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Interview with Tim Sullivan
While Interner Link"2001 Maniacs" is on its way to DVD in Germany, we had the opportunity to interview director and writer Tim Sullivan on his film, although the sympathetically director is pressed for time usually. Tim is a very nice and voluble interlocutor - enjoy reading (the interview) ...

Why did the choice for your direction debut fall on Interner Link"2001 Maniacs"?
It just kind of fell into my lap! Several years back, I had just finished co-producing Interner Link"Detroit Rock City" and was looking for something to direct. A guy named Chris Kobin came into my office and told me he had the rights to remake the films of H. G. Lewis. At the time, Robert Zemeckis was having great success remaking the films of William Castle with "House On Haunted Hill" and "Thirteen Ghosts", so the idea of remaking the films of Lewis on a more independent, down and dirty level seemed like a good idea. Growing up as a teenager in the 80's, I had seen Lewis' films when they first came out on videotape, and had often snuck into New York to see them in Grind House cinemas on 42nd street. These types of exploitation pictures that I was schooled on were not being done any more. The horror films of the 90's were what I call "cocktease movies". Self aware parodies of true exploitation films starring whatever TV ingénue was on hiatus that week from the WB. (Yeah, I'm, talking about Interner Link"Scream", Interner Link"I Know What You Did Last Summer", etc ...) I missed the tongue in cheek humor of Lewis and 80's movies like Interner Link"Creepshow", Interner Link"Motel Hell", Interner Link"American Werewolf", so it all kind of came together. Kobin and I became writing partners, and between the two of us, we decided that the Lewis film with the best story was Interner Link"Two Thousand Maniacs!". We felt it lent itself to being remade more than Interner Link"Wizard Of Gore" or Interner Link"Blood Feast", and so we were off and running.
The maniacs from '2001 Maniacs'
How would you describe your personal relation to Herschell Gordon Lewis as a director and what is your personal opinion about his films?
Herschell didn't actually work on Interner Link"2001 Maniacs!". We purchased the remake rights from him after he read the script and gave us his "thumbs up". But he served as a "figure head" throughout the entire shoot. His spirit was always with me, and we had many, many pleasant conversations. H.G. Lewis will always hold a mythic place in my horror heart. All us horror filmmakers owe him a debt. He is the Godfather of Gore, and his films, which he made with producer David Friedman, are legendary. My production company is New Rebellion Entertainment. It's all about rebelling against conformity and the mundane, a true rock and roll attitude. I guess that's why horror and rock go so well together. Interner Link"Two Thousand Maniacs!" embodies that spirit.
What were Lewis' and David Friedman's reactions to the Remake of its Interner Link"Two Thousand Maniacs!" like?
I honestly don't know what H.G. thinks of the film. I sent him a DVD, and he sent me back a very nice note of congratulations, but no critique. I guess no news Tim on set to 'Freddy Vs. Jason'is good news! I can say, however, that one of the greatest moments for me was when Dave Friedman came to LA and watched the film with me and Chris Kobin, just the three of us. When it was over, he turned to me and Chris and said, "If this is my last hurrah as a filmmaker, I'm going out in a blaze of glory. You guys made a modern film, but you kept the joke intact." Man, I wanted to cry. What more can you want than the original filmmaker giving the blessing to your remake?
It's nice to see Robert Englund again in an oratorical role that seems perfectly tailored to him. I kind of imagine he had much fun playing a character like this, had he? Was Robert your first choice for the role of Mayor Buckman?
Robert Englund was the only choice, and working with him was one of the most symbiotic experiences I've ever had. We first met while I was working at New Line Cinema at the time and had always run into Robert at the Christmas parties. Everybody thought we were a little crazy. They'd be off singing Christmas carols and Robert and I would be off by ourselves in some corner talking about Dario Argento movies. Our friendship developed, I wound up interviewing him for a couple of magazines and then I ran into him at the Saturn Awards. That's where I asked him if I could create the role of Mayor Buckman for him in Interner Link"2001 Maniacs". I described the movie as horror/comedy, a little like Lil' Abner on Acid and Robert loved that take on it. Of course that was so helpful because my writing partner and I were able to write the script with Robert acting out the part of Mayor Buckman in our heads. Whenever we'd get stuck we'd just throw our best Robert impressions at each other. It brought a lot of energy to the process because we knew him well enough to imagine how he'd approach certain things. When he finally got the script he said "Oh my God I feel like somebody just tailor made a suit for me."
