Daniel chats with Joe about Everly, Star Wars, and low budget fillmmaking...
Doing phone interviews is both stressful and exhilarating. In terms of the latter, it’s just fun to speak with people about their work, especially if they are extremely passionate about it. As for the former? Well, even beyond the prospect of coming up with questions and worrying about time or chemistry, there is always a singular nagging question in the back of your mind: What if it doesn’t record? What if I have a great time speaking with someone about their work and it ends up being lost to time, forever trapped only within their mind and mine?
Luckily, that hasn’t happened to me yet and I pray it never does. Of course, there’s also the prospect of a bad connection and it’s something that actually did factor in here. When I spoke with Joe last week on Thursday, April 16th, the connection unfortunately died out twice. Thankfully it was early on and very little was lost beyond Mr. Lynch (rightfully) criticizing me because I hadn’t yet bothered to see the new Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens trailer yet. Sorry, Joe, I was focused on you! At that point in my day, you were more important to me than Star Wars. I did end up watching it repeatedly afterwards, however. As promised.
Speaking with Joe Lynch was like lassoing a tornado and holding on for dear life. You forget what you are doing at first as you are overtaken by the rapid-fire winds (comprised entirely of his enthusiasm for movies) and it takes a while to get your bearings. You forget your questions, despite them being in front of you, and any little anecdotes you meant to toss out fade away. That doesn’t matter though, because Joe still manages to answer every single query you had without even being prompted to do so.
When the phone rang and I answered, what I received on the other end was not a filmmaker (though he most certainly is that), but a fellow movie lover. And one who, at that very moment, was gushing about how much he loved that new Star Wars trailer. How many times he had watched it already and how it made him feel. How it managed to wash away any cynicism that life and work has instilled with him in the decades since Luke Skywalker and his friends save that galaxy far, far away galaxy a long time ago. This lead us into a short side conversation about enthusiasm and cynicism in film that was busted up due to the first dropped call, but continues first thing below. Much like the beginning of Everly itself, you’re being treated to a cold open here…
Joe Lynch: When you start really enveloping yourself in not only the process of (filmmaking), but also the industry of it, so many lose what it’s like to see it from more of an objective point of view or, you know, allowing themselves to just fall into the magic a little bit. It’s so hard now to just tell people “Enjoy this movie!” There’s no hidden message. There’s no ulterior motive. A lot of times there’s not an important message. It’s just here it is, this is a story that we are telling; have fun with it. My big thing from the beginning of Everly was that I made no bones about the idea that I’m not trying to make an A-list film here, even though I have an A-list star. I’m making a B-movie. If anything, I’m making a B+ movie. Let’s take the tropes of all these movies that we loved or still do. Everything from Eurotrash flicks like the Luc Besson films or Asian Extreme stuff like Takashi Miike’s films all the way down to Die Hard, which is a pulp film that’s been spruced up as a blockbuster. Or Tarantino movies which basically recycle and regurgitate old tropes and make ‘em their own. This to me was a celebration of those dark cinema movies that we would find at video stores. No one wants to say the word "grindhouse", because Grindhouse was a bomb, but it kind of is. This is a movie that embraces the repertory crowd. The midnight crowd. We just played the movie at The Cinefamily for a midnight show and also showed Everly at a drive-in, because that’s a perfect place to play it. These are all places where people accept, love, and embrace every type of film. It doesn’t have to have special ? on it or Oscar nominations or whatever. It’s entertainment with a very dark sensibility, but when we played it at Cinefamily, it killed. People were screaming! And it wasn’t like people were saying “it’s so bad, it’s good.” People knew the type of film I was making. We premiered it at Fantastic Fest. That’s a festival that embraces genre and doesn’t have its head up its ass going “what’s gonna be the best horror film this year?!?” or “what’s gonna be the big nominee for the Oscar race this year?!?”. No! If you wanna see a movie that has creepy Japanese ghosts in it or pandas that are in sex films or crazy Australian zombies or Salma Hayek running around with a machine gun for an entire movie, people embrace it. When you go to film festivals like Fanastic Fest or South by Southwest or even Frightfest in London, everyone embraces all of the genres. There’s such a lack of cynicism that it’s why I just love to see movies like that. I wish that would come back a little bit, but then you see the Star Wars trailer and you feel like you are 12 again. All that cynicism goes away for a little bit until you watch the next superhero trailer that comes along on SlashFilm or Badass Digest and you go “Okay, I’m back to snarking again.” Not to say that those websites do that, but there just seems to be a consensus of “Okay, how do we bitch about this?”. Why?!? You don’t need to bitch. Let’s just enjoy it.
Lynch: (laughs) Sorry man, what’s the first question?
DVDActive.com: No, you’re fine. You’re right on track and we’re pretty much in sync on all of that. There’s a lot of pressure put on filmmakers and on writers to dig in on certain things or tear other things apart. Or even tear each other apart. I see a lot of that in interviews lately and it just kind of makes me shake my head a bit. We all got into this, no matter what side of it we are on, out of a love of cinema and it’s sad to see that go from some people, whether they lose it quickly or over time.
