Kenneth, Thank you Sir for taking the time to answer these questions for
the fans and also us here at Terrorhook.com!
It's my pleasure, Rick.
- Kenneth J. Hall, You have been involved with such well known films (to us horror fans anyway) such as PUPPET MASTERS and CARNOSAUR and one of my favorites, a little lesser known flick called THE CLOWN AT MIDNIGHT.... Now your newest exploitation film entitled THE HALFWAY HOUSE has just been released on DVD... How was this project different from your previous ones and how were they the same, if at all? can you tell us?
I've worked both above and below the line on a lot of other
- I have seen THE HALFWAY HOUSE of course and I loved it! The film had the feel of the Drive-In features of old. It is obvious that you must be a huge fan of that particular genre, what were some of the best influences on this film?
This was definitely a labor of love. There are so many things
I drew from but it is primarily an homage to the films of Roger Corman.
It encompasses his juvenile delinquent pictures from the 50s, his gothic
Poe/Lovecraft adaptations from the 60s, his women-in-prison films fro
the 70s, and the 80s slasher flicks. Roger is the real godfather of
independent film. He's been making movies for over five decades, started
the careers of some of the biggest names in the business, and is still
in the game.
- In THE HALFWAY HOUSE. there is quite the offering of nude women, was it difficult to get the females to discard of their clothing on camera....and whom happened to be the most willing? I'm sure the Male visitors would sure like to know!
This was a big concern of mine after I'd written the script
and was faced with casting so many roles requiring nudity. After all, I
couldn't use the same scream queens I worked with back in the 80s. I was
surprised and delighted to find all these talented women who not only
looked great naked but who could act.
- B Horror Legend, Mary Woronov was cast in this film, just how difficult was it to get her signed on as Sister Cecelia, and was she your first choice for the role? And how was her overall attitude on set, as she was the veteran?
There were a few other "name" actors we discussed for the role of Sister Cecelia and even looked into a few of them, but Mary was always at the top of my list. I was introduced to Mary by Del and Sue Howison, who own Dark Delicacies, a bookstore in Burbank. She had done some signings for them and they let her know I had a role for her. We had a power lunch at Musso and Franks, which is one of those old Hollywood institutions. It was classic. She showed up wearing a big hat and sunglasses, looking every bit the movie star. We ate steak, drank martinis, and got know one another a bit. Shortly after, she agreed to do the movie. On set, she was a total pro and very gracious to the younger actors. She's really a shy person, which some people donít get at first. She's six feet tall and looks very intimidating, especially in her nun's habit, so she can be very disarming when she suddenly does something goofy. You don't expect her to walk onto the set wearing a viking helmet but that's exactly the kind of thing she would do. Her presence definitely raised the bar for the whole cast and everyone loved working with her.
- I understand that Janet Tracy Keijser was not originally cast as Larissa, as you lost your original actress prior to shooting, how much time did you have left to fill the role and did you have to make any script modifications to accommodate Janet?
The role of Larissa was going to be played by an old friend
of mine, who had to drop out when she had a schedule conflict with
another project. I had just auditioned Janet, who was so cool and
wanting to work with us. Before the lead dropped out, the only part I
had for Janet was the jogger, the sister who gets kidnapped and killed
at the beginning of the picture. That was definitely a get-naked-and-die
part! Still, she was willing to do it.
- In the film the girls are eaten alive by a huge one eyed monster, that I admit looks really cool. Just how in the hell does one like a Kenneth J. Hall... come up with such wacky but highly effective creatures such as this one? And how was the creature operated, it looks like quite a task....
I drew the inspiration from things Iíd seen as a kid. Itís a
design sensibility that you donít see anymore. My first pass looked too
much like the monster from THE CRAWLING EYE, which is a big favorite of
mine. It was little more than a huge brain with an eye and tentacles.
The final version came to me in a flash and had more of a Lovecraftian
feelÖ a one-eyed skull with a protruding bony plate, like a triceratops.
- Now I know this, but just how AWESOME is Mike Gaglio?, I swear I noticed an 'S' on his chest at some point in the film (just kidding) Care to fill anyone in on Mr. Gaglio?
Iím sick of talking about that guy! Seriously, Mike was our
Most Valuable Player on the film. I had met him shortly before working
on TALES FROM THE HOOD and primarily knew him as an actor. Over the
years, he helped me out a lot at Total Fabrication (my FX company) doing
a wide variety of things from simple carpentry to electronics.
- In the movie, your own brother Cleve Hall, offers a great performance as a sinister Janitor named Lutkus. I was just wondering, was a voice dub used, or was that Cleve's true voice? The voice is rather deep and sound's nothing like him at all! Was he your first choice and is he anything similar to Lutkus in real life?
