Mel House: Straight Shooting with Texas' New Horror Making Law Man! by Brian Kirst

Dudes, if you're like me, when you're done reading below, you'll just want movie making, music playing Mel House to be your friend! The talented, honest House just seems like a great guy! After winning the 2001 Grand Jury Prize at the Bare Bones Film Festival for writing and directing 'Fade to Black' , House went on to helm the notorious, well received 'Witchcraft 13'. Most recently, House has directed the tentacle-creepy 'Closet Space' , a film that he is justifiably proud of. While gearing up for 'Closet Space's' festival appearances, the busy House also has plenty of other projects in his pipeline. Check them out at and in the great interview that follows.

  Brian: Were you the kid melting down masking tape and Elmer's Glue to make film stock for backyard opuses or did you get involved in film making later on in life?

Mel: A little of both, actually. I did a bunch of crazy stuff as a kid in the name of pyrotechnical research (if you get my drift), and then in middle school I started screwing around with video cameras. At a certain point... I think it was around 6th supersub grade or so... I started turning in video projects in lieu of writing papers whenever I could. Fortunately, most of my teachers let me get away with that. I kept making movies throughout high school, but when I started college, I actually was in the Aerospace Engineering program, with a minor in film. I guess I was trying to reconcile the two halves of my personality or something. After about a year, I realized that while model rocketry was really cool and romantic as a kid in the backyard, the actual vocation had lost its luster. I pretty much realized that I should have been a film major all along, and switched my coursework accordingly. There were a few detours along the way, but here I am, making movies, so I guess I made the right choice.

Brian: Stephen King seems to be a big inspiration to you. Are there any more obscure horror writers that "slice yer veins" that you think Rack and Razors readers should be turned onto?

Mel: Besides King, I'm a really big fan of Clive Barker, Bentley Little, Joe Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, and Skipp and Spector's splatter punk stuff. Actually, a lot of the really good genre fiction I've been reading lately has been in the form of comic books. I'm a huge comic dork, and there's been a pretty massive resurgence in horror comics over the last couple years. I love '30 Days of Night', 'The Walking Dead', the Joe Lansdale stuff that Avatar did, and 'Criminal Macabre'. I also dig most of Warren Ellis' work. Even though a lot of his stuff isn't horror per se, it still has this weird Lovecraftian tone to it... like when the Authority fought the weird God mass made of spear tentacles. That was pretty fucking sweet.

Brian: Yeah. Speaking of writing, you wrote your first feature 'Fade to Black'. Are you planning on scripting further productions?

Mel: I actually did a lot of "behind the scenes" scripting on 'Closet Space', and I'm looking to take a more active scriptwriting role on 'Closet Space 2' and '3' . This is not meant to take away from Jason's work at all because he's a great writer... I just like to mark everything I do with my scent, if you know what I mean. There are still a lot of demons that I have to exorcize, and one of the best ways that I find to do that is to put characters through the same kind of strange personal bullshit that I've been experiencing for 30 years.

Brian: 'Fade to Black' won the 2001 Grand Jury Prize at the Bare Bones Film Festival. Did that award generate work for you - or was it just validation for a job well done and a bio dresser upper (Which is all great in my book, too!)?

Mel: It didn't really generate much work, but it led to a short-lived working relationship with the guys that produced 'Witchcraft 13'. They had a movie showing at the same fest, and we became friends for a while. It's cool to say or type "award winning director Mel House" , though. I use that whenever I can.

Brian: 'Witchcraft 13' is supposed to be one of the best entries in the series. Did you go into the project with specific goals?

Mel: I watched the entire series beforehand, and my goal was pretty much to not do anything that those guys did. There's a reason that the 'Witchcraft' series is basically a punch line now. I just tried to take it seriously and not insult the audience too much, but still deliver the drama and boobs, etc. that you come to expect from those movies. I kind of adopted 'Jason Goes To Hell' as my approach template. People get up in arms over that one, but I think it's the best Friday sequel, mainly because they tried to make a "real" movie out of it.

Brian: Since "R n R" bows at the feet of the genre film actress - what was it like to work with Zoe Hunter in 'W 13'? (I just saw her in a pre-release version of Happy Cloud's 'Abattoir' and even with her small role in that, I gotta say, she stole the show!)

Mel: Zoe was awesome. She was easily the most talented actress on the set, in addition to being a pretty cool individual. It's always a roll of the dice when you cast someone from across the country that you've never met face-to-face, but fortunately, Zoe ended up being great to work with. I'm hoping to work with her again at some point in the future on something.