Lynch: Yeah, it’s a shame. At the same time, there are moments… Again, you’re right. We all got into it because we love movies. Not just cinema, but movies. Sometimes cinema gets mistaken for prestige films or foreign films and movies are just popcorn fare and midnight movies are shit. It’s all movies! I didn’t know the difference when I was 2 and watching Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Lynch: …or flipping on HBO late at night and just happen upon Altered States, which no 3 year old should be watching. It’s all movies to me. And it all made me forget about everything that was outside of that box for 90 minutes to 2 hours…
(The call is lost for the second and final time)
Lynch: Sorry about that! Anyway, we were talking about what it’s like to be a Disney Imagineer or a guy who makes rollercoasters. You don’t sit in that ride when it’s done and just enjoy it. You’re thinking about “Okay the servos on that machine or that animatic is a little bit off and needs calibration. Maybe Turn 3 needs to twist instead of slide.” Stuff like that. You become so ensconced in the process that you can just get on board and just go on a rollercoster ride. It’s funny because when we were pitching Everly, I always said “This is a rollercoaster ride.” We’re not hinging this on some twisty-turny spot. We’re taking a very simple idea about a woman who’s trapped in a room and she’s got a certain amount of time to get out and the clock is ticking and bad guys keep coming. It’s a kind of obsession about how we’re telling a story. It’s a very classic and well-worn trope to do a siege movie like Rio Bravo or Assault on Precinct 13 or Hostage or anything like that. So we wanted to kind of just tell it in a unique sort of way. That’s where the idea of setting it all in one room came from and a lot of the attack on the action scenes came from, instead of just covering it normally. What if we do this in the winter or where we can only do this from certain angles? Just anything to try and, no pun intended, think outside the box as much as possible. It was always designed to be this rollercoaster ride; this tonal rollercoaster that’s all over the place, but it was designed. It’s not like I can sit back and watch it and go “Well, that happened.” For better or worse, we designed it to be that nutty because those were the kinds of movies that I loved and were inspiring to me. Like Blood Simple, Leon: The Professional, Ichi the Killer, and the Kill Bill movies, of course. Obviously Die Hard. These are movies that are wildly all over the place. You know, with Die Hard, tonally it goes from a straight-laced action film to a comedy to really violent stuff. When Takagi gets shot, I remember being a kid and going “oh my god, that’s horrifying”. That’s not what you normally see in a very lackadaisical 80s action movie. It was brutal. So we kind wanted to harness the idea of being able to jump around both in tone and style and even genre; just so that we could keep the audience on their toes. To me that’s the most fun about cinema: the unpredictability. I don’t think anybody who’s heard about this movie can predict exactly where Everly is gonna start out and also where she’s gonna end up. Even from the trailers, you have no clue. I like that element of surprise. I would much rather that than someone watching the trailer and going, “okay, we’ve got this scene, we’ve got that scene, we saw that shot, but we haven’t finished it because we haven’t seen this moment yet.” It’s mostly just trying to give the audience that feeling of unpredictability so that don’t know what’s going to happen next.
DVDActive.com: I was going to ask you about the tonal shifts. You’ve got all kinds of things coming at Everly from all sides, but the tonal shifts flow naturally from one sequence to the next. You can have The Sadist and the Masochist in one scene and switch over to the insane call girls in the building as well. It all flows rather well. A lot of films try wacky tonal shifts, but they don’t flow from one to the other and it ends up feeling like a series of segments instead of an actual whole piece. Everly didn’t have that issue for me.
Lynch: Well, thank you! There are so many people out there who would gladly disagree with you, but when we making this movie I remember my producers asking me, “How commercial do you think this is?”. We had a major movie star, so I could see that helping, but we always knew it wasn’t going to be a 4-quadrant movie. It was not going to be for everyone. If it was PG, there would be absolutely no fun in it. It would probably end a lot nicer or a lot more benign. We knew we were making this crazy genre movie that was just specifically for a specific crowd. Hopefully with Salma we get to introduce it to a few more people who might not have watched it otherwise and on the flipside, maybe people who had never seen a Salma Hayek movie before would be able to watch this and go, “Oh my god, I’ve gotta see more movies from her!”