Few film titles are as divisive as “Incest Death Squad.” Telling the tale of a brother and sister who murder and screw in the name of God, this movie was deemed too much for a reviewer from Fangoria Magazine, horror cinema’s equivalent of Rolling Stone. In his review the critic, it should be noted, benignly acknowledged the artistic relativism of necrophilia, wiping one’s ass with a likeness of Christ, and throwing up into a prostitute’s crotch. Yet “Incest Death Squad” somehow fell beyond the pale. Not even the manic presence of Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman in the film could soothe the commentator’s suddenly deflowered sensibilities.
I feel as though I ought to repeat that the guy was writing for Fangoria.
Our demure watcher may want to duck and cover, then, as the Incest Death Squad comes back for another bloody romp through the impure. Exploitation filmmaker Cory J. Udler is ready to release “Incest Death Squad 2” this September, and what’s worse for the squeamish, he promises that this time, the mood will be bleaker. Apparently, the first helping of incest, death, and squads wasn’t bleak enough.
* * *
Y Spy: Let’s just go right into it. Incest Death Squad 2. How is it different from the first?
Cory J. Udler, and Lloyd Kaufman. Awww.
Cory J. Udler: The thing that I think is most different between One and Two is that, with One, the first thing that we shot for the movie was the scene with Lloyd, where he’s ranting and raving and going bonkers about dead hookers butchered in bathtubs. That set the tone for the rest of the movie, because I can’t have a scene where it’s Lloyd going “Dead hookers!” and then switch it and be super dark and super psychological. So I had to keep it a little campy.
On this one I did shoot with Lloyd, but I had it in my mind that I didn’t want it to be as campy. I didn’t want it to be campy at all! I wanted it to be a really angry, dark movie, and everyone who’s seen it up to this point have said it was a lot darker, but it also works as a good companion piece to the first one.
I’m not comparing myself to the first two Tobe Hooper Chainsaw movies, how different One is from Two, [but] that’s kind of what I did with this one. It’s a lot darker, and it’s a little more streamlined. On One, it felt a little gabby to me after I had done it. When I was shooting it and editing it, it didn’t seem too gabby, ’cause I wrote it and was like: “Every line is brilliant!” After you watch it you [notice] the blah blah blah. So it’s not as talky and it’s not as campy, and I think it’s just a better movie. I did a little better camera work and spent more time on the sound and lighting and the composition and everything. We have dumped the exploitation in it, too, so it’s a better movie with more exploitation.
Y Spy: So Lloyd’s in this one, too?
Udler: Lloyd makes a small appearance in this one. I had shot a scene with Lloyd back in December. He was in Chicago and I went down and visited with him, and we shot the scene. I sent Lloyd the sides to the scene and of course he didn’t read them, so we shot and he was rambling on about things. I said: too campy. Way, way too campy. So I didn’t use the scene we shot, but he pops up at one point in the movie. Just to give Lloyd some face time in the movie, I made sure I got him in there.
Y Spy: Was it easy to get the cast back together and get the film going?
Udler: The cast were the ones, when we were still shooting the first one and I was slowly going insane, who [asked]: “When are we going to do the sequel?” I said it’s going to be a miracle if I do another movie, much less a sequel to this damn thing! I got the movie done, and I watched it a few times and said [that] this thing just lends itself to a sequel. Once I told everyone that I was thinking about doing it, they said: “I’m in!” Then they read the script and said: “Holy shit! Consider it done.”
Tom Lodewyck, who plays Aaron Burg the newspaper reporter, was the most excited to do it. In my opinion, he was the most interesting of the characters between the two movies. In the first one, maybe people didn’t find him that interesting, but in the second one it’s a full process: who he was, who he became, and what happened to him. He actually told me that this is an actor’s wet dream, to do all of these different turns and twists with the character. And everyone else was really into it, and we added a couple of new characters [who] blew everything out of the water. It was easy to get everyone back and on board.
The toughest part about doing these movies isn’t the cast, but the crew. It’s hard to get people to dedicate to this stuff. People that were with me 100% on the first one, who said they couldn’t wait to do the second one, came up with every excuse in the book to never be around. I had found a guy who had a dolly – which I actually got to use for one scene – and he had a crane and all this other stuff. In my mind, as a filmmaker, I couldn’t wait to use [them]. He showed up at one shoot and then ignored emails and everything else. You get a lot of people who say they want to help out, and then when you tell them what you need they don’t really want to do that.
Basically my crew was Annie Clift, who was pretty much my crew on the first one. Between her and I, we did everything on the movies. There were times when she couldn’t make the shoots, so there were times when I was doing the cinematography, the directing, and I was running sound! I guess you get what you pay for.
