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INT: Matt Cunningham & Erik Gardner



The Arrow interviews
Matt Cunningham and Erik Gardner

Writers, Producers and Directors Matt Cunningham and Erik Gardner have been long time work partners. Over the years, they've tackled a slew of genre TV shows/films (Troma's Decampitated being one of them) under various "hats". The boys are presently wrangling their biggest project yet, a second sequel to The Mangler named MANGLER REBORN. I know what you're thinking: "After the blah first one and the puke inducing sequel, who needs a Mangler Part 3?" To be honest, I thought the same thing. But through my chit-chat with the two lads, I was swiftly won over by their "fan boy" love for horror and the potentially visceral direction that they're taking with their new baby. I'm actually looking forward to it now! Read for yourself!

Hey guys! So, Mangler Part 3, how did the project come about?

MATT: It was offered to us. I actually work for the company that purchased the rights to it and Barry (Barnholtz) had actually produced the second Mangler. I got to watch that get made and I was like “Oh No”! The first one was cool but not great and the second one, well when they started doing the whole virus thing, I wasn’t into it that much. Barry knew he could get the rights so he bought them and said I think you and Erik (Gardner) should write and direct the thing. So we said okay, read the original story and really tried to pull stuff out of there that we thought was good. You know King is very vague in the story but at the same time he’s kind of telling you “it could be this, it could be that, this is how the machine could’ve have been possessed”. So we kind of tried to play with that a little bit.

ERIK: The second one was a “steamer” as Matt calls it.

Yup big time!

ERIK: Now, the two movies that influenced us the most over the last few years were an Asian film called Kairo and Haute Tension; talk about awesome! So we asked ourselves: how are we gonna make this thing cool? After reading King’s original story which everybody kind of strayed away from, we thought: “What if the steam machine was a person? What if Hadley Watson (the lead character/killer) was an incarnation of the machine? What if he needed to take humans and feed the machine in order to stay alive? That’s kind of the gist of the story we’re telling.

So what kind of machine are we talking about for this second sequel?

MATT: It’s kind of this hybrid machine created by Hadley Watson who happens to be a washing machine repairman. He likes to take antique things and put them together. So he tries to put together a new machine that is going to be built from parts of the original Mangler (from the first film).

That’s a pretty kool sequel concept!

MATT: Thanks! Then what happens is that he becomes obsessed with building this machine and the machine eventually eats him and spits him back out. As a result, he becomes an extension of the machine.

ERIK: What specifically happens is that he’s wrenching on the machine, his shirt gets caught and he gets sucked into the machine. The next time you see him you know that something is amiss. He starts decaying throughout the movie and you know that “Oh Shit” he’s gonna have to find humans to shove into the machine and rejuvenate himself.

So he's somewhat possessed?

MATT: Yeah, he’s not gonna have machine parts on him or anything like that. We’re thinking more a supernatural approach while playing it all in the vein of High Tension or Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

So you’re not trying to do a dark comedy with this at all?

MATT: No. when you watch films like Chainsaw and all of that; you’re kind of like “wow this is relentless, will it ever give me a break” that’s what we’re going for.

ERIK: This is the darkest movie we’ve ever done together; this is the first one that’s so bleak and serious.

Are you at all concerned by the incredibly negative reaction to Mangler 2 affecting your own eventual sales?

ERIK: Yes, but in all honesty we’re just trying to make a movie that’s going to be totally different than any of the Mangler movies. I think that if enough people out there see it, people like you and all the fans, they’ll realize that we’re trying to make something that will blow those two other movies away.

What kind of cast can we expect in the film? Teens or older?

ERIK: Everybody will be like 25ish and older. We even have one part who is around 50 years old.

Well that’s refreshing to hear! In terms of gore; are we talking suggestive or graphic?

MATT: They’re will be a lot of scenes that will be suggestive and they’ll be a few that will have a graphic payoff. We don’t want to overkill it you know. Like take Halloween or Chainsaw, everybody thought that those movies were so bloody, you hear that all the time.

And they’re not at all; they suggested and your mind gapped the rest.

MATT: Yeah, you watch the thing and you’re like “wow, it so bloody” but then you go back and see that it wasn’t. It was crafted so well that you did think that it was very violent and bloody. That’s what we’re aiming for, a Carpenter and Hooper kind of thing.

ERIK: I think a lot of time “suggestive” is better; there’s is a lot of gore in this but a lot of stuff is going to be cheated. Honestly, in movies like Kairo, we don’t see gore and that’s what great about it where I swear I jumped out of my skin about 7 or 8 times in that movie. We're definitely not the “gore guys”! Most of the stuff is: “Something might be lurking behind that corner and is it gonna get ya?” type of approach. I think implied stuff is definitely scarier

Casting wise, anything you can divulge yet?