. It was a great way to introduce a lot of different genres to different people. When you look at Takashi Miike, who was a major influence on me, or even Beat Takeshi…these Eastern filmmakers and Eastern auteurs, they don’t mind when things get tonally crazy. You know, when you watch Audition, you think you’re watching Pretty Woman. Then 30-40 minutes in, it’s like someone has changed the channel and now you’re watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I love that! If you think about it, life is a tonal rollercoaster. You could wake up in the morning and already be having a shitty day and if a filmmaker was shooting it, it would be considered the first act in a melancholy drama. But then midway through the day, you could have a great lunch and now it would be a romantic comedy. And then at the end of the night, everything could fall apart and it could be a horror movie. That’s just the way life is. I never really understood why there has to be this strict rule on tone. If you care about the characters and your characters are the through line; that to me is where you’re allowed to do these tonal shifts. And again, knowing that we needed to keep the audience on their toes in an urbane world where everyone knows that there’s a story mechanic of what makes a fun arcade game……big bosses and levels……that you have to traverse through to get to the final bad game. Those are the classic gaming tropes and because our movie in a way feels like that, we needed to make sure that the stakes were raised. No matter what comes through that door, you won’t know what you’re gonna get. If it stayed with the same tonal consistency, I don’t think would as surprising. Is that polarizing to some people? Sure. I don’t mind that. If they don’t like it, then no problem. I think the people that actually like this type of film are going to appreciate it and see that it is done from the heart. I don’t normally like to look at my own stuff. Once the movie is done, you kinda wanna just take it away from your eyeballs and hope that people respond to it. We’ve shown it a bunch of times at festivals and a ton of screenings, from doing it at the drive-in…which was my idea just to revel in that experience of what it’s like as a drive-in movie…to doing midnight showings at festivals. When I watch it with a crowd, I find myself just watching it and enjoying it as if I was a fan. That to me is more powerful than going, “Look at all these awards I won”. I can actually watch my own movie and not to sniff my own ass, because my ass smells terrible today, but it just means to me that I feel like I hit all the right buttons. Or at least the buttons I wanted to press and people are enjoying it. And I’ll be the first person to tell you all the faults of the movie. Take some of the worst reviews of this movie, which my mother likes to remind me of. The movie came out on VOD and many of the reviews were great. Then, when it came out in theaters, the reviews were almost all terrible. Coming out when it did, these people were watching all of the prestige films leading up to the Oscar race and now they have to see a genre flick with Salma Hayek and machine guns and dudes that look like they’re from Big Trouble in Little China. You know, it’s a nuts movie and I think some press people didn’t really know what it was. So when my mom calls me up and is like, “Joey, oh my god, I just saw that you got 0 stars in the Daily News and the New York Post.” To me, that’s kind of like a badge of honor and doesn’t bother me at all. Some people don’t get that kind of movie and I can’t fault them for it. I know that I’m proud of the movie and the people that made it, we are so proud of what we did, and hopefully it becomes something that will become a 24 hour Christmas staple on TBS someday. I think that’s important for filmmakers to realize. You have to appraise your work, whether you like it or not. This from the guy who made Knights of Badassdom. You have to do it. I’ll be the first person to say that I hate watching Knights of Badassdom, but there are so many people who love it and I can’t criticize them for it. If people hate Everly…and there are haters of it…I can’t fault them either. Because cinema is so subjective, that’s what makes it wonderful. If you’re lucky, you can have a trifecta where you can have a creative, a critical, and a successful hit. I mean, look at It Follows. Who would have thought that was gonna be the big hit that it was? Radius obviously did, but you know, sometimes you get that universal love. When I hear from someone who loves Everly and from someone who hates it, I go, “well, that’s movies for me.” And it kinda traverses that.
DVDActive.com: I actually first caught Everly on its initial VOD run during the awards build-up and it was a breath of fresh air in the middle of having to catch up on a bunch of Oscar films. I really enjoyed it then and now.
Lynch: It’s kind of like cinematic wasabi when you’re watching screeners of The Theory of Everything and Whiplash. And I love Whiplash, but you kind need a little bit of something to set yourself back to “it’s just a movie”. We’re not trying to make a Top 10 list or chase awards. A lot of the times I’ll watch the Oscars and realize most of those movies didn’t entertain me. They felt like they were a quota for a studio to say, “We need some Oscar movies. Whadda we got? It might not make a lot, but we need to make sure we have some Oscar movies.” I would much rather a movie like Whiplash come out organically and people just happen to like it and praise it and shower it with accolades naturally. I just want to be entertained though. I want to be taken on a rollercoaster ride; to laugh and cry and feel affected. I want all the feels! Again, with Everly, we’re making you laugh, we’re making you scream, we’re making you cry; we’re trying to do a little bit of everything. Maybe we’re overstepping our boundaries a little bit, but that’s okay. We wanted to make a very dark, but fun movie.
DVDActive.com: I think most films should try to overstep their boundaries when they can, even if only a little bit. As far as Oscar films go, I have the same feeling when I sit down and watch awards ceremonies, especially if I’ve seen most of the film. Yeah, I really liked that movie, but it’s probably something I’ll never watch again. In some cases there’s a tonal, stylistic, or narrative reason for that, which is fine. Some things don’t need to be experienced over and over again. In other cases, it’s simply because it felt, as you said, like someone was meeting a quota and everyone is going through the motions just for the sake of prestige. I can definitely see myself revisiting Everly though.