Y Spy: Was the production any easier on this one?
Udler: It was awful! It was an absolute nightmare from the word Go. My sound guy that I had on the first one showed up to the shoot with a microphone that was broken, so then I ordered a whole boom kit, just to have for myself. But [the order] kept getting delayed, so I had to keep going out 40 miles from where I lived to get a microphone every single time we shot. Every time, it was a different microphone. There was a member of the cast who I think was going through some personal stuff, so it was difficult dealing with that. My God, man! It was one thing after another. It was horrible, the entire time.
As we shot, I would just cut entire pages and scenes out of the movie just to go: fuck this; I’ve gotta get this thing done. Actually, I think it helped the movie. The runtime is about 72 minutes, which is about six minutes shorter than the first one. I don’t think it needs to be any longer than that. Also, it made [the film] super angry, because I was angry. Everything in the movie’s pissed off and vile and jet black. It helped the overall tone of the movie, but shit, it was terrible.
Y Spy: Do you subscribe to the theory that one must suffer for one’s art?
Udler: You’re putting yourself out for the world to scrutinize, and for everyone to take potshots [toward]. You’ve gotta be Teflon. It’ll be two years in October that I’ve lived these two movies, from when I first started casting for Incest 1 to when the second one is premiered and out on DVD. During that time it’s been making the movies, trying to get locations, trying to get money that never comes in from anywhere, looking for distribution – which is a complete racket. A lot of this stuff is really joyless when you do it. At the end of the day, you have to look back and ask: “Why the hell am I doing this?” If it isn’t because of money, or glory, or fame and fortune, but because this is what you like to do and you don’t know any better, you’re doing it for the right reasons. But yeah, it is complete suffering.
I’ll see a lot of terrible, terrible movies with wooden acting and bad scripts that have $500,000 budgets. I basically have to give folks blowjobs for $5,000! To get five dollars! I can’t raise anything. I guess that’s part of the suffering.
I think the one thing that I don’t think enough people in our society do anymore is suffer for what they want. A lot of people have this sense of entitlement. They’re willing it to happen, but doesn’t it just happen? No! You’ve gotta work, and you’ve gotta suffer.
I think Lewis Black was on Larry King one time, and Larry asked him: “What is the scariest thing in the world to you?” Lewis Black said: “American Idol!” Because these kids come up, and they don’t have to suffer for anything, and they just become millionaires overnight. It’s not like the bands that used to come out, where they played their songs, and maybe their songs weren’t great at the time, but they’d get up in front of people, and people would throw shit at them. The next night, they’d do the same thing! They’d keep getting up and plying their trade, and getting better, all while people threw shit at them. Then it all paid off in the end.
Even if it doesn’t pay off in the end, I’m making movies that I like, and I enjoy doing it. And I get to do a lot of exciting things that I would never be able to do if I wasn’t making films. I get to do fun stuff like this [interview] and go to conventions. I’ve also gotten to know and become friends with people who I idolized growing up, people like Lloyd, Ted V. Mikels, Frank Henenlotter, Bill Rebane – people that I would never have any way of meeting and knowing. Now it’s having some common ground and being able to work for and with these people. It’s a dream come true!
Does it almost kill you? Is it a nightmare? Absolutely. It’s a really tough racket, and you really can’t make a living doing this stuff, so you have to have another job or two or however many you need. Then you have to have time to make your movies and to do them right, which means you sleep about four hours a day. It’s okay. I think it’s important to know the value of your successes through your failures and disappointments.
Y Spy: So are you satisfied with how Incest Death Squad 2 turned out?
Udler: I am super proud of the movie. Actually, the second one is a lot closer to the vision I had when I wrote the script than the first one. In the first one, the scene with Lloyd was written a month before we shot with him. Initially, he was a gas station attendant, and Tom Lodewyck’s character goes in, and that’s how he finds things out. I had to come up with a way to get him from Point A to Point B with Lloyd, so then [Lloyd’s] the newspaper editor.
And a lot of things changed on the Incest 1 script because I didn’t have the money to do a lot of it. About 65% of that script made it to screen, whereas with this one it’s almost 100%. I cut some stuff out to save time and money, and it didn’t hurt the end product.
I’m super proud of both. The first one has some blemishes, and I made a lot of mistakes. It is what it is. A certain painter may put out a painting, and maybe it’s terrible, but it’s the only one of its kind. That’s how I look at Incest 1. But everybody who has seen it has been blown away by it, because they didn’t know what to expect.
