When I was at Fango back in January, I had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Dave Parker, director of the new video release from Full Moon Pictures, “The Dead Hate The Living”. After a long night of alcohol abuse and traipsing through the streets of NYC, I got a chance to get to know Dave and understand his undying dedication to the genre we all love horror. He is a hardcore fan and it is quite evident in his first feature film, “The Dead Hate The Living”. The following interview was done just a few days before the video release.
Caretaker: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got the opportunity to make “The Dead Hate The Living”? How were you finally able to make a good Full Moon movie???
Dave Parker: Well, I grew up in Vermont and have loved monsters since I was a kid. I really got into horror movies in 1982 when I saw Creepshow. That movie changed my life, because it was the first movie that made me notice camera angles and lighting, and special effects, because it was so exaggerated. Jump to when I was 18, I went to USC film school and then started to work on independent movies with directors like Jeff Burr and David DeCoteau. Through them, I met people at Full Moon Entertainment (which has now become Full Moon Universe).
I got a job as a promotions assistant and then worked my way up the ladder until I became the head of promotions (cutting all of Full Moons trailers and video zones). I had been bugging Charlie Band about directing for a while, and then finally (David DeCoteau, believe it or not, told Charlie that it was time to let me direct a movie, and Charlie agreed) I got Dead Hate the Living. As far as making a good Full Moon movie (haha)! Well, honestly my approach was to make the most un-Full Moon movie I could. What I mean is, that I wanted a movie that felt as much like a real movie as I could make it.
No small creatures and no soap opera like plots. There was a script before my version of Dead Hate the Living that was totally by the numbers and I didn’t like it at all. Luckily, Charlie Band gave me enough freedom to write what I wanted and so I came up with what is now the Dead Hate the Living.I do have to give Charlie credit though, he was the one who thought of the title, and I feel that alone would rent and sell videos. It is a fucking great title.
I have to say, I don’t really get all the small killer dolls and creature stuff, but the man has really built an empire from it (for better or worse) and I have to give him credit for that. Whether horror fans like the PuppetMaster series or not, they do know about them. Anyway, I got to write the movie I wanted and tell the story I wanted, which is very different from the usual Full Moon fare, because it is very referential about the low budget genre, and I am very happy with the way it turned out. Also, I have to say that Charlie Band really left me alone on this thing. I made the movie that I wanted and that does not happen usually. He knew I wasn’t going to make a crappy movie and trusted me enough to see it through, so I do owe him that.
Caretaker: As a fan, what are your favorite horror films???
Dave Parker: People ask me this all the time. It’s a hard question. I love PHANTASM and THE EXORCIST, as well as SUSPIRIA, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, The Hammer films, the Universal monster movies, THE FOG, ROSEMARY’S BABY, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (the William Castle version), THE TINGLER, CREEPSHOW, so many…
Caretaker: Who are your influences as a filmmaker??
Dave Parker: My favorite director is John Carpenter, because he really deals with characters and story very well. I also love Don Coscareli because he has created a world for his mythology (which is not an easy thing). I also love Cronenberg, Romero, Burton and Lynch because they all have their own stamp on their movies. They are always doing different and challenging movies that push the boundaries of what people think they can do. Lately, I’ve been really impressed by the director of OPEN YOUR EYES AND THESIS (2 great movies that any genre fan should not miss) as well as the director of RUN, LOLA RUN – these guys are really amazing and bring together visual style with strong storytelling. If you don’t have a good story then you don’t have anything.
Caretaker: What was the best part about making “The Dead Hate The Living”??
Dave Parker: The best part of making the movie was the cast. We have really become a family. My best friends are the stars of my movie. We’ve become very close and hang out all the time. All my best times on set are connected with them, and I realize that is a rare thing. I’ve been very lucky in this business to know people such as Jeffery Combs and Ashley Laurence, but I never been in a situation that I am now, where we are trying to find a project for all of us to work together in again. It’s just something very special that I’ve been able to share with a few people – the cast and some effects people and Hal Satan of Penis Flytrap. I’ve made friendships on this film that will last me forever.
Caretaker: What does Lucio Fulci mean to you??
