LouisvilleHalloween.com - Louisville's Home for Halloween talks to Director, Doug Robertson about his locally produced Halloween Cult Hit, HauntedWeen! HAUNTEDWEEN (1991) 20th Anniversary DVD Released!
The Legendary 80’s Slasher Film Shot in Bowling Green Finally Sees a Proper Digital Release and We Talk to Director, Doug Robertson, About His Locally Produced Halloween Cult Hit!
In the late 1980’s, the decade of the slasher film boom, a group of ambitious Western Kentucky University students and faculty took on the herculean task of producing a feature horror film on and around the WKU campus and other locations in Bowling Green. Shot on 16mm film and transferred directly to video, “HauntedWeen” has become something of cult myth in the Kentuckiana region. More people know about it than have actually seen it.
Finally, its time as a “lost film” is over, as there is now a digitally remastered 20th anniversary DVD available that includes a 45 minute documentary, “The Making of HauntedWeen.” The DVD also includes a commentary track with director, Doug Robertson, and producer, Cory Lash, as well as a photo album, movie trailer and official music video.
The story follows a group of fraternity students who decide to operate a fundraiser haunted attraction at the infamous Burber House where twenty years prior another house of horrors closed when little Eddie Burber, not understanding the difference between theatrical horror and actual murder, killed a little girl inside his family’s Halloween haunted house. What these college kids don’t know is that Eddie Burber is still alive and ready to continue his bloody work inside the new Burber haunted house.
You can order a copy of the DVD at www.hauntedween.com. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Doug Robertson about making his horror opus at John Carpenter’s alma mater at WKU. Without further ado, I give you the director of “HauntedWeen.”
The Phantom of the Ville: Good Evening, Doug. Take us back to the late 1980’s at Western Kentucky University. How did the idea for making a slasher film in Bowling Green come about?
Doug Robertson: I was faced with the opportunity to make my own movie. After taking a course in Los Angeles called LOW BUDGET FILMMAKING, I decided to make a horror comedy with very few locations and camera set ups. I had about three weeks worth of free help. So I had to maximize my effort to get the best bang for my buck. HauntedWeen was my sixth screenplay. I had written five others hoping someone would buy them. They were higher budget movies. I wrote HauntedWeen with the intent of making it myself. The idea came to me while taking a shower. I thought wouldn’t it be wild if we saw real people getting killed in a haunted house and patrons of the haunted house thought it was fake. So I took that idea and built the script. The college fraternity was the easy part of the script. Once you know how a movie ends, it’s a lot easier to write the beginning and the middle.
TPOTV: One of the greatest horror directors of all time, John (“Halloween“) Carpenter, is from Bowling Green and also attended WKU. I imagine his legacy cast a long shadow over any production by students from WKU, let alone a horror film. Did his career have much influence on you?
DR: There is no doubt John Carpenter influenced a lot of young movie makers. But honestly, I was never into the horror genre. I’m not a big fan of horror. Mostly horror movies scare the crap out of me. With computer generated special effects these days, the possibilities are almost limitless. I simply wanted to make a movie that I could put in a box and sell it in Hollywood. The genre didn’t really drive me. Making a movie that was feature length was my primary motivation. I could have made a love story or a drama with the same talented group of people that helped me make HauntedWeen. John Carpenter and I both shared the same creative writing teacher however. Mary Ellen Miller was also my instructor. She told us that John wrote THE FOG as one of his projects in writing classes.
TPOTV: “HauntedWeen” has been a notoriously hard film to find over the years. I’m so glad to see it get a 20th Anniversary Edition release on DVD. Why has the film been so hard to see over the last 20 years?