Fun on set with the special effects props
The style of Interner Link"2001 Maniacs" was being compared to certain Troma-productions, but would be straighter and a little more accessible. Was that somehow your intention or did you never mind?
Like I said, I was heavily influenced by Lewis, not really Troma at all. He set the standards for splatter films. But he also invented what I call "Splatstick"; where murder is the punchline. You know, instead of a Tim Sullivan on set to '2001 Maniacs'custard pie in the face, it's a severed head. Lewis made mayhem fun, and it is that subversive glee that I loved most about the original film and tried to inject into my remake.
Please tell us about the differences between the festival version and the DVD version (published by Sunfilm in Germany). Is the DVD version just longer in the gore scenes or did you cut out any stuff?
Nothing was cut at all. The Sunfilm DVD has all the gore! The only difference is the end credits. Originally, we had the cast singing "The South Will Rise Again". Ultimately, I decided using the heavy rock version of "South Will Rise" gave it more impact. The Sing a Long, however, is included on the end credits of "Inside the Asylum", which is the "Making Of" documentary on the Special Edition of the DVD.
How got Eli Roth involved to the project?
At the time I was trying to set up Interner Link"Maniacs", John Landis called me up and told me he wanted to introduce me to this guy named Eli Roth, whom John said was "just like me, only Jewish"! John took us to meet Ray Harryhausen, and Eli and I immediately bonded, the two of us being uber horror geeks. Interner Link"Cabin Fever" had just come out and hit big, Eli was the "shit", and he was about to start his own horror label, Raw Nerve, with Scotty Spiegel and Boaz Yoakin. Eli knew that a Robert Englund remake of an H.G. Lewis film was a no-brainer, and so he was able to secure half the financing from his partners. Chris Tuffin of BloodWorks funded the other half.
As rumoured, director John Landis and producer David Friedman as well had little cameos Interner Link"2001 Maniacs", but the material didn't find its way into the final film. Why actually?
The material you refer to was the first scene in Interner Link"Maniacs" in which our three main characters are being chewed out by their professor for not taking their studies on the Civil War seriously. John and Dave were brilliant. I loved the scene. It worked perfectly. But what happened was, when we were shooting in Georgia, we ran out of time to shoot the scene as intended - in a big classroom with lots of students. So to make sure we at least got the scene "in the can", as they say, I figured out a way to shoot in the front office of the Civil War Reenactment town where we shot the rest of the movie. Once we got back to LA and cut the movie together, it became obvious that the Landis version was just too "small" a scene to open a movie. It might have worked three or four scenes in, but up front, it just didn't give the movie the scope I wanted. So my producers were cool enough to allow the scene to be reshot in LA with a huge classroom and tons of students. Unfortunately, John wasn't available to do the re-shoot, but he gave me his blessing and the scene was shot with the awesome Peter Stormare taking over the role. Peter was the killer in "Fargo" and playing the Devil in Interner Link"Constantine", among a ton of other great stuff. Although I regret losing John and Dave, the scene with Peter is, however, more along the lines of what was originally in the script. Happily, the original Landis/Friedman opening is on the DVD.
Unfortunately in Germany the film was shown only on a couple of festivals but with mind-blowing answers. What can you say about the reactions on international festivals?
International audiences really seem to be picking up on the social commentary more than US audiences, that's for sure. I mean, there is definitely an undercurrent of social commentary in the film. This film is about a community that is the collective victim of a terrorist attack. A Southern town brought low by Northern renegades. In this town's quest for blood vengeance, they become the very "maniacs" that wronged them. And as a result, they never find peace, but instead are damned to repeating this ritual of vengeance year after year after year. Sound familiar? (Can you say 9/11 and Iraq?) So beneath the blood and guts and T&A and over the top humor, there definitely is a theme going on. It was there in Lewis' original, and now, in an America divided by Red State/Blue State, I made it even more prevalent and resonant in my version.