Brian: On the Upstart website there is a great feature "Texas Horror" documenting all the great genre work going on in Texas. Are you planning to continue to make Texas your home base - keeping the blood and gruesome chills pumping in the South?

Mel: Yeah, I don't really intend on going anywhere unless someone gives me a load of cash or something. It's cheap to do stuff here, any location you can think of is a few hours' drive away, and people still get stars in their eyes when you tell them that you are shooting a movie. Which brings me back to point number one - when people get swept up in the romance of the thing, they tend to let you have stuff for free, or really cheaply.

This summer and fall it's looking like we'll be producing 3 or 4 horror movies in the Houston area, so the streets will run red with blood... providing they aren't flooded or under construction. Houston people will get that one.

Brian: You play in a hard rock band - which is so cool it gives me happy feet (whatever the hell that means)! As a balls to the wall guy, though, do you have any secret musical loves - Shirley Jones on the 'Carousel' soundtrack or Depeche Mode re-mixes?

Mel: I'm a sucker for loud rock and tons of distortion, but yeah, I like Depeche Mode, The Cure, Queen, lots of old country and insurgent country (or roots rock, or whatever the hell they call the No Depression-type music these days)... stuff like Wilco, Old 97's, Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo... that kind of thing. And I really love the Go-Go's and the Bangles. But honestly, I keep none of that secret. I like what I like, and if someone disagrees or thinks my taste is questionable, they can suck it.

Brian: How did you get involved directing 'Closet Space'? Also - any totally wild, must tell stories about the making of the film?

Mel: I had an eye towards making 'Closet Space' for a while - my friend Jason had written this script that was supposed to be produced, but nothing ever happened, so it was just sitting there. It was only on my periphery then, kind of at the back of my mind. Then 'Witchcraft' came along, and ended up being a total mess and nightmarish experience, and as soon as I got myself out of that morass, I knew that I wanted to do something more "personal" , for lack of a better term. What I mean by that is that I'm a hardcore horror guy. I like blood and guts and monsters and disturbing shit. My favorite movies are 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' and 'From Beyond', not fucking 'The Craft' or whatever. As a genre device, I actually hate witches with a passion (along with vampires). Anyway, I took another look at 'Closet Space', did my directorial pass on it, we added some more Lovecraft-y horror stuff, some friends of mine helped me raise the dough to do it, and we were off to the races.

We actually had a pretty uneventful shoot with 'Closet Space'. Things of course got rough, as they always tend to do on independent movie sets, but by and large everything went pretty well, considering that we shot a large part of the movie out in the middle of nowhere with a pretty large group of people all co-habitating. Then our FX guys showed up from Florida, not knowing any of us prior to this, so I was kind of waiting to see the dynamic develop on that front as well. Fortunately, they were all great guys, and really good at what they do. I think I only caught them with hookers and blow once or twice on set.

Brian: Well, I hope they shared! Lastly, probably a question that you tire of - are there any release dates set for 'Witchcraft 13' and 'Closet Space' - we're all gnawing on our neighbor's cats to see them!!! Oh, and if you want - any future plans or tips (IE: How to survive suicidal blind dates or invasions of John Tesh loving zombies) that you'd like to leave us with? And Thanks!!!

Mel: There's no release date for 'Witchcraft 13' that I know of.... the movie is done and in the producer's hands (and it has been for several months now), so it's up to them. To tell the truth, I honestly wouldn't care if it never saw the light of day. That sounds harsh, but like I said, it was a really shitty experience dealing with lots of really shitty people. I felt like I had been through the fucking Battle of Normandy when I finished that movie. But... with all that said the fact that the few folks that HAVE seen it really like it, especially fans of the series, does make it all a little more worthwhile. Maybe it can get me a gig revitalizing stillborn franchises. Leprechaun, here I come.

'Closet Space' should be screening this summer sometime... I just completed a cut and submitted it to FantAsia, so cross your fingers and hope that it gets in there. I could literally die happy after that. FantAsia is Sundance for me. We've had interest from a few distributors, so I'm sure the movie will get out there one way or another. Keep checking the site for info - the next few months should be pretty exciting for us.

As far as tips go... don't fall asleep, don't wander on the moors, don't buy cheap real estate, and don't bury stuff in sour ground. Oh, and don't direct a 'Witchcraft' movie.