of Infamy: A Talk With Kenneth Hall by Owen
Hall has worn many hats in the
independent horror film business. He has
written, directed, produced, acted, done
FX, and worked as a make-up artist. Some
of his better known endeavors include the
writing the scripts for such films as
The Clown at Midnight,
The Tomb, Die
Watching, Dr. Alien,
Terror Night, and
Nightmare Sisters. He wrote
the original script for the Puppet
Master for Charles Bands Full
Moon, thereby creating the seed of that
prolific film series. He was the
writer/director of the cult favorite
Evil Spawn as well as
Ghost Writer (with the
Landers sisters!). He has numerous
credits on the FX side of things -- he
was effects coordinator for Tales
from the Hood, he created the
Carnosaur, the octopus prop
from Tim Burtons Ed
Wood, and was even responsible for
the killer snowman Jack
Frost. His expertise in the field
of special effects led to the creation of
his own company in 1995 called Total
Fabrication. Another credit, which seals
his place as a genre fave, was as
executive producer/writer/director of
Linnea Quigleys Horror
Workout. His latest opus looks to
be his horror masterpiece. He has
written/directed/and produced The
Halfway House. Hall describes it as
A homage to the horror/exploitation
films of the 60s and 70s that still
delivers large doses of sex, violence,
and creature effects. It stars Mary
Woronov as Sister Cecilia, a crazed nun
with a unique ways of dealing with
wayward girls which sounds like a
shoo-in for cult status to me. The film
also stars Racks and Razors favorites
Janet Tracy Keijser and Athena Demos.
Recently I had the opportunity to chat
with Mr. Hall about his fascinating
career as well as his newest project
The Halfway House.
||Owen: Your latest project 'The
Halfway House' sounds awesome. All
you needed to hook me were those magic words,
"Mary Woronov as a crazed nun".
How did the project come about?
Kenneth: I really hope everyone
will respond to it that way. I had taken a
vacation from screenwriting and an even longer
one from directing. I always planned to
return to it if I could finance it myself.
The recent innovations in digital
technology made it possible to do so. I
knew if I agonized too long over what would be
the perfect comeback project, Id never get
it written. So, I started with a simple
concept I had many years ago called GUT-EATING
MONSTERS FROM HELL and it grew from
that. Originally, it didnt have
religious angle but I wanted it to have some
edgy, controversial elements. I also knew
too many directors had already pushed the
envelope with violence and gore (even though it
has its fair share) so I decided to go more
extreme with the sex and nudity. I think
its the only horror film coming out this
year to have an interracial lesbian-fisting
Owen: You've been quite critical
in the past of having your work and vision
compromised. Were the multi-hats of
producer/director/writer so you would have the
utmost control over the project as you saw it?
Kenneth: Yes, that was the
reason I the reason I hadnt made a movie
for so long. Its one thing if they
dont listen to you and the movie
doesnt turn out the way you wanted it to.
Its another thing when they
dont and the movie virtually goes unseen.
The reason I had to finance it myself is I
didnt have enough of a track
record after all those years to get outside
funding. So, this was truly a case of me
putting my money where my mouth was.
Its the first feature produced by my
own company, written and directed by me... with
no one else telling me what to do. From the
critical response and the DVD deal I got, it
looks like its going to pay off. I
already have people interested in financing my
Owen: Did your Catholic
background make writing and filming this extra
Kenneth: Yes, it did. Some
people will no doubt misunderstand and think I
have an axe to grind against the Church.
Though I dont practice any religion
these days (unless you count hedonism), I have
mostly fond memories of going to Catholic school.
All the ritualism was very theatrical.
I certainly dont condone all the
priest molestation I read about but that has
nothing to do with my personal experience.
I just believe that nothing is sacred when
it comes to satire.
Owen: Is Mary Woronov as
formidable a presence off screen as she is before
Kenneth: Mary does come off as
intimidating to people meeting her for the first
but we hit it off right away. She is very
wary of people as a whole but when she gets to
know you, she is a hell of a lot of fun. I
just went out for sushi with her last week!
Shes extremely intelligent and has a
good grasp on her status as a cult icon.
Shes also a true professional.
I could not have asked for a better star
for my film. What a pleasure to work with!
Owen: What inspired you to form
your own production company BV Entertainment?
And what sort of goals and direction do you
hope to see the company take?
Kenneth: Apart from the reasons
I mentioned before, I have never been happy with
the quality of the B movies that have been made
in the 25 years Ive been in Hollywood.
There has been nothing like HUMANOIDS
FROM THE DEEP, (the original) PIRANHA,
or ROCK NROLL HIGH SCHOOL.
There certainly isnt anything like
the old AIP or Hammer films that I grew up with!
The down side of digital video enabling
films to be made cheaper for the direct-to-DVD
market is the quality is getting even worse.
I hope the care I put into THE
HALFWAY HOUSE and all the future films I
intend to make will be recognized by the fans and
make a difference. The new label Ive
created The Fright Film Factory will
hopefully become a brand name in the genre that
viewers will seek out.
Owen: Tell me about your
directing debut with 'Evil Spawn'.
