It’s safe to say that writer / director Harrison Smith is certainly is not afraid to speak his mind when it comes to the current state of the movie world, and who can blame him? Just a quick trip to your local movie theater is all you need to see that much of today’s mainstream horror (and many other genres) is from filmmakers who refuse to think outside the box and continue to deliver the same tired remake or pablum product. It’s Smith’s refreshing honesty; his original vision and love of the horror genre that’s earned him praise among fans and colleagues for films like “Camp Dread,” “6 Degrees of Hell” and this year’s “Zombie Killers”.
Smith is currently gearing up for his next descent into darkness – “Death House”. A film which tells the story of a subterranean government facility used to house humanity’s worst monsters. Although much of the film is being kept under tight wraps, rumors continue to swirl about which of the horror genre’s finest actors may (or may not) be making an appearance.
I recently spoke with Smith about “Death House” and what he believes makes for a truly great horror film.
James Wood: How has the reaction been to “Zombie Killers”?
Harrison Smith: It’s been great. The film has done quite well, especially on VOD. We’re still waiting to get some more numbers in but the VOD and DVD sales were really strong. We are talking about a sequel and there’s even hope for a trilogy.
JW: As an independent filmmaker, what do you find is your biggest challenge?
HS: Finding the money. Whenever you have interest in a film project you need to find investors who are real. I think most independent filmmakers would echo that sentiment.
JW: Can you tell me the origin of your latest project, Death House?
HS: Rick Finkelstein and Steven Chase of Entertainment Factory originally approached me when I was in California for a screening of “Zombie Killers”. They wanted to make a movie that was in the vein of an “Expendables Of Horror” and wanted me to help them write and direct. The script needed some work and I remember sitting in a coffee house during the Super Bowl and saw an advertisement for “Jurassic World”. That’s when I thought, “What if it was actually some high tech prison where the world’s worst monsters were locked up and one day they all get out through a technical error?!” That’s how is all started. Now we’re in the casting phase and are hoping to have everything up and going to start shooting sometime in October.
JW: Will we be seeing some of the classic serial killer character types from the past in “Death House”?
HS: You may see some of the actors but certainly not their iconic characters. Just to license out Freddy Krueger from New Line would probably cost millions of dollars and to be honest, I’m not even sure if anyone would be interested in another “Nightmare on Elm Street” reboot.
JW: What’s your writing process like?
HS: You always have to write with a budget in mind. Although it’s always good to write the big story, you really have to think about how things are going to work as far as cast, effects and settings. It’s a process. You have to always think budget and then execute and make it happen.
JW: What are your thoughts on today’s horror?
HS: A lot of the stuff lately has been a reboot or remake. I really enjoyed “It Follows” though. I thought it was extremely well done and most of all, it does follow when you’re done watching! That’s what a good horror movie should do. There’s actually a lot of really good horror being exported from Australia right now. “Wyrmwood” and “Lake Mungo” are two really good examples of that.
JW: What else makes for a great horror film?
HS: Good horror is the kind that we can all relate to. That’s why the original “Poltergeist” works so well. Most people remember the clown, but not because it was inherently evil and had a scary face. We all know what it was like to be a child and hear something move in our room. Or how the teddy bear that was so cuddly and nice during the day turned into this horrible, foreboding shadow at night. Those are the kind of things that we all can relate to.
JW: Is there a bit of advice you can give to independent filmmakers who may just be starting out? Something you’ve learned along the way?
HS: Stick to your guns and most of all – believe in what you’re doing!