FILET OF SOLET: Talking With Gore-Meister Crowned Prince Paul Solet by Owen Keehnen

It’s pretty hard to repulse hardcore horror fans, but filmmaker Paul Solet is doing his damnedest! It all began years ago and came to fruition with the demented short ‘Means to an End’ with Jake Hamilton about two SFX filmmakers determined to go to any extremes to get the ultimate shot (and ultimate bloody SFX) in the gore/mutilation department. The movie is a brutal humor-homage to horror through the ages with knowing winks to film outlaws Argento, Fulci, and Raimi among others. In Solet’s own words this is “gun-and-run, old-school, guerilla gore.” If you wanna check it out the film ended up being included in this year’s ‘Fangoria Blood Drive II’ DVD.

After years of shorts (that whole pre-teen geek with a camera syndrome) the success of ‘Means to an End’ has opened a lot of doors for Paul. He’s set to go in March 2006 on his first feature film entitled ‘Grace’ (a deceptive title) which looks to be a solid test of the gore-master’s ability to push the “disgust” envelope. The script certainly seems to be passing the test and turning stomachs – now it’s a matter of the film itself. He’s also got another film green-lighted called ‘Repeater’ about a crazed bike messenger (aren’t they all?)!

He’s a guy who’s on the brink of very big things. I had a chance to chat with this “future face of gore” in this exclusive interview.



  Paul, why not start us off with a visual and describe the room where you are answering these interview questions?

I’m in my office at MTV. I’m working on the new Celebrity Deathmatch, right now. I’ve got binders, schedules, contact sheets, screeners, and a million post it notes all over the place. The room is white, the walls are cork, and dotted with thumbtacks of all colors. I’ve got my work computer on one side of my desk, and my laptop on the other. Sometimes I feel like the keyboard player in an 80’s band.

First off you and Jake Hamilton made quite an impression with your insane short film 'Means to an End' about two competitive SFX artists who will stop at nothing to get the perfect horror SFX.  What's the craziest thing you have ever done in your filmmaking career to get a film shot?

I’ve ended up bruised and bloody a few times to make something work, either to get a particular camera move, or to sell a stunt. I’ve done my share of illegal shooting, too. I shot a spec for some reality TV company once, in Encino, where I followed this 7 foot 8 Chinese basketball player and his interpreter around LA for three days. We wanted footage of him in a supermarket and we had no permit, so I decided to shoot from the hip with a PD-150. That worked for about ten seconds, then the whole place was following us around. That may not have been the craziest thing, but it was probably the stupidest. At one point, I allowed an actor to swallow a large part of a fly swatter, and then regurgitate it for a film I did called THE MOTH. I offered to do it myself, but the guy was very serious about the part, and wouldn’t hear it. He said he was going to do it whether we rolled or not. I had another actor, once, who insisted on being punched before a scene to get himself worked up. This was a very big guy known for a very real history of violence, so that may not have been my most lucid moment. He did the scene spectacularly, though. I don’t think I’d do that again.

So what sort of deal was involved to have 'Means to an End' included in 'Fangoria Blood Drive II’? How was it chosen?  What perks did you get in addition to the exposure?

The exposure pretty much is the deal. Fango and Koch distribute the film, and advertise far more effectively than we ever could have hoped to. We did a Fango Con with the rest of the guys on the disc, where we did a Q & A and the whole deal, which was a good time. We showed up in orange prison jumpsuits, covered in bandages, with Jake pushing me around in a wheelchair. Tony Timpone thought I was really injured. He’s such a nice guy, he felt really bad. He asked me if I had hurt myself making a film, and I said yes. Four guys carried me up onto the stage, everybody bought it, it was hysterical. Half way through the Q & A, I started began squeezing four bladders I had rigged across my lap, one by one. First my arm started to bleed, and Jake got up and gaff taped it, then my knee started to spurt, so he started taping that, then my head started to just pour blood. I was rigged with so much of the stuff, that I bled for the entire rest of the Q & A.

Pushing the envelope seems the name of the game where the gore factor is concerned.  Can you name a couple of films or scenes in your movie viewing past that forced you to close your eyes?

I can’t remember ever closing my eyes. Stupid, I probably should have. I used to scare the living shit out of myself when I was little. The stuff that’s most disturbing to me is the sexual violence, but I always watch that, too. That’s always when my girlfriend comes home or something, and there I am on the couch, watching Pasolini’s SALO, and someone is being used as a urinal, or eating shit, or getting raped with a gun. She just looks at me like, where the fuck did I find this kid? The last thing to really push it was IRREVERSABLE. The fire extinguisher head smash was just amazing. Actually, HOSTEL got me. I went to watch an early cut with Eli in the editing room with him and his brothers and George Folsy, and that fucking eye-gasm killed us all. You should’ve seen his face, he was delighted.

Do you consider this gore-beyond-gore short an all-out parody? If so what is your commentary about contemporary horror films and/or filmmakers?  

