Haunted Honeymoon

Interview: Brian O’Toole – Writer/Producer (Basement Jack, Evilution, The Necropolitan)

Brian-Otoole-2MIKE JOY : Evilution has a great tag line, “The End is Here!” It’s short and to the point. I’m a big fan of tag lines as strange as that sounds. I think every great movie needs a great tag line. Alien, I think had one of the best tags of all time, “In space, no one can hear you scream”. Just curious, what’s your opinion of tag lines?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : I agree with you. Taglines are what makes me interested in a film. In fact, I looked into making a board game where people had to guess the film based on a tagline but I found that the copyright issues were a huge hassle. My favorite taglines come from the drive-in films of the 60s-70s and early 80s. Very exploitive, very cool. “Back from the Grave and Ready to Party!” “There’s Only One Thing Wrong With The Davis Baby… It’s Alive!” “Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water…” “If This One Doesn’t Scare You, You’re Already Dead!” Nowadays, it’s all about putting the actors’ pictures on the posters and adding “from the makers of (blank)”. I’m glad you liked the original tagline for Evilution. It was changed as the poster changed. I’m glad that the original Basement Jack tagline made it through marketing.

MIKE JOY : In Evilution, we see what kind of damage an alien life form can do. It’s ridiculous to think that we’re alone. There’s got to be something else out there, whether it be intelligent life or just some unknown bacherium from space. Is it just science fiction?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : When I was a kid, I was addicted to all those ancient astronaut books. Y’know, Chariots of the Gods? and The Outer Space Connection. I grew up in the time of movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and songs like Styx’s Come Sail Away and The Carpenters’ Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft that promised salvation from the stars. Then I read a book called Crash Go the Chariots and later in life Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark and realized that there are two sides to every thought and theory. I came to the decision that if there were intelligent humanoid life in the Universe that could travel the vastness of space why the hell would they come to Earth? I mean, really. Wi-Fi and Taylor Lautner are not really worth the trip. Having said that, I do believe in life elsewhere in the Universe. But I am more worried about what we’re uncovering here on Earth. All these Super Viruses. I don’t think the end of man will be a bombastic thrill ride like in 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow. Man’s demise will begin with a sneeze.

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MIKE JOY : I feel a sniffle coming on. Let me continue…What was your most memorable experience from filming Evilution?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : Evilution was the first film I made with my producing partner and friend Eric Peter-Kaiser. It was such a fantastic creative experience working with someone who appreciated the creative process and added to it. I would say building our relationship with this first movie was the most memorable. Second, I received quite an education on making films in a digital format from our cinematographer Mathew Rudenberg. Before Evilution, I worked in film. Dog Soldiers was Super 16 (and that’s why it looks so grainy on Blu-ray). Neo Ned, Death Valley, SleepStalker and Cemetery Gates were all 35mm. I swore I would only work with film but once Mathew weaved his magic I was convinced that digital was the way to go. Lastly, Evilution gave me a chance to work with people I have admired and worked with before. Peter Stickles plays one of the soldiers at the beginning of the film. He was the guy reunited with his pet, a mutated Tasmanian Devil, in Cemetery Gates. Guillermo Diaz audition for a film I co-produced called Mojave (now called Death Valley on DVD). He didn’t get the part but I knew I wanted to work with him sometime and kept his contact information. He plays Killah-B in Evilution. Jimmy Duval, who plays Asia Mark, I first met when I was working at Toys R US during a down period. Then, he was on the same panel as I at the 2005 Comic-Con Masquerade. We just kept bumping into one another. Then, Eric’s friend Cole Payne had a connection to Jimmy and we offered him a role in Evilution. See, perseverance pays off. Or is it stalking? There were so many great people I met on the set and hope to work with them all again very soon.