Lynch: That’s exactly it. We strove for having those little moments peppered throughout that movie that kind of force you to go back a few times and reevaluate it a little bit. Little details that you might not have seen the first time. Not really Easter eggs, although there is one that I will put out there. My son, who is 6, is a very big Star Wars fan, so he’s geeking out over Star Wars today. When I was leaving to shoot the movie in Serbia, he felt bad that I was going to be away for 3 or 4 months, so he gave me one of his coveted Star Wars figures to take with me as kind of a little reminder of him and a bit of a protector. So he gave me Wicket, a little Ewok Kenner action figure. So I had Wicket in my pocket the entire shoot. So much so that I would take what I like to call “Ewok bombs” and put them on Instagram. Mostly for Remy to see, but then all of a sudden people were going “Oh there’s an Ewok here, there’s an Ewok there” and it became a way to peak behind the curtain and see what we were doing. So what I did was one day, and I’m not gonna say where it is or what time it comes in, but somewhere in the movie is a little Easter egg where you can see Wicket the Ewok in the apartment somewhere. Kinda like seeing R2-D2 in Star Trek 5 all the way in the background. Now that I’ve said that I’m sure Lucasfilm will come down on me like the hammer of Thor, but to me it’s like those little things on a film you like that some many years from now someone tells you and you go “Oh my god, I never saw it, I have to watch it again”. It’s those little details that can become conversation pieces to people. That’s some of what makes it exciting to watch movies, especially when you are seeing it again. If filmmakers are at least smart enough or have enough wherewithal to think about that stuff, instead of just going “I need to make my day! No matter what’s going on, I’m just gonna get it done”. If you put some creativity into, you’re planting the seeds for people to take away different things from it or find things they haven’t seen before.
DVDActive.com: That extra attention is certainly evident, both here and in Wrong Turn 2. And I’m sure Knights of Badassdom, despite the problems that you had on it. I actually haven’t seen it yet, honestly. I keep meaning to.
Lynch: It’s one of those situations where it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and an incredibly painful process that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. I don’t have many, but I wouldn’t even want them to go through that. Just the fact that the movie came out and was a pretty big success…and I know why, because of the stars we had. It did really well based on some of the buzz we got from Comic-Con and probably from the notoriety and infamy behind it, so that helped. And there are people who come up to me and go, “I heard it’s not your cut, but I still like it.” There’s the essence and spirit of what we going for is still there, but it’s how it’s told. It’s kinda of like a joke. You write a joke and it has the spirit of your voice, but then you give it to someone else tell and they don’t tell it like you would. That’s kind of how I feel with it. The material is there, but the executions are not how we would have done it. It’s painful to talk about, but that all changed recently. I do a podcast on Geek Nation with fellow filmmaker Adam Green called The Movie Crypt. That was just done to promote our TV show Holliston a few years ago, but then it became this crazy juggernaut where a lot of people love it and come on the podcast and say it’s inspiring, yadda yadda yadda. We actually had one of my heroes on, Don Coscarelli, who did the Phantasm movies and Bubba Ho-Tep. He also directed Beastmaster, which was one of my favorite movies as a kid. So when that came up, Adam and I started to verbally fellate Don Coscarelli about how much we love Beastmaster, Sharak, Ruh, and Rip Torn as the bad guy, and just how it was awesome. And we watched how his face changed like we had hit a sour note with him. We said, “What’s wrong?” and he said “I don’t like that movie because my cut got taken away from me.”. And immediately everything changed for me. Now I get it. Once the movie is released, it’s not in your hands anymore. The public perception of it is out of your depth, other than coercing people through marketing and publicity. It’s just out there. And people who love that movie or hate that movie, I can’t fault or criticize them for it. When people used to walk up to me and say, “Oh man, I love you movie!”, I’d go “Ehhhhh, you should reconsider”. I would poo-poo them just being nice and giving me a compliment. Now I get it. I fully get how most of the movies out there, for better or for worse, I can’t criticize them about it. With Everly, the people who love it, I’m thrilled. And the people who don’t? I can’t fault them for it. It’s not for everybody, but hopefully it’s one of those movies that genre fans will keep in their back pocket. Like Inside was all anyone would talk about. “You see this crazy French movie called Inside?!?” Or even Troma movies back in the day. Or when Battle Royale came out and it was this dangerous movie. And there were still plenty of people that hated it, but everyone still went “Dude, have you seen Battle Royale?!?”. I’m hoping that in a couple months or years that people will have a similar reaction. “Dude, have you seen this movie called Everly? It’s got everything! Salma Hayek, machine guns, torture porn, Yakuza, a cute little girl, severed heads, it’s got everything!”. We tried to throw in everything but the kitchen sink, so hopefully something sticks with genre fans and some of them will make it their new go-to holiday favorite at Christmas time this year.
DVDActive.com: You’ve got the Shane Black and holiday horror angle going on with it a bit for sure.
Lynch: Die Hard is one of my favorite movies and it is my Christmas movie, but how Shane made me find more………and this was before I really knew who Shane Black was and his stories between Lethal Weapon, Long Kiss Goodnight, and eventually Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Iron Man 3….how he made Christmas into a new dynamic for me was amazing. I’ve always had this weird juxtaposition of feelings with Christmas. Sometimes it can be the happiest time of the year. Sometimes it can be the most dreadful, depressing, horrible time of the year. Depending on who you are and how you’re feeling that year and if you got that bonus or not for the Griswold family pool. You know, just how movies can try to use holidays in a different way. I wanted to put this character in the worst place possible. To have her have to fight her way out of the most awful situation at that time of the year and survive the night. And who knows, maybe someone is having a shitty Christmas when they watch it and actually connects on that level. “I’m having a shitty Christmas too!”. Or maybe not, who knows! Not to spoil anything, but at the end of the movie there’s a chance that some of these characters might still have a good Christmas. Granted it’ll be with broken bones and bandages and bloodloss, but there is still hope for a good holiday for some of these people. Not all of them, especially the ones in body bags. If we were making a deep dark movie about a martyr, I wouldn’t have set it at Christmas, but the fact that Everly is determined to survive for her family….these are all things that are almost indicative of Christmas. You have to persevere, to have hope, to look at that light at the end of the tunnel; you need to whether you are redeeming yourself or just putting yourself in a better mood by giving a little holiday spirit. Without giving a bit of hope at the end of the film, I don’t think it would have been as pleasant, but there’s nothing like a crazy action scene or massive bloodletting set to Christmas music. I have to say that’s a personal fetish of mine. I can’t help it.
