[Justin talks to Drew Barnhardt]

MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO is the newest slasher on the scene, and unlike a gazillion other slashers crowding the market this one is actually pretty damn good. Justin talks to the director and finds out how to make a slasher movie with a twist, but still satisfies as a horror film ...

Q: MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO is a throwback to early 80s slashers, right? What attracted you to tackle the subgenre?

I’ve been a fan of the slasher movie for as long as I can remember. I was making little slasher flicks with my video camera when I was a kid. I grew up on these things. And now, I like to think, I’m a fairly slasher-literate grown up. I thought it was fitting that my first feature all these years later would be a slasher too. Seemed natural.

Q: Having said that, the fantastic artwork for the film is reminiscent of 70s grindhouse and even the giallo. Were you going for a mega mix of slasher movie greatness?

Absolutely. We tried to get it all in there. The poster artist Stephen Romano said “Kind of a cross between The Burning and The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, right?” I said “Right.” Stephen did three ass-kicking posters for us. An “A.I.P. Epic Exploitation” style, as he calls it, is the main poster. Then he did a “Hallmark Releasing-Last House on the Left” number. And finally an Italian-language giallo style poster. Now I need to move somewhere with more wall space. I think the posters cue people in right away to what kind of movie this flick is. Romano is pretty much a bad-ass in my book.

Q: Anyone familiar with the subgenre will have a whale of a time spotting the references to past glories. Was that intentional? And, if so, what films did you purposely pay tribute to?

That’s part of the pleasure of doing a slasher; there is a very rich history to draw on. These flicks are too much dirty fun not to have dirty fun making one. And that is what the nods are: fun. Being playful, and respectful. The horror eye will immediately spot the visual nods to Hooper, Carpenter, Fulci, and Argento among others. We open with the Barry Lyndon-like narration which I haven’t seen in a lot of slashers. Also, I shamelessly stole one of my favorite gags from Sergio Martino’s Torso. Premeditated grand theft. (Excuse me, “loving homage”). And of course there are many hat-tips to the classic slashers. We even got a dude with the sleeves ripped off of his shirt. (Every Friday the 13th has a Sleeveless Dude, I think-- or they should). There are lots of sly nods in Ryan Franks’ eclectic score too. But I didn’t want to just make a ‘Spot-the-Reference-Party.’ And the references aren’t verbal; the characters never talk about horror movies or anything too obnoxious/distracting like that. I love the subgenre and I think that comes through in the nods.

Q: I loved the unexpected first appearance of the killer, and the slasher cat 'n mouse action was expertly handled. What are your favorite slasher flicks from the golden age?

My favorite slasher flicks from the Golden Age? Hmmm. All the standards to be sure. Psycho I-III, Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, The Funhouse, Friday I-V, Madman, Eaten Alive, Just Before Dawn, Deranged, Don’t Go In The House, New York Ripper, Bay of Blood. (My favorite gialli is another list altogether). On and on. The cat-and-mouse action you mention in MLKT is a long stretch with little-to-no dialogue, which comes out of my love for Brian De Palma’s thrillers. Dressed to Kill is one of my favorite films of any genre. As is Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Q: Despite playing with clichés, MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO successfully throws more than a few curve balls in there. Why did you want to play with the audience's expectations?

Mainly because it’s a kick in the pants. As an audience member I appreciate that kind of effort. I don’t think it’s enough anymore to do straight homage, you’ve got to bring something new to the table, or else you’re better off just watching the old glories, right? Also, the slasher formula is so simple and so thoroughly ingrained in our collective skulls that at this point it’s easy to be playful with it, mix it up, make it a bit more outrageous, a bit more absurd. Smear your sense of humor all over it.

Q: The killer in the film is, perhaps, one of the most atypical villains of all time. What was the thinking behind making him so matter-of-fact, and the antithesis of, say, Jason Voorhees?

