Cinema Sauce was lucky enough to grab a few minutes with one of the directors involved with the upcoming horror sequel V/H/S/2. The original film may may have split audiences and critics alike, but the team behind the original have decided a number 2 is certainly needed.
Gregg Hale co-directs the segment A Ride in the Park with The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez and to find out more about their story, here’s what Gregg had to say.
How did you get in to film-making in general?
In general? Wow. I wanted to be a film-maker since I was 11 years old when I saw Darth Vader walk through the door of the Rebel Blockade Runner in Star Wars.
I think Star Wars influenced most film-makers along the line.
Yeah, it seems like mostly guys within 5 to 10 years on either side of my age hold Star Wars as a big part of why they got in to film.
Yeah, definitely. Is it true that you were in the army?
Yeah, that’s true. I was in the army for 4 years.
Did that not work out?
Four years is kind of like the standard enlistment period for people in the United States who want to join the army, but don’t want to turn it into a career. I really went in, kind of stupidly, even though I didn’t have to go to war, to get money for College. For me, wanting to be a film-maker kept me from being interested in staying in the army more than I had to.
Ah, that’s fair enough and was probably a great decision. Another fact I read about you…can you play drums?
*Laughs* I goof off on drums. I wouldn’t consider myself a drummer, but I’ve played in a lot of bad punk bands in my life.
Yeah, I was going to ask if you’ve ever thought of pursuing a career in a band properly?
*Laughs* No, maybe a dream of it, but I wouldn’t say I’ve ever seriously considered it.
My research actually lead me to a different Gregg Hale..
Yeah, and he was in a band! I had loads of questions lined up about your band, but then I realised it wasn’t your band at all.
*Laughs* Oh yeah! He’s a guitar player, right?
Yeah! In a ‘Space Rock’ band, I think they call it. I was going to ask you what that was.
Oh, right right. Yeah, not me. *Laughs*
Anyway…the latest film you’ve been in involved in is V/H/S 2. Have you always been interested in making horror films?
Yeah. I’ve produced a lot of films with my co-directing partner Ed Sanchez, who directed The Blair Witch Project and I produced it. We’ve done a few horror films since then, so it’s definitely been something that I’ve done a lot professionally. I’ve always loved horror films. I loved being scared as a kid though. Early on, messing around with Super 8 film and stuff, we definitely made zombie movies and things like that when I was a kid.
That must have been a lot of fun?
Yeah! Lots of bad fake blood.
I’ve always wanted to play a zombie in a film, I think. Or be a zombie extra in The Walking Dead.
Have you seen the original V/H/S?
I have not, I have to admit that I have not seen it.
Oh no! I was going to ask you what you thought of it. So, if you haven’t seen it, how did you get involved in the sequel? What interested you?
Jamie Nash, who wrote the script for the segment Ed and me have done, deserves much of the credit if you think our segment is good. He probably deserves most of the credit. Jamie was pretty good friends with Brad Miska from Bloody Disgusting who put together both V/H/S and V/H/S 2, so when they were thinking about doing V/H/S 2 they reached out to Jamie to see if he had any ideas. He had this one and showed it to me and Ed. We loved and it came together pretty quickly, pretty organically.
Do you think there’s relevance in the title being called V/H/S when we’re in a digital era with DVDs and Blu-rays? Do you think it’s a nostalgic idea, looking back at the ‘good ol’ days’?
My understanding from the first film and from V/H/S/ 2 is, the reason they went with V/H/S is to do with the law of the mythology of the world. Because VHS is actually analogue, it’s magnetic, there’s something physically on a tape. Somehow, the analogue nature of the tapes have been able to absorb the supernatural horror stuff that is depicted on them. That’s why I think they went with VHS, even though probably a lot people who watch it don’t even know what a VHS is *laughs*.
You mentioned that you were working with Eduardo Sanchez again. Were there any differences working on this film, compared to previous ones or is it quite the same?
You know, in many ways it’s the same. Ed and I have been working together for like 17 years now, so we have a pretty good shorthand with each other. But this is the first time that we have co-directed. There were definitely some bumps that we didn’t figure out in terms of how we communicated as directors. That was new, but in general it felt like pretty much the same creative process that Ed and I always enjoy.
Were there any arguments between you like over who gets to decide what camera angle is used…?
*Laughs* Not really! We had one little conflict on-set which was really dumb in the grand scheme of things. There’s an effect, I don’t want to give too much away…Our piece is a zombie story and in this one scene we couldn’t make the blood effect work. I just wanted to snip the cable of the little hose where the blood is supposed to come from and move on without it, but Ed kept insisting that we try until we got it right. We got in to a little argument over me feeling that it was a waste of time and Ed feeling like we could get it. Ultimately, he was right and we got it, but that was it. And really, in the grand scheme, that’s pretty minimal when you’re co-directing.
You say you co-directed, but which one of you really did most of the work?
You know, it was pretty even! The reason we ended up co-directing was a little bit out of necessity in the beginning. Ed was still finishing up Exists our movie that we’re trying to sell right now and to get the project started we had to start making directorial decisions and Ed just didn’t have time to do that. In the end, I started making director decisions just so that we could get the project started and we went from there. So yeah, it was pretty even all in all I would say.
Well, that’s good. You said your story is a zombie one and it’s called ‘A Ride in the Park’…I’m guessing it’s not a nice one. What else can you tell us?
I’m pretty happy with it, you know, it’s been very interesting reading the reviews of V/H/S 2 because people’s favourites are kind of all over the map, except that Gareth and Timo’s, which is called ‘Safe Haven’, is pretty incredible. But you know, I’m pretty happy with mine and Ed’s. It’s called ‘A Ride in the Park’ because, you know those cameras people put on their bike helmets and film themselves riding bikes or skiing? So, this is a bike guy going down this mountain and jumping over stuff with a go-pro helmet and finds himself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. So, he gets turned in to a zombie and the film is really like the POV of a zombie; how he learns to be a zombie and all the terrible things that happen to zombies basically.
