of them was omitted by the ratings board. Look at the recent release to see the omitted footage.

TBS: I will.

JCB: See, the big problem is the ratings board. I think what was going on there is that I’m a pretty well known makeup effects guy & I’m a fairly well known director. So when the ratings board back in the 80′s found out that a makeup effects guy is going to direct a “Friday The 13th” movie, they had a hard on for me. So they absolutely castrated the film.

TBS: How did that make you feel as a filmmaker? Did you think at that point that was going to hinder you in any films you made after that one?

JCB: Sure! It completely degraded everything I went for. The fact of the matter is Horror is sort of like comedy. To sell a comedy, you tell a joke, it does the setup & people are rewarded with a punch line. In Horror, there’s the setup, there’s the tease, the anticipation & there’s the punch line. The money shot. They cut out all of my punch lines…it’s just a bunch of setup’s.

TBS: So with that information, has that changed the way you make your films since then?

JCB: Absolutely. You have to be extremely creative. I mean one thing that I did do in “Friday 7″ that I knew they would probably have this sort of attitude about is that I went really heavy on the physical/mechanical effects and they were successful in the film. I went out & I made what I consider & many other people have said is the “Definitive” Jason. When that mask comes off…it works. You see the spinal column sticking out of his back. It works & they couldn’t cut that out. But you know…it’s bad news from then on.

TBS: Yeah, I would think that has to be very demoralizing as a director. To have to worry about what will & won’t pass the board. To worry about what you would have to cut after they see it.

JCB: Every filmmaker has to make those decisions.

TBS: Doesn’t make it any easier though. It’s gotta be hard.

JCB: I wasn’t out to make a gorefest. I was out to make a entertaining movie. And it is entertaining but it would’ve been more entertaining, more fun & had a longer run in theatres if I got to make my vision.

TBS: Are you working on anything right now?

JCB: Yes I am.

TBS: Am I allowed to ask what it might be?

JCB: I’ll tell you. I’m remaking “Troll”.

TBS: You know what? I was going to mention that movie. I loved it when I first saw it. As a matter of fact I watched it again a few weeks ago on cable & it still holds up.

JCB: Yeah, well I’m remaking it. A very big movie…

TBS: Independently or with a studio?

JCB: It will be the biggest independent movie ever made.

TBS: Really?

JCB: But I can’t say anymore than that.

TBS: That’s fine. Has filming started already?

JCB: Not yet.

TBS: Do you have it cast yet?

JCB: We’re in negotiations.

TBS: What did you think about “Troll 2″ even though it has nothing to do with your original “Troll”? It does have a pretty big cult surrounding it now.

JCB: It is “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. And you know, it’s this little Italian film called “Goblins” that someone slapped the title “Troll 2″ on. Illegally I might add.

TBS: I just thought that there was some kind of deal going on when it was released…

JCB: I own all remake & sequel rights to “Troll”.

TBS: Did you see the documentary about it: “Best Worst Movie”?

JCB: I’ve seen bits & pieces.

TBS: I’m about to see it when I get home but from what I read it’s the classic “So Bad It’s Good” movie of it’s generation.

JCB: I’d keep the first part & dismiss the last part.

TBS: (Laughing) I understand. You’ve had your hand in so many movies that I’ve seen from looking at this poster you have here behind you. You’ve been around a long time.

JCB: Yeah, I’m really old!

TBS: I don’t mean to age you but you have been in the business a long time though. When you were strictly a makeup effects expert was it always your plan to get into directing?

JCB: Well, I was a director & an actor before I was a makeup man. But not in LA. I started in St .Louis, Missouri. But I came out here & when you start your profession you have to make certain choices. As an adult you’re treated differently than as a student or a child. A child is rewarded for being good, an adult is rewarded for being valuable. You have to figure out what you’re valuable at doing & I had an ability people needed when I came out here. And that’s where I started.

