At Comic Con to represent his upcoming independent horror/comedy Tucker & Dale vs. Evil over the weekend, first-time feature director Eli Craig took a moment to sit down with me at the massive pop-culture convention to discuss the festival favorite, which Magnet is releasing on VOD August 26th and in theaters September 30th. Following are a few of the highlights from our chat:
On problems with the suits: “None of the studios wanted to make it. So we’ve had this ongoing battle with the studio system [on] this film forever. And then Magnet finally stepped in and said ‘hey, we’ll release the film’. We had a hard time getting the financing, we had a hard time releasing the film. But you know, I’m proud of it. It’s my first film, and I’m thrilled that it has…fan-base momentum. Like, it’s the people that are making this film come out, you know? It’s like ‘by popular demand’! And it really is by popular demand! Cause nobody was really jumping to distribute it, and people just kept pushing to see it. And every film festival we went to we just had this tremendous response.”
On how horror and comedy are like peanut butter and chocolate: “I love the idea that comedy in a horror film can work. I believe that. There’s a lot of people who told me it couldn’t for some reason. But it’s the same people that are going to a big, broad comedy like ‘Hangover’ that are going to horror films. You put them together in one film, and it works.”
On keeping it old school (mostly): “You know, a lot of [the effects] were physical effects. Almost all of them. There’s only one…well, there’s two [CGI] shots. We had to create a bee, because we couldn’t get a bee to do what we wanted to do. So we did a CGI bee. And we have one stabbing [where a woman is impaled through the throat against a tree] that’s actually a CGI [effect]…I think that effect’s a little iffy myself. The rest of it’s just physical, and so…when we had somebody fly into a woodchipper, for instance, we just had the stunt man jump into a woodchipper, you know? [Laughs] And it was like padded inside! So in that way it was really fun…it was great to kind of be a throwback to real physical comedy, physical effects, and try to make it work in-camera as much as possible.”
On why Magnet is an indie distributor that matters: “I am so proud to be in the Magnet family. I’m not just saying that as some bullshit PR thing. Because I feel like they’re real film lovers there. And the films that they pick up – some of them, I’m just in awe of. I mean, just in awe. Some of the smaller ones. Personally…I was in awe of ‘Monsters’. I just thought it was unbelievable what he did!…I never even conceived of shooting like that! And now I want to do a movie like that. That’s just the coolest thing to shoot on the fly, to travel through Mexico, with two actors and a small truck, and to then create this world around it…I’m a big fan of theirs, and I’m happy that we’re there, I think it’s the right place.”
On his Bill Murray obsession: “I liked popcorn movies…I mean, [as] a kid I think my favorite movie…I watched every Bill Murray movie ever. I watched them probably a hundred times when I was a kid! I loved ‘Ghostbusters’, you know what I mean? So I think ‘Tucker and Dale’ shows a little of that. I mean, it’s a little bit more accessible than some horror films. And part of that’s because I just love…the Bill Murray type of comedy.”
On being influenced by ‘Evil Dead’: “I mean, I remember one year I lived with a buddy of mine that watched ‘Evil Dead’ every Friday night before going out. He was just obsessed. So I probably watched ‘Evil Dead’ like 40 times! [Laughs] So just the cabin and everything, it feels like a part of my subconscious. I don’t even need to refer to those movies anymore. I knew how the cabin should be built, should look a little bit like ‘Evil Dead’…so I wanted to do this hybrid ‘Evil Dead’/’Wrong Turn’…which ‘Wrong Turn’ to me was not a great movie, but this is like the flipside of that movie…I wanted to use their iconography. Take the woods, and make the woods feel really smoky and evil, like ‘Texas Chainsaw’…and the cabin to look like the ‘Evil Dead’ cabin, and even the Last Chance store where the people first drop off. You know, it’s reminiscent of other works.“
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