TWS Week of Horror Day 2: Paul M. McAlarney [Interview]
October 24, 2016 Leave a comment
If you will allow it, the internet can be an amazing source of great entertainment and endless knowledge. It has always been a tool I have tried to use for the positive. And one of the main positives has been discovering amazing folks like Paul M. McAlarney. For long time readers of this rag of a website I call bliss, it will probably come to the surprise of no one that I discovered Paul through the amazing talent I have continuously followed from the great city of Boston, a place I have only seen digitally tossed into ruins via an Xbox. But, I find so much good shit coming from there, it’s hard to ignore.
Long story short, McAlarney has worked with two former Bostonians, Michael J. Epstein and Sophia Cacciola, who I have geeked out about over the years, and have been fortunate enough to have guested on TWS, and featured several times over. So, it only felt right to reach out to Paul to learn more about the why he awesome enough to be in good company!
Paul released the amazing horror/comedy(?) Honky Holocaust that I recommend to everyone with a pulse. He is also becoming a fixture in the Troma world, which is an amazing feat in itself. If you follow his work, you are bound to find a Lloyd Kaufman feature in there somewhere. Overall, the guy is a force to be reckoned with in the horror community. I don’t like to give too many guarantees, but I guarantee you are going to love this guy, and especially love the work he has done.
Alright, time for a digital conversation with Paul M. McAlarney!
What made you decide to become a filmmaker? And more specifically, why the world of horror? Also, would you consider yourself a “horror” filmmaker?
I’ve always been a cinephile. But even before that I was obsessed with writing. Before I could even spell my name I was “writing” books and renting them out to family members for a nickel each. My love for films led me to write screenplays, and after ten years of writing countless scripts, I realized that the only way they’d ever see the silver screen is if I put them there myself; nobody cared about the stuff I was writing and how could I blame them? Everybody thinks their movie ideas are great so why listen to me or read my scripts? But I was done wasting my time and effort. My friend Greg Lavoie and I wrote a silly web-series, recruited a volunteer cast and crew, and shot the thing. The DP we recruited was Nick Norrman, who Greg and I had previously lived and worked with, and Nick asked me to direct a short b-horror film he wanted to produce, since I had a little directing experience with the web-series. I did it because I felt like I owed him for shooting our series, but I had so much fun doing the gore and directing cheesy 80s horror styled one-liners that I abandoned comedy and went 100% into b-horror and exploitation. The latter had always been my favorite genre, even before I knew what it was called. I don’t consider myself a true horror director because I don’t make scary movies. But most people don’t know what the fuck exploitation or grindhouse style cinema is so I just call it horror rather than repeat myself over and over.
So, Honky Holocaust. Such an amazing film, and a brilliant concept for a film. Tell us, where did the idea of this film come from, and how did it feel to have the legendary Troma pick it up for distribution?
Why thank you, Ron. Can I call you Ron? I’ll pretend you said “yes”. Ron, truth be told, I came up with the majority of the plot for Honky Holocaust while taking a shit. Nick Norrman and I had been filming stuff for my web-series one day and afterward, while we were dumping the footage, he suggested we do a feature film. He was also in the middle of showing me clips from the Italian Mondo film Goodbye Uncle Tom, and I was falling in love with the uncensored portrayal of black slaves slaughtering white slave-owning families. To me it was like, “this is what anti-racist cinema really should look like. Anything else is just watered-down white guilt.” In my opinion, white people who don’t get mad about racism are racist, and are no better than the slave owners of pre-Civil War America. Fuck people nowadays too who live in the “north”, think racism is a problem of the South, and thought Crash (2004) was a good anti-racist movie. It’s a white movie for white people. And the north is just as racist as the south. Anyway, I wanted to express my anger about the stagnant condition of the civil rights movement and i needed to take a shit too. So I went down to the bathroom, took a seat, and started thinking. Within ten minutes I had most of the plot structure outlined in my head. I told Nick the premise, he dug it, and the rest is history. From day one of production we wanted it to look like a Troma film, so having them pick it up not only felt right, it was a dream come true. We all grew up on Troma.
And what do you personally love about this film?
Everything. I’m a whore for epic proportions. Thats why I have to struggle to write a script with less than 100 cast members. I love the Spaghetti Western styled cinematography Nick pulled off, I love the epic punk and hip/hop soundtrack and the Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter influenced score, I loved the fire on the hilltop that had us all worried we were going to burn the forest down, I loved the unnecessary topless biker, I love the maggots in the pussy and dick, I love the True Romance inspired sex scene, I love the mythological nature of Lucius the Gardener, I love the fruit-throwing mob, I love the shootout in the penthouse, I love the two cops… i could go on and on. I also love that reviewers have called it “racist” AND “anti-white liberal bias” hahaha.
I’ve noticed that you have more Troma related work in the works, what is that experience like working in that realm?
All of our films will have an unavoidable Troma feel. We can’t help it, it’s in our blood. As of right now, we don’t know who will be distributing any of our films other than Honky Holocaust, but we have featured Lloyd Kaufman in each of our features and cast Elizabeth D’Ambrosio, the head of PR at Troma, in our latest feature, The Streets Run Red. Working with Troma, both directly and indirectly, has been a trip and a half. They’re an awesome, humble, wacky bunch of guys and girls, Lloyd and Michael are both totally down to earth, and I love that they dig our stuff because we totally dig all their stuff. If Troma wound up distributing all of our films, I certainly would not be disappointed!
Can you tell us a bit about Ungovernable Films? How did this happen? And what are you most proud of about the company?