I told people that I didn’t want to make the same goddamn movies. If somebody would have come forward with $50,000 and said to make the same ones, I’d say sure! But nobody came forward, and I had to basically sell all my stuff on eBay to get enough money to pay people for gas and food and special effects and locations. But I’m really happy with it, because these movies have been like friends to me for a long time. Now I’m saying goodbye to my friends, which is a little bittersweet.
I like the first one, but the second one is a better movie. I just think everything is better about it, because I learned a lot making the first one. That’s really the only reason to do a sequel; if you can’t expound on the story and make it more interesting, and if you can’t correct the mistakes on Two that you made on One, what the hell is the reason to make a sequel? Nobody’s paying me to do this!
Y Spy: Do you feel like most sequels are just rehashes of the same formula? Even among the classics of the horror genre, there are examples in sequels to Return of the Living Dead or Evil Dead.
Udler: Yeah! Return of the Living Dead was weird, because the first one was dark, super gory, and had great practical effects, but also had a pretty good sense of humor. The second one went campier and you couldn’t tell what the motives behind making it really were. Evil Dead was the same; the second one, a lot of people regard as the superior movie. I don’t; I love the second one, but I think the first one is great.
Chainsaw, I think, is my favorite One and Two. The first Chainsaw and the second couldn’t be more different, but they go a little further with the story, and where people are, and what happened. There’s Nubbins, the hitchhiker from One, [who] is now this mummified corpse that Chop Top carries around. I think that’s the perfect example of a One and Two that worked and seemed to be done for the right reasons.
In Hollywood now, that’s all they do! What’s coming out now, Saw 7? And thank God it’s the last one, because the last three have almost been unwatchable. Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2: you see it and wonder, what the hell was the point of this movie? It doesn’t further the story; it seems like it was a hideous production. And then Twilight! Harry Potter. They keep pumping these things out. How long before we get Avatar 2? It’s completely uncreative. Hollywood’s not in the business of being irreverent and creative and provocative. They’re in the business of making a lot of friggin’ money. Saw did well, and they have milked this thing dry. Now it’s the seventh one, so let’s throw in a gimmick too, the gimmick of 3-D. Hollywood will do sequels until people stop going, and they’ll stop doing remakes when people stop going. But they won’t stop going.
But on the indie scene, if you’re going to make a sequel to your movie, do it for one of three reasons: to further the story, to make a better movie, or if somebody’s giving you a shitload of money. You’ve got bills to pay, children to feed, or meth to buy, so fuck! Do it! I didn’t want people to think that was something I was doing. I really wanted to reward the people who supported the first one, and I wanted to give them a better movie, tell more of the story, and wrap it up and move on. My head’s always up my ass, but my heart was in the right spot.
Y Spy: Do people see art as growing on trees, and thus just want the final product without supporting the process?
Udler: Absolutely! I‘ve had this discussion with Lloyd. People think that Lloyd, because he’s everywhere and has movies out, has got a lot of money. Lloyd’s got nothing! He’s been able to put his kids through college by making films, but he’s not rolling in money. The funniest thing I ever did was pick Lloyd up at the airport in Chicago. I couldn’t spot him! Finally, I saw what appeared to be a homeless man, and it was Lloyd, with this ratty suitcase and old coat. He kind of gets the same thing: “It’s Lloyd Kaufman from Troma; why hasn’t he done Toxic Avenger 5? He’s got millions of dollars.” No!
I see people get that with me, too. I’ve got jobs I’ve gotta do, and I don’t make any money at these jobs. I’m cheap as hell, and I don’t do anything and I don’t go anywhere ’cause I can’t afford it! The only thing that I’ve tried to be smart about with the movies is that I don’t finance the movies on my nest egg, on my meager amounts of money. Maybe a hundred dollars here and there, but I don’t think I’ve spent more than $500 of my own money on these two movies. It comes from donations. It comes from cutting corners. It comes from selling shit that I’ve had since I was a kid.
I don’t think people really realize that, in order for this stuff to happen, you need some money. Even if you don’t need a lot of money, you need to at least pay people for gas, and you need to feed people. I do think people feel like this stuff appears out of nowhere.
On the flip side, there are a lot of guys that I personally know, or guys I know of, who somehow are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars to make movies, and they’re basically pocketing most of the budget and spending 12 cents on the movie. The movie never comes out. The investors never see their money. And that’s a real shame.
