Mangler Reborn Directors & Writer Exclusive InterviewMeh
We had a chance to catch up with Matt Cunningham & Erik Gardner the writer and directors of the upcoming Mangler Reborn that is starting to get some buzz around our horrific abode here. We have some exclusive photos, some fun Q&A and some pictures of hot looking ladies covered in gore. Just what the doctor ordered for an early morning news item! Without further ado.. into the interview.
How did the both of you meet up and decide to do another Mangler film?
We meet about ten years ago through a mutual friend – who thought we had to meet because we both loved horror so much – and he was right. The night we met – we sat and talked about Argento, Raimi, Carpenter for hours. From there we started writing over the phone since I (Matt) was still in Colorado just about to start making Decampitated and Erik was on his way to LA. Erik where he started working for Shaun Cassidy on American Gothic which was that tv show Sam Raimi produced. We would sit on the phone a write for hours at night. Until I decided to move to LA to finish the post on Decamp. As far as doing the Mangler, we were approached by my former boss, Barry Barnholtz to write and direct the project, so of course we jumped at it. Erik was a development executive at MGM and the studio was just sold to Sony, layoffs were happening and it just worked out perfectly for us to focus on Mangler.
To me the title “The Mangler Reborn” has more of a deeper meaning then just a title for a film. Is it more of a reflection of the “rebirth” of the Mangler franchise? In a way yeah, we thought that since we are taking the machine aspect of it as King had in his original story and also having a rebirth in the movie – we figured it was the best title. Also we were hoping to not have the 3 behind it. Sometime people groan at that – like – “why do we need another?”. This is definitely a stand alone movie.
Can you give our readers an overview on what “The Mangler Reborn” is about?
It’s about obssession, possession and becoming something that everyone fears – a part of the machine. Losing control and not being an individual – that’s the Freudian version – the horror fan version would be – a guy who becomes possessed by this machine and has to feed it – like Little Shop of Horrors.
How will your version of Mangler Reborn differ from the other two?
The first one is basically about the short story from the book, the second one was more of a timely computer virus piece – ours is inspired by the short with a twist and is more raw energy with that 70’s horror vibe.
You also helped co-write this film with fellow director Erik Gardner. How was it working with Erik and originally did you both have different visions of the film and can you give us some insight into the overall creation of the story?
We have been called the two-headed monster by the cast and crew. We are Ying and Yang – we work well together and would probably write the same movie with a few different things here and there, even if we were a thousand miles apart. Like doppelgangers.
I’m always curious when I see two directors credited with directing a film. Erik Gardner is also credited with directing Mangler: Reborn, how does that work? Did you split up certain scenes or did you both work together throughout the film?
We tackled the scenes together like a morbid Coen brothers or Hughes brothers. We would normally discuss something then one of us would walk out to the actor and tell them what our thoughts were. It can be confusing when there are two people talking to you, but we did really well I think when it came to directing. We’d just look at each other and know if we got it or we don’t. It’s a marriage – you have to compromise sometimes and let each other have that one idea – even if you think it might not work at the time – it usually does.
In April I attended a convention where Reggie Bannister was in attendance. He seemed to be very excited about the project and said that it was much closer to what Stephen King had in mind for the movie. Is that something you consciously decided on when writing the film?
We knew we couldn’t take the short story directly and make it because that had been done and we didn’t really have the story rights to remake. We had the rights to make a sequel – so we sat and thought about what we would want to see as horror fans and make the best movie we could on a limited budget. I think the small budget is what makes you think of what you can get away with.
I noticed on IMDB that Jeff Burr is listed as the "Lawnmowing Neighbor". I'm assuming this is a little cameo role in the film, How did you meet him and can you tell us about any other little surprise cameos?
I (Matt) met Jeff through email – when I was working at Barnholtz Entertainment. He had a film that was coming in for distribution and I was a fan of Leatherface and Pumpkinhead, to name a few. Jeff is an amazing guy, really down to earth and just uber cool. He helped us find our first AD and was always there for advice. So we had to have him do a cameo. He was total professional and had a good time with the role. We made a deal with him to try and give each other cameos in our films. Hopefully we can make more movies and keep him coming back.
Aimee Brooks is a beautiful woman. Whenever she was on set was it hard to keep focus on the task at hand?
Well of course. Aimee is great, she’s a pro. We are glad she agreed to come on board, but it wasn’t hard to focus, we would always threaten her with the gallons of blood that she would have to wear for the end of the movie. It was always fun for us to cover her in blood. She really enjoyed that (right Aimee?).
What can the horror fans expect the “gore level” of The Mangler Reborn to be?
There are some good gory scenes. We’ve had some people cover their eyes during the machine scenes. We don’t skimp on the blood.
What’s next after "The Mangler Reborn"? Will we be seeing either of you working on some horror films in the near future?