MIKE JOY : So, now I know for the future if I’m looking for a small role in a Brian O’Toole production, the best way to go about it is being a stalker. Anywho, let’s talk about Basement Jack / tag line – Evil has a new address… Yours! Just classic. Basement Jack preys during lightning storms which is enough to give anyone nightmares. What inspired you to write this story?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : Thanks! I actually love that tagline too. It beats out the tagline I came up for Cemetery Gates: “Trespassers will be Eaten!” That was my favorite until now. It’s going to be tough to beat Basement Jack’s tagline, for sure. When Eric Peter-Kaiser and I started Black Gate Entertainment, Eric wanted to do three horror films. We looked at sub-genres and decided to go with a zombie flick, a slasher movie and a creature feature. Then Eric came up with the brilliant idea of infusing the films with something that links them. They would all be stand-alone movies but each has something that unites them. That was more difficult than I thought. At first, I came up with a Cryptkeeper-like character that spun each tale off with a moral. But that had been done. Then, one night I was watching Deal or No Deal and thought: Here’s a show where one person is put up against twenty four on a heavenly stair well.

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The contestant picks a case but neither he nor one of the twenty “angels” knows what’s in the case. When it comes out bad for the contestant, the “angel” feels regretful even though he didn’t know what was in the case. They were both a victim of chance. And Howie Mandel plays the ultimate puppet master. So, the Manager is based on Deal or No Deal and its host. Now you see how my sick and twisted little mind thinks. Jack’s issues with lightning were inspired by a song from Ronnie James Dio called Rainbow in the Dark, a little bit of Shelley’s Frankenstein and my belief that sunlight causes shadows but lightning exposes all darkness. Lastly, when I write a screenplay, and I’ve written many in my 20 years in the ‘biz, I liked to infuse two genres that you wouldn’t usually put together. Cemetery Gates is Jaws meets Winnie-the-Pooh, Evilution is The Thing meets The Poseidon Adventure and Basement Jack is basically a slasher western. I have found that audiences like a little familiarity with their movie so that’s why you’ll find that most good movies have a skeleton dipped in a well-known tale. At its heart, The Lost Boys is Peter Pan, Pretty Woman is Cinderella, Mortal Kombat is The Wizard of Oz and Dog Soldiers is Night of the Living Dead.

MIKE JOY : Love that explanation! Oh, I once saw Ronnie James Dio perform in a bar up in Pennsylvania. Long drive but a great show. Next question, Horror movie serial killers all have a specific look that defines them. Who was responsible in coming up with Jack’s look?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : All the credit for Jack Riley’s look goes to Eric and our costumer designer Susan Chan. I believe in the screenplay I wrote that Jack Riley looked like any homeless man, probably wearing clothes he stole from clotheslines and sporty long, greasy hair. The doll’s mask that Jack wears at the end came later in pre-production. I was strongly against our serial killer wearing a mask. It had been done to death. But then the director, Michael Shelton, showed me a digital sketch he had done of a broken doll’s face. I was blown away and quickly added the B story of the origin of the mask. In the script, Jack Riley kept upgrading his cutlery after each kill. I took that idea from my love of video games. In games, you are always collecting or upgrading weapons. Games like God of War, (prototype), and inFamous. I thought, since Jack is becoming bigger than life so should his weapons. The final blade was something that Michael Shelton had sketched. Eric found a similar arm blade to the sketch on the Internet. Then, our amazing prop designer Christian Kistner brought it all to life.

MIKE JOY : Video games have come a long way, unfortunately I’m still playing Pac Man. Do you have any interesting behind the scenes stories from Basement Jack?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : Basement Jack, to date, is so far my best experience on a film set. Most of the crew had come over from Evilution so we were all like family re-uniting. I think the Behind the Scenes featurette on the DVD will show that. Tiffany Shepis brought so much energy to the set. You have to love a woman who is upset that she doesn’t get naked in the film and screams for MORE blood. Nathan Bexton, Billy Morrison and Noel G were returning actors from Evilution. It was fun. And we had the great dame of genre films on the set, Lynn Lowry. She was in so many horror classic from George Romero’s The Crazies to David Cronenberg’s Shivers. What a wonderful actress! But I’ll tell you when Lynn went into Mrs. Riley mode, the whole crew went into “quiet, the teacher’s here” mode. I don’t know what deep dark place she had to go to but I think audiences will be glad she did. My favorite story from Basement Jackhappened off the set. I had stopped for gas just before dawn. The gas attendant was outside talking to two people. Then, Eric, in full Basement Jack attire, pulled in and started to gas up. Well, the attendant literally ran inside and locked the door and would only take his money from a sliding drawer. It was awesome. We were in Los Angeles gang country and she was scared by Eric. It was too funny!