It’s not me blowing my own horn, but I’ve done these two movies for nothing, and I’ve got fans from around the world. We’re screening in the United Kingdom at some point. I don’t have a marketing budget, and it aggravates me to see that go on. My next [movie] is $5,000! That’s all I need! What does $5,000 really get you? It doesn’t even get you a new TV or a handjob down at the Manhole Club. And I’m making movies on this. It is frustrating to see that. People’s perceptions of what’s fame, and what’s success, and what’s commerce are fucked up, in this country, anyway.
Y Spy: I recently spoke to two people who made a film about Wesley Willis, and a point that one of the directors had in explaining why Wesley was such a wonderful musician and artist was that art often comes from a place of privilege, a paradigm that Wesley, with all his disadvantages, flew in the face of. Are we too content to let the rich entertain us?
Udler: Oh yeah. If anyone really watched Incest 1 and listened to the words and script and how I played around with words and Bible scriptures, I took a lot of time on it. The second one is a more personal movie, but those came from really deep within. But I didn’t have CG dinosaurs, so it’s not entertaining. My budget was shit, and we made movies that people around the world like and care about. I get emails every single day from people who saw the movie and loved what I did.
But look who our celebrities are now: the Kardashians and Paris Hiltons, who are only famous for being famous. Or rich. That’s why people do movies like Avatar, which they spent millions of dollars on. “They spend a bunch of money on it; I know it’s gotta be good!” That’s just not true.
It’s the same thing in horror, with horror remakes. A lot of people who go to these are almost like lobotomy patients. “I saw the Chainsaw remake. It was shit! I’m never doing that again!” Nightmare on Elm Street remake comes out: “Oh, I’ve gotta go see this!” They plunk $10 on it, and they walk out and say “That was shit!” What do you expect? It was Michael Bay; it was a remake of a classic. He’ll piss in your face and laugh at you!
I think Hollywood and music and television are responsible for that kind of mentality. Most people don’t take the time to really look around for something entertaining. They work all day, they gotta take the kids to soccer, they gotta clean the house, the dog just crapped on the rug, and they gotta make dinner. So when they sit down they click what’s on, what’s easy. Most people don’t look to the underground to find these things. Basically, the big studios and the major guys tell you what to eat – and if you’re hungry, you’re going to eat what’s there. It’s not until you get burned enough times with enough garbage that you decide you might like the taste of [something else].
We live in a society where it moves too fast, nobody stops and looks around and thinks they might like to read a book or a newspaper, or watch an art film or a foreign film. Give ’em Larry the Cable Guy and Avatar, and people are pretty happy. Give ’em something where they don’t have to think, and they’ll buy it. And Hollywood knows that.
Y Spy: To play devil’s advocate, are there any examples of corporate entertainment that you have enjoyed?
Udler: Oh, absolutely! I hope that it didn’t come across that I think that the majors don’t put out good stuff, because they absolutely do. Of some of the great movies that I’ve seen in recent years, There Will Be Blood is probably my favorite movie that I’ve ever seen. The Assassination of Jesse James with Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, that’s gorgeous storytelling. The Wrestler from Darren Aronofsky is a great movie. The Harvey Milk movie was really good. There are guys that are in the system that are making really interesting, good stuff. Christopher Nolan’s stuff is phenomenal; everything that he touches turns to gold.
The studios still know that nothing replaces story. You can put flashy shit in it, but that’s popcorn. Some people actually want to see stories and characters.
Y Spy: Do you think that the industry as a whole uses these instances of great work to justify pumping out the rest of the crap?
Udler: A lot of the old guys I’ve talked to have always said that each frame of a movie means something. It’s a moment in time that you’ve captured. I kind of believe that. I think cinema represents where you are as a society at any certain point. It confuses me sometimes when a movie like There Will Be Blood comes out, and I wonder why this is so wonderful, and then Scary Movie 15 comes out, and it’s a piece of shit! My wife is a big Sex and the City fan. My wife wanted to go to see Sex and the City 2, and I said oh hell, I’ll go. And it was the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Honestly. It was unwatchable, nothing happened, the characters were rotten, and it was almost two and a half hours long. I just thought to myself, this is a perfect example of Hollywood. It says Sex and the City, and everybody’s back. Just give them something; you don’t have to do anything. The TV show was kind of a smart show, and then they put this movie out that is an abomination.
I don’t know what the thought process is behind them saying: we’ll put out There Will be Blood, but then here’s Larry the Cable Guy with Armpit Farts, which will be a big hit, too. They come out under the same company, and they pump more money into Larry the Cable Guy.
It boils down to a drive-thru mentality. Now we have vending machines for movies! It’s crazy. You can’t pick up the box and ask who’s in it, who directed it. You see the cover and go: oh, Squirters 3; that’s a winner. That’s how sad things have gotten.