Tim & KISS (Detroit Rock City)
I am a big KISS Fan. Could you tell me about the cooperation with Gene Simmons on Interner Link"Detroit Rock City" and some details on the production? How did you get involved?
I interviewed Gene for Fangoria magazine when I was 20. Our mutual love of horror films bonded us, and we stayed friends for years. In 1998, when I was working in development at New Line, Gene gave me the script of Interner Link"Detroit Rock City". KISS had just reunited and was on tour, the script was awesome, and so I was able to convince New Line to make the movie. For my loyality, Gene insisted I serve as producer. It was a dream come true - I was the ultimate KISS fan who got to make the KISS fan movie, which was my valentine to all rock and roll fans who ever dreamed of meeting their idols. To this day, it was the single greatest experience of my life. There's this great book by Ken Sharp about KISS called Behind The Mask. There is a whole chapter on Interner Link"Detroit Rock City" where I talk about the whole experience at great length.
At the beginning of your career you did some additional dialogues Interner Link"Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn" (in Germany better known as "Kosmokiller") - at least the IMDb says so. Would you shortly tell us something about it?
Ever since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to make horror 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! John made these killer stop motion shorts with a character named Grog, and then, he eventually went on to create the monster for Interner Link"The Deadly Spawn". By this point, when I was 16, 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 Hood Of Horrorfever for independent monster making. And I also got to be part of my first "cult" film. You know, films that bomb 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. Interner Link"The Deadly Spawn" opened the same day as Interner Link"The Evil Dead". Me and Dods went to a screening and met Sam Raimi. We traded movie posters. Raimi's film did a little better ...
"Hood Of Horror" is your further production for which you also wrote the screenplay. Unfortunately we haven't heard or watched anything from the film. Please tell us something about that project and how Snoop Dog got involved.
During the editing of Interner Link"Maniacs", I was approached by Jonathan McHugh, who is the musical supervisor on all my films. McHugh is a record executive at Sony BMG and was developing film projects for their musical acts. As Snoop Dogg is such a big horror fan, McHugh wanted to develop a horror project for him and came to me with the concept. I immediately thought it would be cool to do a modern, urban take on the old EC comics from the 50's. They made a film I really liked called "Tales From The Hood", so I thought why not do one called "Hood Of Horror" (as the original EC comic title was "Vault Of Horror") and have Snoop serve as the narrator, the Crypt Keeper. I brought in Jake Hair, my storyboard artist on Interner Link"Maniacs", and along with McHugh we came up with three short stories that combined elements of humor, horror and social commentary - basically the same formula used on Interner Link"Maniacs". It turned out great and I am really excited about doing more and more of them. There's so many stories left to tell in the hood of horror!
Hood Of HorrorHood Of Horror
Please, tell us something about your new project Interner Link"Driftwood". What can we expect?
After "Hood Of Horror", I wanted to flex my muscles a bit, try something different. A total 180 flip in vibe and tone. I wanted to something that was more character driven, relied more on atmosphere than blood and guts. Ever since the Columbine incident in America where two teenagers attacked and killed their classmates, there has been a disturbing trend in which places called Attitude Adjustment camps are springing up all over the place. These camps are privately owned and operated with no government interference, and they are a place where parents can send their kids if they feel they need severe discipline. Certainly, some kids need such discipline, but sadly, the majority if kids who end up at such places are kids who simply are misunderstood by their parents. Maybe they listen to HIM or Rammstein when their parents want them to listen to Barry Manilow, or they read Fangoria or perhaps they prefer the boy next door to the girl next door... Whatever it is, if a parent so wishes, they can send their child to such a place, and if he is under the age of 18Driftwood, he shit out of luck and condemned to live in these camps where mental and physical brutality is the norm. In many cases, there have even been deaths! So, as someone who HATES anybody trying to make me into something I am not, I decided to tell the story of these camps, to tell the story of a boy (played by Ricky Ullman of Disney's "Phil Of The Future") who is sent to a camp run by an evil warden (played by champion wrestler and Interner Link"The Devil's Rejects" star Diamond Dallas Page) who may or may not be responsible for the disappearance of another teen whose ghostly spirit haunts the halls of Driftwood. It's definitely a different type of horror than Interner Link"Maniacs" and "Hood", and I hope viewers are willing to take that ride with me.