MATT: No, there are people we’re going after but the offers haven’t been sent out yet and nobody is locked.

ERIK: We actually had one actor locked, “the killer’, and now that could change to a name-actor. Which is a bummer for me where if you look at somebody that’s supposed to be scary and you recognize him, that lessens the fear factor. We’re gonna have to fight the producers on that. It stinks when you’re not Sam Raimi!

With a strange face, you believe the character more, no distractions.

MATT: Exactly; if you saw like Michael Madsen as the killer you’d be like, there’s Madsen! We’re trying to go back to the old school days I guess and keep the killer unknown.

Have the foreign distributors pitched you names of their own?

ERIK: Yes, lots of horror icons name are on that list. We put together our own list of dreamy people we would want in the film, off our favorite horror movies. From The Evil Dead to Re Animator. We want to go with a no-name as the killer but with all names around that character. We’ll see what happens I’m sure stuff will be decided in the next week or so.

You got Ashley Lawrence in there? Come on! She rocks!

ERIK: She’s on our list, you name a great horror icon and we’ve put them down on. But unfortunately what it boils down to is what the foreign guy can sell.

What’s the distribution status? You have anything locked?

MATT: It’s going through Lion Gates.

I’m assuming that's only North America; what about foreign?

ERIK: We have some foreogn and it possibly won’t even go there as Mangler Reborn. They want to change the title to an original title. Here in America it will most likely be Mangler Reborn, unless Lions Gate makes us change that, and foreign, we gave them a list of titles. “Welcome to the Machine” is what we had written on a draft written for our manager. So that’s still up in the air.

What will you shoot the movie on?

MATT: Right now we’re leaning more towards HD but at the 11th hour that can change.

When’s your start date in terms of shooting?

MATT: My guess is middle of March.

And release date; any clue?

MATT: My guess is that it will be December.

Straight to DVD I assume?


Pics and design courtesy of Jason Shulman.

MATT: Yes, but we might want to release it bigger, maybe a very small theatrical.

Have you started thinking of DVD extras already and what you’d like to do with that?

MATT: We’re going to actually shoot the whole process of making the film from beginning to end. Like starting with the guys at the effect house, the casting, shooting all that stuff to keep people in the loop where many never get to see that stuff.

Who will be doing the gore effects on the film?

MATT: We got these guys onboard, they’re called Evolution Effects. They’re a bunch of guys that came from Stan Winston and I think Steve Johnson. I know for sure they did a lot of stuff with Stan and went to Savini’s effects school. They’re hardcore horror geeks which is great! It’s awesome to work with the same type of people that love it as much as you do. That’s really what we look for when putting a crew together. Do they love the genre as much as us? It’s kind of like a screening process that Erik and I go through with people. That’s what we want, especially on a tight budget.

Now I have to ask because I and at least half of my readers want to know; female nudity… are we talking about it or not?

MATT: Yes we are.

If it would be up to you though, would you include the female nudity in the film? Are you just putting it in there because you know it will help with foreign sales?

MATT: Honestly, we’re doing it from a foreign sales standpoint.

ERIK: We've never written anything like that in any movie we’ve ever done. In this one there's a shower scene. We didn’t even write "nudity" in the script, it could play in there if we need to do it. The scene in question is at the beginning of the movie, so if it happens, we get it out of the way fairly quickly. But we always think that when you start seeing that stuff in there and it has nothing to do with the overall story, it’s pointless. Form a horror movie fan standpoint, I think that kind of stuff doesn’t make your movie better. Unfortunately we most likely will need it but fortunately I won’t be the one telling the actress to take off her top.

Creatively; are you at all forced by the “suits” to go one way or another? How much freedom do you have?

MATT: Honestly it hasn’t been "too many hands in the cookie jar". We got a few notes here and there but otherwise it hasn’t been painted like you would at a Studio or something.

ERIK: Right now the script is locked and no one is going to say to us: I think you should do this. For example, we’re gonna have a scene where a girl is getting hit in the back of the head with a two-by-four with a nail sticking out of it. Sure we’re gonna shoot it a bunch of different ways but when all else fails; we’re gonna get that in there. It’s an important scene and scare. She gets hit in the back of the head, then she starts to run away and gets stuck through a door jam.

Sounds like fun times to me man! So this will be the first time that you guys direct a feature together.

ERIK: We’re stoked man; its going to a very John Carpenter type of movie, lots of "masters". Although we really love that Raimi kinetic stuff, this one is gonna be mostly about tone and scares.

How do you predict the co-directing process to go down?