DVDActive.com: It’s one of mine as well. It’s just a fun juxtaposition to have those bright cheery lights, the trees, globes, the music, the overall Christmas setting. Even just the music set against absolutely horrible violence is a wonderful combination of filmic flavors.
Lynch: Right, look at Gremlins, where that weird speech in the middle turns everything into a bummer for a bit. Or even as a kid being in a VHS store and seeing the big box cover of Silent Night, Deadly Night. “It’s a Christmas movie…why is Santa going down that chimney with an axe?!?”. To be fair, I never understood quite how on the video box that image was justified because how the hell is he going to get that axe down the actual chimney? I never quite got that, but it’s an artistic license for marketing and it worked. I love how you can play with those contrasts. How Lethal Weapon plays with the idea that it’s Christmas time, yet you have your led character eating to eat a bullet while Christmas music is in the background. Or Cobra, where there’s a commercial for Toys-R-Us during Christmas while Sylvester Stallone is cleaning his gunning and making a pizza slice into a little triangle. There’s just so much fun and black humor in it, but I guess that’s where my humor lies. That very dark, black humor you see in movies like Reservoir Dogs or Blood Simple, where you’re kinda like “was I supposed to life at that? Yeah, I guess I was. That’s pretty messed up, but I dig it!”.
DVDActive.com: Well, that just means you have a really sick sense of humor, but so do I.
Lynch: That is very true.
DVDActive.com: So does my wife. You actually brought up Inside earlier, which is also set on Christmas…
Lynch: Wait, Michael Mann’s The Insider?
DVDActive.com: No, Inside. The French film.
Lynch: Oh yeah, that’s right. I was gonna say, I didn’t remember Christmas in the Mann film. Yeah, Inside. When I saw that movie, this is so fucked up, but the fact that it’s set during Christmas makes it even more fucked up. I don’t think that movie would have worked as well if it wasn’t set on Christmas Eve, because we obviously all know what it’s like on Christmas Eve where everyone is racing against the clock for one reason or another. That holiday setting on top of it all just worked and there’s nothing crazier than a woman is trying to cut a baby out of someone in a wacky French horror film. And that’s why I’m excited about that Leatherface movie, because those guys are geniuses, so if they can apply that to a Leatherface film…..dude.
DVDActive.com: Yeah, I’m excited for that. I wasn’t really a big fan of the last one, but with them on this entry, it’s a definite must-see for me.
Lynch: Are you talking about Livid or the other one they did that supposed to be a Stephen King/Amblin-esque horror movie (Among the Living) that I don’t think has been released her yet. I saw Livid and felt that it was beautiful, kind of like an Argento movie. I didn’t like the script as much, but visually these guys are second to none. So if they can apply the same thing to Leatherface and buzzing chainsaws, oh baby, it’s gonna be like……like a Christmas experience to me! A big, beautiful, bloody present!
DVDActive.com: Absolutely. I actually liked Livid and I haven’t seen Among the Living yet, but I was talking about the last Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie actually.
Lynch: Oh, oh okay! Yeah, I don’t really wanna talk about that one. I didn’t like that movie. I had this conversation with Adam Green and….I don’t know if it was because he watched this thing on a 100 inch screen in 3D, so I don’t know if he was just enamored with the 3D and post-conversion shit….but he liked it a lot more than me. That’s one of the weirdest franchises in the world and I don’t quite know how that last one fits in the canon itself. I love the first one and get a kick out of the second one, being a big splatter movie. The third one is kinda weird and the fourth one is whatever, it’s got McConaughey, but the remake was solid. And then it kinda went off the rails again. Hopefully those guys nail it.
DVDActive.com: Just moving back to Everly, I love siege films in general, but I really liked the fact that a lot of the people who were gunning for her weren’t just doing it for money or kicks. Many of them seem to be doing it solely out of fear or a desire to gain their own freedom from Taiko, be they male or female. It forces both Everly and the audience to think a bit about those killed already or those about to be. That just gave it an extra edge that a lot of similar films don’t have.