We’re kind of knocking everyone, from the studios to the indies. Honestly, while there’s plenty of crap coming out as far as horror goes, I’m incredibly hopeful and excited about the state of horror right now. Boundaries are continually getting broken down all over the place these days, especially in the studios. One of the only good things about a system so focused on profit, is that when movies like HOSTEL make 20.1 million dollars opening weekend, you’re going to see a lot more blood coming out of Hollywood. And I don’t think that’s going to stop any time soon.

Now you have written and directed a new short called ‘Grace’, which is being marketed with the tagline "Love...Undying".  Can you give us a teaser for the film that will make it irresistible to fans?

GRACE actually shoots mid March, 2006, so we’re in prep right now, but people are excited about the project already.  I wrote a feature by the same name last year. It got a lot of attention, but in the end, I decided not to option it so I could make sure it becomes the film it can be. I can’t tell you how much I believe in this project. The premise is so completely warped, people are just astounded by it. When I tell them it’s based on real medical science, people are dumfounded. We’ve got an incredible crew. I somehow managed to land Laurence Avenet-Bradley as my DP. She’s fresh off best feature wins this last year at Shreikfest and RI Independent Horror Festival, so we’re really lucky to have her. We just signed Mark Fenleson and his MFX: Special Projects team to do production design.   He’s got 18 years experience in the trenches and a serious flare for horror. The producer, Becca Cutter, is amazingly talented.   She took her last film to Sundance. When I first started writing the feature, I pitched it to Eli, and his jaw just dropped. He’s a really hard guy to disgust, so I knew I was on to something unforgettable.

What about 'Grace' do you see as the most significant progression in the evolution of your skills as a filmmaker?

That’s a tough one. I’ve learned a tremendous amount on this project already. It’s the same set of skills I’ve been working on cultivating since I picked up a camcorder and started torturing schoolmates on as a kid, it’s just bigger. I think it’s really mostly about working with a team. You can either gracefully take all the help you can get, or let your ego tell you to do it yourself, and compromise the film. On a personal level, it’s been about learning where my strengths are, and accepting where my weaknesses are, and then working on them all by interacting with the people who were there first. As far as writing goes, this project is the first feature I’ve ever written with a female protagonist, so that’s been a powerful experience. It’s been a good challenge to write a mother from a mother’s perspective, not from a son’s.

So tell me a little about 'Repeater', your upcoming feature.  How far along in the process are you? 

REPEATER is a body-horror film about a savant bike messenger who’s literally addicted to motion. It’s based on the Freudian principle of a “Repetition Compulsion,” a tendency in the traumatized to try to reenact the traumatic incident again and again in an irrational effort to master the scenario. The script has gotten some attention from some independent folks, and it’s done well in screenwriting competitions, but we’re still looking for the right home. It’s a brutal film, but, like GRACE, it’s a really human story. People react very strongly to it.

Is the thought of making a feature vs. a short daunting?  What do you see as the main challenges involved?

I’d be spinning my wheels to speak on the subject until I shoot one. I suspect it’s more of the same, but bigger. That seems to be the rumpus about town.

Any advice to all the struggling horror film freaks out there anxious to make an impact?

For me, it’s been more helpful to concentrate on telling stories and making movies that I like, than on concentrating on making an impact. Movies made to make an impact seem like they often have a disingenuous feel to them. They come off heavy handed and contrived. Whereas, if you’re making movies you love, and you love horror movies, you’re probably going to strike a chord with like-minded sickos. If you’re looking to pack something into the flow of the horror community, there are all kinds of ways to get involved. The most important thing I can think of is supporting the movies you like. Word of mouth is so important for this scene. Sites like this are an amazing way to keep this genre in the hands of us fans. We bitch and bitch about remakes and PG-13 shit, but I think we can sometimes forget that unless we’re part of the solution, we’re not doing anyone any good.

Do you have any other projects in the offing you would like to plug or tell the readers about?

I think I’ve said enough about my stuff. Chris Garetano is doing a sequel to his feature length doc, HORROR BUSINESS, called SON OF HORROR BUSINESS. Adam Barnick and Will Rot from Blood Drive 2 are both in prep on new shorts. Ed O’Neil is onboard to do Will’s project at the end of this month. Jay Alvino’s Wicked Effects outfit is on the rise, they’re attached to do Dante Tomaselli’s new feature THE OCEAN, and a host of other stuff. Anybody who hasn’t seen SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE is missing out on some brilliantly twisted stuff. If you haven’t seen HOSTEL, it’s time to leave the cave and get gut punched.

We're pulling the car into the Paul Solet Drive In.  What three horror flicks are they going to be showing on the triple bill and what goodies are they serving up at the concession stand?

First up, ALONE IN THE DARK ---Jack Sholder’s 1982 movie, not the 2005 one. Next, Bob Clark’s DEATHDREAM. And then Pasolini’s SALO. Just in case your date hadn’t already left you. Whatever you were eating, you aren’t eating anymore.

What disgusts you in real life?

Child abuse. Animal abuse.

What scares you in real life?

Richard Kuklinski.