Kenneth: God, Ive probably
said more about that over the years than I
probably should have. I was brought in by
Fred Olen Ray to finish a movie he had shot one
day on. There was no script so I had to
write one around a handful of scenes and some
existing John Carradine footage he had. It
had some horrible technical problems that were
largely due to poor producing but with the
limited resources I had, I still managed to cram
in a lot of effects and nudity. I am always
surprised how many people regard that film
Owen: Was 'Nightmare
Sisters' as much fun to make as it
Kenneth: That was a lot of fun.
I had been friends with Dave DeCoteau for
some time but it was the first picture we did
together. His original idea was called SORORITY
SUCCUBUS SISTERS and it was to star
Brinke, Linnea, and Michelle (who hed
worked with before) as girls who get possessed by
demons and go around orally castrating guys!
I always thought oral castration was a real
knee-slapper so I wrote the script in 7 days.
It was pre-produced in 11 and shot in 4!
I came up with the idea of having the girls
start out as nerds. As associate producer,
I wore many hats and one of them was coming up
with a way to make these three sexy scream queens
look unattractive. I also built and
puppeteered the succubus. I did the voice
and Linnea played its hands. I knew Dukey
Flyswatter had a prop replica of his own head,
which he used in his band, the Haunted Garage.
So, I conveniently wrote in his
decapitation and David later had them record a
number of songs for the film.
Owen: You were rather closely
associated with Charles Band and Full Moon
Pictures for a bit. How did that
professional union come about?
Kenneth: I got involved with
them when they were still Empire Pictures.
My first meeting with Charlie was as a
writer on a fix-up for CEMETERY HIGH.
Dave DeCoteau had hired me to do the script
for DR. ALIEN (aka I WAS
A TEENAGE SEX MUTANT), which went over
big with their head of development and this was
my next assignment. My problem was coming
up with something to make a film that had no sex
or violence in it work. My solution was to
add a gimmick and pitched the idea of the
Gore Gong and the Hooter
Honk as a humorous warning against the
shocking content that didnt really exist.
(I borrowed the idea from CHAMBER
OF HORRORS, an old movie that featured a
Fear Flasher and
Charlie loved the concept and the meeting
was over within minutes.
Owen: Where did you get the idea
for your original script of 'Puppet
Kenneth: The title was
Charlies but it was supposed to be a rehash
of GHOULIES and DOLLS.
I came up with the origin and tried to make
it something more original. A lot of my
script got toned down and other things were cut
for budgetary reasons, including a couple of the
puppets. Six-Shooter and Cyclops were in my
first draft but didnt turn up until the
Owen: I really enjoyed 'The
Clown at Midnight' as well. A very
satisfying film. Were you happy with the
finished product? If you could have done
something differently what would it have been?
Kenneth: I thought the picture
looked very good. It had a wonderful cast
and great production values. If I could
change anything, I would have directed it myself
and made it scary. I was originally
supposed to but it was financed as a Canadian
content picture, which precluded me from doing
it. The rest of the crew was great but the
director had no experience making a horror film,
which shows. I also would not have sold the
picture to Artisan, who dumped it out on VHS only
with no fanfare and never sold it to cable.
No wonder they got bought out by
Owen: You have also done make-up
effects on several films and been responsible for
several film creatures. How did you go
about making the creature for 'Carnosaur'?
Kenneth: Ive done creature
effects on dozens of movies and TV shows.
Thats how I got started in Hollywood
and I opened my own company, Total Fabrication,
in 1995 when I took time off from being a
filmmaker. I had been the shop supervisor
at John Buechlers effects shop in the past
and was asked back to help them on some dinosaur
suits for that movie. I have a technique of
fabricating dimensional objects by cutting and
gluing pieces of flat sheet foam. Its
not something I originated. It was used by
the Kroffts and the Muppets to make cartoony
characters and the Japanese on the early Godzilla
movies. Not many people know how to do it
and it usually isnt used to make realistic
creatures. Once I was there, John confided
in me he had promised Roger Corman he would make
a 16-foot T-Rex. Sculpting and
molding something that large on the tight budget
and schedule was out of the question so he asked
me if it was possible to fabricate it. I
knew it was theoretically possible but I had
never made anything that big! I managed to
pull it off in about 6 weeks with the help off a
talented mechanical engineer named John Crawford.
Corman beamed when he first laid eyes on it
and personally thanked me for the good work.
Hes used that dinosaur now in 4 or 5
films! I have since used refinements of the
same process to make other large creatures,
including the octopus prop from Tim Burtons ED WOOD, the giant crocodile
from BLOOD SURF, and, recently,
Yog Sothoth, the tentacles Lovecraftian monster
from THE HALFWAY HOUSE.
Owen: Tell me about your
upcoming project 'Preggers'.
Kenneth: Its going to be a
horror film that really delivers! At least,
I hope it will be. Actually, I wont be
doing that one until next year sometime.
The reason is my writing partner on it has
been busy with other things, which have delayed
the script. I just completed the first
draft for a new project. Im not
saying what the title is yet but I can tell you
its a sci-fi/action/horror. I hope to
get it into production this fall.
Owen: What's something that
makes you scream in real life?
Kenneth: LA drivers! For
real! If youve ever driven here, you
know I speak the truth. Thats really an
interesting question since I dont think
many people ever find themselves in real-life
situations that frighten them enough to make them
scream. Even things like thrill rides and
spook houses dont qualify because there
isnt any real danger there. Which is
okay by me. There is a lot of real danger
out there in the world but I prefer my scares to
be safe ones, like the kind you get in a good