We are developing a few horror projects right now. At least one of them we will be starting before the end of this year. We will let the cat out of the bag very soon about which one. Fortunately, it will be bloodier.
What are some genre films that have inspired you to both write and direct?
Matt – Night of the Living Dead (started it all), Evil Dead, Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween (that’s a big one), classic Universal monster flicks, Romero Dead movies, Capenter films, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, I am a product of the 80’s so I love a lot of those movies, especially comical horror - Return of the Living Dead. I really like the new stuff like Shaun of the Dead, Dead and Breakfast, Haute Tension and a gaggle of the Asian horror – Ringu, The Eye, Kairo.
Erik – It probably all started when I was about 4, the day my grandmother bought me a pair of keds then took me to a double feature of King Kong and this William Castle movied called BUG. About these radioactive roaches that would burn people alive. Why was a 4 year old seeing that stuff… who knows. But it stuck with me to this day. Growing up I was very influenced by stuff like Suspiria, Evil Dead, The Thing, Halloween, Curse of the Demon, The Shining, Reanimator, The Haunting, all the old school classics. There’s just too many awesome horror movies to list. I’m obsessed with Kiyoshi Kurosawa films and anything Park Chan-Wook does. They just think outside the box and surprise me. I love that. Although, I highly recommend a flick called Survive Style 5. Definitely one that sets itself apart. I ditto all the flicks Matt listed as well!
Matt – I love the process of writing because you think of the most absurd things and write them hoping you can make it happen. Directing is a different animal – its about trying to then make your writing a reality and sometimes on certain budget levels you have to sacrifice or compromise the original vision you had in writing and then you get a little bummed because you had to change it. Sometimes it’s better than what you had written and it becomes this happy accident.
Erik – I agree, for example one day on Mangler we walk onto the set and the walls are covered in blood. I almost cried. Not really, but you know. Because the walls were not supposed to be bloody and there was no time to clean all the walls, so we had to just figure it out. Why would a burglar go upstairs in a house with blood everywhere. So we kept the lights off and had Reggie turn the lights on when he got to the top of the stairs and the reveal of the bloody walls behind him plays like a joke because he doesn’t notice the blood. It’s great and actually makes the scene better.
Matt, we’ve heard recently that you are working on a film called "Full Moon" could you update us on what the film is about and how it is going?
That is a script that Erik and I wrote with a buddy of ours and have been trying to get going for over a year now. It’s not the typical werewolf movie. It’s kinda like a Fight Club meets American Werewolf. Takes place in Palmdale and has a good back story to it. I think since it’s not your typical in the woods werewolf pic, people have a hard time with it. We hope we can make it, we keep peddling it around.
Matt: Decampitated was your first film as a director. From then till now, how do you feel you’ve grown as a director?
Decampitated was a great experience, I had an old school DP on that who taught me a lot about camera placement and all that good stuff. I think I learn more every time I step behind the camera – I wish I was doing it more – but who doesn’t. I think I’ve learned a great deal more about letting the scene go – just letting the camera roll after the action is done, etc. – you can always edit – but that hanging scene can sometimes really create something in your imagination. And of course less is more – is the general rule.
Since I’ve mentioned “Decampitated” (great name BTW).. can you tell us what that film is all about?
Thanks, I love titles that play on words. The movie is about some stupid people – who probably wouldn’t be friends in the real world - who go on a trip to find a camping spot called DeCamp acres. It’s about the journey not the destination. They are basically bumbling their way through the woods and they mame each other trying to get there. I loved the Friday the 13th movies and since I have a warped sense of humor I thought it would funny to make a movie about all the absurd teens in the woods movies – which I love by the way. It actually all started with the opening scene and grew from there. Inspired by Monty Python sort of humor.
Well I had to have a goofball cameo in the movie. What director doesn’t want to have that scene. Sometimes I think directors get a bit too serious when they have a big scene with all the dramatic acting – unless of course they are actors. I don’t think I would ever try to pull that off. Give me the creepy guy or goofy gas station attendant part and I’ll be just fine.
What films are you guys looking forward to seeing this year?
Matt – Corpse Bride is the big one for me. I love Tim Burton movies. AND - King Kong, I can’t wait for, love Peter Jackson – I cried when I saw the first Kong when I was a wee little lad. I couldn’t believe that the monster died – I guess I related to the monster – go figure.
Erik – I’m actually looking forward to that new Cronenberg flick, History of Violence… King Kong and Corpse are a given. Also, the Masters of Horror stuff. Mick Garris is a friend and mentor and I can’t wait to see his show!
Is either one of you a reader of Horror-Movies.ca?
But of course.
Trivia time.. each of you, give our readers a bit of Matt and Erik trivia. It could be anything, but it has to be something we don’t know.
Matt – I don’t like Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, makes me kinda sick thinking about it, and I think Cilantro is an overused herb.
Erik – Iron Maiden rules and my first gig in LA was as a runner for that John Landis show DREAM ON.