The people of Madison County are hiding a dark secret, and on May 8th, you'll find out why! Director Eric England and actor/producer Ace Marrero join I Like Horror Movies this evening to discuss their new film, MADISON COUNTY, coming to DVD next week from Image Entertainment:
ILHM: What was the inspiration for your new Slasher icon?
EE: The inspiration came from several different things. Mainly, I wanted a killer that was practical. He's not Jason. He's not Michael Myers. He's not Freddy. He's a guy that was raised a certain way, so the way he looks is based off his surroundings. He wears a pig's head because he was raised on a farm and he probably just went out, slaughtered a pig and decided to wear the head to cover his horrible face. Also, the pig is also a nod to my home state's mascot, the Arkansas Razorbacks.
ILHM: Who designed the frightening mask and costume used in the film?
EE: Erik Porn and Rob Hall of Almost Human designed the mask for Damien based off our conversations. I had a loose idea of his wardrobe in my head, but our production designer, Liz Bell, executed it.
AM: Rob Hall of Almost Human FX was the man behind the mask so to speak. He and his team really worked hard to capture what we were looking for and as I mentioned earlier, was a big part of helping to take our initial concept to the next level! Joe Badiali was our go to guy on set under Almost Human and he handled the upkeep of the mask and all of the fun effects while filming. DAMIEN'S costume was designed by Megan Elizabeth Bell who also was the costumer for our entire cast, in addition to serving as the head of props and production designer. She was amazing handling all of her tasks as an essential, one woman show.
ILHM: Slasher fans will recognize Nick Principe as the masked menace ChromeSkull from LAID TO REST. How did Nick first become involved in the project?
AM: Eric had been in touch with Nick since the Myspace days I believe. He reached out to Nick a few years ago when he was looking on IMDB for prop crews on one of Rob Zombie's film. Nick ended up telling Eric that he was also a stunt man and actor so Eric always had Nick in mind. I remember when Eric came to me about using DAMIEN, he showed me LAID TO REST, which was a fun introduction to Nicks work. Eric ended up asking him to come on board and Nick agreed. Then Eric pawned him off to me to handle all the fun stuff (dollars), LOL. Actually, Nick was awesome and was nothing but committed to the project from the beginning and was a huge part in us getting Rob Hall to come on board.
EE: He's pretty normal outside of the mask. We were all like a family off camera. We basically were all under one roof, so it was hard to avoid some people, but before we shot scenes -- he was definitely in character.
ILHM: Did Nick interact with the other cast members off-camera, or is he more of a method actor?
AM: Nick was a great guy on and off set. He was intimidating and no one knew what to expect once he arrived, especially considering we almost lost him due to something he did on the plane into Arkansas that did not please TSA. I'll leave that for Nick to explain if he wishes, haha! I think like anyone, he was more reserved when he first got there, and I know he wanted his space, but it wasn't before long that he was partying with everyone. We just had a very close cast & crew and you couldn't avoid the camaraderie.
ILHM: MADISON COUNTY is filmed almost entirely in broad daylight. Is this a risk that you feel paid off in the end?
EE: Absolutely. It's one of the biggest compliments we get on the film. For those that like the film, understand it, and appreciate it -- it's one of the first things they notice. Art is subjective. Scary is subjective. I never set out to make a "horror film". I set out to make a film that horrific things happen in it. So I wanted to set it during the day to help add some reality to those scenes. It's easy to make things scary and suspenseful when you can't see shit. It's more of a challenge to do it in broad daylight. I wanted that challenge.
AM: I don't know if it was so much a risk, as it was simply the creative choice of the film. This movie is what it is BECAUSE of the daylight. It is a character. Nothing is being hidden and a lot of the horror revolves around the fact that it IS during the day and in plain sight. Early on, Daniel asked if we should consider doing it at night, so that it would be, "scarier", but Eric explained the same thing I just mentioned and he quickly came around. I love that it takes place during the day, anything can be scary at night when you can't see it coming. For the most part, people really seem to appreciate that aspect to the movie.
ILHM: Was the use of a shaky camerawork purely aesthetic, budgetary, or a combination of the two?
EE: I'm not sure what you're referring to? I'm assuming either the hand held camerawork or the high shutter speed? Both are things lots of films use regularly. Peter Berg, Michael Bay, Zach Snyder, etc. use it all the time.
