For those tired of the neverending cycle of slasher remakes that fans have been subjected to over the last few years, you may like the sound of Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet, the gruesome debut from writer/director Frank Sabatella and starring Halloween 4’s Danielle Harris and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’s Bill Moseley. Based on an urban legend and recalling the glory days of the ’80’s drive ins, Blood Night is an old school slasher – made by a fan and for the fans!
How did you first develop a taste for filmmaking and what would you cite as your early influences?
“Like many filmmakers today, I developed a taste for it at an early age. I would use my dad’s video camera and just get my brother and our friends and we’d make dumb little horror movies in our backyards and houses. We would shoot them in order since we had no editing equipment and then when we were done we would sit around and watch them, it was a lot of fun back then and I wish I still had some of the old VHS tapes we shot them on. But they are long gone. I was mostly influenced by the horror movies of the 8’0’s, specifically Friday the 13th and the Elm Street series. Freddy and Jason were obviously the top slashers back then, but really I loved any horror movies at all.”
What kind of films were you a fan of growing up and which writers/directors had the greatest impact on you?
“Growing up I was the biggest fan of slasher movies. I couldn’t get enough of them, everyday I would go to this video store down the block from my house and rent a different horror movie. It’s hard for me to say really which writers/directors had the biggest impact on me. I have been influenced by so many different styles of movies and I tend to find something inspiring in just about everything I watch, however, if I had to name a few directors I really admire, I would say Robert Rodriguez, Tobe Hooper, George Romero, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie. Really anyone who has accomplished achieving a unique vision and style in their work, and I think these guys exemplify that completely. I hope it is something I can achieve.”
Were you always a fan of horror and, in particular, slasher movies and what is it about these type of films that you think is so appealing?
“I have been a fan of horrors and slashers as far back as I can remember. I think what appeals to me most with these films is the excitement you get from watching a good scary movie, or the laughter you get from a good kill. There is nothing better to me than catching a horror movie on opening night and just laughing and yelling along with the audience, it’s such a good time. I recently caught the My Bloody Valentine remake in the theatre and I had a blast. Everyone in the audience was just yelling at the screen, applauding the kills, girls were screaming, I mean it’s just the most fun at the movies in my opinion.”
Where did the concept for Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet originate? Were there any specific films, stories or urban legends that fueled your script and how long did it take to write?
“The concept for Blood Night stemmed from a few Long Island urban legends. One is the legend of Mary Hatchet, which says that a young girl murdered her parents with a hatchet and now her ghost roams the wooded roadside at night. She is seen in the nearby cemetery, spotted by cars, etc. And she is just a scary ass ghost. The other is the legends that surround the now abandoned Kings Park Psychiatric Center. It is reportedly haunted by the souls of the patients that have died there. There are so many stories about inmate abuse, and mass graves, all sorts of crazy shit. So I combined elements of both legends to come up with an awesome slasher story. There is actually a great documentary called Lost Suburbia about Mary Hatchet and about Kings Park Psych Center, you can check out the videos on our website at www.bloodnightmovie.com in the videos section. Very cool legends.”
What is the premise for the movie and what is it about Blood Night that will make it stand out among all the other horror films released recently?
“The premise of the movies starts with the legend of Mary Hatchet. She murders her parents and is locked away in Kings Park Psych Center. Years later while trying to escape, she is killed by the police. That incident is referred to in the local town as Blood Night. And the local teens celebrate the anniversary of her death by going out partying and what not. But as you may have guessed, they learn the hard way that Mary’s ghost may not be a legend but in fact a reality! And that’s when the heads start to roll. What I think will make it stand out from a lot of the horror movies recently released, is the uniqueness of Mary Hatchets character and her story. Additionally I think it is a very stylized slasher flick that really captures the feeling of the authentic ’80’s slashers while still maintaining a fresh direction. The cinematography is modern, the editing is very modern, the FX are very modern but really pay great respect to classic styled SFX. I think it brings the slasher genre back to where it came from in many respects. All of the greatest slashers were low budget movies made by a very determined group of filmmakers working under tough conditions to make a great flick. Friday the 13th, Elm Street, the two most popular slasher movies ever I would say and they were both done for very little, but they had a lot of heart and dedicated people behind them. That is where Blood Night comes from, our budget was about a million dollars which is really not much at all and everyone just put their heart and souls into it. I think that comes through in the final product. I think it is something you don’t get with many of the higher budgeted slasher movies today, or horror movies in general. Most of the studio horrors are either PG-13, a horrible remake of a classic, or they just miss the feeling of the horror movies everyone loves. So, I think Blood Night brings that back, it has the feeling of those classics because it was made under similar circumstances as the great ones.”
