Adam Green is the director of Hatchet. I spoke to him about his career, the horror genre and his talked-about new film Frozen – which is now playing in limited release.
It’s not hard to find fans of the horror genre who’re dismayed at where it’s been going lately – endless sequels and remakes, toothless rehashes of onetime-iconic entries like Saw or Ringu and a general lack of effort and respect all around. What is hard to find are fans who’re doing something about it. That’s where you separate the men from the boys – and that’s where filmmaker Adam Green comes in.
Though only in his mid-30s, the Holliston, Mass. native has already worn – and continues to wear – a lot of hats: heavy metal singer, stand-up comedian and Hollywood DJ to name a few. But it’s as a film director that he’s currently best known. He may not be a household name – yet – but if you run in the circles of independent film and independent horror film in particular, you’ve probably heard his name and you’ve definitely heard about his breakout film, Hatchet.
Set in the waterlogged Louisiana Bayou, Hatchet was a throwback to 1980s slasher flicks, in which a group of stranded tourists are trapped in the swamp with a hulking, deformed, hillbilly serial killer. In many ways, it’s a quintessential fan-made horror entry: self-aware to a fault, show-offishly gory and packed with genre-star cameos and other fanboy references. Pretty enjoyable, if you’re in the right frame of mind, but not precisely a “classic.” Still, it caught a word-of-mouth wave on the festival circuit and was released with much fanfare (for its genre and budget) by indie horror specialists Anchor Bay in 2007, billed succinctly with the words “Old-School American Horror” plastered proudly above the image of an axe on the poster.
Once you see it, the reason behind the hype becomes crystal clear: Whatever you may think of the overall product, it’s obvious that Green knows his stuff. On a technical level, Hatchet plays like highly-polished professional work, and it turned Green into a major name in the horror realm. Unfortunately, name or not, there isn’t exactly a plethora of worthwhile material kicking around out there. Green was offered – and heard of other offers – work with the studio assembly lines of horror remakes, but thus far hasn’t taken part.
Not that he’s ideologically opposed to remakes; he speaks highly of John Carpenter’s The Thing, itself a remake of a 1950s classic, but he didn’t see a way to make good films within the parameters being set by the studios. In particular, he recounts one studio’s proposal for a remake of An American Werewolf in London: No mixing comedy and horror, no good guys becoming bad, and no werewolves – or, at least, “No people turning into anything hairy with a snout.” Why do American Werewolf at all, then? “They have the name recognition,” offers Green. Apparently, that’s all they want.
On the subject of werewolves – and bad movies – just for fun I opted to ask Green his thoughts on the glittering 800 lb. gorilla of the horror/monster genre, Twilight. Specifically, I wanted to know if he would ever consider following the surprising path of fellow shock-auteur David Slade, who went from the feminist-vengeance nail-biter Hard Candy and the ultra-gruesome 30 Days of Night to the director’s chair on the upcoming Twilight: Eclipse. Credit where it’s due, to Green, for a tactful answer: Probably not… unless Slade were to “fix” the franchise first.
In any case, Green didn’t ultimately sign on to any remakes or major studio horror fare, at least not yet. Instead, he’s put his efforts into more independent offerings. The psychological-terror entry Spiral and, more recently, Frozen, which was big buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. (Full disclosure: At the time of my interview, I had not yet had opportunity to see the full film.)
Frozen is what Hollywood used to call a “high-concept” movie: A group of people find themselves inadvertently trapped mid-trip on a ski lift just as the resort closes for the week. It’s dark, it’s cold, and they’re stuck. Then things get REALLY bad. Green says it’s based on his memories of skiing in the Boston area growing up, and on a conscious attempt to locate a film concept that embodied “simple, primal fear” in a “what if?” scenario.
Among other recent low-budget genre offerings, it immediately calls to mind Chris Kentis’ Open Water – the microbudget 2003 offering about a pair of divers adrift in shark-infested waters that some nicknamed The Blair Fish Project.
Green acknowledges Water, but doesn’t necessarily get on with the comparison: Kentis’ film is more of a gimmick, while Frozen is more about the toll of human survival – and hope – beyond just the setting and circumstance. He prefers parallels to the two films he insisted on screening with the key crewmembers before starting up: Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws – the great “single location” movie and the great “man versus nature” movie, respectively.
Time will tell if such lofty comparisons are justified or not, but the early buzz has been electric: Aint-It-Cool-News’ Harry Knowles – something of a human barometer for film geek properties such as this – calls it “Hitchcock with teeth.” On the other side of the spectrum, Rex Reed – a living icon of the “old guard” movie critic archetype – called it “brilliantly conceived” and predicts “instant word of mouth success.”
If so, it won’t be success that Green is resting on his laurels waiting for – he already has two other projects on their way to fruition. The first, a sequel to Hatchet, recently completed shooting, while the second is perhaps the most surprising turn for his ouvre yet – A romantic-comedy called God Only Knows.
(Frozen is now playing in limited release.)
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.