John Carl Buechler
Interviewed by Royce Freeman
John Carl Buechler is the master of makeup and effects that Paramount brought on to direct the follow-up to 1986's Jason Lives which ended with Jason at the bottom of Crystal Lake weighted by a heavy boulder. Buechler knows his shit when it comes to horror, having directed Troll and Ghoulies. Most fans of the F13th film series will swear that Buechler's The New Blood is the best in the series, with the exception of the original Cunningham classic. He is the only director in the F13th series thus far to tackle both the role of directing and special EFX - except for maybe Rob Bottin who is doing the long awaited Freddy Vs Jason. But until that finally comes out, Buechler stands alone as the only man who has done it. But hell, even when FvsJ comes out, he will be partnered with Bottin as the only people to play both roles. Congratulations!!!!
Q: How did you get the job of directing THE NEW BLOOD?
JCB: Essentially, I had just gotten back from Rome. I had directed a movie called Cellar Dweller and my agent got a call from Frank Mancuso Jr.'s office over at Paramount and asked if I was interested in directing a Friday the 13th movie. I said "let's have a meeting" and we did. And I think I almost lost the job because basically I had said that I wasn't really interested in doing a rehash or just doing another slasher movie. And I think my agent's jaw just about hit the ground. Frank liked what I had to say. He liked the movie I had directed called Troll and he liked the idea that I wanted to go for a slightly different approach to the genre than had recently been done. And as I understand it, they were looking a guy who had a good strong directing background and also had a strong EFX background too. Cause I believe at that time they were essentially trying to make Freddy Vs Jason but it didn't get made. Consequently because Paramount and NewLine couldn't really figure out how to go to bed together. They both wanted to distribute. They both wanted ownership, blah-blah-blah. So, ultimately it didn't get made. But all that development work was turned into another movie. So, essentially we turned the Freddy character into Carrie, er Tina. And it's interesting to note that when you look at the movies that were that year, both Nightmare on Elm Street and the Friday the 13th movie, which I worked on both of them, they both had essentially the same plot. In particular, the end where there's a showdown where the girl kicks the bad guy's ass. Renne Harlin did Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and essentially she takes on powers and kicks Freddy's butt. And at the end of my movie, Tina realizes her powers and kicks Jason's butt so essentially they're very similar. So, that's a bit of irony in history on the Freddy Vs Jason possibility.
Q. Why are there so many mistakes in the Friday the 13th series?
JCB: The writers basically get in there and get out as quickly as possibly. I must be candid with you - myself excluded - a lot of writers think they're beneath writing this kind of affair. I'm not but the fact of the matter is, people cringe at this stuff. And they don't wanna spend very much time on it. It's a terrible thing to say, but it's a reality unfortunately. And whether or not they get something right - they don't believe it's up to them. That seems to be the attitude.
Believe me, if I'm asked to participate in an element of a franchise as I was in Tarzan: The Epic Adventures when I did the television series. There are things that you're always at cross-purposes with which I take very seriously. I love Edgar Rice Burroughs. I wanted to do definitive Burroughs' Tarzan but I had to do so within the perameters of the show. For example, what Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote in his books, ain't what they made the show about. So, the continuity of the show was different than the continuity of the books. I owed to the show to keep to the continuity of the show, but at the same time my love for the books wanted me to shift back to Edgar Rice Burroughs. The episode I did, Tarzan and the Mayhars moved it back in that direction but it still had to compromise and include elements that the show had going for it. Not everyone is gonna work as hard as I do to make it work. I had to work within the confines of the script that was given to me and try to steer it back to what had gone on previously. It's rare to find a director who loves the genre cause they try to get one of these things done and then go and make a big studio picture. Personally I like this genre so I pay attention to it.
Q: What was it like working with Kane Hodder?
JCB: Kane's a great guy to work with. He takes it very seriously and gives a lot to the role. I couldn't have made that movie if it wasn't for Kane. Cause my whole idea was to go over the top with each EFX sequence and unless I had a real Superman playing Jason it wouldn't have worked. And Kane was always for stretching the envelope and trying to do as good a job as he possibly can.