TBS: So you knew all of your special effect makeup skills when you got out here?

JCB: I’ve always been an artist. I taught myself makeup. I went to school…college. But I ended up teaching a makeup course as an undergraduate. I taught myself a lot more before I got into school than I learned from the school. So I was doing prosthetics & makeup well before I moved to LA. I think the first time anybody saw my work was on a little independent short called “The Thing In The Basement”. And I played an alien. Richard Taylor directed it.

bJCB: Well the fact of the matter is I don’t distinguish one from the other. I mean, take for example Jason. When you make a Jason like I made Jason…he tells a story. When you design a character you have to think: “Is it from another planet? Does it breathe air? Does it have stereoscopic vision”? It’s storytelling. And movie making is storytelling. Much of my prowess as an effects artist was enhanced by my ability to come up with storylines. I knew how to create it..I knew how to write it. The next obvious step, the transition to directing was straight. I’ve always loved writing & I’ve always loved directing. Makeup effects are part of the tools that I use. Now there’s CGI, motion capture but I look at CGI as an airbrush although there are good reasons to use it.

TBS: I understand the pluses & minuses of CGI. I still hate CGI blood though. It just isn’t convincing.

JCB: Well look at Gollum (Lord Of The Rings Trilogy), look at the new King Kong. Those are characters! I wasn’t as impressed with the characters in “District 9″ though.

TBS: The Prawns? I thought they were so realistic & so well integrated into the film. I believed they were real.

JCB: But what I mean with regards to Gollum & Kong is that they would be difficult to achieve with traditional movie makeup effects. But I think you can combine the two. We’re talking about an art form that continues to evolve so you have to avail yourself with everything that’s there to use to create the character…the magic.

TBS: One last question: What did you think of the “Friday The 13th” remake?

JCB: I did not see it

TBS: Was that by choice?

JCB: I did not have the interest.

TBS: Really? I would think that a director of one of the original series of “Friday” films would be curious at least…

JCB: I saw “Freddy Vs. Jason”. I kind of liked the movie but I didn’t like the fact that Kane (Hodder) didn’t play Jason. I was offended by that.

TBS: A lot of people were.

JCB: But the reason to see that movie is to see what they could do with it. I have no idea what you could do with “Friday The 13th” to make it a better film.

TBS: Neither did the filmmakers.

JCB: I know exactly what to do with “Troll” to make it a better film. So bottom line is: don’t remake films you can’t make better. Leave them the classics they are.

TBS: That’s interesting. Did you see Rob Zombie’s 2 “Halloween” films?

JCB: Uh, yeah.

TBS: What did you think of them?

JCB: I don’t think he made them better.

TBS: Exactly! I think he took all the mystery away from the character of Michael Myers.

JCB: Like I said, Don’t do it if you can’t make it better. Did you see “Nightmare On Elm Street”?

TBS: I hated it!!

JCB: Don’t remake it if you can’t do it better. When I made “Troll” there were compromises & compromises & compromises & compromises. I knew the story I wanted to tell but I was not allowed to. So now I have an opportunity to fully realize my vision. And I can avail myself to all of the special effects..to all of the best talent in the world. It’s a big budget film.

TBS: I hope it’s a big hit when it gets released. Thank you for talking to me. You are an extremely creative individual & I’m looking forward to your next effort whatever it is,

JCB: Thank you.

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About The Black Saint

Those of you who don't know of The Black Saint & have yet to commit yourselves to him body, mind & soul will find yourselves in a most uncomfortable position when my army of acolytes is complete & ready to wreak havok upon this pitiful blue ball we live on. Oh, I really like horror movies as well & will take on all comers in a horror trivia contest. Bring it on!
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One Response to Interview: John Carl Buechler (FX Makeup Artist)

  1. Edward says:

    I am trying to get a hold of jahn it is very important,
    If someone can give me his contact # or email I would really appreciate that.
    Thank you
    Edward 818-244-9111

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