As you were writing the screenplay were you conscious of avoiding the usual horror clichés or do you find that, if used correctly, these can be entertaining for audiences?
“I worked very closely writing the flick with screenwriter Elke Blasi. From day one we were conscious of the fact that we would be exploiting the slasher clichés, I wanted to involve the clichés for entertainment purposes. We wanted to use the “slasher formula” to our advantage and ultimately I think that without these clichés we would not be properly tributing the sub-genre. The film is sort of aware of itself, and I think in that sense it makes it more enjoyable for the audience, without being silly. Everything down to the title of the picture itself is a deliberate homage to the great ’80’s slasher flicks. I wanted it to feel like it fit right in there with Friday the 13th, Slumber Party Massacre, Sorority House Massacre 2, Prom Night, Hell Night, Fright Night, BLOOD NIGHT. Fans of the genre will be refreshed by Blood Night for sure.”
How did you manage to finance and develop the project and how long did it take from writing the script to filming the movie?
“Financing any project is probably one of the hardest things for indie filmmakers. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the executive producers by someone very close to me at the time and after a series of meetings, we all realized we were on the same page. We developed a great working and creative relationship rather quickly and once we began to write the script, things started to fall into place rapidly. We began writing the screenplay around May 2007, and we began filming in December of the same year. We had final cut the following December. It was just about two years from script to screen, and it was the hardest two years of my life.”
The cast boasts such genre favorites as Bill (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) Moseley and Danielle (Halloween 4 and 5) Harris, how did you manage to involve such talent and were any roles written with any of these specific actors in mind?
“Having Bill and Danielle involved in the project was really amazing for me. Initially the parts were not written for them specifically in mind, but once it became time to start thinking about casting, both of them were at the top of my list. Once the idea entered my head that Bill Moseley could play Graveyard Gus I really couldn’t picture anyone else in that role. Same with Danielle, I realized she would be the only acceptable actress to play the role, and really what slasher flick would feel complete without Danielle in it? Once we involved our casting director I made it pretty clear to him that we wanted Bill and Danielle so he got the script over to their agents and we just sat back and waited for the news. After a week or so I got a call that said Bill really dug the script and Danielle was interested as well, so things got really exciting at that point. We started the negotiation process and after a bit of back and forth, we signed both of them onto the project. I was ecstatic and at that point I felt that something really amazing was going to come out of this project.”
What kind of tone have you aimed for with Blood Night and how violent or gruesome can audiences expect it to be?
“The tone of Blood Night is scary, sexy and fun! It has highs and lows, gets really intense and is gory as hell! Gallons of blood, lots of dismemberment and all sorts of gruesome goodies for the gore hounds out there! Blood Night does not skimp on the red stuff.”
Were you hoping to create a horror villain as iconic as Jason Voorhees or Jigsaw with Mary Hatchet, and will she be the central focus of the movie?
“Well, Mary is def the focus of the movie. It’s her legend that spawns all the events of the flick. I cant say that I was trying to create a villain as iconic as Jason or Jigsaw, though I would certainly love it if Mary Hatchet achieved such status. Blood Night in many ways is a big Friday the 13th tribute, though I think many of those motives and homages will be obvious only after several viewings of the film. I think Mary has the potential to achieve some real big time cult status but only time will tell. It is really more the audiences that will decide if she becomes so iconic than it is my decision. I created the character and I hope the audience loves her.”
When are you hoping to have Blood Night released and will it go straight-to-DVD or be screened at any festivals? Was this film set up for the possibility of sequels or do you have no intention or returning to the story in the future?
“I am hoping that Blood Night sees a release by this summer, but again that is something that is not under my control. We currently have agencies and distributors interested in the project, but I am learning that it is a slow process at this level of filmmaking. It is too early for me to say if it will be a straight to DVD release or theatrical. I know we have entered it into a series of festivals and we are waiting on word back to see where it goes to. I am just eager to get it in front of as many audiences as possible and I am counting on the support of the horror community to really get behind the flick and get it into theaters. I think any good slasher flick is left with a sequel set up, though when we were writing it we didn’t specifically think that we would be doing a sequel, nor did we consider it during filming. However, at the end of the day, Mary Hatchet is a ghost and you can always find a reason to bring a ghost back, right? I would love to do another Mary Hatchet movie, I think the character is awesome and I think there is a lot more that can be explored with her. But that is really up to audiences, the audiences need to love her as much as I do and want to see more of her. I have some ideas for a sequel, but it is not my primary focus right now. But I’m hoping we have not seen the last of Mary Hatchet.”
INTERVIEW: Christian Sellers