Joe Lynch took the horror world by storm this summer with a surprising grassroots campaign for his film "Wrong Turn 2." Now that the dust has settled, there's already talk of a third film in the series. I sat down with Joe recently to gage his feelings on the unprecedented marketing campaign, as well as his thoughts on directing future "Wrong Turn" installments.
So I knew that week when I came back from England... I knew then that the power of the internet compels me.
So this whole Wrong Turn 2 adventure has been pretty insane for you. Can you talk about that a little bit?
The thing is the first film had a pretty ardent fan-base or we wouldn't even be talking. The whole reason why there was a sequel was because FOX just looked at the numbers and went "wow, Wrong Turn on DVD has done really well." If you talk to any self serving fans of the horror genre they're going to have that movie on DVD. Whether they like it or not, they've still seen it. A lot of horror films out there don't even get seen. Look at half the films that go straight to video. It's hard to get an audience to watch them at all, so the fact that the first "Wrong Turn" had a fanbase was great, and it made me a lot more excited to say "at least some people are going to see my movie."
Where it took off? I would have never guessed. I've even heard that the second film has definitely surpassed the first film in some ways. I'll say, because I'm close to the film, that it's better than the first one. I've heard that from some people and it's great because it's my baby, my little mutant baby (laughs).
I would have never expected for the film to have taken off the way that it has. The fact that we were in the top ten rentals and sales the first week, which is unheard of for a Direct-To-Video film... the fact that, I believe it's been the number one film in both rentals and sales for the past 5 weeks since it's been out... it's insane.
I never would have expected it to do that well. I don't think FOX expected it to do that well either. Really I think that comes down to positive word of mouth and the fact that the movie's pretty good. This movie needed to get out there because we believed in it, and we were really proud of it. As a horror fan and as a director, I'm proud of it and I can still
watch it. Most director's can't sit down and watch their movies, I can hardly watch most of my other work, but the fact that I can still sit down and watch and enjoy that movie, that means something to me. Long story short, it's been awesome.
I like the first film a lot also, but I get the sense that horror fans wouldn't have been nearly as excited about it unless it was being done by someone like yourself who is obviously such a huge horror fan.
I think a lot of it comes down to look, I'm a horror fan like everybody else out there. At least as much as I like to profess, I'm a fucking gore nut and a horror freak. It's not the only genre of film that I love but it's the one I grew up with and it has a special place in my heart. Will I make horror movies forever? Who knows... I don't plan on making "Fried Green Tomatoes 2" (laughs). I knew that I wanted my first film to be a horror film because I knew that I had all of this pent up passion for the genre. Ever since I can remember my mom brought me up with it and sort of incubated me into the horror world. So there was all this creativity and pent up ideas and pent up passion that all just
kind of vomited out on the screen. Seeing the movie with fans and seeing them kind of dig it, it's just validation for me to say that this is a "horror movie fan's" horror movie. That's the way I wanted it to be and it's nice that other people are seeing that.
Would another director come out and put as much into it as me? Who knows, you never know. You never really have an idea of who's a horror fan or who isn't, who's going to give 200% to a project and who's not. For all intents and purposes, this film had no right to end up the film that it ended up being. The script was what it was, but it turned out to be the product of what we all put into it, and that passion while we were making the film. Then when we put the film out there and got the word out we were all excited for it. I was excited from the day that I got the film, and I'm still excited now. When you're excited about something and you're really passionate about it and you show that, other like-minded people are going to gravitate towards that. I think that helped to get the word out, and also to prove to people that it's not your typical direct-to-video film. There's something a little bit more to it.
Was there a specific moment in time when you started to realize that there was a pretty significant buzz happening around this film?
(laughs) YES. When we premiered at England's Fright Fest, which was our World Premiere, it was one of the greatest moments of my life. Seeing the film with a practically sold-out audience, in England, home of the Video Nastie, was a dream come true for me.