MIKE JOY : Do you have any favorite horror films from your childhood?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : My favorite film of all time is George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. I think the structure and the subtext of that film are amazing. The AIDS allegory was brilliant, whether it was intended or not. I can’t believe how the remake “Yawn of the Dead” could have missed the point of the story. I got a chance to have dinner with George Romero and tell him my love of the film. He promptly asked me if there was something wrong with me. I should of said, “Yes, sir. Because of you. Thank you!” Instead, I just laughed. I really love the 70s disaster films and killer animal movies. In fact, I would kill to have a chance to remake Grizzly or The Car. My love of horror also was nourished by daily feedings of TV’s Dark Shadows. I remember running home from school, missing the first ten minutes, to watch Barnabas and the rest of the Collins gang every day. Thank goodness MPI put the series out on DVD so I could fill in all the blanks I had in my mind all these years. I actually got to pitch a Dark Shadows update concept to Dan Curtis before he died. He really liked it, which is nice to know. Now I understand that Johnny Depp has the rights. Johnny, give me a call. I have a great idea for a modern Dark Shadows.

MIKE JOY : If Johnny Depp is reading our little interview, someone better give me a call. What can you tell us about The Necropolitan. ?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : As we bring the Necropolitan Trilogy to a head, not a conclusion, audiences will find all answers questioned. After much research, I can tell you that we plan to film it in 3D. I know some people groan at that. And it’s because most 3D films are gimmicky. I’m looking at films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder. Hitchcock used the medium as part of the story-telling rather than as a gimmick. That’s the attitude that I’m going in with on The Necropolitan. It’s a creature feature so the story lends itself to some great natural 3D scares. I’m very excited by the process.

MIKE JOY : Who can we expect to see in The Necropolitan. ?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : Nothing is signed. Obviously we would love to have Nathan Bexton back to conclude this amazing character that he has developed. A few other familiar faces may pop up. Right now, we are still trying to secure the financing.

MIKE JOY : Do you have a favorite scene from The Necropolitan. ?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : In the script, my favorite scene is the first meeting between the Manager and the monster. As the tagline for the film says, “Evil Meets Its Match”. This film is a lot grittier than the other two and the body count should be spectacular! Although I don’t think I’ll never match the 17 deaths I had in Cemetery Gates. But we all have to have goals, right?

MIKE JOY : Where can fans see these three movies?

BRIAN O’TOOLE : Both Evilution and Basement Jack are being distributed by BrinkDVD . They are available to order or rent online from e-tailers like Blockbuster, Best Buy, Target and Netflix. Can I mention that they make great stocking stuffers? Eric and I hope to have The Necropolitan before cameras sometime in 2010. Then we switch gears with a romantic dramedy before returning to our horror roots with A Necessary Evil, a modern re-telling of the Elizabeth Bathory story and a demon possession film called Outside the Eye of God. I’ve also turned in a kick ass sequel to Evilution.

Brian O’Toole – Writer/Producer (Basement Jack, Evilution, The Necropolitan)

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About Mike Joy

HorrorNews.net Manager. Located in New Jersey. I've been with HNN since it's creation in 2008. Responsibilities: managing talent, acquisitions, new programs, website strategizing, celebrity interviews, public relations, the paranormal column, “Unexplained Confidential”, and more. unexplainedconfidential.blogspot.com

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