The only way they can get people into movie theaters now is to give them something safe, that’s not challenging, and probably put the damn thing in 3-D! Give them another gimmick, another reason to go so they’ll sit through a half hour of commercials for cars they can’t afford and phones they can’t figure out.
Y Spy: How does independent cinema fit into that?
Udler: I think that if you’re a fan of independent movies, you’re a fan of independent movies. You’ll see through the Hollywood stuff that they regurgitate. The stuff’s pretty transparent; it’s not real deep. If you’re a Troma fan, you’re probably not plunking $10 to go see Saw. That’s my guess. Most people that like the big budget stuff, they’ve maybe seen one independent film, and the acting wasn’t good, so that’s their point of reference. Maybe it didn’t have explosions, or karate.
The thing that I love the most is that these movie companies put out their own subsidiaries. Paramount has its own indie subsidiary. Paramount Independent is a contradiction in terms if I’ve ever heard one! It’s an independent film because you only spent $20 million on it instead of $50 [million]? You’ve gotta be kidding me! That’s not an independent film! An independent film doesn’t have Don Cheadle in it. It’s made completely independent of any studio money or influence.
That was a big thing with Paranormal Activity; that thing comes out and everybody says that it was made for $10,000. Then all of a sudden you’re thinking that you’re doing the art world a favor. But if whoever was behind it didn’t pump $50 million into the marketing budget, you’d never hear of it. You wouldn’t go seek out a $10,000 ghost movie. You just wouldn’t do it!
Y Spy: So in your view, an independent film is defined as such from the entire process, not only from the production.
Udler: I think so. When I think of independent film, I think of Troma. You’re not going to find Troma films on the shelves of Blockbuster. Once in a great while you’ll find a Toxic Avenger set on a shelf at Best Buy. But they’re not in the theaters! Troma movies don’t even get released at independent theaters. So Troma is really the definition of what independent cinema is. There are a lot of companies that I know of that call themselves independent, but they have tie-ins with this company or that company. Well, you’re not really independent then.
That’s not saying that an independent movie can’t be made independently and then picked up by someone and marketed well, but you don’t put a lot of money into the marketing budget on this stuff, because a lot of it isn’t very commercial. A lot of it is story driven and character driven. Some of it is super controversial.
I guess there are varying definitions. Sometimes an independent film costs a dollar to make, and they spent five dollars to market it. Sometimes it costs $100,000, and they spend a million to market it. It’s shades of gray, but when I think of an independent film, I think of no studio tie, at all. Maybe that’s shortsighted; maybe it’s because I’m in the thick of a lot of this stuff, and I know so many guys who are really doing super independent stuff that barely have a pot to piss in. But that’s what I think of when I think truly independent.
Y Spy: Are there any theatres and scenes which remain supportive of independent film?
Udler: I live in a very, very small town in Wisconsin. The nearest town to me is Madison, and Madison doesn’t do any of that! There’s one theater in town that will maybe show a foreign film once in a while; otherwise they show first runs. We have Sundance, which is big budget stuff, $3-4 million stuff. That’s a big budget! And it’s Sundance, and they have their own agenda anyway, so you’re not really getting true independent films. But I know the Landmark Theaters in Milwaukee do a lot of that, the Portage Theater in Chicago. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, they’re getting a pretty decent scene. Los Angeles of course; there’s so much shit going on there. New York has a few places. But overall, it’s here and there, a smattering of theaters that do that. There aren’t groups and clusters. And when you make a movie like Incest Death Squad, Jesus. Nobody wants to show that. They’ll be showing that at the XXX theater.
Overall, the death of the drive-in and grindhouses and the porno theaters put a damper on it. It was kind of like the VHS boom; people asked why they should go here and have some guy jerking off behind them, when they can stay at home and watch this filthy thing in their own chair. [With] the influx of home video and Blu-Ray and hi-def, people don’t have any reason to go to theaters and see this stuff. And they can go find it on the internet, which is a shame.
I was talking about it to Frank Henenlotter, who directed Basket Case, Brain Damage, Frankenhooker, all these great movies. He grew up in the grindhouses on 42nd Street; he’d go to three grindhouse movies a day, six days a week. He saw everything. He said: “I don’t go to the movies anymore. And it’s okay. It’s a different time; it’s a different era. But my scene is gone.” Frank actually took 16 or 17 years off from doing movies.