Well, that just sounds like fun!
It is fun! Ours is funny. You know, it’s got some good little action things in it and quite a bit of gore. But, overall, ours is definitely funny.
Would you say that your segment is the best one out of all of them?
Oh, no. ‘Safe Haven’…Gareth Evans and Timo, who’s Indonesian and I can’t say his last name right…Theirs is pretty brilliant. I think it’s like an instant horror classic and most people who watch it seem to agree.
Did you see it as a competition between all the directors over who could make the best section of the film?
No, I mean sure we did all work separately. We read scripts and kind of gave notes on each other’s scripts and we looked at early cuts and gave notes on each other’s cuts, but by and large, we all worked separately. I don’t think it was competitive, but definitely thinking that there were these other film-makers that we respected, also making films, definitely made you want to stay on the top of your game and this motivated us.
What was it like on-set? I’m thinking that if I was working on a horror film, I’d want to scare everyone else on-set. Even though you know everything’s fake, there must have been a bit of an atmosphere.
You know, it’s such a short filming schedule – we shot the whole movie in four days. It’s so crazy and I’m probably a little over-serious on-set, so I don’t think about jokes too much. There was definitely a pretty good atmosphere. Ours was all in a non-horror film sort of way. Our film takes place completely outside during the day so it doesn’t really have a spooky atmosphere; it’s more action than it is spooky.
The film’s quite short, at only 96 minutes, did you have a set time for how long your section could be?
Well there was a target that we all tried to reach; around 15 minutes was generally where they wanted us to come in. I think ours is right at 15. Gareth and Timo’s is quite a bit longer at over half an hour. But it goes quick, it was really good.
I can imagine. I do Film Studies and there are people on the production side who’ve just had to make a 7 minute film and found it really hard to condense their film to that time.
Yeah, exactly. It’s a good exercise and one of the main reasons we jumped at this. You make short films in College or when you’re first learning about film-making you tend to make a lot of shorts. Then, when you get into it professionally and you start to need to make money, you kind of move away from shorts because it’s difficult to make money with short films. So when someone gives you the chance to make a short film with a budget, we kind of jumped at it because it is a cool film-making process to condense a story down and tell it a bit more efficiently than you have to do in a feature.
That’s what I liked about the original V/H/S. I’m guessing it’s quite similar, with loads of different stories and it’s really interesting because they are so different. And then it’s linked together with the guy who’s watching the tapes, so it’s not completely random.
Right, and that’s the same thing in V/H/S 2. There’s a story that runs through the whole thing that explains why you would be watching these four different stories.
How did you find the actors to star in your particular section?
Well, we shot in Marilyn which is where Ed is from and Jamie Nash and our Producers just know a lot of people. Really we just reached out to Jamie who, for every role, had an actor that he’d worked with and thought, “Yeah, why don’t we give J a call?” who plays the lead zombie. Really, we just did it like that. We reached out to people, asked them to put a bit of themselves on tape. It was a very informal casting process with the actors.
If you could sum up what audiences could expect from V/H/S 2 what would you say?
It’s really a fun horror film. Adam’s and Jason’s segment both have a lot of comedic beats in there that are a lot of fun. Ours is kind of funny. Gareth and Timo’s piece is so over-the-top that it goes beyond being disgusting and moves to…you just kind of have to laugh at it to go along with the ride. It’s a really sit-around-with-a-bunch-of-people-who-like-horror-films film…and have a good time.
What other anthology horror films do you recommend?
The only ones that I remember from when I was a kid were, you know, Creepshow and Cat Eye? Is that what’s called, Cats Eye? I remember really liking Creepshow as a kind, but I don’t remember that much about it, honestly.
What was the last film you say that particularly impressed you?
*Long pause* Erm……That’s a good question!
Yeah! No, no…What did I see, I really liked Zero Dark Thirty.
Yeah! That’s really good.
I saw it last year, but I have two kids so my wife and I tend to be behind the power curve when it comes to watching movies because we don’t get out a lot. I was recently on an international flight and watched like 6 movies on the flight..and what did I see that I thought was good? Skyfall was good. That was enjoyable. I think last year was a weird year for movies in America. I didn’t really have a lot of movies that I saw last year that I really loved. I haven’t seen a movie this year that I love either.
Have you seen a film that you’ve hated?
Erm, no. Typically, I’m pretty selective about what I actually watch because I have such little time to watch films. Even though I don’t read reviews, I do enough research so that I’m sure what I’m about to watch I’m going to like, especially if I’m going to see it in a movie theatre.
My final question will just be: what are your future plans?
Ed and I are still trying to sell a feature that we’ve just finished called Exists and that’s taking up a lot of our time. We’re working on a TV show right now that we’re writing for. We’re trying to set up another horror film to shoot later this year. You’ve got to have a lot of balls in the air. That’s what we’ve found. We always try to get 5, 6, 7 things going at once and see what has the most attraction.
That sounds great. I’m excited to see Exists because I saw Lovely Molly and I loved that, thought it was really good.
Oh that’s great, thank you very much.
Thanks very much for your time and good luck with everything.
Thanks a lot, bye!
Cinema Sauce would like to thank Gregg for his time and, given that he was so enthusiastic about the Safe Haven segment of the film by Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, we are speaking to Timo later this week all about that so please watch this space for further V/H/S 2 goodness.
In the meantime, here’s a short teaser trailer of the upcoming movie.