It got an amazing response. People were cheering and screaming, pretty much everything you want when you make a horror movie. Everything worked to a "T." So the movie's over and I ended up talking with people that night, and almost instantly somebody posted a review up for it on AintItCool. Instantly between that and a smattering of other blog things our IMDB rating went from 1,500 to 56.
The other reason why that is is because 2 days after we had our premiere someone Bit-Torrented it and it went up like hot-cakes. It sucks because to me, I want people to see it in the best way possible, which was either the very few poeple who got to see it on the big screen, or more than that, I wanted people to see it on a nice big HD screen with good sound and the lights down low, enjoying it with their friend and hopefully they get laid and have a good time afterwards. Here these people are downloading a shitty screener copy of it with crappy sound. I don't care what anyone says, nothing is going to look and sound as good as when you buy it. It doesn't matter, even those screener copies were made from a low-res. So it hurt me because I thought here are all these people who aren't going to give it the right chance.
I can't watch a movie on a lap-top. I just can't because my mind wanders, like, "ooh, what's the latest in porn today," or "who's
on Defamer or TMZ," or "what's in my email." My attention span wanders after maybe 5 minutes. I can barely get through an episode of "The Office," let alone an entire movie. So it was just dismaying to me that there were these people who were passing judgment on the movie, making sure that they put their early review up, and they were scathing because they were looking at it from a warped point of view. They said the movie looks shitty, and sure we shot it on Super16 and ya we had very little money for it, but I know it looks better than what people were claiming it to be. So I knew that week when I came back from England and it was all over Bit Torrent, and the review on AintItCool blew up... I knew then that the power of the internet compels me.
I firmly believe that from the day we finished the film and we started putting up set reports online, and keeping all of the horror online community in touch with the marketing, was big. I made an unofficial trailer, and we had a fan make our Myspace page which FOX had nothing to do with until 2 months before the release. This was a kid that I met on Myspace who just made a page for it. Everyone kept thinking "how did FOX do that?" And I had to tell them that it wasn't FOX, that it was a fan. So between all of that and the fucking throws of fans that we've met from Comic Con and all the festivals that we've done, they're all fans that heard about it online.
And so a film that most people would have dismissed as another direct-to-video sequel shocker, people started giving legitimacy to it. I really believe that it's one of the first films that was successfully marketed to the fans, using pretty much only the internet. We had a week of commercials before the film came out, which was insane. But aside from that, most if not all of the marketing went into online. From Myspace to the website, it really was such a grassroots effort and I'm so proud of that. Without the internet I think we would have been in a shitload of trouble.
If they pick that idea then I'll do it. If you don't see my name attached to the third film, then that means they didn't pick that script.
Well it was definitely unprecedented. I think a lot of horror fans liked it but had probably forgotten about it. I mean it was a few years ago that the original came out.
Ya, it came out in 2003, and it was a film that didn't do very well. That was part of the reason why I didn't want to go theatrical. FOX wanted a particular window of opportunity to put this film out, and we also wanted to stay as far away from "The Hills Have Eyes 2" as possible, for obvious reasons. We wanted to make sure that if we were going to go theatrical that it was done in the right way. And if it were going to go theatrical I would have had to cut it to 'R,' and really, honestly, even if we had done that I know that it wouldn't have done that well. We wouldn't have had a lot of money to market the film, and it would have gotten lost in the summer shuffle. Look what happened to "Hostel 2." It got lost between killer robots and John McClain.
Everyone knew about "Wrong Turn" from video, or FX later on, but mostly it was video. It was me and 6 other people who saw "Wrong Turn" in theaters back when it came out in May of 2003. Because everyone was sucking the Pixar dick with "Finding Nemo" (laughs). I don't mind "Finding Nemo" and I find it to be a quality film, but, "Wrong Turn" really found it's fanbase on video, so why not embrace that fully by going straight-to-video. That was so integral to me, to make sure that we spent a couple months convincing them that just because it's direct-to-video doesn't mean it's bad. Because look, we still have that stigma that direct-to-video means no one had faith in it, or that it sucked somehow, and that's a shame because most of the revenue for a lot of films these days comes from video sales.