So the death of the drive-ins really hurt the exploitation filmmakers and the indie filmmakers who made weird fringe stuff. There’s Stacy Davidson, who’s doing a movie called Sweatshop, which looks like great horror/exploitation fun. Ryan Nicholson is doing great movies. Brandon Slagle is doing a movie called Songs of the Shattered. There’s a movie that I think is called Scars of Life, and I saw the trailer and said: “My God, that’s exploitation!” It’s so filthy and so gory and so weird that not even so-called independent theaters would show something like that – whereas if we still had the grindhouses and drive-ins, these guys would be doing okay! Now there’s nowhere to show it, whereas before – hell! You could maybe get on a double bill with Star Wars!
Y Spy: Do you see horror conventions and magazines as attempting to fill that void?
Udler: Maybe. Rue Morgue is a great magazine. Videoscope magazine is really good. Fangoria has always kind of been the flag-bearer, but for a long time Fangoria has lost its way. I think they started to become the establishment, which didn’t do the little guys any favors. Hopefully with Chris Alexander taking over the editing duties from Tony at Fangoria, [he’ll] maybe breathe some new life into that.
With horror conventions, you go to those and [realize] that there’s a huge audience for all of this stuff! If you gave it a chance, there would be an audience for it. We’re basically run by four or five devil-worshipping megaconglomerates. I think they’re to the point now where they’re telling us what they think. They’re sitting in their board rooms, and everything is just charts and graphs, and that’s the only option you have. [With] the horror conventions, people can say “Fuck you! I’m gonna go buy this independent guy’s film. I’m gonna do what I want, and you ain’t gonna tell me any different.”
That’s why I think even the remakes do well, because horror fans are so starving. They want stuff; they want to see horror, suspense, science fiction, monsters, gore, and hot chicks – all the things that make a good horror/exploitation movie. Hollywood looks down on them. It’s the same thing as with metal music; people look at it as a lesser form. “Can we make some money off it? Yeah, so just give them some shit, and they’ll buy it.”
Y Spy: It’s a lot like comedy, too. Neither comedy nor horror gets taken seriously in mainstream cinema. It’s easier to be stupid and dopey and stereotypical in either genre.
Udler: Well, yeah, and these are guaranteed hits for the studios, and they know that. Comedy and horror are hits, if done right. And they’re gonna have franchises off them. But that almost seems like a supplement, because the stuff that they really get off on is giving James Cameron a billion dollars to make Avatar. They get off on the Academy saying that they made a wonderful or visually stunning movie. But they’ve gotta recoup some of the money they’re pissing away on movies that don’t do well, that some asshole in a board room thought was a good idea. They go and put out a horror movie, because they know the horror fans are loyal and will go see it. And then they’ll pump this into the next train wreck. Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan star in Train Wreck.
Y Spy: And how often do you see either a comedy or horror movie nominated for an Academy Award?
Udler: That’s what blew me away this year, seeing District 9 up for Best Picture. Of course, they nominated 75 movies for Best Picture, but it was still really nice to see. That was a smart movie, and it was a sci-fi/horror film! But it’s few and far between. Exorcist was 40 years ago. Otherwise [horror] just doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, not even in the visual effects.
Rick Baker won for An American Werewolf in London. That was 30 years ago. Here’s a prime example of how clueless Hollywood is: they make this Wolfman remake, which was putrid. And what a cast! It doesn’t get any better: Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and they had Rick Baker doing the visual effects! [Baker’s] a practical effects guy, but what did they choose to do? Rick Baker does the makeup for the final Wolfman, but the transformation scenes? Nah. We’re gonna CG those, so it looks like Roger Rabbit turning into a fuckin’ wolf, with Rick Baker sitting right there! That seems insane, but that’s the kind of puzzling shit they do.
Y Spy: Thus far, what’s the reaction been to your work?
Udler: There’s a nice indie horror community. It’s fucking spectacular. Everybody supports what everybody is up to, whether it’s telling somebody that they’ve got to see this movie or picking up this person’s movie, or helping out. James Hawley, who did Sewer Chewer, is now working on one called Jesus of Nebula: Alien Cannibal. Greatest title of all time. The basis of it is that Jesus really was the son of a gay couple. That’s the immaculate conception. I thought, oh boy! He’s Oklahoman, so he’s really gonna get punched for doing that in the Bible belt. I loved that.
He sent me some script pages, and asked me if I could play a TV preacher. He said: “Go crazy.” So I took some time and shot some footage for him, and it’s going to make the movie! I’m in Wisconsin and he’s in Oklahoma, and I shot something for him and sent it down. He had a need for it and I did it. And then he wanted Greg Johnson who played Jeb Wayne in Incest for another part. We got together, shot the scene, and now James has got it in the movie. That’s just an example of the community banding together and being one. Everybody lends their support to everyone’s projects. It’s really nice.
