Greg: At what age did you see yourself
as an entertainer?
Michael: I starated making "movies" very young.
About 4 years old. I would re-enact police chase
scenes, with my mother playing a cop, sitationing
I recieved my first
camcorder (a Fischer Price black and white, which
recorded on audio cassette tapes) when I was 6,
and began shooting mini-features. Usually
variations on films like "The Pink
Panther" or television series like "Get
When I was 10, I was given
my first color camcorder and began making flicks
like "Friday the 13th: Jason's
Revenge" and "Halloween:
The End of Michael Meyers".
you see yourself directing and producing horror
haven't really seen myself doing anything else
(aside from maybe a sales job; I've always been
great with commissioned pay).
What was your first gig?
My first official job was on a shoestring
budgeted flick called "Truth or Dare
3: Screaming For Sanity". I just
helped with casting and production assistant
duties. I wasn't on set very much.
was in it and what was the story about?
It starred Joel D. Wynkoop ("Killing
Spree"), and was the third entry in
the "Truth or Dare"
saga, which follows serial killer Mike Strauber.
The original "Truth or Dare: A
Critical Madness" was a huge
success on the video market in 1986.
it have a theatrical release or film festival or
was it just direct-to-DVD and video?
Straight-to-video, baby; with a theatrical
premiere at the now-defunct Festival Theater in
Ft .Pierce, Florida. That was a really neat
place! Unfortunately, the smoking ban in Florida
killed it. The movie's currently available from
Sub Rose Studios.
What was the experience like with it?
I had fun. I was only 16 at the time, and didn't
have a whole hell of a lot to do.
familiar actors work in it?
Just Joel, really. I guess Bill Cassinelli (who
stars in the "Scary Tales"
series) also had a cameo.
What kinds of a response did the movie get?
I think pretty negative from the fans of the
series, to be honest. Tim Ritter had kind of run
out of budget by the third entry. Ashame; as the
script was definately there.
What was it like making "Scary
A lot of fun. It was my first feature, and was a
hell of a learning experience. I was 19 when we
Our main goal was to keep
the script as small as possible; within our
(tiny) budgetary constraints.
Bill and I had the same
concerns. We'd rather do as much as we can with a
small concept than try to do too much with too
little. Our on-set budget (not counting equipment
and post) was basically just enough to cover our
What inspired you to make it?
Renting a slew of bad straight-to-video movies
that were unintentionally funny. We decided to
make a horror film that we knew was cheesy/campy,
and if folks decided to take seriously, the joke
would be on them.
Also, the little-seen 1980
film "Fiend" starring
Don Leifert as Mr. Longfellow. In fact, all the
major character names in the "Scary
Tales" series were inspired by this
remember the opening had a comic book title page
on it and it very much reminded me of "Creepshow"
as that was how the film started as. Were you
hoping to have that same feel as well?
Absolutely. As a big fan of EC comics, Bill
Cassinelli (who also served as co-writer) and I
wanted to make sure the stories contained irony,
rather than just horror and plot twists; much
like the old comics/graphic novels.
How did you find Joel D. Wynkoop to play the role
of Mr. Longfellow?
was walking out of a store one day, and this
drunken homeless guy asked me for some spare
change. I gave him a couple of quarters, and
started a conversation, only to find he was a
failed actor! We spoke for a while, and he told
me his name was Joel Wynkoop...
I had worked on "Dirty
Cop No Donut" and "Truth
or Dare: Screaming For Sanity" with
Joel a few years back. I thought he had the
perfect demeanor and attitude for a character
like Mr. Longfellow.
What was he like to work with? Is he really a
character like Mr. Longfellow?
Yes. Joel enjoys telling stories and then
slaughtering those who aren't interested in
listening. One thing you learn on a Joel D.
Wynkoop set is to NOT argue once he starts
Actually, Joel is a very
quiet, reserved guy. He's appeared in about 30
films/television shows, and everytime a director
meets him, they seem to have the same reaction.
"Wow. I thought that guy would be a LOT
The best way to describe
Joel is as a determined actor and loving father.
Bill Cassinelli feel awkward playing a nerdy type
named Dennis Frye?
It's amazing to think that Bill really is a
ladies man...He actually gained thirty pounds for
the role, and began using intentionally bad
one-liners at bars when picking up women; just to
steady his character.
