The Horror Revolution: First, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Joe Sherlock: My favorite horror movie is PHANTASM. I first saw it on the CBS Late Movie in March of 1981, sitting alone in the dark in the dead of night (dead of night for a middle school kid), my family asleep at the other end of the house. The creepy psychic lady. That box he had to put his hand in. The Tall Man. The spheres. The bug thing. The yellow goo. The Volkswagen on its side. The sound in that room with the bars. Edited as it certainly was for TV, it still scared the crap out of me and was so unlike anything I had seen before. In the years since I’ve come to appreciate it also for what went on behind-the-scenes: how Don Coscarelli came up with it, the creative ways they made those wild scenes and nightmarish images. The sheer determination they had to just plain make the movie happen. It’s inspired me in many ways in making my own flicks.
Regarding what movie scared me the most, that’s a difficult one, but I can tell you that after I saw DAMIEN: OMEN II, especially that scene where he kills the teen out in the snowy woods (and the sounds the kid makes!!), I did have some nightmares about it!
THR: Did you always want to get into filmmaking? What inspired you to want to make your own movies?
JS: When I was growing up I was into comic books and would often draw my own comics, complete with my own worlds of superheroes, sci-fi creatures and monsters. I also got into horror movies as every Saturday afternoon I’d watch a double-feature of horror host Dr. Shock out of Philadelphia. I moved from south Jersey to Oregon when I was 11, but continued my intake of sci-fi and horror with local independent station KPTV Channel 12 out of Portland. It was on channel 12 that I saw Don Dohler’s THE ALIEN FACTOR and it being a ultra low budget movie shot in backyards, living rooms and woods near Baltimore, it reminded me very much of my old neighborhood in New Jersey. Beyond that, it also made me think, “I could do that!”
I was making little stop-motion shorts with my dad’s super-8 film camera at the time, and soon enough my pal John Bowker had a VHS camera and we made some goofy shorts with it. My family soon got their own giant VHS camcorder and I eventually used it to make skits, horror shorts and music videos for garage bands I was in. Eventually I decided to try and make something a little more serious - I used my experience drawing my own comics to make a bunch of storyboards, took inspiration from The X-Files as well as all the b-movies I loved and the result was DIMENSION OF BLOOD. That was back in 1995 and I have just kept on making my own flicks!
THR: What’s your favorite of the movies you’ve made?
JS: If forced to make a single choice I would say DRIFTER just because I really like the balance of horror and humor in it, I like the mystery and reveals in it, there are some really great shots and performances and overall I just like the vibe of it. It has several nods to PHANTASM in it and my friend Steve Sessions created a fantastic soundtrack for it.
Close runners-up would be ODD NOGGINS, just because it is so unique and chock full of sci-fi horror weirdness, and CHANNEL 99 which is my homage to early 80s pay cable late night fare - being an anthology it has ample opportunity to include a wide variety of things I dig.
THR: What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a movie? What’s the least?
JS: The most I ever spent was on BLOODSUCKING REDNECK VAMPIRES, and a lot of it was spent on beer, fake blood, special fang prosthetics and food for a huge cast…and beer. It was a fun experience as we took over a small town for several weekends, shooting all over with a bunch of locals.
The least was probably one of my early flicks, usually just fake blood supplies and maybe a pizza or two for the cast.
THR: How do you cast your films? Are they just friends from around town, or did you meet them making the movies?
JS: I started with friends and it quickly expanded to friends of friends. I did some screenings at theater pubs and independent theaters and had attendees coming up after the show wanting to be involved. Same thing for screenings and vending at comic cons or horror conventions. I’ve only really auditioned people once and that was back in the early 2000s for my sexy thriller UNDERBELLY - I advertised the local college paper and got two students to read for a couple of parts. Otherwise I have been very, very, very lucky to have talented friends who are great actors, want to get naked and/or covered in fake blood and dig it so much they invite their friends to join us!
THR: Who the fuck is Cynthia, and why is she a lying sack of shit?
JS: Cynthia is one of my friend’s ex-wife. She fucked him over and lied a lot. That’s why she is a lying sack of shit.
THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
JS: I’d say Don Dohler just because as I mentioned earlier, his flick THE ALIEN FACTOR was really an inspiration to me when I was first starting to make stuff, and I got to correspond a bit with him later in life and he was a really nice and helpful guy.
THR: What inspires you in general? Is there any particular place the ideas for your movies come from?
JS: I get ideas from all over the place. Sometimes it’s a movie I’ve seen that I want to reference or sparks my own take on something. Sometimes it’s something that happens in my own or a friend’s life. Sometimes it is a location being available or a particular prop or friend’s talent. Often my movies are a hodge-podge of inspirations from multiple avenues.
THR: You’ve directed 30 movies so far in your career. How many do you think you’ll get to before its all said and done?
JS: Gosh, I don’t know. I’m working on four features at once at the moment! I continue to make features and have continued to contribute segments to a few anthologies, so heck, maybe 50? That would be amazing.
THR: What movie desperately needs a remake? Would you be the one to do it?
JS: I’m not sure about ‘desperately,’ but a favorite of mine is the 1936 film DRACULA’S DAUGHTER. So many of the horror films of the time had ridiculous, overt comedy bits stuffed into them, I assume to give the audience a little bit of everything. In this case it’s bumbling cops who give a few three-stooges-esque over-the-top ‘scared’ and goofy performances. So much of the rest of the movie is creepy and subtle and this, along with some dull stretches of academic conversation, I think could be excised in a remake. There was all kinds of chaos with rights and scripts leading up to the shooting of the movie and even when the studio started shooting (to satisfy a date to retain the rights), the script they used wasn’t even finished. Am I the guy to remake DRACULA’S DAUGHTER? I don’t know, but I’d give it a shot. Just need a big ol’ budget for gothic castles and foggy cobblestone alleys in London.
I also think there are some good bones to the 1957 film THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER - the original was a quickie made in 4 days with a tiny crew. I think with effects technology today, a pretty sweet b-movie could be made. I actually just shot a sequence as an homage to THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER for one of my current productions. I even had a character say the word, “Astounding.” We’ll see who picks up on it all in the final flick.
THR: If you could have one piece of trivia about you that everyone who watches your movies knows, what would it be?
JS: I often name my characters after those in an existing movie, sometimes using the cast & crew’s real names. One example is in the “It Haunts” segment of TWISTED FATES, about a housesitter housesitting a haunted house, I used character names from THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN. In DRIFTER, everyone is named after the cast and crew of PHANTASM (aside from The Drifter, who is just The Drifter). I used both “The Tall Man” Angus Scrimm’s acting name and his birth name, Lawrence!
THR: And finally, if you met a genie who could give you three wishes, what would your second wish be?
JS: Probably something to do with sex that can’t be printed here.