When we made Honky Holocaust, it was under the production company name “Bloody Hammer Films”, which was a short-lived (about 14 months) company that Nick Norrman and I had founded in 2012. We immediately brought on Mike Collari and Thomas Delcarpio, two filmmakers we had been working with on short films before Honky Holocaust, and then we brought on several more people while filming Honky Holocaust, but once the film was done it was clear that the group we had formed was not compatible, to say the least. We decided to more or less dissolve Bloody Hammer Films and I created Ungovernable Films, bringing Bloody Hammer alumni Nick Norrman and Alex E Edwards on board, as well as Dave Sullivan, who was an actor in Honky Holocaust and had proven himself to be incredibly multi-talented and driven. Ungovernable Films’ first task was to finish post-production on Honky Holocaust, and then we set out to produce the punxploitation film, The Ungovernable Force, my second feature. I love Ungovernable Films because the four of us really gel; we each have our strengths – Alex is the responsible one and the businessman; Dave is the people person and handles all our casting and smooth-talking; Nick is the cinematic genius and our in-house grindhouse expert; I do most of the writing and directing, and I steer the ship. But what makes me the proud daddy of Ungovernable Films is its ability to stand on its own; we’re starting to have people from all over the world contact us to tell us how much they love what we’re doing, and people in the Boston independent film industry are beginning to know the name Ungovernable Films, even though they might not know me, or Dave, or Alex, or Nick, and even though we’re a pretty young film company.
So, our avid TWS readers may be excited to know that you have worked alongside, and seem to be pretty friendly with TWS regulars Michael J. Epstein and Sophia Cacciola. And both being so fantastic at what they/you do, it’s not really that much of a surprise. But, can you tell us how you managed to work with and know one of our favorite partnerships in the world of art?
Sophia Cacciola and Michael J Epstein are two of our favorite people in the world. They have helped us out so many times on our films and I feel like we’ve never done much in return aside from forcing Michael to film pornography and setting off their smoke detectors while filming a scene on their treadmill. While we were doing the kickstarter for Honky Holocaust, Michael and Sophia were doing their kickstarter for their first feature, TEN. Somehow they realized that TEN, Honky Holocaust, and another film called Fat all had something in common – they were socially-conscious exploitation feature films being produced in Boston that year. So, Michael and Sophia did what Michael and Sophia do best: they got the director(s) of each film together for a forum on “intellexploitation” in Somerville, MA. I mean, isn’t that what anybody would do if they found out that three films of the same broad genre were being produced in the same metropolitan area? No? Well, that’s what Michael and Sophia do. And thank god for that because we’ve been good friends ever since and they’ve helped us out a ton in one way or another with just about all of our films since. Sophia has allowed us to kidnap Michael on numerous occasions, wrote and recorded a song for our film The Ungovernable Force, allowed us to film a scene on their treadmill, and much much more. Michael has been on set with us as a cameraman or sound mixer more times than he cares to admit and has assisted in countless other ways as well. They’re a fantastic pair and I’m sure they’ll continue to involve themselves in our films and other projects much to their chagrin but our enjoyment, even though they’ve moved to Los Angeles to try and get away from us.
What else have you got in store for the future? Anything else we should be looking forward to from your amazing brain?
It’s odd because the film industry seems to move at such a slower pace than the rest of the world, since it can take years for a film to go from pre-production to public release, and Honky Holocaust is no exception. We finished filming Honky Holocaust in the Spring of 2013 and it is just now getting released on Blu-Ray, three and a half years later. So when you say “the future” it also includes the past three years, since most of what we filmed in that time hasn’t seen the light of day yet, but will soon. Anyway, to answer your question, the first thing we filmed after Honky Holocaust was 12 Rounds For The Loaded, a nihilistic “torture western” short film available for free on youtube (https://youtu.be/EGI6dXQYL78). After that we filmed The Ungovernable Force, our most ambitious production to date with a long list of b-horror and punk rock cameos and is hitting festivals as we speak (Arizona Underground Film Festival, Fright Night Film Fest, Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre Horror Film Fest, Terror Film Festival, to name a few) and the official trailer is available on youtube (https://youtu.be/7EzMsKi0bw4). Then we did Gay Jesus, an anti-homophobia horror comedy short that we released for free on youtube (https://youtu.be/ebbMHYbZabA). We did two short films, Smoothie and Maul My Children, for horror film anthologies 60 Seconds to Die and Grindsploitation 2: The Lost Reels, respectively, which will both be available on DVD within the year. The last thing we shot was The Streets Run Red, a serial killer feature film, which is still in post production, but the teaser trailer is available on facebook and youtube (https://youtu.be/-EbdBkSFJKc). I’ve got several dozen more outlines in the works for future films, so don’t expect us to go away any time soon!
What is your favorite scary movie?
Favorite scary movie… well, most movies that I find truly scary usually aren’t movies that I like cinematically, and vice a versa. Unfortunately, in order for a movie to scare me nowadays it needs to use CGI, which I loathe, so I’m in a bit of a paradox there. So I’ll have to answer this question in a few parts. The movie that scares me the most to this day is The Conjuring. It scared the shit out of me. But there’s a good deal of CGI (ew…) and it’s not a great movie (it’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a movie I would watch for cinematic value). My favorite horror movie is Cannibal Holocaust, but it didn’t scare me at all, so I don’t consider it a scary movie. So, if I cross-reference movies I’ve enjoyed for their cinematic value and movies that still scare me, only two movies really fall into both categories: The Exorcist and The Legend of Hell House. Because practical special FX are so important to our style of filmmaking at Ungovernable Films, I can’t bring myself to respect the use of CGI. I can only really forgive its use in a small handful of movies, and sometimes it will ruin an otherwise good movie for me. My general rule is: if you can’t film it with a camera, it shouldn’t be in a film.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
When I realized that my DVD queue on Netflix included 498 movies so I could add two more movies to it before I hit the 500 movie cap again.TW