You find that guys who are making bigger movies are kind of done with it. That happens, and you understand that, but it’s nice to have people like Lloyd who slum with the imbeciles like me.
Y Spy: How have you grown as a filmmaker between Incest Death Squad 1 and 2?
Udler: I‘ve had people ask me how to make a movie. Well, you just go make it! You don’t think about it too much; you go out, fuck up, and come back to look at footage. That’s what I did. I learned more doing that then I could sitting in a classroom or studying movies. Until you go out and make the mistakes, you can’t even imagine.
After I made and edited One, and we had the screenings and sat through the movie many times, some stuff just drives me nuts. That’s how I learned. There’s irritating shit in this; it probably irritated the viewers, so I’m not doing that again.
I think I learned to tell a more streamlined story. In One, there was a lot of explaining, a lot of talking head stuff where it was two shot, coverage, coverage, etc. A lot of blah blah blah. I learned a lot about pacing. I learned a lot about timing. I learned that you don’t have to explain every single thing. If it’s nighttime, you don’t have to have a shot of the sun going down. As far as the writing goes, I feel like I didn’t need to be so verbose. I thought I’d let the scenes and actors take their time. I know my actors wanted to kill me after the first one, with some of the stuff they had to memorize and read. I think I grew a lot.
Going back to people’s reactions, people have said that this is just a better movie. I think that was because of making the first one, and being critical of myself, but also getting reviews from everywhere. Getting the horrendous review from Fangoria – it helped! I took everything he said into consideration. From his perspective, the almighty throne at Fangoria, he’s got a point.
To make a movie: have a big set of nuts, have alligator skin, and – most of all – make the movie, fuck it up, force yourself to watch it, confront the mistakes you made, and listen to the reviews. If somebody says that you’re a piece of shit and your movie sucks, ask why. You’ve gotta take that stuff, as hard as it is. It makes you a better person, I hope!
Y Spy: The scathing Fangoria review locked onto the incest part of Incest Death Squad. So let’s cut to the core. Why incest?
Udler: I don’t know that it was conscious to do it that way. When I sat down to write it, I thought: what’s good exploitation? What’s something I hadn’t seen before? That’s really what I wanted to do. I didn’t sit down and say that I gotta make an incest movie. I just gotta have exploitation. What would really freak people out? What makes people uncomfortable? Politics and religion. Keep both of those in there.
When I initially wrote the script, it still had the incest with the brother and sister in it, but the title of the movie was Moonshine – which is a shitty, terrible title! It doesn’t say anything; it doesn’t mean anything. When I was getting ready to send it to Lloyd, because he was having a contest on his website, I called Bill Rebane, who made Giant Spider Invasion and a bunch of great drive-in movies. He had been friends with Lloyd for a long time, and I asked what I should call it. He says: “Call it Incest Death Squad: A Tale of Boobs, Shine, and Sline.” Well shit; that’s the most beautiful title I’ve ever heard!
So it was Bill’s fault that we brought the incest to the forefront. Otherwise, it was a subplot. But while making an exploitation film, it’s all about the title and the cover art, and I don’t think a title grabs people any more than if you put something in like incest, or cannibal, or cornhole. They’re sold!
Y Spy: Great. Now I’m just thinking: Cornhole Death Squad!
Udler: That’s the prequel!
Y Spy: Do people need to be freaked out like this? Is it helpful to individuals and society to have things like Incest Death Squad hit them in the face?
Udler: I think the only movies that can do that are exploitation movies or horror films. You go back and look at some of the most jarring movies of all time – they’re horror movies! They’re things that people don’t want to confront. Even for a movie like Deliverance, that’s primal fear; you’re lost in the woods with crazy hillbillies. You’re not gonna get that stuff from the next M. Night Shyamalan movie. Even in a movie like Frank Henenlotter’s Bad Biology, this is a movie [where] in the first five minutes, you know if you can hang with it or not. His movie Brain Damage was kind of a drugsploitation movie. Frankenhooker was sexploitation. Even Night of the Living Dead was a very daring statement, and Chainsaw was as well. Those movies prey on the fears that people won’t talk about. These things don’t come up in everyday conversations, and yet the horror and exploitation filmmakers who are worth their weight push that envelope.
You try to explain to people who didn’t grow up with the exploitation films, that a lot of the exploitation films were just made to put bare boobs on screen. Well yes, they say, but what’s the point? Bare boobs! On screen! But who starred in it? Bare boobs! What was the name of it? Bare boobs! That’s the whole point of it.