Q: Recently, Kane showed up at a Horror convention and showed the reels of EFX shots that were cut from the film. The fans loved every second of it.
JCB: Yeah, well I'm telling ya, the movie that's out there ain't the one I wanted. Everyone says including Chazz Ballan that I whimped out on the movie. But as the fans saw in that reel, I got censored.
Q: Do you think any of that stuff will make it on the DVD when it is released?
JCB: If you could get the fans to write in to Paramount, you could force them to do it. We could find that footage, it's in the vault. Paramount is the company that put Star Trek back on the air because the fans wrote in. If people said "we want a DVD of the uncut version of part 7" they will listen. Flood them with letters of requests, and they will do it.
Q: Paramount never does anything special with their DVDs. NewLine and other companies like that do lots of cool tihngs like: director's commentaries, and deleted scenes.
JCB: I just participated in a NewLine Cinema commentary for the Nightmare on Elm Street series, cause I worked on parts 4 and 6. They're going through all the films and doing special editions. They are coming and photographing props that we build for sequences that were never used.
Q: Why wasn't Harry Manfredini brought on to do an original score to Friday the 13th part 7?
JCB: Well, because my producer was Ian Patterson who had just been on Friday the 13th the television series and Fred Mollin had done that. Ultimately, I had hoped for a larger sound, and he tried to make a larger sound. He did some fantastic stuff with Tina's theme and some of the big pounding visceral takes on the Friday the !3th theme. But ultimately we made a decision to mix Manfredini's score original tracks from parts 6, part 4, and parts on 1 and 2 to make it work. Cause actually my score has all the Friday the 13th movies in it, in terms of what they're mixed in a unique way.
Q: Is there a director's cut in existence, at least as a rough cut in your possession?
JCB: I wish. I mean the movie was made faster than any movie in history. This was before we could cut on an Avid. Everything had to be done on film. And we submitted it to the ratings board every single day. So, I ultimately didn't get my cut. I wish I could've.
Q: Where there any scenes or sections that were cut from part 7?
JCB: Not truly scenes. Scenes that were shot weren't cut. Dialogue within scenes was cut. And certainly almost every single punch-line to every stalk and pay-off was trimmed considerably. I mean when you see the axe jump-cut into that lady's head, and when you see Jason smack that guy up the chin with the axe. I mean the shots are just noticeably missing. I mean there were some cool shots we did. But not since Tom Savini's time have people been allowed to put stuff like that on screen.
Q: But JASON GOES TO HELL got away with a lot of thing?
JCB: Yeah, I think NewLine Cinema is gutsier than Paramount and they're willing to go to bat for their director. They're gutsier, and are not ashamed of their horror labels. They're not ashamed to say "this is gonna make allot of money for our company." Paramount didn't wanna say that. It was a non-union, very low budget movie that was kicking the shit outta their bigger budgeted features.
Q: Was there any specific reason why part 7 was filmed in Alabama?
JCB: It was the middle of winter, for one thing. We didn't wanna shoot it in Los Angeles. We wanted the right kinda look for the right kinda woods. There was a whole scene where this girl goes skinny dipping at night. I needed a lake. Alabama was a hell of a lot more film-friendly than Los Angeles in terms of allowing us to actually blow a house up in a wooded area. We couldn't do that in Los Angeles but you could do it in Alabama. So, there were logistic requirements and there was also the aesthetic. I liked the look of Alabama. It had a nice, gothic feel to it.
We ultimately went to Alabama because it allowed us to get the best look for the money. Cause we didn't have that much money really. And I didn't wanna cheap it out and shoot in a patch of big berry. I wanted the woods and I wanted the lake. I wanted to blow up a house and not do a miniature. And I didn't wanna cheap out on it. So, we got the best that we could. We got more value for our dollar. I think you can easily make a statement and say "when you're in the middle of the woods at night, it pretty much all looks alike." It was a big thing that Frank Mancuso said, "I don't care, woods is woods".
