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©2006 website by Gone West


Interview by Kevin Klemm
For Girls and Corpses Magazine

© Girls and Corpses Magazine. All rights reserved

Girls and Corpses Magazine recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with director Tim Sullivan, whose film 2001 Maniacs is being released on DVD by Lions Gate on March 28th. A modern re-telling of the Herschell Gordon Lewis splatfest 2000 Maniacs, the film follows a group of College students heading south for Spring Break and the horror and bloodshed they encounter as they stumble across the town of Pleasant Valley (Pop: 2001 Maniacs).

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G&C: Hello Tim, thanks for sitting down with Girls and Corpses Magazine.

TS: Thanks for having me.

G&C: I have to say, as I was doing research on you for this interview, it's amazing to me how similar our backgrounds are. It's almost like a horror version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon. I spent my teenage years in Baltimore and worked on some films for Don Dohler. Now Don wrote and edited a magazine called Cinemagic, (which was the bible to us kids with Super 8 cameras), and later went on to direct such films as Alien Factor, Galaxy Invader etc.. One of the contributors to the magazine was John Dods. He had made some great stop motion shorts like Grog, and Forrest Story, and was a personal hero of mine. Now John ended up becoming a mentor to you did he not?

TS: Dude! I was a CINEMAGIC cover boy! That's so wild you know those guys. Yeah, it's safe to say that without John Dods I wouldn't be here today. Ever since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to make movies, but how? How does a 13 year old kid from New Jersey get to be the next George Romero? But when I was in 8th grade, my art teacher introduced me to her brother, a guy named Tom Davis. Tom's best friend was John Dods! Here were these two guys, about ten years older than me, and they were actually making movies! You're absolutely right- John made these killer stop motion shorts with a character named Grog, and then, he eventually went on to create the monster for THE DEADLY SPAWN. By this point, he took me under his wing and made me a "Production Assistant". Which meant, I got to lie in wet mud under a water hose in the freezing rain maneuvering the spawn itself for the opening credits. I got pneumonia, but I also got a fever for independent monster making. And I also got to be part of my first "cult" film. You know, films that blow ass at the box office when they're first released, then years later become fan boy favorites! Man... John Dods.... I'll never forget carting that damn giant rubber Spawn into New York with Dods to put in the lobby of the Grindhouse on 42nd Street for the day it premiered. SPAWN opened the same day as THE EVIL DEAD. Me and Dods went to a screening and met Sam Raimi. We traded movie posters. His film did a little better... Anyway, Dods helped me get into NYU film school, and helped me make A CHRISTMAS TREAT, which went on to win the Cinemagic Short Film Search -- and which will be having a 20th anniversary screening at the New York premiere of 2001 MANIACS -- which Dods will be attending. Talk about full circle and six degrees...

G&C: A CHRISTMAS TREAT sounds really familiar to me. I'm willing to bet that I saw it back in the day. I'm sure you'll agree that we grew up during a very special time. We had Mad Magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creature Feature and other Horror Shows. Those shows were "Huge" in my life. Before video, TV was the only way to see these movies. Every Sunday, I would grab the TV listings and pour over the movies. I would then make a schedule as far as what movies I wanted to see, and what time. I mean, horror movies were my life. I lived horror movies 24/7. And Forry Ackerman, he was God!

TS: Another influence and mentor and happy to say, friend. Yes, John Dods and Forry Ackerman. You know, Kevin, I think we are all "children of Uncle Forry". Our generation and the ones before us—Landis, Spielberg, King, even Gene Simmons... We all grew up reading Famous Monsters and yearning to be like the filmmakers we read about in its pages. Now with the internet, information is right at your fingertips, but back in the day... not to sound like frickin' old fart... but back when I was a tadpole, the only way to learn about the classic horror films was by reading about them in Famous Monsters. And then hoping to God they showed up some time on, like you said, Creature Features or Chiller Theater. Now- it's all about easy access and instant gratification. Back then, you had to seek out the films you read about in FM. It became a bit of a treasure hunt, and every time you got to see a Chris Lee movie, or the Teenage Werewolf for the first time, it truly was an event that made a lasting impression. Now, no offense, but it feels like I'll go see horror movies and forget about most of them like the last Big Mac I ate. I don't know, man, it's just not the same. Thank God Forry's still going strong at 89, but when he goes... Man, that guy is the link to horror's past. It's up to us to take that torch from Forry and keep it burning.

