Phil Herman loves making independent horror movies which is a good thing since he's been doing it for over fifteen years. He is the mastermind behind 'Jacker' and 'Jacker 2' about a ruthless, uncaring, and psychotic car jacker. Phil even starred in the films as Mike Rivers. He is the also the driving force behind several anthology films including the three 'Midnight' films as well as 'Tales Till The End'. Now Phil has closed the chapter on the chapter films and is back with a new horror feature, 'Into the Woods'. He took a few minutes to chat for a bit about the film and his life.


  Phil, how are you doing? The last time I talked to you for this site was a couple years ago?

I am doing well. I was trying to get distribution deals for my 'Midnight' trilogy but ended up just getting low end distributors and self. In my searches though everyone kept saying to me when are you making a feature again? Stop making anthologies. You're showcasing other peoples work and only acting as producer. We want to see your work again! So I disappeared from the scene for a year and went to work to satisfy my fans!

When did you first realize that you wanted to make your own horror movies?

It goes back to my teens. I loved horror movies and always wrote horror scripts. I dreamed of someday making movies like I saw on the late shows. That one Christmas I got my wish. I was given for a Christmas gift a video camera. It was one of the old bulky ones with the camera and a portable video deck that hooked up to it. Must have weighed about 50 pounds together. All I asked for was a simple 8mm camera and got this. This was back in the early 80's when video was just making it to the home market and I had no idea what this was. But within a week I was going up and down the neighborhood killing people and making movies. The best thing was this video thing you can watch as soon as you shoot. No waiting to get film developed. Wow! Plus my deck had a sound on sound feature were I can add sound FX and music.
I was in heaven and doing what I wanted to do.... Make movies!

So tell me a little about your new movie 'Into The Woods'. Give me a teaser that is going to make it irresistible to all the readers.

'Into the Woods' is about a woman who thought she found true love in the man she loves. Danielle is stuck in a dead end relationship with a married man. It takes a turn for the worse when he leaves her and then comes back and brutality rapes her. She is an avid runner and has always run away from her fears and lack of a happy successful life. Her life, which has turned upside down, has just got worse. She mysteriously turns up in a place unfamiliar to her, on a lonely stretch of beach near an equally desolate unrecognizable forest. Stripped of everything she wakes drugged... and lost in the woods. With a few clues and constant torments. She runs from an unseen character that little by little reveals his intention and who he is. When she returns to reality, an explosive climax ties up all loose ends and conflicts.

Sounds intense. So how did the idea for the movie come about?

After the reaction to the Midnight movies not being a real Phil Herman movie I got to thinking what can I do, to get back into my fans hearts? I said the obvious do a feature! I got very comfortable doing the anthologies and was able to pop them out quickly. But it was a cop out on my part. Due to a heavy workload and family life it was difficult to make movies like I used to. So by making these anthologies all I did was have them assembled and tie a storyline to hold them together. I have spent the last 5 years doing this and looked and said these are not me I am pretty much just a producer here and not the filmmaker I want to be. So after the last anthology I said no more!

You are making 'Into the Woods' after doing a series of horror anthology films. What is the toughest thing about changing gears and doing a single narrative film?

Actually wearing all the hats again was tough. But I felt great. I had the usual problems with weather, casting and problems with the script. I did not know were I wanted to go with the script at first. Was I making a slasher movie, a love story, or a suspense movie? I said hey why not a little of each. Plus now it was all up to me no outside help. It was great though getting behind the camera again and calling the shots. I felt good. I got the old crew back and a few of the actors/actresses that I have counted on through the years and made a damn good movie. It is funny when you need old friends in this level of filming there always there for you. Chris Kahler edited and Joel Wynkoop, Ryan Cavalline and my buddy Joe Sherlock helped with the production and music! It was sad though I had asked a few old cast members who I had helped get started and they felt they needed a big paycheck to be involved so they had to be passed over. Sad I really like helping people and getting people exposure but some people think money is more important than the art of making movies. But to those I mentioned... Thanks couldn\rquote t have done this without you.

You were Mike Rivers in the 'Jacker' movies and have also had roles in the Midnight series of films. Are you in 'Into the Woods' as well?

I play Charlie the man the lead character gets involved in and turns her world upside down. It was great acting and from clips sent out for critique my performance has been well received. I had a chance once to play a character with depth. Also I was lucky to play with leading lady Nancy Feliciano, yes it was a pleasure. She is a fine very talented actress who for once got to play a lead and not just cameo or host. And yes she really filled the bill and did a great job with the part. It was demanding and very difficult and I feel she was the only one able to do it.

So what do you enjoy most - acting, directing, writing, pr producing...or something else?