ERIK: Matt and I will storyboard the whole movie, every shot is going to be on a paper and we'll also work the actors together. We’re definitely going to know exactly what we want before we get out there. We’re not gonna have a B Camera, no second unit; it’s a small and contained shoot. Most of the money is going to go into camera and our name actors.

I know this kind of pre-mature but Mangler 4?

MATT: Not that I know of!

ERIK: Not in our minds yet.

Do you already have your next project in mind?

MATT: Yes we've got a couple of things going but you never know! We have a werewolf script that has gotten lots of interest but at the same time I don’t know when it would happen.

ERIK: Its a Lost Boys with werewolves type deal, its a gas, totally old school werewolf movie. And we’re working on other stuff. Anything that addresses religion, demons or ghosts scares the crap put of us.

I’ll finish off with a couple of silly questions!

MATT: Of course!

Favorite horror movie?

MATT: So many to name; the one’s that influenced me the most were Sam Raimi and Evil Dead. Erik and I came together because of our mutual love for that film. Argento’s early stuff too like Suspiria. Night of the Living Dead was also a movie that turned me around when I was 8 or something. That’s the one that changed me. I was like "Oh I got to see more of this stuff". The Howling and Carpenter's stuff was also a huge influence on me.

ERIK: I was at a funeral and I had to get up and speak, out of respect for my grandma. I remembered when I was like 8 years old, she took me to see a double bill of King Kong and some other movie with coach roaches. That movie scared the hell out of me! I had nightmares about it! Its called BUGS and it's about nuclear cockroaches that have minds of their own. They crawl on people and set them a flame. For my entire life that movie has been etched in my brain. That was the start of the horror scare inside me. I never knew this but it’s a William Castle movie.

Sounds like fun cheese to me!

ERIK: It is! And of course The Evil Dead. The Exorcist, Re Animator, Night of the Living Dead and TCM. More recently Session 9 totally freaked me out! I love being scared and love watching a movie that makes me doubt reality.

Your favorite drink?

MATT: Hmmm, I’d have to say, it’s probably a Lava Flow.

ERIK: Right now I’m really into Captain Morgan rum and Diet Coke

NICE! Not Coke...DIET COKE...I respect that!

ERIK: You have to watch that weight! I love them, I could drink them till there’s no tomorrow. I also like wine; I have a huge wine collection.

Blondes or brunettes?

MATT: Brunettes, my wife is a brunette.

ERIK: My girlfriend is a brunette but she does the blonde thing in her hair but I’m definitely a blonde guy. I do love my significant other though.

That’s so sweet! I’ll keep that in the interview for you to rack up some Brownie Points!

ERIK: LOL!

Lastly; what’s your perception on the remake craze that’s going on and more specifically what’s your take on the whole Evil Dead remake?

MATT: You know what? I was really hesitant about the Dawn of the Dead remake and then I saw it and liked it. Chainsaw I thought had some kool stuff in it. I’m a big fan of the original. Evil Dead, I don’t know, I’m worried about it but you’d be surprised, if they’re involved with it; and it comes out, it could be bigger….

Well I doubt we’ll get the tree rape scene in there.

MATT: It will definitely be watered down in that sense…personally I’d rather see new and fresh stuff . But the business is that Studios are doing that because it’s a safe bet and it works. Also there’s a younger generation that’s never seen those movies.

Yes but unfortunately our generation…

MATT: ...is stuck seeing the same movies over and over again…

Exactly, we get the shorter end of the horror stick.

MATT: It’s hard but then again we’re doing a sequel.

Yes but they are two kind of sequels; sequels that solely repeat what the original did and then sequels that try to do something new even though they’re somewhat limited within the confounds of being a follow up to an original.

MATT: That's true.

How do you feel about the Evil Dead remake Erik?

ERIK: I’m bummed about it but I understand why they’re doing it.

Money.

ERIK: Yes, but I don’t think that Sam really wants to make another Evil Dead movie. I use to work on American Gothic (which Sam executive produced) and everybody used to say how Sam always wanted to make those huge Blockbuster type of movies. He wanted to be like Spielberg and he’s doing that now. He's also the nicest guy in the world! He was always cool, he used to come up to me and say “Hey buddy how ya doing?” and shake my hand. I was just this long haired kid from Jersey and I’d be shaking. I wish they wouldn’t remake The Evil Dead though, where I’m not a big remake lover. I did like the look of the TCM remake but I wish they wouldn’t remake them. Even the Asian movies man, we just don’t know how to read into them.

Well I’m done! Thank you for your time Matt and Erik!

MATT: Thanks John!

ERIK: Thanks a lot!

I'd like to thank Matt and Erik for the extensive bla-bla session and would like to wish them some "ass kicking" on Mangler Reborn! Bring it on guys! I'm game! Help me forget Mangler Part 2! PLEASSSSE!

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