October 31, 2014 Leave a comment
Hello Everyone! Happy Halloween, and welcome to Day 5 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Week of Horror! It has been a great few days bringing you fine readers some great interview from some of the finest folks involved in the world of horror. And while it might not be fair to say that we saved “the best for last”, as that would obviously not be fair to the fine folks we have already featured – but we are very excited about this one!
David Schmoeller is that sort of guy that fascinates us the most. When you look at so many horror franchises out there, it is always great to speak with the originator! Just as we did last year with our interview with Friday the 13th creator Victor Miller, we have another great interview with a man that has left his mark in the world of horror in a major way. Schmoeller is the man who originally made us shit ourselves over…puppets? Yes, this delightful jerk of a man managed to take something as simple and cute as puppets, and scare the hell out of us. Dolls were already ruined thanks to fellow TWS interviewee Tom Thurman (Child’s Play), clowns are a no go (another TWS interview Tommy Lee Wallace and his film adaptation of Stephen King’s It), and…..well, basically nothing is sacred from the mind of the masters of horror. If you couldn’t guess by now or didn’t already know, David Schmoeller is the man we can hold responsible for 1989’s Puppet Master (but, thankfully for him, not the ridiculous sequels that would be released). He is also the man responsible for the now cult favorite 1979 film Tourist Trap, a film that any REAL horror buff should know and love.
So with that being said, we are so pleased to have Mr. Schmoeller as the special guest to round of this year’s Week of Horror. We are fortunate, honored, and extremely lucky to have this wonderful fellow share a few words with us. So, here we go!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a filmmaker? And what were some of your earliest influences?
I came fairly late to filmmaking. I became a writer at around 15 years old. I went to college with the intention of writing novels. Mid-way through college, I met some friends who were in film – and it just sounded like more fun. So, I started taking film classes and was hooked. I took a class on Italian Cinema and it completely changed how I looked at film. It was transformative.
Like many other filmmakers we have spoken with (Rolfe Kanefsky, in particular), the Internet and new, easier mediums of film viewing have managed to allow some amazing films to finally receive the credit, at least in a “cult status”, that they always deserved. I definitely believe your 1979 film Tourist Trap is one of these films. Do you think the internet coming around is a good change for cinema? Have you noticed the difference?
The Internet is a good and a VERY bad thing for filmmakers. On the good side, there are many new places for your work to be seen. But the fact that internet, by it’s nature, leads users to expect everything on the internet be free of charge, this will eventually end film as we know it. Piracy will destroy film, at least as we understand it now. And, unfortunately, commerce is figuring out how to impose themselves on the Internet in very ugly ways: ads that you have to watch to get to content you want. It’s becoming alarmingly pervasive. So, I really DON’T think the Internet is going to be good for filmmakers – not filmmakers who want to make a living at making films. YouTube is a good place to load your films to be seen instantly, but you can’t make any money that way. And now YouTube is being totally invaded by stupid ads – and as yet, there is no way to see that desired content without seeing that stupid ad. I suppose filmmakers will figure out how to get some of that ad revenue – but I’m pretty cynical about it.
What do you believe it is about your 1989 film Puppetmaster that has made it a relevant addition to the other franchises in place (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, etc.)?
I don’t think Puppetmaster became a franchise in the same way that Halloween or Nightmare or Chainsaw became franchises. Those films were big theatrical hits – and even bigger on video. Puppermaster was a hit on Video only. So, it just was not as big a hit as some of those other successful franchises. And I’m not sure that it merited 9 sequels – but, I’m sure they all made money for Mr. Band. As to why Puppetmaster was appealing, it has to be those stupid puppets coming to life and running around killing people. Leach Woman coughing-up a giant leach to chew up a man thinking he is about to have great sex is pretty funny.
In past interviews, you have mentioned that producer Charles Band has sort of screwed you out of residuals for the Puppetmaster franchise that has spawned 9 more films. Has a resolution been made on this matter, yet?
No, not at all. I am just one person on a long list of people who Charlie has screwed out of the money he owes them. As long as I was working for Charlie and he needed my services, I would get paid. Once I stopped working for him, I would never get what he owed me. For a while there, in the eighties and nineties, I would have to do another film to get paid for the last one. I liked working for Charlie because he would let the directors make their movies and he didn’t meddle as long as you delivered good films. He didn’t pay much and it was hard to collect what you were owed, but it was so much fun making movies during those days. I wasn’t a filmmaker for the money.
I’ve never seen any of the sequels.
In your obviously expert opinion, what do you think it is that makes a “great” horror film, as opposed to “just another” horror film?
A: It helps to have a really great monster (Michael, Freddy, the shark in Jaws, Frankenstein, Annabelle, stupid puppets, etc.). It also helps if your subject touches something in the Zeitgeist of the time or just strikes the imagination of the public (Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, and even something like Saw). Sometimes if it is an especially well-made horror film top-notch in all categories – writing, directing, acting, etc – it can be a great horror film (Silence of the Lambs, Prisoners).
Currently you can be found in the UNLV Film Department. How did you come across this gig? How has it been for you thus far?
I’ve been a university professor for the last 14 years at UNLV here in Las Vegas. I was very lucky to get the job – a professor in film was given a better offer just a week before school started and they needed someone to teach directing at a very short notice. I was living in LA at the time and commuted to Las Vegas for a year. They then offered me a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor and I took it. Best thing that has ever happened to me!
What are your plans for this Halloween?
This year Halloween falls on Nevada Day – which is a state holiday – so, I am going to stay home and work on my new screenplay “Dead Angels.” I hope it’s the next movie I direct. (see davidschmoeller.com)
What was the last thing that made you smile?
Jim Carrey on SNL doing the funniest spoof of the Matthew McConaughey Lincoln Car commercials. (I like McConaughey as an actor – but what was he thinking, really?)