Lynch: I’m glad you picked that up dude, seriously. Like Deadman having his own backstory or the other girls. That was actually Salma. When she first came to the project…and she came to us, which was crazy…she really liked the idea and the project, but she kept saying how these characters can’t just be caricatures. Even though we might see them for 30 seconds and we don’t even explain it, we should at least instill a little bit of humanity and character into these people, otherwise they are just gonna be faceless villains. That’s always been something for me, really. I hate it when you just take a caricature of a person and you never get a human moment. In Wrong Turn 2, there’s this moment where two characters are hanging upside down and just before they get an arrow through the eye, one of them says, “My mom always told me I’d live forever”. And then they get killed. That was a moment that wasn’t in the script, but it felt……..these two people are gonna die. Usually it’s sudden or there’s a funny quote or they fake you out, but not many have that moment that so many people would do and take it straight to “mommy”. It’s such a real, bad human moment that you don’t normally seen in a movie like that. Someone actually told me after a screening once that they finally felt really bad for those characters after that moment. You were almost trained to not like them throughout the movie, and then all of a sudden you feel it because of that little bit of humanity. That stuff really excites me. A character can be a total dickhead and then with one line, you can turn it around. You’ve made him good and made me feel it, you sonuvabitch! With Everly, the girls…even Taiko to a degree; he’s supposed to be the bad guy but deep down he’s a broken-hearted dude. All those little details felt needed. Originally Everly was just going to slowly hear all of these phones going off and then wave after wave of murderous girls are coming at her and she has to kill them. They just start coming in and she’s just shooting and shooting and shooting and shooting and the gag in a way was just that she gets up again and it’s a huge pile of bodies. It would have been cool visually and it played more as a comic relief moment, but then Salma came in and said “If I’m trapped in this played, I would know these girls down the hallway. They’re my neighbors. Whether or not we’ve befriended each other, I know them. There’s at least a connection.” So we said, “That’s a great idea!” and we started peppering in little things here and there. Like the fact that Everly talks about how Anna had a kid. It’s just dialogue, but it doesn’t feel like exposition. It’s a character moment and information that you could normally find out about people at anytime. Sitting on the subway with someone talking about your kids or something. You don’t need someone to walk in and go “Let me tell you about my backstory!”. That’s not how life works. By peppering in these little moments of humanity with the characters, it makes it feel more real and a little bit of consequence when someone gets killed. And there’s still plenty of Yakuza guys that get killed. But if we can make one person feel a bit of sympathy for Deadman……the guy who got shot and sat on the sofa for part of the film….at the end, we’ve succeeded. And I’m not really spoiling anything there, I mean, his name is actually “Deadman” in the film. But by having some tender moments with him, as opposed to making him comic relief or a foil, you actually care about the repercussions. It’s those things that I feel like elevate it from a B movie to a B+ movie. We are thinking about things aside from just “bang bang bang”. I can easily challenge any filmmaker or fan to tell me that Everly is a conventional action film. It isn’t. This was by design, it was by execution, and I stand by it. It’s its own little beast and it’s derivative of other movies, but every movie is derivative of other movies. I took all kind of movies I loved and loved and loved and worked a lot of that in. Again, if you like it…great! If you don’t, you don’t.
DVDActive.com: Those little touches not only make the film itself stand on its own, but also gives weight to all of those characters coming in and out of the room and helps to distinguish them from one another.
Lynch: You have that one moment when the elevator opens up and you have all of those Yakuza guys standing there and every guy in that elevator has already been killed at least twice previously in the movie. We only had 8 Japanese dudes and they were pretty much all from our stunt team. I learned a very valuable trick from Robert Rodriguez…and obviously this movie is kind of a spiritual sister to Desperado, and I love that movie and its style. There’s that thing where he would take his stunt guys and extras and just go “Alright, you wore a hat and a pair of sunglasses in this scene, now you’re not gonna wear any of that and wear a jacket in this scene”. It took me a couple times going back and forth on the laserdisc that I own to realize that “Oh my god, there’s actually only like 2 stuntmen in this movie!” And yet it feels like 30 or 40 different dudes dying. I kind of applied the same thing to this. Now to any douchebag haters out there going “Oh what is this a racist thing a racist profiling things. Every Asian actor looks the same?!?” Not at all. All these guys actually joked about that. It was purely economical and because I had these stunt guys who were great athletes and great actors and were able to make themselves into chameleons and do multiple parts in multiple sections. You have to look very closely for it, but that just comes from knowing how to make a movie and knowing how to work with a low budget and get the most from it. Working under duress and a low budget, you need to have those kind of survival tactics to make it. You can’t make a bunch of ridiculous demands. “I need 30 Japanese dudes or I’m not doing it!” Yeah, great. Now you’ve just pissed off your producers and your financiers and everyone thinks that you’re a diva. You have to roll with the punches. Everly was not a big budget movie at all. For all the explosions and practical FX that we do in the movie and…truth be told…this movie actually has about 250 visual effects in it. It’s just that it’s all small stuff. It was all removing wires, altering backgrounds, combining shots. There’s this one shot that looks like one take, but is actually 8 different shots. But we can do that because we’ve prepped it and we get it right on the day, so when we give it to the FX guys they know that we’ve overlapped and underlapped the shots because we’ve already done it on a smaller scale. Every filmmaker should do a low budget movie before they go off and do something big like a Marvel movie. I got lucky in that I can in throw the Troma school of filmmaking, which is also where Eli Roth has come from. James Gunn has come from it. You know that you can make a movie for 59 cents and a roll of duct tape. It’s just how you get over those humps that make you a filmmaker. And, you know, Lloyd [Kaufman] will hate me for saying this, but working for Troma I learned what to do when making a movie and what not to do to make a movie. And you just apply that to every film going forward. James Gunn did it when he started out with Tromeo & Juliet. He worked his way up doing small and medium-sized budget films and writing big budget films. To go from Super to Guardians of the Galaxy is such a seismic leap, but it’s the same set of problems every day. You’re trying to make your day, whether you are making a movie for $1 million or $100 million. But if you’ve made a low budget film before, you know it can be done and you know how to push things further. That’s always the way I’ve wanted to go. Of course I want to make big movies, but I also know that I have stories that don’t need to be bigger movies. Because I’ve made low budget movies, I’m not scared to step back a little bit and say, “Oh, I’ve got a $1.5 million idea? Let’s shoot it. Let’s grab a camera and do this.” Not, “I have to wait because my idea says I must have $200 million to realize my vision!”. Nope, don’t need it. But when Marvel comes calling, hopefully, someday, I know that I at least have the confidence to say that I worked on these crazy little movies like Everly and I can pretty much do anything after that. I basically made Die Hard in a room, so let’s break out of that room.