Q: Why do you think they actually tell you where Springwood is in the Nightmare series, but they don't tell you where Crystal Lake is in the Friday films?
JCB: I think there's the essence of people liking the enigma of "where is it". I mean the first movie was shot in New Jersey, and other movies were shot in Los Angeles.
Q: Why don't the producers of the movies care about details and production value?
JCB: I remember being in dialogue sessions, trying to come up with feasible dialogue that would come out of people's mouths, that would be visceral and passionate, something that real people would say to one another. And you get the production executive walking up next to you, and saying "man, why are you killing yourself over this, I mean it's only a movie for crying out loud, it's just one of these movies." That pisses me off.
Q: What was the hardest thing for part 7 to shoot?
JCB: Well, the most complex thing to shoot was the finale. Because it was multi-layered. Planning the film, realizing it would be that tough, it meant arduous storyboarding, and following the storyboards precisely. It meant essentially realizing that you're shooting all the locations interior in Los Angeles, including the fire gag, and all the stuff surrounding it. Every house interior was shot in Los Angeles. And every exterior was shot in Alabama. That made things wacky. You had to maintain continuity whether or not it was raining. When kids are out at night, it's not supposed to look like it's raining. So, you have to light it so it doesn't look like it is raining. You keep the kids from getting wet. You don't back-light it so you don't see the rain. It was a logistic nightmare essentially because I had 6 weeks to shoot the whole damn movie. That's not allot of time to shoot a movie that's this complex, that has these kinds of EFX. Because EFX by virtue of their nature, take time to do. But we were not allowed to take time, so I had to plan the entire movie as a military campaign. You envision everything completely beforehand. You design your storyboards, and you shoot them as wrote. I mean, you have to so you don't get in trouble because you're shooting everything so incredibly out of sequence to maximize your potential screen value. I'm not one of those directors who walks on set and says "what scene? where you wanna put the camera? ok, whose line is it?" You have to be enormously prepared to enter a movie of this kind and get the continuity and connective tissue from one scene to another. Not only visually but emotionally and make it function.
Even though the film was cut to shit by the MPAA, it still was one of the best F13th films. And alot of the fans think so.
JCB: Thanks. You know the magazine came out called "Retro" and Issue #1 had a big long piss and moan article about horror movies and all the roman numerals in the titles of them. I said to myself "oh boy, I'm gonna read another one of these things." So I pick it up, and so they went through "the Halloweens, and the Nightmares, and Friday the 13ths, except for part 7, which was the best one of the series." It was great. So, I bought the magazine, made a color xerox, blew it up, and hung it up on my wall here.
Q: Were there any specific things that you were never able to do due time and money restraints?
JCB: With Tina I had an opportunity that I was not allowed to realize. I wanted to do some very surrealistic nightmarish things in her clairvoyant bursts when she would foresee something. Because if you read anything about paranormal and the way clairvoyant's actually see things before they happen, they're not dead-on, they see something that hints at it. It's a very surreal vision. For example, the vision that makes her veer off the road and crash the car. I mean, I just didn't wanna see Jason plunging the thing through her. What I wanted to see was her mom standing in the middle of the road, holding Betsy Palmer's head. And Betsy Palmer's head would be saying "help me mommy, help me" in young Jason's voice. You know, that's the kinda stuff I wanted to have in this movie that I wasn't allowed to have because Barabara Sax production associate said "oh John that's so over the top". And I said "Yes, of course it is. Are you crazy, it is over the top. That's what this movie's gotta be. It's gotta be over the top." Now why have Jason fall through the steps and break them, is he that heavy? It doesn't matter, it's visceral. It's impact. It's another moment of gosh-wow which is what people go to movies to see, for crying out loud.
Well thank you for taking your time out to do this interview.
JCB: It's been my pleasure.
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