G&C: Yeah, I agree with that. FM really opened my eyes about classic horror films and nothing was cooler then when you finally got to catch a viewing of Black Sunday or one of the Hammer films. As I got older, I lived at the Drive-in. It was here that I entered my Gore Phase. I saw Lucio Fulci films sandwiched with an old Herschell Gordon Lewis / David F. Friedman film or maybe one of the Russ Meyer's Boob epics. You knew Russ Meyer didn't you? And how did you hook up with the exploitation master- Dave Friedman?

TS: Shit, dude. You sure we're not the same person? I mean, yeah... After learning about the old black and whites from FM, suddenly it was all about FANGORIA. I remember when that first issue came out in 1979. I was 15— It had that shot of the exploding head from DAWN OF THE DEAD. It was like something happened inside me. A goregasm! Suddenly, I was a "teenager" interested in teen age things, and I wanted a little T& A and blood and guts mixed in with Dracula and Wolfman. And there was FANGORIA to give it to me... But the only place to see the bloody epics talked about in FANGO was at the Plainfield Edison Drive-In. I used to ride my bike there with my buddy. We'd get there right as the sun was going down. There were outdoor benches and we'd sit ourselves down, loaded up with popcorn and soda, and then stay there till the morning watching dusk to dawn marathons of BLOOD FEAST and TWO THOUSAND MANIACS on a triple bill with whatever gore fest was out that week, you know, SQUIRM or THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. Then when VCR's came around, I would get bootleg copies of those films. The quality would be horrible, but it didn't matter. I would show them to my friends and get off by freaking everyone out. The HG Lewis movies did the trick nicely. I guess I always got a rise out of shocking people with horror—whether it was by showing them a bloody still from FANGO, convincing a date to go see PIECES, or doing my own make-up effects. So years later, many years later, after I finished up producing DETROIT ROCK CITY, it seemed like a natural thing to pursue when this guy named Chris Kobin showed up at my production office and announced that he had the rights to remake Herschell's films. That's when I met Dave Friedman for the first time. Wow. Talk about breaking bread with a true legend. This guy practically invented the whole exploitation genre, and it's been an honor getting to know the man and hearing all his words of wisdom about making and promoting these kinds of films. He's the king. Now in regards to Russ Meyer, it was actually Kobin who was a friend of his. Kobin was initially going to remake FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! But Russ turned out to have a touch of Alzheimer's, God bless him, and that remake didn't work out. However Russ did take a lunch with Kobin at Musso and Frank's, this classic old Hollywood steak house, and Freidman, who was a friend of Russ's, crashed the lunch. Salesman that he is, Kobin, refusing to leave empty handed, ended up getting the rights on a handshake to remake TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! So there you go!

G&C: How hard was it for you and co-writer Chris Kobin to adapt H.G. Lewis's original screenplay? Did you use it as a basic skeletal structure and then flesh it out with modern sensibilities? What was your overall process?

TS: I'll tell you, it was the smoothest writing experience I ever had. It was bizarre, as well, because I barely knew this guy, Chris Kobin. One day he showed up at my office, and the next day we're writing a movie together! Both of us were producers, and having no money but knowing we needed a script to set up MANIACS, we both said we would write the script ourselves. That became a bit of an ego problem between the writers inside each of us, and so we agreed to write the script together. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but dude, we wrote that script in two weeks, going back and forth on email without ever, ever being in the same room (Chris' wife, Maxine was about to give birth at any given moment, so he always had to be home, ready to head for the hospital! In fact, once that old water finally did break, Chris brought his lap top along with him to the maternity ward and wrote Granny's ho-down while Maxine gave birth to his daughter, Emma!) Anyway, we knew from the get-go that tonally, there was no way we were gonna take the original material seriously. And so, to that end, we decided to really play up the difference between the old school Southerners, and the modern Northerners. So, basically, I made a list of all the victims and we sketched out their characters. The first MANIACS had four and we decided to double that. Then, Chris and I came up with the murders. That was a lot of fun. The most fun. Next, literally, it became about pacing—Who dies and when. Once we knew that, we wrote all the murder sequences, fighting over who got to do the drawn and quartering or who got to write the penis fly trap, and then we literally filled in the spaces between the murders, emailing back and forth, trying to make sure that the humor and hijinks were just as entertaining as the gore sequences themselves. We were always trying to make the other laugh. To one-up the other. We never wanted to be one of those FRIDAY THE 13th sequels where you're staring at your watch bored waiting for the next gallon of blood to flow.