So I think FOX made the wise move in going DTV because we made it to be a splatter movie, and all the movies that I referenced were films that were either unrated or direct-to-video. "Evil Dead," "Texas Chainsaw 2," "Reanimator," those movies were extremely hardcore, and they were such an inspiration to the making of this movie, that the thought of a splatter movie in theaters just doesn't do it for me. The "Saw" movies are one thing, but they have a franchise they can slap on a movie and it will do well. We didn't have that. So, I wanted to make sure that we retained that splatter feel, and it would have been so difficult to market a splatter film in theaters. And on DVD you can get away with unrated. If I had cut my film I would have had a 72 minute cut, and that would not have been fun for anybody, not at all. So I really think FOX made the right choice, and I think they're really happy with that choice too.
I read recently that they're interested in making "Wrong Turn 3," is that anything that you would talk to them about or be
We're talking about it now, and obviously the writer's strike is holding it up. I told them that I feel very close to the "family" now. I really do, and it's nice to hear that a lot of people liked
where I took the second movie and thought that maybe I would do good with a third one. Part of me thinks that Rob had his version of the first film which was kind of this 70's homage, and mine was the 80's homage, and I'm thinking that it would be great to see "Wrong Turn 3" be almost like a 90's homage. But to be honest the only thing I can think of in the horror lineage looking back that occurred in the 90's was the "Scream" era, and the last thing we need is someone saying "I'll be right back!" We definitely don't need that, so there's a couple ideas that they're kicking around now.
There's one idea in particular that I FUCKING LOVE that would answer all the questions that people have had in the past as to why people who survived the previous films didn't say anything, and where are the cops in all of this. So it answers a lot of questions, it opens up the mythology a little more too which I really like. No trilogy should be out there without enriching the backstory. Even if it might piss of some fans, you need that, or you're just slapping a "2" on it and making a carbon copy. So this one idea that's out there that I really like, I've honestly said, if they pick that idea then I'll do it. If you don't see my name attached to the third film, then that means they didn't pick that script. Look, I did my job, and I'm really really grateful that they're interested in doing another one. I'm sure they weren't thinking that when the first one came out, and the fact that they're saying that now, that tells me that I did my job and did it well.
Is there a script, or is that something that's waiting for the writer's strike to resolve?
I haven't seen any scripts so I think it's just ideas at this point, but I have a feeling that they're going to want to jump right into this thing as soon as possible so who knows. There could be a script cranked out the second the writers strike is over, so here's hoping...
Do you have any thoughts on the strike?
I think they're doing the right thing. It's a shame that the entire industry is being affected and there's a lot of peripheral people that are suffering for it... I'm a director who's up for
projects that are being affected by it, and that's a bit of a
bummer because a project could always fizzle up because of money or their windows of opportunity. It's a very fickle industry. It sucks that the timing is kind of bad, but honestly it's a stance that I'm going to probably have to take when it comes time for the director's guild to take a stand and I fully support the guild. I think that they're doing the right thing by standing up for themselves... it's just that the timing blows. I'm not a member of the writer's guild but I am a member of the director's guild, and we're going to be protesting this June over the same stuff.
And it is a thing that affects me. DVD sales are something that clearly affects me because that's how my movie came out. I just noticed that they're selling "Wrong Turn 2" on Amazon as a digital download, so these are things that directly affect me because I have a stake in the film. What the writers are doing right now, they've been rightfully harping on this subject for years. It has to be done, and I hope that it comes to a resolution where everyone's happy and we can get back to making movies. But again it's going to be a very unhappy Christmas for a lot of people
And you can quote me on that...
He's a fucking asshole.
Next up I had a couple of questions about your time at TROMA. I'm a huge fan of Terror Firmer and I recently found out that you were in it.
You probably saw me in every shot right (laughs). If you look closely I'm pretty much in every god damn shot in that movie.