DVDActive.com: The good thing about low budget filmmaking, at least from an outside perspective, is that it absolutely does teach you to roll with the punches. To come up with creative ways to get around any roadblocks that arise, as opposed to just throwing money at them until they go away.
Lynch: Yeah, it’s all about the prep and rolling with those punches and using those creative juices. Every day is an accomplishment. Any filmmaker out there can either relate or should know that when you walk on the set, you’re gonna have 20 people telling you 200 problems and most of the time it’s not gonna be what you thought it was gonna be when you woke up that morning. You have to compromise and collaborate, for one reason or another. It’s just hope you deal with it. You can stomp your feet, walk away, kick stuff, or whatever. And that’s one way of doing it. Or you can rally the troops together and work around it. “How do we execute this? What, we don’t have the helicopter to day? Okay, no problem, let’s figure something else out.” And 9 times out of 10 (or at least 7 times out of 10), it actually works out better. You need to just know that going in it’s not just going to all lay out for you and you can just go “Action! Cut! I’m going to lunch.” It’s not gonna happen. You have to use all of your creative juices and if you’re lucky, you’ve had a lot of prep so that you’re ready for war. Having to creatively battle every step of the way often makes the cream rise to the top in how you deal with those problems every day.
DVDActive.com: Yeah, if you can fight it out there, you should be able to do almost anything. It’s why industry people who came through working with Lloyd Kaufman, or even Roger Corman like James Cameron and Jonathan Demme, have gone on to have very diverse careers….some more successful than others...but they had that ingrained from the get-go and didn’t fall apart later on.
Lynch: Exactly. You know, the Corman gang, from Scorsese and Ron Howard and Francis Ford Coppola, all those guys…they learned from the best because they learned how to do it fast and cheap. From there when you build yourself up, at the end of the day, you can always look back. You know, I’m sure Ron Howard sometimes looks back at Grand Theft Auto and says “You know, I don’t have this and I don’t have that and this really screwed up, but what would I have done back then?”. And those creative juices start flowing and you figure out the problem and it sometimes turns out even better. You would never learn that if you had just been a hot shot music video director who has been making multi-million dollar videos and all of a sudden you’re making a Neal Moritz action film or something like that. And then you’re thrown into the fire and all you know is only doing a page or two a day. As opposed to a low budget film where sometimes you’re having to do 11 pages a day and racing against the clock and you just have to figure out a way to stick close to the script and make it work in the edit room. You just have to do it. Those are the skills that every filmmaker should learn how to do. I hope that the next generation learns even more, especially with the fact that you can make stuff on your phone and don’t have all the big equipment. That generation of filmmakers, when they start making blockbusters movies, that’s gonna be something. That’s so exciting. What is each new generation of filmmakers going to come to the table with based on the technology, from the 70s where the studios loosened up and didn’t micromanage everything to the 80s were they threw money at everything and we got some amazing, bombastic blockbusters. And in the 90s, everything had to be indie and then all of a sudden these indie filmmakers were pushed to the forefront. Every generation is given their chance to shine and I’m so excited to see where the next generation is going to take us from shooting on their phones and distributing stuff online. If there are still movies by then, and I’m sure there will be, it will be crazy to see what they come up with.
DVDActive.com: It definitely shouldn’t be boring.
Lynch: Oh, definitely not. Every movie will be 30 seconds long!
DVDActive.com: So what’s next for you? Do you have anything you want to tell us about?
Lynch: Yeah, there’s a couple of things. Every filmmaker that is worth their salt says, “Oh, I’ve got a MILLION things going!” and not “Oh, I got nothing, hopefully something comes along.” Unless you’re John Carpenter and having fun playing X-Box all day, that doesn’t fly…
DVDActive.com: (laughs) Yeah, he’s kinda earned that though.