G&C: I love how you refer to the style of this film as "Splatstick". I think a lot of Horror films have forgotten how to be fun. Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive" is to me the epitome of what you call "Splatstick". Do you think filmmakers are trying too hard to horrify today's jaded audiences? I don't know if it can be done. The last couple of movies that really truly scared the Hell out of me was the original Evil Dead (another Splatstick), and Nightmare on Elm Street. What are your thoughts on this?

TS: That's a tough one. I do think modern audiences have become numb and need a much more amped up type of horror to illicit a response. It's what I've heard referred to as "porno slump". You know, when somebody's jacked off to every porn site on the web that nothing gets 'em off any more? So then, just to get stimulated, they may turn to S&M and kiddie porn and people pissing on each other and God knows what else. Maybe even snuff. And I think a lot of recent horror movies reflect that. In my opinion, and I know there are many who will disagree, movies like CRY WOLF and HOSTEL are literally the horror equivalent of snuff. They focus on the torture, the sadism, the depravity. And although, perhaps, they are attempting to shine a light on the nihilism of modern society, they often feel like they are reveling in the prolonged pain of the victims just as much as the nihilistic killers they are supposedly commenting on. For me, that's not what I want out of a horror film. Torture isn't fun or entertainment for me. Now, again, that's just my personal taste. You like apples. I like oranges. And for me, I always liked the EC Comics approach to horror. The AMERICAN WEREWOLF, MOTEL HELL, EVIL DEAD, DEAD ALIVE approach. HG Lewis invented a genre by making murder a punchline. Instead of a cream pie flying through the air, it's a severed head. It splats on the ground, drum roll please. On to the next blood splat, almost like a magician hitting you with one trick after the other. Not a ten minute sequence of a guy having his toenails ripped out or his tendons snipped while he chokes on his own vomit because he has a rubber ball shoved into his mouth.

G&C: I hear you. I can appreciate both sides of the fence, but I find such films as "August Underground" or "Hostel" almost unwatchable. I understand that the filmmaker wants to push the envelope so to speak, but the result is just a little too real. I find I have to take a break and walk around a little bit and then go back to watching those films. So I agree with you, film should entertain, and some of those films just aren't very entertaining to me. Now back to your film. 2001 Maniacs was your trail by fire so to speak, your first directorial effort. What did you learn on that production that made your next film easier to handle?

TS: On DRIFTWOOD, my lesson from MANIACS was to always remember that you make a film three times— When you write the script, when you shoot the film and when you edit it. You have to accept that what you intended to create might very well not be what you actually did end up creating. But the audience will never know that. They just judge by what is presented to them. So rather than fixating on the stuff you didn't get that got away, focus on what you did achieve, nurture that and allow the film to reveal itself. Serve the song.

G&C: I heard some interesting stories about the production, what was up with those Confederate Re-enactors and why did they put some sort of Confederate Curse on you? Personally, I think they need to accept the fact that they lost the war, slavery is now outlawed, and move on with their lives. And by the way, I know some people down in New Orleans that can send their own brand of curse if you need it.

TS: Half our extras were originally going to be this Confederate flag waving bunch of Civil War re-enactors. They really had the whole historical thing down perfect, right down to whether the uniforms had zippers or buttons— only thing they were a bit off on, was the fact that the South actually didn't win the Civil War. So when they finally read the script, I guess they couldn't appreciate the "humor", so they took off and damned me and the film with the "Curse of the Confederacy". Now I never heard of that particular curse, and I'm not really sure what it entails, but a lot of weird shit happened from the very first day—Generators mysteriously didn't work, we couldn't open our equipment trucks, it rained when it was supposed to be sunny and we didn't get to shoot most of our driving stuff; I lost two Assistant Directors- one fell and went into a seizure, the other got a migraine and passed out. Robert was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, I was stung by wasps and collapsed on the set, Ryan Fleming, who plays Hucklebilly, sprained his ankle, Cristin Michele who plays Glendora, broke her nose, Wendy Kremer, who plays Peaches, collapsed from hypothermia... And yeah, the unions came and almost shut us down. But weirdest of all, I kid you not, at night, as we would be walking thru the woods, there was absolutely no lights, there was no electricity, and you could hear the sound of gunfire, fifes, drums, and battle cries. Yeah, it was a barrel of laughs, that damn curse, whatever it was. Hopefully it's all over, but people who get close to me lately have been known to experience mysterious fates...