Look all the way back to the ‘30s: Reefer Madness. It was drugs; how uncomfortable was that for people? The movie tackled it – in a very deluded way.
Incest Death Squad is a fun way to get people to go: what the fuck did you just say? And then people watch it and see it’s not all incest. Maybe it’s not all death or squad! I hope that people who check it out understand that it’s not just goofy for the sake of being goofy, that there’s actually a point, and a script, and a lot of time was spent on it. But at this level I have no money to spend, I don’t have a big budget, so I’ve gotta do something to get people’s attention. I don’t think there’s anything better to do that than Incest Death Squad.
Y Spy: So tell me about what you’re doing next.
Udler: The next movie is pure exploitation; it’s not horror in any way. (I actually don’t see Incest 1 and 2 as being horror movies, either.) It’s called Mediatrix. I’ve always wanted to do one “based on a true story,” and it kind of is. The source material was something very interesting to my co-writer and I. It’s the story of a woman; we pick up on her life when she’s in her 30s and she’s living with her mother, who is a false spiritualist selling spiritual snake oil. Really, they’re just terrible people, and she’s kind of a whore. She gets pregnant and has to leave, and does that. It takes us through her dementia, where her mother has trained her to be a false spiritualist, and it goes all the way to her being even crazier and starting her own cult. The she’s (supposedly) visited by the Virgin Mary, suffering the stigmata.
We have Debbie Rochon, and she’ll be playing the Virgin Mary. We’re very, very fortunate to have her in the movie. Everybody says that’s the greatest casting ever; that’s her greatest role. I know! When I was coming up with the idea I had one person in mind to play the Virgin Mary. I won’t even make the goddamn movie if I can’t have her in it. Luckily enough, she’s a sweetheart, very accessible, and is really into the movie, and we’re excited to have her.
It’s Christploitation, it’s sexploitation, it’s a lot of manipulation, a lot of bad language, but it’s not a horror movie. People asked me what style it was. My answer is that it’s my There Will Be Blood, with a lot of boobs! There Will Be Boobs!
We’re shooting it in October here in the quiet charms of Wisconsin, and hopefully we’ll have it out by Christmas.
Y Spy: So what are the release plans for Incest Death Squad 2?
Udler: The release of Incest Death Squad 2 will happen on September 17th at 9 o’clock pm, at www.horrorsociety.com. The reason I’m doing it online is [that] I spent a long time going through distribution companies, and I was fighting with some movie theaters to find a place to screen the premiere. With the distributors, your main goal is to get people to see it, but I want to have my cake and eat it too, because I want people to see the movie but also maintain some control over it. So fuck it! Let’s do an online premiere, for free. Everyone from around the world can tune in and watch it. I’m not asking you to do anything but watch a free movie. You don’t even need to put your pants on!
After that night, it will be available on DVD, and hopefully everybody enjoys it enough that they want to get the DVD and see the special features. We’ll probably do some screenings; there are some cool places in Chicago, and somebody in Tulsa wants to run the movie. We’ll probably do Milwaukee; we probably won’t do Madison, unfortunately. That’s kind of the plan. Then we’ll dig into the next one. We’ll keep putting movies out until we start making money. That’s all there is to it.
Y Spy: So if you could make a big studio film, would you accept the loss of artistic freedom?
Udler: Absolutely! Where do I sign? Ti West, who did House of the Devil – a brilliant film, Hitchcockian in a way – went studio and made Cabin Fever 2, which was not a good movie, at all. He basically said: hate the movie, don’t blame me, blame the studio. So he got the royal screwjob from the studio system. But I’ve always said I would absolutely do it. I’m not a greedy person; I’m not an egotistical person. So I’d probably take the money and crawl right back underground and make something completely demented and hope that the people who supported me up to that point don’t jump off the wagon.
Everybody says it, [but] I would never say: “I would take it, but I would do it my way! I’d make sure to tell the studio where to stick it!” Nobody does that! If you want to make the money, you go and make the money. Saw 17? Great! It’s in 3-D, and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are starring? Good, let’s make it! Action! Where’s my check?
I don’t like jobs! I did radio for a long time and I liked that job, but that’s really been the only job since I was 16 that I’ve liked. Otherwise, I hate working, and I hate schlepping, but I love doing this stuff. If I never make any money doing this, that’s okay. The fact that I’ve been able to do this is enough.
Oh yeah. He hit that.
“Incest Death Squad” premieres on September 17th at 9 pm Central time, at www.horrorsociety.com. More information can be found at www.incestdeathsquad.com.