Most of the times I do interviews, they’re over the phone, because who the fuck comes out to Chicago? Sometimes it can be kind of awkward interviewing multiple people over the phone, as there’s always some sort of delay or someone talks over someone else and people pause to wait for another person and it’s just all fucked up. Luckily, when I got to interview Eduardo Sánchez, Jason Eisener, and Gregg Hale, they didn’t require me to sit outside of their room and talk to them on the phone. They were nice enough guys to let me ENTER the room, sit down with them, and talk about V/H/S/2, among other things. It’sand brought up by Gregg that one of the joys of doing the film and bringing the film to select festivals is that it’s a ton of fun to hang out with horror nerds and talk about horror films, and I’d say that’s mostly what this interview is. We talk about The Blair Witch Project, Hobo With A Shotgun, editing, John Carpenter, music, and even fonts. Yes, we go off on a little bit of a font tangent. Even though this was an “interview”, for all intents and purposes, it’ll probably read like more of a conversation between three really talented horror filmmakers who let me randomly interject some nonsense here and there. These guys were really fun to talk to, and hopefully you pick up on their sense of humor and they don’t look like TOTAL dicks.
WolfMan: The first movie just kind of came together with a group of people wanting to do something like this, and when it came out, there was some momentum behind what the project was. How did you guys all kind of get involved in making this movie.
Eduardo Sánchez: With us, we were here last year at SXSW with Lovely Molly and they were here with the first film. There was some talk about doing another one and we met with them and Jamie (Nash), our writer, was in touch with Brad Miska, and he had a good idea. It just kind of came together pretty naturally. (to Jason) How’d you get involved?
Jason Eisener: I think it was a couple of weeks after Sundance, I was following the buzz of the first V/H/S, and then I got contacted by Roxanne Benjamin and she told me they were doing a sequel. She sent me a private link to the first one and I thought the first one was just so much fun and had so many amazing perspectives and I knew I had to get in on this and put my own spin on the found footage world, I guess.
WM: Especially for you, coming from Hobo With a Shotgun, and the Young Buck short, these very stylized movies, were you a little bit nervous about wanting to incorporate some of that style?
JE: Absolutely. I was hesitant, before seeing V/H/S, I thought the aesthetic of found footage hadn’t been too pleasing, I wasn’t very interested. Then I saw the first V/H/S and saw what they did and felt like an idiot for having closed my mind off to this and that this is something the audience today is really interested in. I thought I had to be making stuff for the audience of today and I was really interested in just tackling that challenge and forcing myself. Usually with my films, I get a lot of coverage and I shoot the hell out of scenes and cut like crazy. With this, it forced me to have one perspective and didn’t allow to have cutaways. It was definitely the most challenging thing I’d ever done.
The Blair Witch Project
WM: And you (to Eduardo) obviously have some experience with the found footage genre, so were you hesitant to revisit the genre? Maybe there’d be a lot of weight on your portion with how impactful The Blair Witch Project had been to the current generation of found footage?
ES: It was funny because when I was approached about this, I was about to start the Bigfoot movie that I did called “Exist”, which is the first found footage movie I’d done since Blair Witch. Going into this, I had just done it so I thought, “Why the hell not?” and I saw the first one and I just liked it. Dan (Myrick) and I, and Gregg, we stumbled across this and to be invited into the new generation of taking what we did and amping it up and making it better and whatever, was kind of cool. It was just a cool opportunity to work with these guys, even though we weren’t together, to be apart of something, a group, and it was a good opportunity for Gregg and I to co-direct. Gregg’s a great director, he was a great director in film school, and he’s been mostly producing, so it was a great opportunity to get behind the camera.
Gregg Hale: It’s been great. The whole process, up until now…(laughs)
WM: Alright, well, this has been great, thanks.
GH: You’ve disturbed me. I think the thing that’s been the most enjoyable, on a certain level, was that this was about horror geek-ery. It was about all of us being geeks of one kind or another and having some sort of commonality in the shit that we like, so that’s been a lot of fun. Everybody just loves the genre and it’s a really good opportunity to do something just because you really fucking like horror films. We’re all pretty geeky.
ES: And everybody’s doing it for the right reasons.
GH: it’s a horror fan’s movie. This is for horror people.
ES: We definitely weren’t doing it for the money (laughs)
GH: It’s so great because you make it, and you know what, if the mass audience doesn’t like it, fuck it. This is for horror fans. If you don’t want to see the camera go into someone’s guts, then this is not the movie for you, but if you do, we tried to make it fun for that person.
ES: For that little niche of people who want to see cameras in guts.
GH: Which is a sizable group.