No. Actually, I'm sure
Bill will tell you...he is very much a
self-proclaimed dork; with weekly "Dungeons and Dragons" games
held at his home. The role was tailor written for
remember the first chapter "I Aint
Got No Body" as Lindsay Horgan did
a great job playing a nasty girl named Jamie.
What was she really like in person?
She's my ex-girlfriend. At the time, great in
person! Now...well, I'm bitter. So, I'll pass up
this question. That said; I'm sure if she reads
this (years later), she'll be happy to see your
favourite chapter is "Hit &
Run" as I laughed so hard with the
dolls invading Dennis Frye after accidentally
killing that little girl. The Cabbage Patch Kid
was the funniest one but the horror came in the
end of the chapter. What brought up the idea to
do that one?
Bill wanted to write a variation on both the "Talking
Tina" episode of "The
Twilight Zone" and hitchhiker
segmeng of "Creepshow 2".
He was in charge of script; and I found it rather
interesting that we shot a whole segement as
primarily one big montage - with very little
chapter totally reminded me of a Twilight
Zone type of feel to it. Did you feel
the same way about it?
Sure. Absolutely. Mr. Cassinelli's intentions all
Were you a fan of the Twilight Zone?
A huge one growing up. I used to catch all the
re-runs on PBS before bed.
last chapter The Death
. Was very much like a Tales
from the Crypt chapter. Have you enjoyed
watching that series and it gave you an idea to
do that chapter?
That was definately my favorite show for a long
time (well, that and "Monsters").
Again, a lot of inspiration came from there;
between the campy humor and acting.
it was shot at a Motel. Did that cost a lot to do
as they can be pricey.
Nah. We kept the whole movie on the cheap, and
came-in under budget.
ran at some film festivals available to the
public. What kinds of responses did the film get
and where did it play at?
Usually very positive. That said, a lot of people
do dislike the film (which I don't blame them),
as I'm not quite sure if they got what we were
going for. A very campy throwback to 80's cinema,
with homages to some of the lamest films of all
time. That said, I consider "Scary
Tales" a comedy as opposed to a
Were viewers excited about the upcoming sequel
and returned to watch it?
Not as many as we've hoped. It's really weird.
The first did so well; and we loaded part 2 up
with horror icons and some really great make-up
effects artists. Hell, even the first segment
became the film "Identity"
with John Cusak.
It's been a favorite with
critics, and film festivals; but the general
public who hasn't screened the film has been
luke-warm. I wonder if it we didn't do a good job
getting the word out.
We had great showings at
the Rebel Film Festival (Tennessee ), Screamfest
(Florida), Dark Xmas (Ohio), Cinema Paradiso
(Florida); and so many other places. With TONS of
audience choice awards. That said; it has sold
extremely well at conventions nationwide; with
return customers either bringing friends, or
sometimes, buying extra copies to mail to
A lot of distributors had
made offers; but we decided it would be best to
try direct sales. I recently signed it with
Disruptive Media, Los Angeles; who currently
offer it directly through the internet (order at www.scarytalesonline.com *hint hint*).
enjoyed the sequel so much better and it also had
some familiar horror film faces like Felissa Rose
and Joe Estevez. Did this one have a bigger
budget to pay everyone?
Sure. A lot more. That was the priciest thing I'd
ever been involved with (at the time).
liked the fact that there was another killer
named Don Leifert getting away from the
slaughterings of some hookers he killed. Now the
actor named Jason Daly played that role and he
wrote and directed the film with you. Did you
feel that it was less pressuring having someone
else on board to help you with the film?
Absolutely. Jay was a HUGE asset; and a lot of
the more polished look (especially when it came
to the editing/visual fx) are on Jay's part. It's
ashame he couldn't make it for Felissa's segment.
What is Jason like to work with?
really good guy; easy going. I'm bringing him up
to Illinois to assist me with my next two
the first chapter "Charlies
Demons" the story was complicated
but it came altogether and it was a lot darker
than the chapters from your first one. Did you
feel it was necessary to have a dark chapter in
Yep. We still tried to keep it campy; with the
dialogue and characters cliched of the genre.
That's why I didn't care for "Identity".
It went too damn serious for me.
it meant for the audience to wonder Why is
this all happening????