Wow that is tough. I never really thought about it. I love writing, directing and acting which I always do in all the movies. I started out just directing and writing and I remember when I was casting for 'Jacker' no one was doing the part they way I liked it. I kept showing them how and one of the actors said why you don't do it. I had done previous roles but just took off with it and said hey I like this. I made the Jacker character a very popular underground character which I am still recognized with and it is the most popular character in all my movies and is what set us aside and forward from the rest. So to answer you question I guess I would say one of each if that makes sense.

You've also done several other independent horror features as I've mentioned, like the Midnight trilogy as well as 'Jacker'. What are the most important things you have learned about the independent horror movie business from your experience behind the camera that you would like to pass on to any newbie's out there?

Do want you want not what others want. You have to be original and daring. Do it if you feel wow that is too daring do it. You will stand out and people will pick up on that. They won't say wow he is too timid to go to the next level. You want people to get your movies because they say wow what will come out of these guys next. Always do something different and don't keep making the same thing over and over. Don't copy anybody and try to stay original and stand out. Push the envelope and see how far you can go with your actors. And no matter what keep creating no matter what and keep putting stuff out there to keep your fans watching!

Do you have any other upcoming projects you would like to let our readers know about?

I am waiting to see the response from this. It is getting harder and harder to get these movies produced and need to reach the next level of a company financing these. I love who I am working with but need to get more exposure and more of a payout. These movies take a lot out of you to be made. I am shopping around 2 scripts now called Shellville and The Usher and on the burner 'Jacker 3'. Into the Woods has generated a lot of interest and distribution possibilities so I am hoping to get some type of distribution deal.

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

I have to say the original 'Halloween'. I remember I was 12 and it scared the shit out of me. The music and the theatre I saw it at was a run down creepy theatre. After I saw it I said you know what that is what I want to do. I want to make movies and scare people. It was the best feeling I had to be scared, no terrified. I remember having nightmares for weeks, but also saying I want to do that. What a great way to make a living having fun running around killing people and I am in control of every move and word. Control freak? No way anybody has worked with me will always tell you good stuff. I don't demand I always ask the actors/actress what ya think about the part. Would you feel comfortable doing that or would you rather do it like this. I seem to get more than I really wanted by being nice with my people.

What do you love about the horror genre?

One word Escape! When you make movies and write you're in control of whatever situation you want. We live in a very disturbing world that is falling apart from the seams. Making movies has people go into another world for 90 minutes and forget what is really happening. Yes horror is about killing but it is all fantasy. What better way to escape from real life situations that to be chased by a killer with a knife. You know it is fake but terrified. You have beautiful girls scantily clad screaming. You know they get killed in the movie but you also know they call cut and there okay. Unlike the real world and what were watching on TV. Like I said it is scary what is going on with War, the presidential stuff, stock plunges - it doesn't matter you will be in fantasy world for at least 90 minutes. The Indies are the way to go and support over the big studio movies. You won't see what you see in these movies that you see in 100,000,000 movies. Enough said before I start preaching!

You know they have that series 'I Was a Teenage Werewolf', 'I Was a Teenage Frankenstein', what sort of teenage monster were you?

I was a teenage lunatic. I just wanted to find different ways to kill my neighbors. I remember when I got my first camera for Christmas I was out there in the freezing cold recruiting neighbors to be killed all different ways. Some people were worried about my talents for macabre ways of killing them off, but thank god my parents were behind me all the way. My mom even cameos in a few of my features. She gets a kick out of the movies. Because she knows there all in good fun and no one is really getting hurt. I have a wife and kids and a real job and just do this to show my artistic side. No therapy here or real killing tendencies but just pure fun and fantasy! I love what I do and love making movies and as long as people keep buying and requesting another one I will keep on going!

Okay, we're pulling the car into The Phil Herman Drive In. What three horror flicks are going to be playing on the triple bill tonight and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

The triple Bill will be as follows: Ryan Cavalline 'House Of Carnage' Tim Ritter and Joel D. Wynkoops 'Creep' Phil Herman 'Burglar From Hell'

At the concession stand sorry nothing crazy or different. Just tons of hot Buttery popcorn my lil buddies (Barry Gaines) favorite!

What's the best Halloween costume you ever had?

Oh my god need we ask! Short and sweet! I got a butcher knife blue coveralls from Sears and the good old trusty Michael Myers mask!

What makes you scream in real life?

Either reading the daily paper or putting on the news. We as filmmakers can't make anything as horrible as what is happening in our world! We need to do the right thing with this being an election year and vote for change. And to be honest I think were in for some scary times for the next few years. No horror movie can really describe or show the real horror were up against. So with that said I will keep creating movies to help us escape into a world were we have to watch other peoples problems laid out in front of us in 90 minutes and say....Wow glad that is not me! Thanks for this interview and supporting my film. Look forward to do this again with my next movie!

It's a deal Phil.