WM: Especially now, it seems like filmmakers are doing projects, like anthologies, anything so they can all work together as an excuse to hang out and toss ideas around as opposed to thinking they’re going to make it big. Instead, it’s an opportunity to work with different filmmakers they respect and bring it all together.
ES: Also, I don’t live in L.A., so it’s very rare that I get this kind of immersion–
GH: In horror film geek-ery.
JE: it’s the same for me, too. I’m in Halifax.
ES: So it’s really rare to be here, and it’s energizing, and now we’re thinking about how we can do it again.
WM: This one’s going to be released in June on VOD, and July in theaters, which is a little bit quicker after the premiere than it was for the last film, so does that mean this October we can expect to see 3/H/S? (laughs) Well, that was mostly an excuse for me to coin “3/H/S”.
ES: We’ll give you credit for that.
JE: I think the producers are planning on doing another one.
WM: The editing techniques on this film seem to be a little more lenient. Cutting back and forth between shots, whereas the first one was very literal that it was ONE VHS tape. There was some editing in (to Eduardo and Gregg) your segment, cutting back and forth between the two cameras. Do you think that might phase its way out? Let the audience ignore the fact that someone would’ve had to put subtitle in a segment?
ES: It’s the same thing with my Bigfoot movie. The Bigfoot movie we did is fully scored. It’s a found footage movie, so now it’s like we’ve gone beyond that. When we did Blair Witch, that was part of the gimmick. “This is real, this could be real.” Now it’s just becoming, especially with what these guys did with this movie, it’s just becoming its own fucking thing.
GH: Found footage, in a way, isn’t even accurate.
ES: No, we would call it first person.
GH: Nobody “found” our tapes, post zombie apocalypse, it did NOT happen in the world in which you’re viewing it.
JE: Mine would’ve been in a kid’s school locker.
ES: You don’t pretend anymore. It’s a movie.
GH: Our piece had score. Just a little bit. I thought that was cool that people didn’t notice. That was a good sign.
WM: I didn’t notice with your segment, I noticed it a little bit with the segment Adam (Wingard) did, that there were some sound effects.
GH: His is all ambient tracks, right? His is all stuff that’s being played in his apartment?
JE: There are stings and stuff…
GH: Oh, are there? See, there you go.
JE: And that was something, too. With everything I’ve done, it was wall to wall music, and one of my favorite things about film is the marriage of the film and music. I wasn’t sure what I could do with it and I remember Adam sent me, the first segment I saw of this one, was Adam’s, and he had all these stingers in there and it really inspired me. I realized I could have more fun with this and add a crazier sound design to it and just get wild with it and not have to stay within the boundary of just trying to make something feel real. That’s just ridiculous. There’s no way we’re going to make people believe this stuff.
ES: No way. A zombie apocalypse and a fucking demon in Asia. What you did, that alien sound, really was musical. It’s like, fucking, this is IT man, shit is happening.
JE: I tried to use that as a score.
WM: Kind of like an evil version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
GH: Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Hobo With A Shotgun
WM: I was going to mention that, kind of going along with that and your style, with Hobo and Young Buck, the music, for me, is just as important to everything that you’re doing. You said you’re interested in the marriage of sound design and film, are there specific inspirations that you’ve taken where the music connected with the film so much that it’s your favorite examples of music being just as important?
JE: When I see a director who uses a certain piece of music that really works with a scene, I just see it and I know it’s a director who knows what they’re doing. Same thing when I see an opening font for a movie. I can tell if it’ll be something that I dig when I see that first font, if the director picked the right font for the movie, then I’ll know he’s really thinking about the style of the film and everything. I always have a good feeling when I go into a film and the font or the opening song or the first bit of music. I just have a lot of respect for filmmakers who really take the design and the music very seriously.
WM: Because you mentioned the font, every time I watch a John Carpenter movie, the fact that so many of his films are the same black background with white text, same exact font, it kind of makes it feel like all those movies exist in the same universe.
ES: All of Woody Allen’s movies are the same exact fucking font, they start the exact same way. Did you know that Gregg?
GH: I fucking totally tuned out about ten minutes ago. (laughs) You guys are talking about FONTS?! So sorry I wasn’t completely enthralled.
ES: We’re gonna use that on the poster: “Great opening fonts”.
WM: Have you been enjoying your time at SXSW?
GH: It’s been a blast. I’d love to sound all cynical and shit, but I had a blast at Sundance. People like the movie and we saw it last night for the first time with a civilian audience. I love Sundance, and I think it’s a great festival, I still find it very inspiring, but there is a certain industry element to your screenings in Park City that, to me, de-legitimizes the experience. I loved the “normal” audience experience. At Sundance, I’m second-guessing what everybody around me’s thinking because THAT dude might be a buyer or THAT chick might be a critic or whatever. You go to Salt Lake, and those people are out there at midnight because they LIKE horror films. It’s a blast. People just fucking love it. They’re so appreciative. Best Q&A’s. They all stick around. They’re there for the whole nine yards. A lot of people stayed last night, even though I was a little disappointed with the turnout. The amount of people who stayed for the Q & A was awesome.
