The Arrow interviews Rolfe Kanefsky
Rolfe Kanefsky hit the genre scene at 20 years old with the horror comedy THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE. He then continued to crank out the celluloid goods via horror films, thrillers, an adventure film for kids and even an erotic Sci-Fi jamboree! Talk about diverse! I recently had the opportunity to blab blood and guts with Rolfe to celebrate the release of his genre party favor THE HAZING. Here are his 3 cents on the film and beyond!
What’s your favorite horror movie?
The one that terrified me as a kid was the 1979 “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers”. “Fright Night” and “Evil Dead 2” were the most fun in the theatres. “The Stepfather” was a sleeper surprise but I may have to go with Carpenter’s “The Thing” as one of the best.
How did you fall into horror filmmaking? Was it always a goal or did it happen by fluke.
I got into film by watching Abbott and Costello movies from the age of 4 to 14. All of their “meet the monsters” movies made a big impact on me and I loved the blend of horror and humor. At 14, I decided that I was going to be a film director and that’s when I really started researching and found out, at the time, most first time directors started with horror films. So, I started renting out every horror film, reading Fangoria, and taught myself the genre. By the age of twenty, I had already written a few scripts and in 1989 horror was still very popular so “There’s Nothing Out There” seemed like the perfect first film. Horror (with humor), one location, limited cast, and an alien monster so that became my first professional film.
Your more recently distributed flick “The Hazing” was a throwback to 80’s Party Horror. In your opinion; what makes those types of genre flicks so darn appealing?
Well, I grew up watching the 80’s horror films. There was a sense of just outrageous fun in those films. The 70’s were disturbing and scary like “Halloween”, “Exorcist”, “Jaws”, “Body Snatchers” etc… but once MTV hit, the horror films took on a kind of anything goes. The “Nightmare On Elm Street” series, “Night Of The Demons”, “Re-animator”, etc… They were that scary but they were a roller coaster ride that you couldn’t take too seriously. They didn’t give me nightmares. I think they were good date films as long as your date didn’t mind over the top, almost comic book style gore, and some nudity. Pure entertainment with no excuses.
Were there any particular horror movies that inspired you while writing/shooting “The Hazing”?
Many. “Evil Dead 1 & 2” were huge influences. Of course “Night of the Demons 1 & 2” also. I both in many references to both of these series throughout the film. The idea for “The Hazing” started as a possible “Hell Night” sequel and you can see a connection story-wise. I also through in slight references to “Suspiria”, “Sleepaway Camp 2”, “Elm Street 3”, “Dead & Buried”, “Patrick”, “Exorcist 3”, with nods to my three favorite haunted house movies; the original “The Haunting”, “Legend Of Hell House”, and “Poltergeist”.
Were you at all intimidated in directing a veteran of the likes of Brad “Chucky” Dourif?
Brad was great. Before I first met him, I was a little nervous but he was such a nice guy. A complete pro and liked the script. He really worked on the character with me and added a lot of background to the book and staff from his own knowledge with alchemy. When we decided to go with a British accent, he worked with the actors that had to impersonate him later in the film a lot. Brad called himself a “whore” and says he’ll do anything but when he takes on a role, he does it a hundred percent. He really got into it and nailed the sarcastic attitude, making his character Professor Kapps a lot of fun.
The Hazing had its fair share of female nudity (thank you), was it at all uncomfortable/challenging to shoot the nude scenes?
Well, the two strippers in the opening frat scene were added to the original script since I was told that foreign buyers need to see some T & A within the first ten minutes of the film. Those actresses were hired for that reason alone so no problem there. Tiffany Shepis I had known for years and she had no problem with her scene. In fact, I told her that my goal was the get the best nude shot of her from behind ever. She was cool with that. I knew exactly the way I wanted to film it and she looks incredible.
Now, Nectar Rose had never done any nudity before so she was a little worried. She almost didn’t take the role because of it. But myself and the producer took her out to breakfast one day and discussed it all. We told her exactly what would be seen and even had storyboards created to show her all the angles. Nectar finally agreed but there were some changes. She didn’t want too much nudity in the film. So, in the scene when they’re changing into their Halloween costumes, we don’t see her topless from the front and later with the tongue scene, we kept her covered. In the original script when she finally notices the tongue on her, it was flicking her nipple. Nectar objected to that so I changed it to have it slapping her stomach.
However, Nectar was wonderful to work with and was a real trooper. Luckily, she got along with her co-star Jeremy Maxwell so well that they are still together today. He helped her feel comfortable as you can tell if you listen to the cast commentary track on the DVD, especially in the bedroom scene. Nectar actually had the most trouble with the orgasm shot on her face. Having a fake orgasm in front of twenty crew people staring down at you is not the easiest thing to do.
What was the more difficult visual effect to accomplish during the shoot?
The spirit P.O.V. shots were tricky because we’re shooting wide angle lens and flying around the house, seeing everything. Hard to hide lights. My D.P., Tom Callaway, invented these really cool rig where the actors can wear the camera and then move around. He actually created it for some shots on “Halloween 6”. We used it when Tiffany Shepis and possessed Doug, Philip Andrew” are spinning around in the living room.
We also created a bungee-cam for the shot when the spirit P.O.V. flies down the vent and finds the book in the cellar. There were a lot of cool rigs built. I really wanted an “Evil Dead” anything goes feel and I like to “see the world” which is very hard when you’re in a real location. Hack House is a real house with real ceilings and walls. It looks great but it’s hard to fly through solid walls as you could probably guess.