We were hoping the audience would guess the first
plot twist, and tried to make it obvious as to
what was going on. The second, however, was what
we wanted to stick. Of course, it's now ruined
for anyone who's seen "Identity".
remember the actor Neill Cotter who played the
bad ass Shoogy. In real life did he get along
with everyone and laughed about his character?
Michael: Neil's a great actor; and is starring in Jason
Daly's latest project. He's definately a
laid-back, easy going guy. It's so funny...people
look for things to complain about in low budget
flicks all the time. Just at a recent screening,
some guy said - "Who's the guy with the
phony, English accent?". I was like,
"uhhh...He IS from England".
gore effects were quite good. What did you use
Jay has a special mixture for blood he refuses to
give away. For the fake head; he used a wig and
styrofoam. He actually built a fake body for the
final kill, and mixed latex applications with
we have Bill Cassinelli return as Dennis Frye
employed at a store as some of the same dialogues
were used but in a positive way this time. Was it
a joke to his chapter of "I Aint Got
You caught that! Yeah. I wrote the whole thing as
an homage...Trying to be careful that people who
didn't see the first one wouldn't be lost...or
have it ruined if they decide to watch the
chapters backward in order.
Felissa played his girlfriend Sarah. What was it
like working with her?
She was a sweetie. Provided wine for the
crew/actors after the shoot; and was extremely
easy to get along with (and on they eyes). She
didn't have much time to prep; and the shoots
were grueling (shot over 2 nights); but she did a
damn fine job. I read on Racks And Razors that
she wasn't happy with her performance(?). That's
a shame! I think it's definately a side of her
that the general viewing audience never sees.
you ever see her in any of her films or stage
Stage work? No. Films, sure! I was a big "Sleepaway
Camp" fan growing up. I also have "Grandma's
Secret Recipe" and have checked out
"Horror" and "Corpses are Forever".
seemed to have good timing with the comedic lines
and the action in it fighting the zombies. Were
you amazed by her performance?
I thought she was extremely natural; given the
ludicriousy of the situation/dialogue.
film was almost like Buffy the Vampire
Slayer but with zombies in it. Was this
what you were basing it on?
Nothing, really. Blatant silly-ness. I guess
maybe a campier "Evil Dead"?
the final chapter was my favourite titled "7:23"
as you did great with the darkness as it
gave a perfect touch to it. It was again like a Twilight
Zone/The Shining edge to it. Was this
chapter a favourite to viewers like the Hit &
Run one was?
Thanks for the kind comments!
It's weird, because while "7:23" has definately been a viewer favorite (but not
mine; I prefer Felissa's segment); "Hit and
Run" was not well liked! You may be in the
minority, there. But, hey. The sign of a strong
anthology is a different favorite segment from
the majority of the viewers.
Estevez looked like he had fun in his role as the
Desk Clerk and he reminded me of his brother
Martin Sheen in every film I see him in. How was
he like to direct?
Joe was a lot stronger in the role than
we expected! I just told him what we'd like, and
then...bam! There was this great character. He
really chewed the scenery with our dialogue (that
segment was co-written by Richard Cecere with
myself). He's picked up quite a few awards and
We love Joe; and I'd work
with him over his brother any day.
amazing actor in that chapter was Jesse Furman
who played the nasty criminal Frank Draven. How
did you find him? Has he done other acting gigs?
Jesse starred in a mafia-drama called "Christian
Soldiers" which I co-shot and
edited for Richard Cecere (the "7:23" co-writer). The minute
I saw his work, I knew we had to have him. It's
no surprise, however, that he's a (successful)
professional stage actor, with a lot of credits
under his belt. His next release is "Bad
List" which (again, no surprise) is
directed by "Scary Tales 2"
veteran Jason Daly. It's an action film with some
truly outrageuos scenes.
made his character so believeable. How did he
relate to his character?
I think he saw the character as a yuppie, and
went with it. Jesse's not like that at all. The
hardest thing for me was framing the segment, as
Mr. Estevez (as with all his family), is quite
short, and Jesse's about 6'4.
chapter reminded me of a chapter I starred in
called "The Horror Seasons"
which was titled "The Darkest
Secret". Look out for it as
its available on DVD at Amazon.com if youre
interested. But anyhow, Robert ZDar made a
special appearance as a police officer named
Cordell who catches Leifert thinking it was
Longfellow in the end of the film but he worked
for Longfellow too as he reveals that in the end.
