Rob Hall is a prolific special effects guru, responsible for work on series such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Firefly", "Angel" and "The Sarah Connor Chronicles". His film resume includes the current remake of George Romero's "The Crazies", among scores of others.
His wife, Bobbi Sue Luther, recently became his collaborator on Rob's latest directorial effort "Laid To Rest", a film in which she served as both lead actor and Producer. We sat down with the two of them recently to chat about the project, and here's what happened.
It certainly was a great crash course as far as producing movies was concerned. Luckily I had Rob there to guide me.
- Bobbi Sue Luther
You started acting in 2003. What made you decide to take the leap?
It was a natural progression. When I was younger I did pageants. And then from that I did bikini contests and modeling, and I always wanted to act. It was a natural progression when I moved [to LA]. The most recent step prior to the acting was hosting television shows. Then I moved into acting and I really haven't wanted to look back.
Was it intentional for you when you got into horror?
It just kind of happened. As an actress or an actor, almost everybody has to pay their dues in horror. The reality is there's such a large chunk of movie making in that genre, and you kind of earn your way in the business that way. I don't know how many huge actors have started in horror, most of them have. Most of them did a Corman movie, or a "Friday the 13th" rip-off. So I always knew that I would do it, and on the flipside I've always been a fan myself. Being married to Rob, I'm not only a fan of it, but embedded into it.
Was this a project you did totally together, or did Rob bring you in on it?
This is something we did together. We had decided very early on that we were going to make a movie together. Finance it together, myself being the actress/producer and him being the writer/director. And so while we were on vacation we sort of laid out different pieces of the story. So when we came up with a story, and we finally locked the script I kind of went and started looking for locations. So it was always our idea for us to do this project together, for him to really make his path as a horror director, and for me to get really truly my first leading role.
You took a lot on in this project. Can you talk about taking on so much?
(laughs) Ya, I did take on a lot, and to be honest with you I don't know if I would ever do that again. I'm not saying I wouldn't act in a movie I produced, but certainly not in the manner that I did it for "Laid To Rest". I'm in every scene in this film, so I didn't have an off day. I was first one in, last one out. It never stopped for me. I would never do that again, and never suggest anyone do that sort of thing.
At the same time, as a Producer I was asking a lot of people to do a lot, and you can't expect other people to do it if you're not doing it yourself. So I took ownership of it, and I did it 110 percent. I'm sure something suffered as a result, but I wouldn't change anything for the world. It certainly was a great crash course as far as producing movies was concerned. Luckily I had Rob there to guide me.
I'm not going to lie, it's really difficult working with a bunch of different personalities.
Do you think you'll move more in the direction of acting, or producing?
It's funny that you should say that. I don't know about acting. It's something I've always wanted for a very long time. But I definitely see my bottom line being producing. Acting has a shelf-life for anybody, no matter who you are, how old you are, how beautiful you are. Any of those things are irrelivant because all of them have a shelf-life. I think producing will allow me the flexibility of living and working in a career that has a much longer shelf-life than acting does. I really like it, I think I'm good at it, and I really love the concept-to-completion part of filmmaking. I enjoyed it so much more than I actually thought I would. I'm already moving forward on other projects, so it's really exhilarating to me.
So you're also in the upcoming "Night of the Demons" remake, how big is your role in that?
It's a very big part. It's an ensemble cast, but I'm definitely one of the female leads. It's basically a group of friends, so we're always together. So I'm one of the leads alongside Monica [Keena], Diora [Baird] and Shannon [Elizabeth].
How was it working with all of those actresses at once?
I'm not going to lie, it's really difficult working with a bunch of different personalities. On "Laid To Rest" we had a very tiny cast, and the smaller the cast the less personality conflict. So there was definitely some of that. I was really enjoying my character and doing my job working with Adam and I hit it off with the producers and the director and crew. My job was not necessarily to walk away from there with friendships, but to do a good job as an actress. But I did walk away with some great friendships. Monica's going to come to our premiere, so it was a really great experience. I love New Orleans, it was really great to live there for a month and be a part of the vodoo spirit. I'm dying to go back.
Any idea when we'll see that?
Ya, they're doing a wide theatrical in October. October 9th I believe is the release date. That's the plan. I think there's never 100% of a sure thing. I don't know how many releases that's happened. I'm in one, "The Poughkeepsie Tapes". It had a date, trailers and posters in nearly every theater in America, with a date on it. And it got pulled, and that movie's bad-ass. So, funnier things have happened with bigger companies, and nothing's ever 100% in this business. So that's the intention. I've seen it, and I definitely think it's worth of a theatrical release. It looks fantastic. I think the fans will be really really happy with it.
Obviously I tried to not do the stereotypical horror female lead.
- Rob Hall
So Rob, tell me where the idea for this film first came from?
