Obviously, you’re a big H.P. Lovecraft fan, why The Whisperer In Darkness?
MH: I felt it was perfect for a very low budget movie. Most of Lovecraft’s other stuff is pretty grandiose. It all seems to happen on a very cosmic scale. There are a few other stories that manage to unfold in smaller spaces, but I really felt that whisperer had all the elements. It had very few characters, few locations, and not really a lot as far as props or special effects go. When I adapted the story, of course I kept all that in mind and made it even smaller, hopefully without removing any of the elements that make it such a great story.
What was your biggest challenge in doing a Lovecraft movie?
MH: The biggest challenge was trying to make a period piece for $700. As I was writing the script I just kept asking myself, “where are we going to find this stuff?” but we were very lucky and everything just fell into place, as far as the props go. I was always on the look out for any anachronistic thing in the background that didn’t belong there. I feel we really pulled it off. There aren’t too many red flags that scream 21st century in the movie. I’ll let you in on a secret though…somewhere in the movie you can see an aluminum soda can in the frame. Its in one of the huge scenes and is on screen for a long time but no one really seems to notice. See if you can find it J
With a budget of only $700, did you ever consider shutting things down and trying to raise more money?
MH: Well, I know this will sound hokey, but it was never really an issue. We knew how much we had and how much we didn’t have and just worked within those limits. Mike and I are really industrious guys and were able to make pretty much all the props, so that wasn’t an issue as far as costs go. We were able to buy the costumes on the cheap at local thrift stores. The only real big output of money was feeding everybody and video tape. I owned all the equipment so that was free also.
How important was period authenticity to you? Did you ever think of re-writing the story a bit to update the settings?
MH: We tried hard to keep it pretty close to period. We never really say the exact year, but I feel it really comes across that its “old” J. I never really thought about rewriting it to modernize it. To me it really seems contrary to the Lovecraft story. A big part of what made his work lies in the isolation that the twenties offered. I mean, that is the time the story was created in, that is the period it exists in so why not try and represent it as closely as possible?
What’s next, another Lovecraft movie, or something else?
MH: We are going to do something a bit more visceral this time out. Not a splatter movie or anything, but something with some bite to it. I would definitely like to do more Lovecraft stuff though…maybe when we get a budget with three zeros instead of two J
You’ve done special effects for a few movies, why did you decide to move to directing?
I really love doing special effects but I love all aspects of movie making and the only way you can really do it all is to direct your own movie. I enjoy the entire process from writing it to designing the DVD menus. I was able to do nearly everything on this picture. I wrote it, directed it, shot it, cut it, did the FX for it, the sound mix, acted in it, and even designed the DVD menus and packaging. That’s one of the real joys of working with such a small production, there is no way you could do all that on a 10 million dollar picture.
Tell us more about Dr. Z’s Radiation Theatre!
MH: I see you’ve done your homework Brian! I used to work at a local TV station. I was doing camera work and cutting commercials and stuff like that. I pitched the idea to the boss about doing a horror host type show where I would be a mad doctor showing bad movies and he loved it. I set up a green screen in my living room and shot the elements for the show right there. I was Dr. Z and showed all the old B&W public domain stuff. As a kid, I was really influenced by all the horror hosts and felt that really honored to be able to have my own show. I was doing some public appearances at Halloween and actually be came a decent local celeb. I only did one season though. It just was impossible to keep the show going. I was finishing up my BA in English at the time. I had to make a choice and Dr. Z lost. Maybe someday, he’ll make a comeback.
With special effects, doing music for some projects and now directing, which do you prefer? Why?
MH: I guess the short answer is directing because it allows me to do all of the above. I get bored very quickly and need to always be doing something new. Just about the time I’m bored writing a project, its time to start directing. When I get bored with that, its time to edit the footage, so it really keeps things fresh.
What was the hardest part about The Whisperer In Darkness?
MH: For the most part it was a really great shoot. If I had to choose a ‘bad’ thing, I would have to say that it was a combination of the budget and doing a period piece. It really was the best experience I have ever had on a movie set. Everything did go really smoothly. I was working very closely with people I know and trust who gave 110% every minute of every day to make the project a reality. I couldn’t ask for anything better than that.
What would you tell someone who’s just told you that they want to make a movie?
MH: The best advice I could give is make what you want, how you want to. I know that is pretty generic but that’s the way to do it. All you really need is a vision and the determination and ingenuity to make that vision a reality.
Thanks for taking the time.
MH – Thank you.
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You can check out The Whisperer In Darkness for yourself by heading over to Grave Hill.com to find out more, it’s one of the best indie movies I’ve seen in quite a while and it’s one of the few that pull of a ‘period’ movie at all, let alone with the very limited budget that Matt had. We here at Rogue Cinema can’t wait to see what the Grave Hill guys turn out next and wish them all the best. I know it’s not much, but it’s got the tag in there that he’ll want to have in the interview.