DR: I was offered three distribution deals in Hollywood. None of them were money up front. They were all back end deals. That meant only one thing. I would never see a dime. So I decided to distribute the movie myself. I set up a booth in Las Vegas during the VSDA (Video Software Dealers Association) conference in 1991. I charged $24.95 for one copy and sold almost 2000 copies nationwide. I sold almost 300 in Bowling Green alone. After expenses, I made a little money back. HauntedWeen is a small movie. The entire budget was around $60,000 in cash and another $100,000 in deferred compensation. That meant, if the movie ever made money, then I would pay people based on a predetermined deferment schedule. I was last on the schedule. So I never made any money and sadly, I lost thousands making the movie. But as I look back at the experience and what making that movie has meant to me and a lot of other people along the way. I would have made it again and again. It was the most incredible experience of my life. And even though it was a colossal flop financially, I think it helped a lot of people to get their foot in the door of the industry. And it gave me confidence to understand life better and realize, I can do anything I want if I just try.
TPOTV: Although I believe the film was released in 1991, it absolutely has an 80’s horror vibe to it. The horror explosion from the 1980’s, from “Friday the 13th” to “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to the “Halloween” franchise, is seeing a major resurgence in popularity on DVD and at horror conventions everywhere. Why do you think that is?
DR: That is an easy answer. All movie genres cycle. You will see three years of action movies, then comedies are big, then drama, then horror. I learned that a long time ago. Sometimes the cycle lasts longer than others, but there is definitely a cycle. I had some producer friends in LA explain that to me over dinner one night. It’s true, just look backward. It’s very track-able.
TPOTHV: The killer in “HauntedWeen” wears a number of different creepy rubber monster masks during the movie. I recognized one of them as a Topstone Nate zombie from “Creepshow” in the “baseball bat scene.” Where did the masks come from and who picked the ones to use on screen?
DR: I believe that a group of people work well together if you give autonomy to those that know their business. We picked up a very motivated special effects SFX guy from Evansville, IN. Dave Snyder. He read about my movie in a newspaper and contacted us. We interviewed him to take on the challenge of Special Effects Director. I allowed him to make those decisions. He picked out the masks, he made the molds, he squirted the blood. When it came time for a SFX shot, we worked closely together but I relied on him to be the expert and tell me what was possible. Then we designed a shooting sequence around his expertise. I was very impressed with him and his energy. I think today, he has made a living in the SFX business in the movie industry. For him, it all started with HauntedWeen.
TPOTV: You had a great theatrical poster using the “creepy old man” mask. Do you remember who did the poster?
DR: I had a box designed by a friend of a friend in Atlanta. I over paid for my video boxes and the box art. It was the worst deal I have ever made. I don’t remember her name. But I liked the outcome. I thought the box art was very cool and creepy.
TPOTV: Your movie might have been the first movie ever to present the idea that actual murders are taking place inside a haunted attraction and patrons don’t know that much of the blood and dismemberment are actually real. Where did that idea come from?
DR: That was the hook. Killing people in a haunted house had never been done to my knowledge. It’s hard to create something novel. These days, almost everything has been done before. I got lucky that the idea came to me and I was able to tell that story. But mostly, without the help of friends from Bowling Green and students and graduates that I knew from WKU, HauntedWeen would have never gotten off the ground. I owe Cory Lash all the credit for putting such a great crew together. He and I worked well as a team. I admire and respect his talent and ability to keep it all together under the pressure that we endured each 18 hour day for 23 days of shooting.
TPOTV: In the 45 minute behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD, everyone seems to be looking forward to the next film project after “HauntedWeen,” which apparently never happened. Why not?
DR: I decided after making HauntedWeen that I didn’t want to be a filmmaker. I also couldn’t afford to make another movie. It took me 10 years to pay off HauntedWeen. I moved back to Kentucky after the distribution. I got into medical sales and that’s what I do today. It’s been a good career for me. I still love movies and I go and see 3-4 movies per month at the theater. I have enjoyed the re-release of the DVD. Making a movie is a magical time. All of our collective energy goes into each shot of every scene. Friends are made and hearts are broken. Emotions run high and egos abound. But it’s such a thrill to create something that will last. I get emails all the time from fans that tell me how HauntedWeen fit into their life. I am truly thankful that my movie impressed a few, distressed some, and drove others to go onto to bigger and better things in the entertainment field. I cannot think of a more fun project. It was hard to make my movie. Passion was my motivator.
Article source: LouisvilleHalloween.com - Louisvilles's Home for Halloween