Michael Hurst [Interview]

Welcome to Day 2 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Month of Horror Showcase. Every day during the month of October, we will have a horror related interview and/or film review for your fright-filled reading pleasure! The set up will be the same as usual, but the topics will be far more terrifying. Enjoy!

For our first interview in our Month of Horror Showcase, we really wanted to come out swinging, and show you fine readers that we are indeed, not fucking around. Today’s interview subject is an acclaimed writer and filmmaker in the world of horror, mystery, thriller, suspense, and more. His name is Michael Hurst. This is a guy who has written and directed some of the most truly original cinematic adventures over the last 20 years. He was written roles that have become somewhat hidden gems and treasures for folks like Christine Taylor, Jerry O’Connell, Zoë Bell, Shawn Wayans, and more. While his work is obviously not specified just to the world of horror, it is indeed a world that he has managed to dabble in enough to considered one of the greats in the field. My initial reason for looking into the work of this brilliant Englishman was my love for the incredible Pumpkinhead franchise. As he will explain further, Michael was involved with the fourth installment of the franchise, 2007’s Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud.

So with that, I shall stop rambling and let Mr. Hurst speak for himself a bit. He had some wonderful stories to tell you fine readers. So let’s enjoy!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a storyteller and filmmaker? When did the passion begin?

I first got fascinated by story telling when I was about 7 or 8, seeing Jaws when it was first broadcast on British TV. My Dad went out and got fish and chips for the whole family and we watched it together, I was particularly impressed by how much it traumatized my little brother! I still remember my Mum repeatedly telling him “It’s only a movie” throughout! The power of Spielberg…
Later I remember being at school and knowing my Mum was under strict instructions to record Wrath of Khan for me. I was daydreaming about it (obviously I was a terrible student) and a sudden realization came to me – Wrath of Khan, structurally, is literally all one long battle, with some chasing in between. That’s it, and that’s why Star Trek 2 will always the best of them all in my opinion – Khan gets a ship, attacks Kirk, chases Kirk, attacks Kirk again – but Kirk is ready for him now. Realizing this was like a religious experience for me – like Dorothy looking behind the curtain.

From that time on I was fascinated by story and by structure.

When you set out to tell a tale, what is most important to you to know in your gut before you can call a script complete? What is the most important aspect of storytelling in your opinion?

So when I think of a story, I first think ‘concept’ – preferably high concept – then I immediately see if I can find a clear, simple, linear structure to tell it. If I can’t, I tend to abandon the idea.

Over the years I think I’ve had some good ideas (a TV show like Cops in a future after a zombie outbreak – that idea became a (crap – thanks After Dark!) film called Re-Kill, a man who gets a microchip implanted in his skull so people can download digital adverts directly into his brain – that idea became a movie called Hardwired with Cuba Gooding Jr, a time traveller going one hour into the future only to find he and his colleagues are now all dead – that became a film called Paradox that’s on Netflix now, etc). But all these ideas came to me with a three-act structure kind of built in – Re-Kill had the ‘cops’ discovering and trying to prevent a second, bigger outbreak, Hardwired had a group of hackers able to download information to Cuba and help him get revenge on the corporation that did this, in Paradox my time traveller returned to the present and now had an hour to prevent all the deaths — so, in other words, all the stories complied with the basic needs of structure – three acts – most simply expressed as Act 1 – Man Gets Stuck Up Tree, Act 2 – People Throw Rocks At Him and Act 3 – Man Gets Down From Tree. If a story has these 3 obvious sections then I consider it ready to be written!

In 2007 you wrote and directed the 4th installment of one of my favorite horror franchise, Pumpkinhead. When you knew you were going to jump into this franchise, what was most important to you when developing a story to add to this incredible franchise?

I did indeed write and direct Pumpkinhead 4 back in 2007. I actually got the job by reading about it on the internet – a site called Bloody Disgusting ran a story that they were making two sequels to Pumpkinhead. I am a fan of the original, I love all the stuff Stan Winston was doing back in those days and considered Pumpkinhead a part of the whole James Cameron/Lance Henriksen/Stan Winston era. So I asked my then-manager to call the producers and see if they would meet me. The day I went in was the day the 2nd sequel script had been rejected by the Syfy Channel (I believe the script called for Pumpkinhead to go to space!!) and so the producer was in a bind – he asked if I could come up with an alternate story AND write it – IN A WEEK. I said yes, because I’m crazy and I really wanted to make a movie with a great monster and Lance Henriksen in it! So I realized I was seriously up against it time-wise, and decided I would rip off the best – Shakespeare! Transposing Romeo and Juliet to the Hatfields and the McCoys and throwing in Pumpkinhead. I think I wrote a decent script considering I only had 7 days!! And I made sure to put in a LOT of gore and action. So there you have it, the producers liked the script and I was on a plane to Romania a week or so later. I got to work with Lance Henriksen and bug him relentlessly for stories about his past work, of course.

What is it about the horror genre specifically that makes you enjoy working within it?

I love working in the horror genre because I enjoy watching horror films. I think it’s impossible to spend so much time and energy making a movie you wouldn’t want to watch. I love horror because the stakes are high – usually life and death – and it’s broad church – horror is not a limiting genre as there are so many different kinds and tones of horror films – from Silence of the Lambs to Evil Dead 2, they’re all considered ‘horror’ and yet they could hardly be more different.

What is your favorite scary movie?

I have so many favorite horror films – from Jaws to Aliens to The Thing to Se7en and then the more recent films like The Invitation, which just blew me away.

What are your plans for this coming Halloween? Any traditions you try to stick to each year?

As for Halloween, I have a 10 year old boy, Olly, so my Halloween consists of trick or treating with him! He always makes a cool costume and really enjoys it.What does the future hold for you? Anything you’d like to plug to our readers?

My future projects are many and varied, with many and varied chances of ever coming to fruition! One thing about writing and directing is – if someone tells you they are definitely doing something it’s already been shot or is being self-financed by them! I am always, always, always writing – right now I am working on an action thriller and a weird spin on War of the Worlds, a very strange take on an alien invasion movie. But, honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen with any of these ideas, these scripts, these projects. I just keep writing and shooting (sometimes I make shorts, just for fun) and making and hoping!
What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last thing that made me smile was my son, just last night, acting in his first ever play, a musical called Game Changers at Burbank High School – an amazing show with lots of really talented kids in the cast – though I think Olly stole the show personally!

Check out this trailer for Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud courtesy of PumpkinheadFranchise:

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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