Lynch: Absolutely. I’ve got three things going right now. One I can talk about, because I don’t feel like I’ll jinx it if I say anything. The other two, I might be fucked and jinx them. But the film I’m working on now is called Switch Culture, which is a crazy sci-fi movie. I’ve never done sci-fi before and I love a certain type of sci-fi. I mean, I love Star Wars and I can watch ID4 until the cows come home, but those are more escapist entertainment than true sci-fi. To me, the best sci-fi in the last 25 years…and I know I’m gonna catch shit for it…is David Cronenberg’s Crash. That was a movie about fear of technology and how that was evolving. And what do we do when sex has become boring and now we have all these different things that are now influencing how we have sex. That to me is true science fiction; where future technology is affecting how our lives are going to be. So Switch Culture kinda of plays off of that conceit. The best way I can describe it is if Paul Verhoeven and David Cronenberg fucked, that’s what Switch Culture is.
DVDActive.com: Well, you’ve got my ticket already.
Lynch: (laughs) We’re casting now. I’ve had my fingers crossed for a couple days now because one of my acting heroes is up for it right now. So if that happens, oh my god, but you can’t predict any of these things. Whether it’s scheduling or they don’t like the script for one reason or another. I will say this, there are moments in Switch Culture that are even crazier than Everly and in terms of someone going, “Oh great, another tonalcoaster from Lynch,” there are things that are rooted in sci-fi and a tomorrow universe. I don’t really wanna give anything away. The things that happen in “tomorrow future” are very scary because it feels like it could really happen. It’s just when set this idea up, the place that the screenwriter Joe Gressis (who edited V/H/S) goes….I read a lot of scripts, but this is the first time I went “No fucking way, I HAVE TO DO THIS!”. I said “What the fuck?!?” many times and I had to do it. So there are moments in this movie that are definitely gonna be up there for people who say “Joe Lynch likes to making weird, fucked up shit and put them in these genre movies”. Well guess what, you’re either gonna love or hate this next movie, because it’s got a lot of that stuff, but with a sci-fi edge to it.
DVDActive.com: I think it’s exciting that you’re going sci-fi. You’ve kind of been a jack-of-all-trades already over the years, going from a horror sequel (Wrong Turn 2) to your sitcom with Adam Green (Holliston) to Everly, which is a big bloody siege film. So going sci-fi next sounds like fun to me.
Lynch: I love all cinema. It’s like that old thing where someone asks what music you like and you go “Oh, I like everything but polka!”. Well, I love films of cinema. Just not polka movies. Not a big fan of polka movies! I grew up loving everything from Star Wars to Friday the 13th to Popeye. As a kid, I was a huge fan of Terms of Endearment. What kind of kid loves watching Terms of Endearment? But I just love all cinema and everyone filmmaker doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a horror guy or a sci-fi director or a big blockbuster director. I don’t wanna be pigeonholed like that and right now with the opportunities I have, I just want to spread myself out and do all kinds of genres. Try to do something in every realm. I know that I’ll always go back to horror because that’s the genre that I think I might love the most. It’s the one that affected me the most as a little kid and still does today, but I would much rather be able to play in every genre a little bit. It’s exciting and I would much rather be challenged then going like “Oh, I’m getting hired because I’m the horror guy” or “Oh, I’m getting hired because I’m not the action guy”. That’ll be fine, if the payday is amazing! (laughs) I would much rather leave this world with a filmography where people didn’t see anything coming, instead of just honing my craft in a single genre. Just waiting to make the perfect film in it. I’d much rather be the guy where someone goes, “Wait, he’s making WHAT now?!?”. You look at Nic Refn. He’s made a modern day thriller, he’s made a Viking movie, he’s made drug movies, he did a crazy Asian-influenced crime movie! Like Verhoeven. He can make a sci-fi movie, a medieval movie, an erotic thriller, a film like Black Book, or one of the craziest sci-fi movies of the past 25 years with Starship Troopers. Those are the filmmakers that I admire and hopefully I get the chance to do the same.
DVDActive.com: Well, I hope you do to.
Like I said, a tornado of enthusiasm. I spoke with Joe for over an hour and easily could have spent half the evening talking to him about anything and everything. As I said above, many of my questions slipped my mind, but he answered them in his long replies regardless. I do wish I’d been able to slide in my joke about being a West Virginian and not an inbred hillbilly cannibal (or am I?!?) or my anecdote about the fact that my wife insisted on watching Inside with me…for the first time…during the holidays while she was pregnant with our son, but none of that really matters.
What matters is that Joe Lynch is passionate about movies, be it his films or those of others, and encourages the rest of us to be just as enthusiastic and passionate about them…no matter if you like his movies or not. He just wants us to give everything a chance and expand our cinematic horizons, and I can’t think of a better outlook on film for any of us to have. You don’t have to like Joe Lynch's work, but being like Joe certainly isn’t a bad idea.
Perhaps that is something we should strive for as we await Switch Culture and contemplate the endless possibilities of its tonal and stylistic placement in his future completed filmography, which is sure to be immortalized in some sort of crazed biography. The title of which clearly needs to be Is That An Ewok In Your Pocket or Are You Happy To See Me?: The Cinematic Life & Crimes of Joe Lynch.
Editorial by Daniel Baldwin
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