He did that voice live on set but youíre right, itís not the way he normally sounds. He had played a variety of weird, creepy bad guys in a bunch of B movies in the 80s, including ROLLERBLADE WARRIORS, KUNG FU RASCALS, and TWISTED NIGHTMARE. I never considered anyone else besides him and he definitely made the part his own. Many people have told me he steals every scene heís in. He did hate the makeup and teeth because his normal look is totally goth. I donít know if he peeps in showers or sniffs panties in his personal life. As brothers, weíre close but not that close!
- Ken Now, you seem like a very quiet guy, yet there are a lot of sacrilegious occurrences in THE HALFWAY HOUSE, wasn't one of the premieres protested by Nuns? Can you tell me what happened with that? The Nuns and Churches fail to realize that they are actually HELPING your film in doing such!
I went to Catholic school for twelve years and was even an altar boy, so people assume I have an axe to grind about the Church. I really donít. I do believe theyíve been covering up a lot of scandals lately and organized religion in general has way too much power. I felt was ripe a little satire so fuck Ďem if they canít take a joke. As for the protest, I cannot tell a lie. I staged it! We had just had our big LA premiere at the Hollywood Film Festival and the Valley Festival wanted to screen it a month later. I knew I needed to liven it up somehow and thought ďWhat would William Castle do?Ē Castle is another guy who influenced me a lot, as much by his shameless publicity stunts as his actual films. We never intended the picketing nuns to fool anybody. They even did a striptease on Lankershim Boulevard at the end of the evening!
-"Cherry Pie" Polowsky/Stephanie Leighs is one of the hottest characters/actresses in the film, how did you find her? We are glad that you did as we feel that she just may very well be on her way...
Steffi had done a short film for my friend Scott Phillips in
Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they both lived. He introduced me to her
at a convention out here, presenting her as a girl who would do just
about anything on camera. Even though I barely spoke to her, I had her
in mind when I wrote the character. The thing I did not know is whether
she could act. She couldnít make it out for auditions so Scott taped one
and sent it to me. By the time she came out to be in my movie, she had
already shot THE STINK OF FLESH, where she has a small but memorable
role as a naked zombie one of the leads keeps chained in a shed as a sex
toy. If you havenít seen this movie, you should check it out.
- The DVD is now available through Ventura distribution, I have always wondered this but have never asked anyone. How long did it take you to land a distribution deal? I would imagine it to be a long and grueling process....a lot of searching! And what is your reaction to all of the press? Your film has gained quite the buzz in a relatively short amount of time!
Thanks to my other associate producer, Sam Park, who had relationships with a number of prominent movie sites, we started getting coverage within a day or two after our website went up. This, in turn, led to immediate offers from festivals and distributors. Ventura was one of the first to make an offer. The cool thing about them was they werenít pushy and let me hear back from a lot of other places before I decided to go with them. Once I did, my attorney started dealing with theirs and seven months went by! After the deal was signed, we still had to get an MPAA rating and that took more time. Suddenly, they needed everything ready for an August 23 release and then we were scrambling to get some of the special features together. Though the movie had its world premiere at the San Francisco Indie Fest in 2004, we shot it September of 2003, so itís been almost two years!
- Ok, I ask this one a lot when asking Directors but what is your overall impression of sites such as TerrorHook.com? Do you take what we say into consideration, and do we hurt or help your career?
The last time I directed a movie, the internet as we know it
did not exist. The abundance of horror fan sites today is great. They
are the perfect forum to spread the word about an independent film that
does not have the advantage of having a big studio publicity machine
behind it. I do have to stay on my toes to keep up with all of them but
I have been fortunate that the response to my film has been so positive.
- Mr. Hall, if you had to choose just one film, what would you say your favorite Horror film of ALL TIME is?
That is an impossible question to answer! I like so many movies for so many different reasons. I did recently go to an anniversary screening of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, which still gets a tremendous audience reaction. That movie, along with THE HOWLING, RE-ANIMATOR, and AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON that deftly blended humor and horror in the 80s, which appeals to me a lot. All of those filmmakers had a genuine love for the genre and found a way to take things from the past and put a spin on them that contemporary viewers found fresh and fun. If I can do that with my films, I'd be both happy and successful.
- What's next for Kenneth J. Hall and company, will there be more feature films in the future....will you be writing more? Any plans?
You will definitely be seeing a whole lot more from me and BV Entertainment's Fright Film Factory. I announced a couple of titles last year that I will be doing eventually. I was writing them with a partner whose schedule got so impossible that I had to put those projects on hold. People heard about them and continue to ask me about them. I do have a new script that we're doing a budget on and hope to get financed soon. I won't be announcing that one until I have a definite start date this time. When I do, you guys will be among the first to know
- Kenneth I thank you for agreeing to do this interview with us at TerrorHook.com, it has been a pleasure to have you answer these questions for us....we wish you continued success!
You are very welcome. Thanks for asking.
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