But either way, it was purely an aesthetic choice. Budget has nothing to do with how much frenetic camerawork is in a film. We shot on the RED, which multi million dollar films have shot on. The budget wouldn't affect that. We have plenty of slow moving, beautiful dolly shots.. but for action, I prefer to go hand-held.
ILHM: Were there any films that helped to shape the story or characters in MADISON COUNTY?
EE: No films really shaped the story or characters. I would say that the aesthetic was definitely affected by the original and remake of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I wanted to make a movie that felt like the original, but looked like the remake. I'm also a big fan of slow burn films.. which is definitely what Madison County is. So I'm naturally a fan of Ti West's. But Madison County was never meant to be a by the books slasher, which is why I think it polarizes audiences. Some people hate that there's not a ton of blood, sex and partying going on.. but that's what I wanted. I wanted real people that you live with for a while and then watch horrible things happen to.
AM: MADISON COUNTY at its core revolves around a couple of choice moments that occurred in Eric's childhood. That is where our, "Inspired by true events" comes from. Off topic, but our movie ROADSIDE is the exact opposite and there is an eerie story that makes it hard for us not to use, "INSPIRING true events." I'm not sure if Eric used any particular films when shaping the story or characters aside from a few movies or characters that Eric discussed with me when we were casting. It was the simplest way to get a sense of a particular archetype we were looking for.
ILHM: Eric, as a first-time director, what were the greatest lessons you learned on and off the shoot?
EE: On set: How to film under pressure. We never had enough time or money. In fact, a lot of this movie was shot on the fly. I learned that I can handle a lot of shit and still get stuff done. I also learned that I'm surrounded by some really talented and amazing people.
Off set: I've learned more than I could ever tell in one sitting, which is why I started my blog: http://ericengland.blogspot.com/
But I have learned that everyone's a critic and everyone thinks they're right. You have to do what you do and make yourself happy, while still continuing to grow and evolve. It's hard to do. Do I love Madison County? Absolutely. Do I think it's the best movie ever made? Absolutely not. I'm not delusional. This is my first feature film. It's a stepping stone. A small blip on the radar in the overall picture. I know every flaw the film has.. no one hates it, or loves it, more than me.
ILHM: Ace, what were the greatest challenges you guys faced in your first major production?
AM: I mentioned some above, the usual come to mind; budget & time. I think one thing comes to mind quite often and that is BUGS. There were a lot in Arkansas, and I don't think anyone on our cast or crew could answer that question without considering some bugs immediately, lol.
ILHM: What projects do the two of you have lined up for us next?
EE: We're in post on our next feature, ROADSIDE, which will be making its festival debut this year. I'm also directing my next feature in 2 weeks.. a Cronenberg-esque horror film called CONTRACTED. Along with that, I'm working on something at the studio level, which I hope to be able to talk about in the near future.
AM: As I mentioned, we are in the final stages of our follow up film ROADSIDE, which we're all very excited about. I've also been working with a different team on a really cool project called, FOR BLOOD OR JUSTICE. It has a vibe similar to FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. It's about an eccentric Texas lawman who is in hot pursuit of a pair of rampaging, psychotic killers. He follows them across the mexican border, illegally, and when they get there, they discover this bizarre and horrific world. Check out the short concept teaser here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fT3xJw86Pu0
I'm also going to be heading out of the country this summer to star in a great film. The official announcement hasn't been made yet, so I can't say more, but I'm REALLY excited to relax a little and put down the producer hat for a bit.
ILHM: Will many of the questions left open in the end be answered in a MADISON COUNTY sequel?
EE: That's why I left questions open. I like ambiguous movies. My favorite movies are the movies that keep me thinking well after I've turned them off or left the theater. This was always planned to be part of something bigger.
AM: A lot of questions will be answered, but I can't promise all will be. When this was being developed we were very careful to craft the movie around the whole story. MADISON COUNTY lives right around the middle mark of the timeline and while we were filming, there were many things we had to consider due to how they tied into the other movies that will follow. There are a LOT of hidden eggs within the movie that you have to pay close attention to find. It will be one of those films that you'll look back on and pick out so many things, once you've seen the other films.
A very special thanks goes out to Eric England and Ace Marrero once again for stopping by with the inside scoop on MADISON COUNTY! And don't forget, Damien arrives home Tuesday, May 8th, available on DVD from Image Entertainment!