BACK FROM THE SWAMP AND READY FOR ACTION: TALKING WITH DANIEL EMERY TAYLOR by Owen Keehnen

Back in 1989 Daniel Emery Taylor played the 10 year-old kid, Darryl Hallenback, in 'Return of the Swamp Thing' with Heather Locklear, Louis Jourdan, Monique Gabrielle, and the late great swamp thing himself - Dick Durock. That was over 20 years ago and after an acting hiatus (except for an episode of 'I'll Fly Away' and a small part in the comedy flick 'Road Trip' ) the Alabama born actor is back and getting busy once again in the most welcoming of genres - the horror business. He's done three fright flicks in the past couple of years 'Hell-ephone' with Ari Lehman and Jim O' Rear, 'The Legacy' , and most recently 'Hell House' with Stacey Dixon and Jim O' Rear. He's also featured significantly in the new non-horror flick 'Ultimate Death Match 2' and may soon direct his first feature - a slasher flick called 'Fat Chance'. The charming Mr. Taylor is a self-proclaimed F-list celebrity, a horror convention favorite... and he's also the latest subject for this exclusive racksandrazors.com interview.


 
Hey Daniel. First off tell me about your latest movie 'Hell House' with Stacey Dixon and Jim O'Rear. Give me a teaser that is going to make it irresistible to all the racksandrazors.com readers.

Blood! Gore! Nudity! Enticed, yet? Seriously, one of the reasons I like independent film is that you have the freedom to do things that wouldn't necessarily fly in Hollywood. There's more creativity because your primary concern is getting your vision out to the public, not box office rankings and merchandise deals. 'Hell House' is an innovative film, a fairly simply concept that takes it up a notch and delivers. The story, on the surface, is pretty basic: a family of serial murderers sets up shop in a local haunted attraction. People begin to die while those who look on believe it to be part of the show. Digging deeper than that, though, is a story about political intrigue and how a town comes to terms with its own twisted past. It's very ambitious and I, for one, am quite excited to see the finished product.

You seem to work a lot with the same folks. I see that some of the 'Hell House' cast also appears in two of your new films 'The Legacy' and 'Hell-ephone'. Is this a formal thing or more a network of friends and reliable associates?

It's a little of both. Independent film tends to be regional, so many directors end up working from the same pool of talent. You find people who are talented and reliable and you just stick with them. In the case of people like Jim O' Rear, Ari Lehman, and other personal friends, I always look for an opportunity to work with them. Above all, film is supposed to be fun, so you learn really quickly those you enjoy being around.

You actually burst on the horror scene 21 years ago as Darryl Hallenbeck in Jim Wynorski's 'Return of the Swamp Thing' alongside such stars as Louis Jourdan, Heather Locklear, Sarah Douglas, Dick Duroch, and Monique Gabrielle. If you could take some incident from that filming experience and put it in a time capsule what would it be?

There's an incident I've talked about a lot this past year, considering Dick Durock's untimely death. (Dick had been suffering with pancreatic cancer for some time.) You know, with monster movies and low budget sci-fi/horror, it's real easy to not take the material seriously and treat it like a joke. Dick had a real respect for the Swamp Thing character, the source material. To Dick, Swampy was a truly tragic character, a brilliant scientist in the body of a monster. This wasn't just a latex-covered beat' em-up. He had a respect for the struggle and the conflict of the character. In my first scene in the film, my friend and I are attacked by one of Arcane's mutants, a giant Leech. Swampy saves us, naturally, and proceeds to beat the Leech down. I remember filming the scene - it was late, and we were wet and cold. Mr. Jim, in his trademark style, shouted at Dick to "Just pull the leg off the swing set and wail on him!" Dick protested. His thought was that Swamp Thing, Alec, was a thinking man. He would feel sorry for this poor mindless creature. They compromised. If you watch the film, you notice there's this shot of Swamp Thing right after he yanks the bar loose. It's a look of apprehension, like he's sorry for what he's about to do. I think it's fantastic. I think that shows the humanity Dick brought to the character. (It's the same humanity they'll lose when they eventually do some CGI remake.) I know a lot of people laugh at our B-movie culture, but there are passionate, artistic people with integrity involved. Dick was one of the good ones, and I'll always keep that memory with me.

Do you have any other upcoming projects you want the racksandrazors readers to know about?

We talked about "Hell House." I also have a film coming out called "Ultimate Death Match 2." It's my first non-horror film since "Road Trip." It tells the story of an underground independent wrestling promotion that puts on an event where the winner walks away with one million dollars and the loser dies. I'm a lifelong wrestling mark, so it was great to be working with people like Al Snow, Dan "The Beast" Severn, Kevin Nash, and Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake. I've got a few other projects I'll be filming this year, but I can't really say anything. That can get frustrating at times, because I want to rush out and tell everyone about them! I can tell you that I have my own project (a slasher that takes place at a fat camp called "Fat Chance") in the final stages of pre-production, looking at filming in the late spring. Hopefully, I can soon add "director" to my list of credits.

Vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, creatures, aliens, telemarketers...what does it for you horrorwise Daniel and why?

Werewolves are the most badass creature in the monster kingdom. It's really a shame that there are so very few good werewolf movies. The old Fox series was excellent. 'Silver Bullet' was good. It starts running thin after that. I think I like werewolves for the same reason I like the Incredible Hulk. It's the whole idea that there is a savage nature inside of us that is just looking for an excuse to burst forth. It's the 'Lord of The Flies' dynamic. Put a human being in the right (or wrong) situation and they become a merciless killer. We're a cursed, fallen creature.

What was the first movie to scare the shit out of you?

I'm trying to think back. The ocean of blood in 'The Shining' terrified me when I first saw it. I couldn't have been more than four or so at the time and I remember watching the movie on television. It was the blood, man, that really creeped me out. That may be the first. Notable mentions include 'Fright Night', 'A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge', and 'Day of the Dead'. I was quite young "probably too young" when I saw all of them, and they all gave me a healthy dose of nightmares for some time afterward.

And what was the last horror movie you saw that really annoyed you?

A lot of modern Hollywood horror films are just really bad, but it doesn't bother me because I expect it. The last horror film that truly annoyed me was Rob Zombie's 'Halloween 2'. Let me go one record as saying that I loved Zombie's 'Halloween', and in many ways loved it more than the original. Remakes don't usually bother me too badly, as I tend to take them as they are - on their own merits. You just consider them different movies, a different interpretation of the same story, and you can usually enjoy them more. The first 'Halloween' was viewed independently of Carpenter's original and I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable film experience. My problem with 'Halloween 2' is not that it didn't fit with the original series. My problem with it is that it didn't fit with Zombie's first film. You can deviate styles and substance when you're rebooting a franchise or remaking a film. Sequels need to be consistent with the other films in the series. 'H2' didn't do that. What was very realistic and gritty became artsy and supernatural. Laurie's narrative didn't make sense. It was just a jumbled mess of images. The whole Mother angle was forced in so Sherri would have something to do. It just didn't work and it was truly a disappointment. Now, if it all ends with a scantily-clad Taylor Scout-Compton as a killer in "Halloween 3" it will all be worth it.

Okay, we're pulling into the Daniel Emery Taylor Drive In. What three horror flicks are on the triple bill for tonight and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

My perfect triple bill would be "Jaws," "Fright Night," and "House of 1000 Corpses." There's no rhyme or reason to it -- just three movies that thoroughly entertain me each and every time I watch them. While watching, you'd be munching on nachos and watermelon Sour Patch Kids. And drinking Dr. Pepper.

And your favorite horror flick death scene?

Wow! That's a difficult one. It's not a horror film, but some of my favorite death scenes were in the most recent 'Rambo' film. I think it\rquote s fantastic when someone gets machine gunned to pulp. The death scene that affected me most was Nancy's at the end of 'A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors'. I was a young lad, a devoted horror fan, and was still emotionally vested in the Elm Street saga. Nancy's death was a shock and quite devastating. In terms of style and gore, several of the deaths in 'Hatchet' stand out. Who doesn't love to see someone's head split open like an orange or to see death by grinder?

What's the best Halloween costume you ever had?

I was Zombie Santa four or five years ago. I had a real mall Santa costume, nice and authentic, and decided that I would gore it up for the neighborhood kids. A few buckets of blood and some corpse make-up later, I was a terrifying red mess. To complete the get-up, I grabbed the largest butcher knife I could find and headed out into the streets. What made it so great is that, in the dark, it just looked like a Santa outfit. Little kids would be smiling, yelling "Santa! Santa!," and running up to me. Once they got a good look at me it would be all screams and tears. That's so wicked of me, but it was fun. I made sure to bellow "You've been naughty!" as they ran back to hide behind momma.

What scares you in real life?

You know, I don't want to sound like some pseudo-macho douche bag, but I really don't have any fears. I mean, I would certainly be afraid if I was face-to-face with a mugger, hungry lion, or terrorist -- but it's not a habitual fear, something that would allow me to say "I'm afraid of terrorists" or "I'm afraid of lions." I don't think about it. I have a strong faith in the utter sovereignty of God (which some would simply call "fate") so I just assume that things that are going to happen are just going to happen. If it's my destiny to get mauled by a bear, no amount of fear or worrying will change it. I don't fear and I don't really worry ... I just go forward in life and things, for the most part, just seem to work out.