You did wonders at milking your moderate budget; especially during the kills. With more money is there anything specific that you would have done differently?
Yes. I wanted a lot more. We lost a couple of cool scenes from the script. There was a growing hallway scene with all these doors that open outward, turning the hall into a giant maze. That was actually one of my favorite scenes in the script and we couldn’t afford to shoot it. The mannequin scene was originally much bigger. The mannequin turns real as it’s making out with Justine. We actually hired an actress to play the mannequin and painted her naked chest to match but never had time to shoot it. Also, Justine’s death was a lot more elaborate.
I have storyboards showing the full sequence. As she starts to change, she stumbles into the hall and her body stiffens bit by bit. It’s a slow painful transformation and would have been really cool. Again, ran out of time. The original fight in Kapps’ house was much bigger. Kapps was suppose to fall down the entire staircase and we had a stuntman to do it but again, no time. During the fight, the glass case that holds the box was suppose to be shattered. It was built and ready but no time. I would have loved for the movie theater seat kill scene to be bigger and even more roller coaster-ish but… I could probably go on and on. But you get the idea.
“The Hazing” was filled with movie references; I caught Evil Dead and Reservoir Dogs. Were there any other nods that I might have missed?
I kinda answered this question above but for the record on a few, when Roy enters the house and they hear the banging, he says “It’s probably Hackford using someone’s decapitated head as a basketball”. A nod to that exact same scene in “Night Of The Demons 2”. When Jacob sees the mannequin and pulls down her top saying, “look at the party hats on her” is a nod to “Party hats two o’clock” from “Sleepaway Camp 2”. Doug reading the latin in the book says “Suspirinorum” and “Tenebrium”. Couple of Argento nods. Did you catch the autograph on the Bruce Campbell photo? The first time we see it, it says “Groovy”. The second time with the blood and dart, it says “Not Groovy”. The needles in the eye in the patient in the hospital was a slight homage to the classic scene in “Dead and Buried”. There are some more but I’ll leave it at that.
You have “Corpses” and “Jacqueline Hyde” up next. What can you tell us about both pictures?
CORPSES is a “zombedy” about a mortician that invents a serum that can bring the dead back to life for a hour at a time. He created a small (low-budget) army to do his bidding. It was a nightmare shoot and I could really write a book about this very unpleasant experience. However, the film is kind of fun if you’re in the right mood. Tiffany Shepis, Jeff Fahey, and Robert Donavan are great. It’s very silly. If you think of it as a bad version of “Shaun Of The Dead”, you could have a good time. I can not look at the objectively at all but I do find it funny despite all the problems and there are a lot of problems.
JACQUELINE HYDE was a much better experience. It’s a modern female take on the classic “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” tale. I wrote, directed and for the first time co-produced the film with my partner/star, Gabriella Hall. It’s a sexy and horrific tale about a woman who finds a potion that can transform her into anyone she wants to be. She experiments a lot as her aggressive sexual and violent side takes over. Gabriella Hall plays “Jackie” and Blythe Metz plays the evil “Jacqueline”.
There are trailers for both CORPSES and JACQUELINE HYDE up at my website as www.rolfekanefsky.com. Check them out. JACQUELINE HYDE has just been selected to premiere at the 23rd Brussels International Fantasy, Thriller, Science Fiction Film Festival which is a great honor! It’s in March and I’m hoping to go. CORPSES is suppose to hit video/DVD in March now and we are currently seeking domestic distribution for JACQUELINE HYDE right now. I see some good things happening with JACQUELINE.
Will a “The Hazing Part 2” ever come to light?
Probably not although I just heard that the producer is writing a script that could be a follow-up. I don’t know anything about it. I’m not against it but I can tell you right now, THE HAZING was not designed to be a “Scream” type of trilogy. I have other horror scripts that I’d like to do. Some have an 80’s feel. I have one called “THE HOST” which is almost a bigger budget version of THE HAZING. I would very much like to do that.
You’re obviously a big Evil Dead and Bruce Campbell fan, any plans of working with the lad in the future?
Well, funny you should ask. A few years ago I was hired to write a script for Bruce Campbell. It’s a zombie movie in outer space and a lot of fun. The producers are trying to set it up. I’d like to direct it but it’s their call. However, I am attached to a film that’s supposed to go next year called “MUTANT” and Bruce Campbell’s name is on the list to possibly play the sheriff. I’m all for it. He’s one of my top choices.
What are your thoughts on the recently announced The Evil Dead remake?
I’d do it in a heartbeat but I don’t think I’ll be offered it. Well, “EVIL DEAD 2” is a part remake already. The story is so simple that it’s just an excuse for anything to happen. I’d love to see another one. They just have to keep the over-the-top feel going. I hope they don’t shy away from the tree rape scene. If you’re going to do, go for it! That’s why I fought very hard for the “tongue scene” in THE HAZING. We these kind of films you want people to go, “Oh my God. I can’t believe I just saw that”. That’s what watching “EVIL DEAD” for 85 minutes was like. “RE-ANIMATOR” did it. That’s what fun. I tried to put a few scenes like that in JACQUELINE HYDE. It’s what Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi used to always do. I hope more filmmakers keep the tradition alive.
I'd like to thank Rolfe for the amusing romp that was THE HAZING and for dropping by to give us so much insight as to the behind the scenes of the flick. Keep em coming dude!