As an extra?
Well, I started out as an extra as "Clothespin Boy." I'm one of the grips on the film and I'm in the background in every single shot. When you find me I'm usually masturbating or showing off my guns. It was a good summer that summer so I was in really good shape. I was making out with chicks so, it was a glorious time... that summer.
It's been a while so I can't remember seeing you in there.
Well you were looking at Debbie Rochon's boobies so it's all good (laughs)
That must have been an absolute insane experience for you.
It was an insane experience but it was an amazingly fun experience too. Coming right out of film school and to walk into a completely new film school which was Troma, was the best bootcamp for me to sort of jump in and start making movies. It was either that or just wait around, possibly do an internship at an office, and maybe get to work on a film. I was out there just kicking ass and taking names with everyone else out there on that set from day one. That's what's great about TROMA is that you're not set to one job. The first week I was an extra, the second week I was "Clothespin Boy" and the third week I was directing background actors and then I got hired on as a writer. It's all about your passion for film. If you show that you're passionate about movies then you'll fit in perfectly there. If you're just there for it to be a stepping stone, you're going to hate life. We had the hardest working hours and conditions, but we all did it because we loved being there. I had such a great time there.
So is the thing about crapping in paper bags true?
Of course! That's old hat. If you got out on tour with a band,
that's the first thing they'll tell you too. You do number 2 in a bag because they can't process that on a bus. But ya, we were shitting in paper bags, it's so fun. I think there was actually "Shit in paper bag Thursdays." (laughs) No I'm just kidding. But all the rumors you've heard about being on a TROMA set are absolutely true.
What do you think the biggest thing was you learned from TROMA?
How to do EVERYTHING. And not only that but I learned that you can do anything. If you have 59 cents, a roll of duct tape and some fake blood, you can make a movie. It was just that attitude of... Lloyd never said "fine, let's not do it." Quality be damned, you just get it in the can however you can. That kind of work ethic that I completely absorbed, that was the thing I loved the most, that kind of "do it yourself" attitude. You know like, "oh really? You're going to tell me I can't make a movie? FUCK YOU." It's that attitude that you sometimes just need, even on films that aren't TROMA based.
When I was on the set of "Wrong Turn 2" and people would tell me "No," I'd say, "Actually yes we can do it, and here's how..." Between TROMA and where I went to film school in Syracuse, they both had this attitude of just "stop talking about it, stop whining, and just do it. Find a way." And that's how shit gets done. It's that attitude that I've applied to pretty much every project, big or small, since. It's just that attitude of "Yes I can do that" that TROMA instilled in me that I'm so grateful for.
Was that the only TROMA project you worked on?
It was the only one that I was on set for. After that I worked at TROMA as an in-house writer for about a year. I wrote the initial draft for "Citizen Toxie" with Gabe Friedman and then just as our initial script was, if you want to call it "Greenlit" (laughs), they skipped me out on insurance. Michael Herz, who's the fucking Devil, and you can quote me on that... He's a fucking asshole. I love Lloyd to high heaven, I really do, but Michael Herz is a scumbag. He's the bad cop to Lloyd's good cop. I was making peanuts over there... I can't even tell you how little I got paid there.
But hey, you're making sacrifices and paying your dues and that's totally fine. But when you're promised even just a little bit of insurance after a year and a half, and then a guy goes "No I'm not giving it to you." Sorry but, you can go fuck yourself. So he's an asshole, but TROMA lives with Lloyd. He's the voice, he's the heart of that whole outfit. Unfortunately I wasn't directly involved with Toxie 4, which sucks because well, it's Toxie 4! You know, I was The Toxic Avenger when they needed people for appearances and shit like that. So it's a shame that I wasn't involved in that, but I learned so much from TROMA and Lloyd and I have been close friends for years. The experience of TROMA, I walked away with more than just experience, I walked away with a lot of good friends.
Well thanks for sitting down with us, and good luck in the future!
No problem, thanks!