For years now, since I did "Lightning Bug" I've always wanted to do my own version of the kinds of slasher movies that I grew up loving. However, I'm not a general fan of camp or tongue-in-cheek types of films. And I don't necessarily think that camp and slasher films really go together. I think "Friday the 13th" films are campy, but it's unintentional. I think when you try to intentionally put camp into a slasher movie, especially this day in age, you have varying degrees of success. So my whole idea was let's do a movie that doesn't know that it's 2008 or 2009. Let's do a slasher movie like back then, but with today's technology. And that's what we did. It never references itself, it never pokes fun at anything. It's fun, but we did take it seriously and that's sort of where it comes from.
So how was it working with your wife on this project?
The cool thing about having her in mind from the getgo was that I was obviously writing the film for her. About 80% of the cast I wrote the movie for. There's only a couple of people we auditioned. So it was good to have her from the beginning to try out lines with. Obviously I tried to not do the stereotypical horror female lead. Intentionally, we start the movie where this character has a head injury and has been drugged, so her dialog is very off, very off-putting throughout the whole movie.
Was it always your intention to get into directing through special effects?
It's tough to say. I didn't ever get into special effects as a springboard. That's definitely not it. Although I did enjoy making films when I was younger. But for the most part throughout the 90's when I moved to LA and started trying to work in the effects business, I wasn't focused on that. Towards '99 I started writing "Lightning Bug". I didn't know what that was going to turn out to be, but at least it would be a sort of memoir so I didn't forget, these sort of not so nice experiences I had growing up in a not very understanding climate in the south. When I finished it, I realized I had a movie on my hands.
So that's how it all started?
Ya, that's it. So that was sort of where that came out of. Up until that point, I got my wings at Roger Corman's school of film, so I definitely did some 2nd unit directing and directed visual effects unit on a movie with Roy Scheider. Nothing that's on my resume, but they were certainly things that made me realize that what I do in the effects business is very similar to what I do as a director. So it made it a comfortable transition.
The only real note from the MPAA that we got was that we had to change every death in the movie.
Did you do the effects on "Laid To Rest", or did you step back from that?
Almost Human did the makeup effects. Normally i would have been spearheading it, but since it was my movie I couldn't do anything like that. So my shop supervisor, I let him run the show. He's basically in charge of Almost Human for me on that since I couldn't really be responsible for any of that kind of stuff. I still designed everything, but for the most part I had to really stay away from that stuff and focus on the narrative.
It's a pretty gory picture, with the small budget was it nice knowing you wouldn't have to deal with the MPAA?
Not really. To be honest. I don't feel like it's overtly gory at all. When you think about it, there's only probably about 6 or 7 on-screen deaths in the movie, and they're kind of brief. I guess I'm also thinking about what's out there now. The gross-out movies like "Hostel" and "Captivity" and things like that. It certainly is surprising when I see a lot of reviews who say we're pushing it to the edge and that kind of stuff. I'm glad that the kills are effective, but I don't particularly think that they're gratuitous, I just think that they're unfiltered.
I don't believe in censorship, it's probably my least favorite thing in the world. So it is freeing to know that you can make a movie this day in age that a lot of people will see where you don't have to worry about the MPAA. We did do an MPAA approved cut of the movie for some outlets, but for the most part everyone's going to get to see the R Rated version. Because the only real note from the MPAA that we got was that we had to change every death in the movie (laughs).
When it comes to the killer, there's a noticable lack of...
A trite backstory? That was absolutely the intention. I feel like we live in this post-CSI world where everybody knows the motives for a person like that. All you have to do is turn on one of those true crime channels for 5 minutes and you'll see a story where a guy has exactly the same motive as Chrome-Skull. He likes young girls, he likes to mutilate them, leave them in a hotel room yada yada. We don't understand why they do it, but we all know those people exist, so why give you some flashback of when he was 5 and his mother abused him. He's just one of those guys, and that's really all you need to know. Although, there are some great things about his backstory that will come out probably in subsequent films.
So you're planning a sequel?
Yes, but it really depends on the fan reaction. I've got a really cool idea for the next one. So if it warrants it, we'll definitely learn a little bit more about Chrome Skull.
So will that be next up for you?
Well it's already written for the most part, the outline is. We'll see how this one does, what people think about it. There's another film called "Old Scratch" that will probably be my next movie. That one's been around for a while now and that will hopefully be something that gets going by the end of the year. There's a couple of other really cool things that I can't talk about yet that are all internet based. That should be popping relatively soon. On the effects side we're doing "The Crazies", and a lot of stuff floating around.
Can you tell us anything about "The Crazies". Are you feeling good about that project?
I don't know. I haven't seen anything cut together yet. We had an amazing crew, so I'm interested to see some stuff cut together for sure.
Were you a fan of the original?
I'm a fan of Romero, big time. "The Crazies" is probably at the bottom of the list for me, but it tells a pretty interesting tale for the time. I think the cool thing about "The Crazies" is no one should really feel pissed off that they're remaking it. I love Romero, but it's not an amazing film. Other than a tiny thread of social satirism, there's not really much that can't be updated in that movie. This is a really cool reinterpretation of that movie.