G&C: Well, I'm glad I'm sitting all the way over here then. I would like to touch on the subject of re-makes. How do you feel about them from a fan's point of view? My own riff on them is I don't normally care for them. To me, there is a big difference between a re-telling and an all out re-make. I would much rather see an update to an obscure film such as She Devils on Wheels, then a re-make of a classic like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What's up Michael Bay? Tired of making your own shitty movies and now you have to be a grave robber of classic horror films? Fuck you! So Tim, my roundabout question to you is- Has the horror genre been bled dry of any original ideas?

TS: Yeah, fuck you, Michael Bay. Let's show him, Kevin, and remake THE ROCK. With midgets. Actually, I kinda liked the TEXAS CHAINSAW remake. And I swore to myself that no matter what, I wasn't gonna like it. So I think you have to take each remake on a case by case basis. True, I personally would rather remake a not so great film like MANIACS than remake a classic like THE EXORCIST, but some of the remakes have surprised me. Like DAWN OF THE DEAD. And I hear HILLS HAVE EYES is pretty amazing. But then you get AMITYVILLE HORROR and THE FOG which are total turds. Nothing new or original about them. But I know kids who fucking loved them and never ever saw the originals. And I gotta say, when I was a teen, and I bet you experienced the same thing, I LOVED the remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING. And I remember listening to older fans who thought it was just as blasphemous to remake those films back then as we might think it is absurd to remake THE OMEN today. Bottom line, most stories are constantly being retold in the language of each new generation. Sometimes they are retold well. Other times they are not.

G&C: And you're right, there are exceptions. I still think Michael Bay sucks ass and I think there's a special place in Hell for him and Renny Harlin, but that's beside the point. But yeah, the re-make of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing are off the hook! Now, 2001 Maniacs is coming out on DVD later this month. Do you have the specs yet? Is this going to be the definitive cut? Or is there an unrated version floating around somewhere?

TS: Man, the folks at Lions Gate went to town on this one. Chela Johnson and Miguel Casillas truly get that this film is a horror comedy, and have framed the DVD in a way that makes it impossible for viewers not to understand that. They've created animated menus of the different maniacs running around like South Park characters shouting lines from the movie. There's 30 minutes of deleted scenes, including uncut takes of some really outrageous scenes. The documentary has more blood and guts and T & A then the movie itself, and honestly, is just as entertaining. Adam Robitel, who plays Robert Englund's sheep chasing son, Lester, also shot and produced the documentary, and he did an amazing job. To my amazement, the film got an R rating as presented to the MPAA, so this truly is the definitive, final version of 2001 MANIACS. And I couldn't be happier.

G&C: Finally, what do you think of Girls and Corpses Magazine? Is the world ready for us yet?

TS: I love MAXIM and I love FANGORIA, and GIRLS AND CORPSES is like a sexy, bloody stew created from both. Sex and horror has always been a winning combination, and you guys know that. Is the world ready? Some are. Some aren't. Some will never be. But that is true of anything cool, rebellious or cutting edge. And that you truly are!

G&C: Thanks Tim. So everyone go out and pick up a copy of "2001 Maniacs" on March 28th. And if you live in the L.A. Area, stop by Dark Delicacies in Burbank on that very same day, and get Tim and the cast to sign your DVD. Then take it home, make some popcorn, and settle in for a fun filled evening of "Splatstick".



2001 Maniacs is out on DVD March 28th. You can click here to pre-order the disc. You can also see the unrated international trailer and visit the official Maniacs site. And hey, if you're in or near L.A., you should hit Dark Delicacies on the day of the disc's release to meet Tim, Christa, Wendy and pretty much everyone involved with the film!