If you walk away from December’s rather tense House of Bad a little shaken and stirred, the man to send your letters of complaint to is Jim Towns. Media Mikes had a chance to talk to the talented up-and-coming filmmaker about one of the most daunting films you’ll see this year. Be sure to check out “House of Bad” when it hits DVD on December 3.
Mike Gencarelli: How far back does the story of House of Bad’s conception go?
Jim Towns: All the way back in college I’d had a vague idea for a story about three sisters on the run with a stolen suitcase of drugs. I thought I’d someday do it as a graphic novel or a prose story, and at one point I wanted to do it as a black box theatre play, but I’m glad I held onto it for a while until it could be realized on film.
MG: Were you a horror/thriller fan growing up? Is that what stemmed the interest in doing a genre film? Or is it because horror seems to be an easier sell these days?
JT: No, I’m an old-school, dyed-in-the-wool horror fan. Scooby-Doo, The Munsters, and Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein pretty much sealed my fate at an early age. I think it’s pretty apparent when “mainstream” filmmakers try to exploit the horror genre in order to get a film made and sold and bolster their reputation. I’ve been sent a few of those scripts and I think those films – and we’ve all seen them- come across as very hollow and half-hearted. Horror fans are smart, and they know when someone’s trying to exploit the genre. Also, I’m not sure horror is actually that easy of a sell these days either, because there’s a helluva lot of people making a helluva lot of horror films right now. It’s pretty hard to rise above the white noise of all that and land a good distribution deal, it takes something unique.
MG: You co-wrote the script. We picture two guys on computers, side-by-side, madly writing something by moonlight. Is that how it worked?
JT: Not really. I had a rough draft done before Scott [Frazelle]came on. We never actually sat together in a room with duelling laptops or anything, it was mostly emailing each other scenes and revisions and working in tandem to hone in on the best structure and the most compelling character moments to give the film the most impact for the viewer. Scott’s a great writer with a natural instinct for what makes a story work, and that was a huge benefit for the movie.
MG: Are the people involved in the film – particularly behind-the-scenes – all friends? Or was this a case of ’rounding up’ the best for the job?
JT: Scott and I have each worked in just about every capacity on films and TV at some point over the years, so it really was a matter of tapping our combined talent pool. Luckily we knew just about everyone we needed for the crew, and the jobs we didn’t have anyone for, someone we knew would know someone who was perfect. When you basically have no time for pre-production, you have to find people you know aren’t going to let you down, because lost time is lost money and that’ll sink you, so you simply cannot afford to pick the wrong person. I look at the finished film now and I see the amazing look our DP Chad Courtney and art director Nikki Nemzer gave it. The great makeup by Jennifer Jackson. The seamless blend between Anthony Eikner’s SFX and Gregg Deitrich’s VFX work on many of the blood gags. Nina Lucia’s razor-sharp editing. The incredible score by Terry Huud, and on and on. So yes, they were all friends, and yes we got the best for the job. It’s nice when that works out.
MG: Who is the audience for the film, in your opinion?
JT: House of Bad has all the signature moments of a good horror film- building suspense, big scares, great gory effects, so I’m not too surprised that horror fans have responded so favorably to it. What has surprised me is how well it’s connected to non-horror viewers. I think the dramatic setup of the movie, the dynamic of the three sisters dealing with the ghosts of their past, connects with a much larger demographic beyond the horror fanbase– so to answer your question, I think the film is for anyone who enjoys a good story, but can handle a few scares, too.
MG: Complete the sentence. ‘You’ll love House of Bad, if you liked…’
JT: Indie films, ghost stories, and films that don’t suck.
MG: The movie seems to be getting a lot of publicity online. How important is the internet in terms of marketing a film like this?
JT: It’s absolutely critical when you can’t afford to buy ad space or billboards. Online critics, reviewers and bloggers are a vital component in getting the word out about your movie, and I’m really thankful for everyone who’s taken the time to watch and review HoB and for the interviews, especially since the reaction has been so overwhelmingly positive. I’ve never had any of my films get such good press across the board and it’s been a pretty awesome few months, I can tell you. To my peers out there with a film project in the works I’d say put aside a few bucks aside and try to hire a good PR company like ours (October Coast) to raise your film’s awareness. Social media is great but it can only reach so far.
MG: What’s your next movie?
JT: There’s a few things coming up for me right now, which is exciting. There’s a supernatural western called A Man with a Gun, which is about this gunfighter with a dark past who travels through Purgatory to rescue the souls of his murdered wife and son. I wrote and am producing it, and it will feature Dani Lennon (Bite Me) and Tony Todd. Getting a call on your cell from the Candyman is a pretty cool thing, I gotta say. I’m also set to shoot 13 Girls next year, which is sort of a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and Law & Order. Sadie Katz and I will be reuniting on that one, as well as another little film we’re developing called Invasive, which will be really scary and really really sexy, too. Maybe even more sexy than scary, I don’t know. But it’ll be a lot of fun to watch, without doubt.