You are working as well on a script for a new Tobe Hooper film. Any concretely details about that project?
Actually, it's all done, but Tobe said he'd kill me if I spilled the beans about it, and knowing what he can do with chainsaws and toolboxes, I gotta keep my mouth shut - But let's just say it harkens back to the style and themes of Interner Link"Chainsaw", and involves a very sick and very unique family unit of... Man, If I say any more, I'm dead! Sorry!
Another film the fans hardly await is the remake of "She Freak". Is Asia Argento going to be involved in that project?
After we wrote Interner Link"Maniacs", Chris Kobin and I were trying to figure out what the follow-up should be. Though it isn't an H.G. film, his producer, Dave Friedman, had produced a little known film in 1967 called "She Freak", and offered us the remake rights. Although I had never seen the film (and still haven't), the idea of a female monster set in a rock and roll sideshow appealed to me as something that could be expanded upon. I reimagined it as a female "Phantom Of The Opera", an avenging angel who rids the world of evil- one man at a time! There have been so few female monsters through the years. Interner Link"Bride of Frankenstein", Interner Link"Dracula's Daughter", Interner Link"Species" ... Not much else. Time is right for something like that. We wrote a script in the same vein as Interner Link"Maniacs", combining horror and dark humor, using both as social commentary- in the case of "She Freak", commentary on male and female stereotypes, consumerism and the public's thirst for blood! Steve Nemeth just optioned the project for Rhino Films. He passed the script on to Asia Argento who read and loves it. Let's see if her schedule works out.
As far as I know you are a fan of the Italian horror genre. What are your favourites?
Bava, Argento and Fulci. Give me Interner Link"Black Sunday", Interner Link"Suspiria" and Interner Link"Gates Of Hell" on a desert island and I would be good to go!
What do you think about all the regular Hollywood remakes for instance Interner Link"The Grudge" or Interner Link"The Ring"?
There are only so many stories that can be told, and I truly believe there is validity in retelling stories of the past in the language of each new generation. (The 30's had Bela Lugosi's Dracula, the 50's and 60's had Christopher Lee etc...) For me, the key is to take the tone and vibe of the original, and do something completely different, unique, like Carpenter did with Interner Link"The Thing" and I truly believe Aja did with Interner Link"The Hillls Have Eyes". But then you have by-the-numbers crap like the Kiss me, baby!upcoming Interner Link"Omen" remake, which looks like a shot-by-shot remake to me, and all I can think is, wow, they really have run out of ideas and are scared to try anything new up at the Hollywood studios. But that has always been the case- Hollywood has always been afraid to set trends, to try new things. And that's why you have processed fodder like the remakes of Interner Link"Amityville Horror" and Interner Link"The Fog". It's all about intent. If the intent is to pay homage and retell- God Bless. If the intent is to make a quick buck- screw you! Either way, it does not signal the end of the genre at all - for the new themes, the new stories, will always be alive and well in the independent cinema where daring and true originality always thrives.
At least is there anything you want to inform your fans about? Any final thoughts?
Hopefully, you'll never be able to pin me down and I will keep surprising you with my choices. I have so many stories I want to tell and so many ways I want to tell them. I have movies like Interner Link"Maniacs" in me that represents my guts, and movies like Interner Link"Driftwood" that represents my soul. But my number one passion project is a metrosexual vampire film I've written called "Brothers Of The Blood" that is a very sensual, very tragic, very Shakespearean love triangle between two male vampires, one young, one old, and the female mortal who comes between them. If the fates gave me free reign to make any movie I wanted at this very moment in time, that would most definitely be it! So, thank you, Wicked-Vision, for shining the light on guys like me who are lucky enough to make a living playing with monsters and telling twisted tales.
I love what I do and love hearing from other horror fans at my personal website (www.myspace.com/newrebellion) where you can also link to Interner Link"2001 Maniacs" (www.myspace.com/2001Maniacs), "Hood Of Horror" (www.myspace.com/hoodofhorror) and Interner Link"Driftwood" (www.myspace.com/driftwoodthemovie). Yee Haw!
Thank you Tim!

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