WM: I was nervous that I wasn’t going to make it because I was at Evil Dead.
GH: We saw all of you guys running up at the last minute. It’s cool that you got to see both. I really wanted to see Evil Dead.
WM: I almost considered leaving early, missing the ending, just to be able to see V/H/S/2. At that Q & A, you guys kind of talked about it, about what things you enjoyed about segments that you didn’t make. Could you talk more about seeing each other’s films and whose you were really impressed by and enjoyed? Maybe inspired you?
GH: We didn’t really care about anyone else’s work.
ES: (laughs) We didn’t give a SHIT about anybody else. The producers were the ones juggling all that stuff. Definitely now, hanging out with these guys, watching the movies and the reactions, it’s like, let’s fucking do it again, man.
GH: I just came up with the idea for mine while you guys were talking about fonts.
JE: Oh so THAT’S where your mind went when we were talking about fonts. You were writing in your mind. Mind writing.
WM: With the success of V/H/S and The ABCs of Death doing really well, it’s nice to see. One of my favorite movies is Creepshow, so that segmented, kind of Twilight Zone vibe of telling an entire story in a short segment instead of stretching it out into 90 minutes. I really enjoy seeing that.
ES: You can get into it, and if you don’t like it, shit, there’s something else coming soon. There’s always something to look forward to. You know you’re going to get hit by a bunch of different ideas and that’s what I love about it.
JE: You’re forced to not fuck around as a filmmaker. You gotta get right into it and make every shot count. I think that found footage can work really well in that short format. I love the idea of being able to get all these different perspectives in one film.
ES: Even during the production, even though it’s mostly friendly, there is a sense of competition. Thinking you have to step up and knock it out of the park because my segment will be before one and after another one.
GH: There’s a healthy competition.
ES: Yeah, it’s healthy. And it feels good that you look back and there’s nothing weak.
GH: I also feel like, I was happy with our movie, as a standalone thing. I liked everybody’s pieces individually, but seeing it together, as a finished unit with a unified mix, everything kind of flowing really well. Even though I think everything is really solid, especially fucking Safe Haven, I think it’s amazing, but it feels like that with all of them being together, it makes them all stronger. Somehow the tone of each of the films kind of help each other. Things in all of the movies have parts that don’t work, that’s just the way it is. I think you kind of get fixated on the things in your own movies that don’t work. I think the strengths of some films make up for the weaknesses in others in a really cool way. I mean, I think we’re pretty brilliant. (laughs) This interview is going to come across so bad. He’s just going to write all this terrible shit that we’ve been saying
From Eisener’s short, “Alien Abduction Pizza Party”
WM: Oh no, this isn’t recording. This is just an iPod, I just wanted to hang out with you guys. Jason, when I was thinking about what I wanted to talk to you about, I wanted to mention that I enjoyed how you brought an element of fear back into aliens. But then I got nervous about not wanting to give away what it’s about, then remembered it’s called “Alien Abduction Pizza Party”. I think that the day before I came here, I tossed in an old episode of The X Files, and I thought about how aliens used to be kind of scary and now they’re more of a punchline. I know Ed has done an alien movie, and I was really glad to see a new perspective on what makes that so terrifying. Just being ripped out of your house in the middle of the night.
JE: It’s funny, I was actually watching The X Files the night before coming here. My girlfriend and her friends were revisiting the whole series. I remember seeing a couple of those episodes as a kid, especially the ones with the aliens, that really freaked me out. When I was young, I saw Fire in the Sky and that ruined me for a couple of years. My parents had to keep telling me that there was no such thing as aliens and I’d have these nightmares. I kind of had a recurring nightmare of a lot of things. Even things like the t-rex from Jurassic Park or the Predator where I was in my house and it was coming for me. I was either with my friends or my family and we’re running out of the house, trying to get to the neighbor’s house, running through the backyard. I just wanted to recreate that feeling. When I was a kid, I was terrified of aliens because it seemed like when they would do abductions, it was kind of a random thing and I thought that as a kid, even I could get abducted. It could be anyone. I liked the idea of not fully explaining why these aliens were coming for the kids. From that mindset of when I was a kid, they were coming for me and I didn’t know why and that was scary and I just had to run and hide.
V/H/S/2 is on VOD June 6th and in theaters July 12th.