Harrison Smith Talks horror, Death House, & Virtual Reality
Director Harrison Smith has the internet buzzing about his upcoming film Death House. The movie stars almost every horror icon imaginable. The film is written by Harrison Smith and the late Gunnar Hansen. Tony Todd, Sid Haig, Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley, Tony Moran, and Kane Hodder are just a few of the horror legends in the film. If you hadn’t seen the Death House Red Band Trailer, check it out below:
Recall Studios has just announced the release of Harrison Smith’s Virtual Reality experience 360 Degrees of Hell with Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street). In this exclusive interview, Harrison Smith sets down with Horrornchill.com to talk horror, Death House, Virtual Reality, and more.
Taking a look at the movies that are being released in the horror genre and the reactions from the fans you encounter. What do you think of the current state of horror and where does the genre need to go?
Harrison Smith: I think this is more of a fan question, better yet an audience question. The word “fan” implies mental instability re: fanatic. The state of horror is dependent upon the audience that views it. If you have low expectations, you get what you ask for. I think that is the case here and can be applied across the board to music and even politics. If we expect more, if we demand more, I think you’ll see the quality of anything go up.
So, horror is in a weird state because of this. It’s this formulaic model and the line between “so bad it’s good” and just plain “bad” has been blurred because many just don’t know the difference any more. Add to it the social crusaders who have a censorship agenda disguised as making things “non offensive.”
While there is nothing wrong with “PG-13” horror, it should not be censored under the guise of making it non offensive. Bill Moseley back me up on this when he related to a panel that “Texas Chainsaw MASSACRE 3D” was shortened in its title because distributors feared the word “massacre” would be too frightening.
This is censorship and pandering to the groups who promote it. Political Correctness is just another form of censorship to condition minds into submission. Buzz words like “awkward” “inappropriate” are so over used they have no real meaning anymore. What exactly is inappropriate these days? Seems like pretty much everything is, doesn’t it? When you speak openly or passionately the conversation is “awkward.”
So bringing this back to the question at hand, I think the horror genre is in the hands of many who say they want something different but really just want more of the same. Stop patronizing remakes if you don’t want them. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with a remake. Some have been fantastic. Some remakes are warranted because of poor translation of source material, budget restrictions or mishandling. Remaking something just because it’s “dated” is a lame excuse for cash grab. Why not go back and remake BAD movies? That would be something. Stop remaking the good ones. Remake the shitty ones. There’s a thought.
There is a lot of talk online amongst horror fans about your upcoming film, Death House. Much of the media has described it as the “Expendables of Horror” or “Expendables Inspired.” You have stated that that is incorrect. How would you describe Death House? And what do fans need to know about the film?
Harrison Smith: “Expendables” makes it sound like a gimmick film. A Scooby Doo episode: “Look there’s Sid Haig, famous horror icon and actor!” No, that’s not what we have here. Also, people for some reason inferred that this would be a monster mashup like a Freddy vs. Jason film. Why? Did Stallone play Rambo in “The Expendables?” Was Bruce Willis his “Die Hard” character? No. So why would fans automatically think the horror actors would reprise their characters.
And if anyone wants Death House to be that kind of movie, you’re out of luck. I don’t want to make that kind of movie. Mashups are better for comedy. The horror world doesn’t need them. The Monster Mashup idea may have worked well for Abbott and Costello but it’s a downright lousy idea to pair up horror icons. It’s the lowest common denominator. It falls under the “Just Because You Can Do It, Doesn’t Mean You Should” adage.
What fans need to know is that this is a high quality film with a fresh and fun story. This IS something new and most of all it treats the actors and the genre with highest respect. We aimed the bar high when we didn’t have to. We knew we could’ve made a shitty film and people would still come to it because of the cast no matter what. We didn’t do that.
We made a culturally important film. These stars are legends. They aren’t “celebrities.” They are STARS. They have given memories to millions and entertained us for decades. This film respects that and we want “Death House” to be an heirloom of sorts. We want it to be passed down to younger viewers who have never heard of these people, but respect what they did for the industry and popular culture.
Adrienne Barbeau, Sid Haig, Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, Michael Berryman, Kane Hodder, and lots more are in Death House. How was it working with these legends of horror? Any crazy stories from the set that you would like to share?
Harrison Smith: Crazy? Nah. However it was FUN. One of the best stories was getting to watch Bill, Kane, and Michael Berryman sing the Three Stooges “Hello….Hello…Hello…” I turned to our 1st AD and said, “we are seeing something pretty cool here.”
Many horror fans are also indie filmmakers and aspiring screenwriters. What advice do you have for these indie artists that would help them break into the industry?
Harrison Smith: DO IT. Don’t talk about it. Don’t blog about it. Get out there, get a camera, get a good story and make a movie. Even if it’s a short film, whatever, you go DO it. That’s the best “advice” I can give.
What horror films have influence you the most as a writer and director?
Harrison Smith: “Jaws.” It was the movie that made want to make movies. However, Tom Holland’s “Fright Night” and “Psycho II” were big influences as well. I think Tom is underrated and one hell of a screenwriter as well. His script for “Psycho II” was brilliant and aimed high where it could have hit low.
Recall Studios is releasing your new VR experience, 360 Degrees of Hell with Amanda Wyss. How was it working on a VR experience vs. a standard film? Do you think these VR experiences are the way of the future?”
Harrison Smith: Working with VR was a new type of beast for me. There are no closeups or punch ins or insert shots. So basically you are shooting everything in a master shot. We wanted to reduce the number of CGI in your face scares that a lot of these horror VR things have. We made a narrative instead of just a lot of CG ghosts coming at ya in flickering lights. So it was challenging, you have to rely on your sound as well too. However it was great taking these steps with Amanda and Lauren. They made it one hell of a fun ride. Do I think it is the future? Yes, I think it will replace 3D as I feel that is a gimmick, but this is not. I think where are in VR now is a the first crude level. It will be amazing in the next ten years where we won’t know the difference between reality and fantasy. Oh wait…we might be there already..