The Bad Movie Report

Making A Bad Movie:
My Personal Nightmare


In Which The Author Puts His Brain on the Rack

So, having convinced myself that I Could Do Better Than Those Idiots, I set to work plotting. Not against anybody (that would come later), but putting together the storyline of my film. I watched Friday the 13th rack up impressive numbers at the box office and thought, How much more would a quality movie make? The Greeks had a word for this : hubris.

I was also mindful of an old moviemaking maxim: Hollywood eats its dead. So originality was not a requisite.

Screams of a Winter Night, as mentioned in Chapter One, concerns a group of college pals venturing to a lonely cabin in the woods (this was 1979, the same year Evil Dead started filming. Hmmmm....). I don't think I'm spoiling anything by revealing that there is a survivor at the end of Friday the 13th. These facts slipped into the synergistic pressure cooker of my brain and out came what I thought was a fabulous concept, and still do: what happens when you survive a bad horror movie?

The ShapeOf course, since '79, a bunch of successively more creatively bankrupt F13th sequels have come and gone, and given us the mainstream answer to my question: You die in the sequel. Without even having to strain my memory, Friday the 13th Part 2, Nightmare on Elm Street 4, and Alien 3 all come to mind as being guilty of this, and, in my opinion, this is dissing the movie-goer big time. All the empathy, all the fears, all the triumph you shared in the last movie? Means nothing to us. All for naught. But don't let that stop you from feeling empathy, fear, etc. for our new heroes (yeah, right). Maybe we'll even let them live this time!

Like I said, it pisses me off. But enough about them, let's talk about me.

Now, in 1978, John Carpenter's Halloween also hit the theaters. It's impossible to complain about Halloween, it's such a perfect example of the genre done right. I was fascinated by the concept of an unstoppable killer, and Halloween does a good job of not telling you why; one of the times a leave-them-hanging ending actually works.

SmilerBut the question why still hangs, and it went into the pressure cooker. Out popped the solution: the killer's already dead. He's a zombie! This got me out of the psycho-killer genre, which I never liked, and allowed me to tip my hat to George Romero and his iconic zombie movies (not yet a trilogy at that point). Nailing the concept was a painting called "Smiler" by the excellent illustrator Michael Whelan, which graced the front of The Year's Best Horror Stories 1978. This was the image that formed the basis of the character, Alfie.

The Friday the 13th franchise (odd how this series seems to dog me) realized about the same thing in... what was it? Part 5? When Jason comes back as a zombie. Yawn.

This still left the question of Why Is All This Horror Known to his friends a "H-Dog".Happening? I didn't have to look too far. I had always loved the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. In my youth, while still looking for the writer's voice, I wrote many, many pastiches of Lovecraft, as have others. My writings had always lacked, in my opinion, because I'm a very action-oriented writer, and Lovecraft, per se, is about mood, not action. Until now, I reckoned. By resurrecting my own humble addition to the Cthulhu mythos, Yog Kothag, the younger, more proactive brother of Yog Sothoth, I had my driving force, and a villain: Yog Kothag's high priest, committing ghastly slaughter to return his boss to Earth.

Still being primarily an actor at the time, I was, of course, going to be the main character, Marc Denning. This still left my pal, Robin (see Chapter One). For her, I devised a character who survived an earlier slaughter, and who would team up with Marc on his trail of vengeance.

Like I said, I'm action-oriented. I wanted to make a horror film with action scenes, aiming for a sort of creepy kineticism. And some humor.

At the time, I was more comfortable with the medium of prose than script work, so I wrote the first draft as a lengthy story titled "Nightcrawlers" in 1980. A friend who read it handed it back to me, saying, "You can't do that." "Do what?" I asked. "You can't have humor in a horror film. It won't work." "Yes it will." "No, it won't." In 1981, An American Werewolf in London opened, and my friend admitted she was wrong. By that time, "Nightcrawlers" had been rejected by several magazines, I was preparing to leave college and move to the thriving metropolis of Houston, and then... I was contacted by a fellow who wanted to make a movie.


Actually Writing the Bad Movie