Was his character kind of like a joke to his role
in "Maniac Cop"?
Absolutely. Same name. Different demeanor.
fellow who talks to Cordell was that Longfellow
with a quick plastic surgery? I mean he was shot
to death by Leifert.
Nope. That was the homeless fellow who shuffles
about the car lot. All is explained in part 3 (if
we ever get that far)
understand that Robert ZDar can be difficult to
work with. Was
there any issues on set with him?
Where'd you get that idea? He was great!
In other words, no
read on the closing credits that there will be a
part 3. Will that one see the light of day? Who
will it star?
Well, it's set to star Wynkoop, Daly, Cassinelli,
and the other series veterans. Will it see the
light of day? Well, I've already had the money
offered to make it, but turned it down to persue
other films. My main concern is making sure fans
enjoy part 2 before we shell out the final
segment. That said, "Scary Tales 3
or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the
Longfellow" is by far my favorite
of the scripts; but I want to make sure it
guarantees a fiscal return for the investor.
you had a difficult time distributing the films
onto DVD. What were the reasons?
I really just don't want to be ripped off by the
distributors. We've run into trouble before, and
I don't want to ever go through that again. Have
we had offers? Yeah. From large companies? Sure.
Was there any up-front money involved? Nope. And
that smells trouble.
That said, Disruptive
Media's done a fine job.
I'm just concerned it's
going to end up with an overseas release only!
well is it selling on your site?
well. We haven't advertised a lot, but word of
mouth has kept sales steady enough. We could
definately use some support.
Will it ever be available at amazon.com as well
as selling and renting in DVD stores?
It should be! Until then, again... www.scarytalesonline.com
you ever get reviewed or interviewed in magazines
no. The projects I've worked on have gotten quite
a bit of coverage. I've usually remained in the
is your next project?
I'm directing 2 films with (surprise) actual
Disruptive Media very
kindly let me split $100,000 into two features,
which I'm shooting in Illinois this October. The
first is "Spring Break
Massacre", which is an 'old school'
slumber party slasher. It stars Reggie Bannister
series), Linnea Quigley ("Return of
the Living Dead") and a LOT of
other genre veterans. It's also written by a
first time screenwriter, Meghan Jones, who really
knows the confines of the genre. And, get this,
she's actually a poet!
I'm following "Spring
Break" with "R.O.T. -
Reunion of Terror", which was
co-written by Bill Cassinelli ("Scary
Tales"). The only attached star is
James Palmer from ("Jigsaw"),
but Disruptive Media hasn't even started casting
yet. Definately ecpect some big names. It's a
slasher film based upon the ten year high school
reunion of old friends, one of which with a dark
We're set for 20 brutal
filming days over the Halloween month.
heres some fun stuff:
What are your favourite
I have some wierd ones; "In
The Mouth of Madness", "Suspiria",
"Deadtime Stories", "Psycho", "Blood Freak" (it's SO BAD -
you HAVE to see it), "Requiem For a
Dream", "Silent Night
Deadly Night", "Halloween", "Dawn
of the Dead ('78)"...and a whole
slew which I momentarily forgot. I'm a big fan of
you have a film youd like to change. What
would it be?
"HorrorTales.666". I billed
myself as Alan Smithee after a personal issue
with the production, source matrial and those in
charge. I wish to remain private on those
is the film you produced & directed that you
cherish the most?
Tales: The Return of Mr. Longfellow"
definately showcases my writing/editing style, as
well as my sense of humor. I'm a very campy
person, so I'd say that very campy movie with
it's corny one-liners is definately the most
private. Plus, despite a lot of the silliness, I
tried to showcase a lot of my own flaws through
some of the charcters, especially Frank Draven
(in "7:23"). I try to
be honest about myself when I write.
you were a top horror filmmaker for one day
whether this actor or filmmaker was alive or dead
who would he be?
I really don't have an answer. I appreciate my
own personal style, and it would be hard for me
to even look at cinema through the eyes of
another. That said, Carpenter in his prime is my
favorite. I love the way he delivered so many
great films on such shoestring budgets.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What are your ambitions in life?
To be successful, no matter what I do. Without
some sort of fiscal success, it's hard to obtain
personal happiness. Nothing puts constraints on a
relationship or family like monetary
Thanks for the interview!
It's been fun!