Horror directing icon Joe Dante (Gremlins) returns to the genre with The Hole 3D. After moving to their new home in a small town, brothers Dane and Lucas stumble upon a mysterious hole in their basement that they soon discover hids their worst fears imaginable. Dante spoke with Shakefire on directing the horror film and the difficulting that went into bring it to the silver screen.
Shakefire: The Hole debuted in 2009 but it's only now coming to US theaters. Why has it taken so long?
Joe Dante: Well I think it's really my own fault because I convinced the producers to shoot it in 3D and by the time we were done with the movie all the theaters that were supposed to play our picture were booked up with fake 3D movies that had suddenly appeared, all these 2D movies that had been converted on the computer and they were all big star vehicles and big budget movies and high profile and they all did pretty well. At that time there were a limited number of theaters that could play 3D and we were out in the cold.
SF: In that time period, were any changes made to the film for US audiences?
JD: No. It's been literally on the shelf, sitting right next to Cabin in the Woods.
SF: How do you deal with the fact that your movie is just sitting around there?
JD: Well it's very frustrating, especially when you see that it's done well overseas and that people who see it generally like it. Of course it's extremely annoying to know that your picture isn't out there.
SF: You shot the film in 3D. Was that always the plan from the beginning?
JD: No, when I was handed the script and offered the job, I suggested that we shoot the picture in 3D because it was a small film and didn't have a large cast, not many locations, and I thought this is a movie about fear and you don't want to feel that you're going to be trapped in the basement for the entire movie. I think if you use 3D the way I used it, which is to bring the audience into the picture as opposed to throw things at them, that you can use it in a dramatic way that gets the audience more immersed into the story.
SF: One of the creepiest aspects of the film is the clown/jester doll. How did its inception come about?
JD: I don't where the animus against clowns began but when I was a kid there were a lot of clowns. There was Bozo and all these TV clowns and stuff and people didn't seem to find them menacing or creepy in any way. As the years went on they seemed to assume the persona of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space so that anytime you look at a clown now the combination of the makeup and the eyes and the way they act or talk is just considered damn creepy and there are a lot of kids who have clown phobias and such.
SF: I heard it took days to film the fight scene between the clown and Lucas. Could you discuss shooting that scene?
JD: There are a lot of different ways to do this kind of thing now. We have so many new techniques and so much computer generated imagery. I'm kinda an old school director. I think it's helpful to the actors to have things on the set that they can actually relate to as opposed to putting them in later. So for this section of the picture, we actually built a number of puppets that we could use, and I'm the king of the puppets from doing Gremlins, which is essentially a huge Muppet movie, but the technology then was very limited. If there was a rod in the shot or somebody's hand or head, you couldn't take that out digitally. Well, now you can. For stuff like the clown coming up the stairs and all that we were actually able to puppeteer all that stuff and then do another pass on the camera. Then on the computer you just take out all the parts of the picture you don't want people to see. You can actually use puppetry in a more interesting way than we were previously able to do. The idea of doing the entire character as CG character just didn't appeal to me.
SF: Any creepy aspect was the sporadic movement of the little girl. How was that achieved?
JD: Well that was another odd character that we tried to figure out a way to make it interesting. The first thing we did was hire a boy to play it, which is an old trick that's been used by Mario Bava and Frederico Fellini for years because there's just something off putting about switching the sexes. Then, as far as the movement was concerned, basically we shot it backwards and took frames out. It was a sort of an R&D situation. We tried different things to see what they looked like and that was ultimately what we hit upon.
SF: The film itself is actually pretty dark with the child abuse symbolism, etc. We you every concerned that it would be too much?
JD: There was some concern when we started that it was a fine line that we were going to have to walk in order to be able to get the story across without freaking out little kids. Obviously it's a movie that's intended for kids and adults. I think we found a way to suggest it enough so that if you're hip to what's going on you can imagine what kind of a life these people must have had and what they might have gone through and the degree of what they went through, whether it became very abusive or sexual or whatever, we just don't go there. I think you can go there in your mind and it's the same story.
SF: What were you afraid of as a child?
JD: I'm an atomic fear kid. I grew up in the 50's when every airplane that went over we thought had a bomb in it. So if you're sitting in school and you heard a plane go by everybody would tense up and wait for the whistle of what we thought was going to be the bomb. It was drilled into our heads that any minute these people were going to drop bombs on us and we had all these duck and cover drills and stuff that really made us paranoid. So that was really the big fear. The big fear when I was a kid was the end of the world, atomic annihilation.
SF: You're most known for your horror films, is there any genre you'd like to do but haven't done yet?
JD: I would have loved to do Westerns. I did some TV stuff over Westerns but I never actually got to make a real Western, but then people don't generally get to make Westerns. I've been pretty lucky. I like political satire and I've done some of those; that's fun. But I'm pretty happy with the stuff I've been allowed to make.
SF: So what's coming up next for you? Have anything in the works?
JD: Well I've got about five different things I'm juggling because the way the business works you have to have more than one thing going because you never know which one is going to happen and which one is going to suddenly lose the funding or which one is going to fall apart because of the actors or whatever. I've probably not made more films than I've made and I've worked very hard on them and then they've just all fallen apart. I think you've find it's a very common story. The one that I'm working on that has the most chance of coming to fruition is in January I'm supposed to a segment of a French multi-story horror film called Paris I'll Kill You, which has eight directors. I've been working on that with these guys for a couple of years now and it looks like it's finally coming together now.