Dave Parker: Fulci had a great atmosphere in some of his movies. I know I might sound like an asshole for this next statement, but I really feel this (and realize that I own the Fulci book, most of his movies – on laser disc, as well as posters etc), but I think even he would be surprised at the level of devotion and tributes that his work has gotten since his passing. I think Fulci did a lot of movies for the money. He was a working filmmaker in many ways the American equivalent would be someone like Fred Olen Ray. Now I know I’ve really pissed people off with that one, but there are a lot of Fulci movies that horror fans have never seen and probably won’t.
When I compare him to someone like Fred Ray all I mean is that he probably made some movies for the money, but he will always be remembered for those few that he made and really cared about. Fulci had real talent that I think he only got to show a glimpse of it in movies like THE BEYOND – but what a glimpse. He will always have a following because it really seems like at times he was fearless, and there are not many out there who are.
To me, Fulic brought me some great movies that I will always love, and he should never have felt overshadowed by someone like Argento – who is still alive and cannot come close to grasping the brilliance that he once was. I love Fulci and wish he was still here so I could have met him. I hope people understand where I am coming from.
Caretaker: Talk about all the references/tributes you put into “The Dead Hate The Living”?? Was it important to you to paid homage to your favorite films and directors???
Dave Parker: For me, the whole nature of The Dead Hate the Living! was to pay tribute to the people that have influenced me as a filmmaker. I learned from them and because of the nature of the movie (about horror filmmakers) it only made sense to put references in. Also, I thought it would be fun for the hardcore horror fans to see that someone that dug the stuff, as they did, go make a movie and give credit where credit did. It was fun and I think makes the movie that much more enjoyable for those who get the references.
Caretaker: So I hear that you made your actors watch some horror films before the shoot, what’d they watch and did you create any new horror fans??
Dave Parker: I showed my cast stuff from Gates of Hell, Return of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, along with a bunch of other stuff. There were a lot of “non-horror fans” in my cast that has since confessed to me that after watching the stuff with me that they have gone out looking for horror movies. They also call me up and say “Hey you know I really want to hang out and watch some stuff with you”, so we get together a lot now and watch cool horror stuff.
Caretaker: In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of making a horror film??? As a fan, what do you like to see in a horror film???
Dave Parker: I guess the most important aspect of a horror film is to stay true to the convictions of the story that you are telling. If that means gore than go for it. If it means suspense then go for that. Just don’t insult the audience. The reality is that the audience watching it (especially movies that go straight to video) are real die-hard horror fans, so don’t treat them like they’ve never seen Halloween before.
Realize that they have seen almost everything and try to give them something new to see or at least something fun to watch. I like to be surprised. When I saw THESIS, I was really knocked back, because it was made by someone who “gets it”. This guy knew how to make a movie that drew the viewer in and didn’t look down on him. Show me something smart and different and I’ll be there. Another one that did that for me was THE DIVIDING HOUR – -because it made me look at movies that were shot on video in a whole different way. They just made a good movie, despite their budget limitations. It worked and as long as it works then ….cool!
Caretaker: What is your opinion on the state of horror today??
Dave Parker: I think we are better off with horror today than before. With things like the Six Sense and the Blair Witch Project (whether you liked them or not) we are seeing a diversity. It’s not just all slasher movies or just one kind of movie, but a variety of genre films that are doing well. Also, there are so many new people coming out with movies that make us think and challenge the conventions of the genre that really make it exciting. Nothing is a sure thing, so it lets people take risks and succeed much in the same way that it was in the ’70s. and that is a good thing.
Caretaker: What’s next for you??
Dave Parker: Well, I’m working on a script called THE WILDS. That is what I really want to do, but I’m also meeting on a couple of other zombie films right now. They would all be great to do and I hope that they come about. I love the genre and do not want to leave it, as long as I get to explore it and do different things that I feel really lucky and happy. There is so much that you can do in the horror genre that it really leaves the creative door wide open.
I just hope people get and support what I do. It’s tough because it is very hard to make the audience understand that it is also a business (making movies) and that sometimes certain sacrifices have to be made to get the movie made. The filmmaker might not want to, but it becomes a choice between not making the movie at all and compromising somewhat. All I can say is that I will do right by horror fans, and I hope they will do right by me.