Crazies are certainly entertaining characters. And a killer in a slasher movie is a great opportunity to be a tad eccentric and put your stamp on it. 'Big Stevie' was my joke on the Silent Killer convention, but stripping away the mythic elements these characters usually have and bringing him down to earth. Show the practical side of being a walking teenager holocaust. He’s matter-of-fact, yes. He’s on a murder spree, but it is his house, so when he sees the teens have left the dirty dishes out and messed the place up, he takes the moment to tidy up. (He’d just have to do it later on, anyhow). So, he’s just going about his business, punching the clock. But being playful in his own stoic way. This is his vacation too, after all.

As far as the Antithesis of Jason Voorhees comparison, there are some Early-Jason moments that aren’t altogether different from Stevie’s matter-of-fact approach. Like in Part 3-D, after he shoots Vera with the spear gun, he kinda shrugs it off, turns, and ambles away like he’s thinking “Well, okay, I did that. So... Moving right along with my massacre...” It’s just a matter of what you choose to focus on. Like in The Final Chapter when the final girl is running into all these bodies that Jason has strung up all over the place. Instead, you might show Ol’ Prankster Jason actually hauling these bodies around, nailing them to doorways and shit. I’d bet he’d look pretty matter-of-fact doing that stuff, even though, under the mask, he’s probably enjoying his clever little work.

The fact that Big Stevie likes to keep things tidy helps out on the practical filmmaking side of things as well. We can’t douse the walls of a house, a house that we don’t own, in fake blood. So when a character comes into a room where a violent murder has taken place and there is no bloody mess, you can just say “Hey, Stevie cleaned it up!” A tidy massacre-maker is a friend to the low budget filmmaker.

Q: One of the curve balls were the bees. Were they symbolic of the killer's mind, or am I missing something?

You are not missing a thing, sir.

Q: Can you explain the film's title?

Well, we all know that killers love murder. Obviously. But, what is less well known, is that “Murder Loves Killers Too.” I thought it was an amusing title. And I love the great gialli titles. Things like Strip Nude For Your Killer, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats, The Killer Must Kill Again, Death Has No Sex. Things like that. I thought that Murder Loves Killers Too had that giallo ring to it, where you think that maybe, perhaps, something got a little screwy in the translation into English. It makes me laugh. And, hopefully, by the very end of the film, it even makes a little bit of sense. (But not too much).

Q: What plans have you got for MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO?

Right now the plan is just to give people a chance to see the thing. It’s just now slowly creeping out into the world through festivals and such. Obviously, it’s a small movie, but the global community of horror fans is very strong. So I think that there are folks out there who would dig it. We just have to get it in front of them anyway we can. We’re trying.

Q: Do you have plans to stay within the genre? What's next for you?

There are a lot of different things that I would like to do. I’d love to do a Hitchcockian type thriller. I’d love to do a Bad Dudes Doing Bad Shit movie. I’d love to do something loaded with naughty sex. I’d love to do a giant shark movie. Not like Jaws, though. This shark would be big. But, hey, first we’ll have to see if people like this one. Hopefully MLKT doesn’t end a career before a career can begin.

Q: Have you got any anecdotes from the production of the film?

It was a very small band making this thing: myself, my partner (producer/editor) Chris McKinley, my friend (and fellow filmmaker) Guy Clark, and Kevin Graves (the DoP), all pitching in. We were constantly trying to cover our tracks, making sure we didn’t mess up this house that we were graciously permitted to use. But all our care kind of went out the window after we were filming a scene in an attic with Big Stevie who, being a big fellow, broke through the ceiling to the floor below. What a chuckle. Had to be there, I guess. But mostly, I’ve blocked it all out. I remember some heavy lifting. And hitting my head on something and waking up bloody. That’s about it. Oh, and one day someone in the cast or crew had the shits and clogged up our one and only toilet. That was a good one.

Q: Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about breaking into the business?

Not yet. I’m still working on it myself. And I’m still asking for that same advice. We tried getting a small group together and making a movie with the change in our pockets. I’ll let you know if it works. That’s the sound of my fingers crossing.

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