Kevin Phipps Interview (Director, Dr. Saville's Horror Show)
The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Kevin Phipps: Wow! Great question. For me, it’s always been a fight between Silence of the Lambs and Hellraiser 2. I think Hellraiser 2 is more of a straight horror film. But silence of the lambs was so visceral, intellectual,
and horrifying. Ted Tally won the Oscar that year (best Screenplay). I was barely in high school. It changed me. Hannibal changed me. (I don’t know if that's a good thing lol). Hellraiser 2, I realized horror in a different way. I always had a fear of mutilation and an empathy for mental pain. That scene with the bloody mattress just wrecked me, a psyche patient, seeing these
maggots as an illusion on his body, starts to slice at his arms and chest with a shaving razor given to him by this twisted doctor. All the while William is watching in the shadows and when it can’t get any worse a
skinless Julia’s arms rip out of the mattress, grabs ahold of this guy like a lover and starts to feed on him.
It was this visceral moment combined with an almost voyeuristic approach. It was mental, sad, horrifying and weirdly erotic, that went on for a good 4 - 5 minutes. That was it. Hellraiser, solidified itself in my mind for eternity.
THR: I really enjoyed Dr. Saville’s Horror Show, and I’m not generally a fan of anthology films. What inspired you to want to make an anthology film?
KP: Nice, that makes me happy. That was really a combination of a few things really. Craig, the writer, Allen, Kirk (producer and actors) and I were all sitting around a taco shop. I had just gotten off of directing a war film based on the Kosovo war. I was looking to do something different. The guys had never really made a film before, Craig was a book writer and he wanted to do screenplays, so we said, “well if we are going to do this we need to do something that isn’t break our bank. We barely had 10k. It was a great way to learn on the job.
So, what kind of film do we do? We had some tacos and beer and talked about what we loved. Something that was fun, that wasn’t going to require us to film everyday back to back for 30 days. We started thinking about today’s climate and how bite sized moments is what it’s about. We all kept coming back to our love of horror films. Then I don’t know who said it but horror anthology was mentioned. Suddenly, we all got super excited. We shared our favorites, Tales from the crypt, Tales from the Darkside, Creepshow, and my personal fav Trilogy of Terror.
BAM! That was it. We were onto something. Everyone put in their type of stories, we picked the ones that we liked and starting building from there. That was kind of how we approached it. We just had a passion, for the macabre, we recruited friends, family, and new crew, my wife had never filmed anything before. So, I said, “lets shoot something, you have to learn in a month!” We set dates and stuck to it.
THR: Did directing other horror shorts in the past help prepare you to take on a film that’s more small-scale stories? Do you plan on taking on feature length stories in the future?
KP: I think for me, like a lot of directors, I was doing short horror stories when I was a teenager. After Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the OG movie) My mind was like, okay, I think I can make these types of films. I remember doing this scene as a kid with the killer stripping flesh off of his victim and we shot it handy cam style, with some latex and toilet paper, we made strips of flesh, it looked pretty real. Indie horror lol I think it was a combo of those shorts, and directing psychological films and dramas that led me here
As far as features? Absolutely! Now that we got that out of our system we are ready to do some budgeted features.
We have some amazing stuff down the pipeline.
THR: What inspired you to want to be a director? Were there any specific movies that made you know that’s what you wanted to do?
I’m a kid of the 80’s and 90’s. There was so much original content to watch. Silence of the Lambs was huge in my life. I was too young to be watching it. BAM! I knew after that movie, I wanted to affect people like that. It taught so much, you can have a huge impact on the audience, you can bring them on this ride moment to moment, you can excite them, anger them, drag them into sadness or you can play against things and add a deeper meaning. So, basically it’s about control lol. But seriously, Silence, Hellraiser, Big Trouble in Little China, Pans Labyrinth, Fifth Element, Aliens, Se7en,
anything by Darron Aronofsky or David Fincher, or Guillermo del Toro and it has influenced me, there is just so much.
THR: You’ve done some acting, editing, casting and seemingly every other part of the film production process in the past as well. Which part of filmmaking is your favorite?
KP: Directing for sure! All the way. I’m an acting coach as well, so, Directing is like playing in a sandbox with the actors. Finding the truth in the moment, working with the crew and seeing their creativity, there is nothing like it in the world. I’m working on a theory of marrying the camera to the actor for my next project, so that the audience can feel them even more, more empathy. Basically, it’s me trying to capture those moments and breaking
myself on set emotionally so I know I’ve hit a good note. It might be self destructive but I feel like it’s not a maybe, its a must. That and color. I love color. I come from a comic book background and fine arts. Color can have so much power in it.
THR: Is horror your favorite genre? Is there anything that draws you to making movies in horror as opposed to another genre?
KP: I love horror, Truly. I honestly, don’t know if I have a favorite genre though. I tend to lean toward body horror, monsters, psychological, Surreal fantasy rooted in reality or unexpected drama. I just want to go the theatre and have the guts ripped out of me emotionally and mentally. Movies have always been there for me. I think I’m trying to find something in my work. I don’t think I’ll ever find it but its the chase that motivates me.
THR: I was actually really impressed with the effects on Dr. Saville. Were there any effects in the film that were your favorites?
KP: Thank you! It was a piece of tinfoil and latex for the whole film. ;) but seriously, Tracy Lock and Josh Sweten did a phenominal job. We knew we wanted to go practical. We loved practical, it was our way of honoring the 80’s and everything that came before it.
THR: My favorites were of Mary as the Aqua pet from It’s complicated. It was the first time I have seen a sketch of mine become a reality thanks to Tracy. She was amazing. I also loved the worm scene, when our lead Honda is pulling them out of her wounds in Consume. LOVED IT! And weirdly enough the gunshot up the zombie’s jaw. We had an air squib that we attached to the back of the actors head which he had to operate, and
it was this marriage of the Drew (Kirk Levingar) making a gun jerking movement and the other actor pushing the button at the right time. It worked on the 3rd and 4th run through. That was suggested by a friend who was working on the Walking Dead at that time.
THR: I’ve always found that anthology movies really struggle to make all of the shorts within of equal quality. Usually they have a first segment that really grabs the audience’s attention, but they’re diminishing returns after that. In Dr. Saville, I personally thought the last short was actually the
best, but it was good all the way through. Was there any thought process put into arranging the stories to make this the case, or what was that process like?
KP: Wow, thats an awesome question, some of it was decided after. We were originally going with this order that was completely different. We had it set in our minds, but after the first showing we felt like it was really bogging the audience down. But Allen Valor our producer and Dr. Saville, said, “I think it should cut like a Quentin Tarantino film and let the order be confusing at first and let it come together in the end” I tried it in the editing room and it worked so well. But then we had to shoot a couple of extra moments to
add to the story to make it clearer.
Break was one of favorites as well. I mean, I try not to single out the kids but the film was more psychological and I think it appealed to the mental side of me. It’s Complicated was great and based off a moment in my life. But that's another story. ;) For selfish reasons Consume was wonderful because I wanted to work with Honda King for quite some time and we just kept crossing paths, finally we were able to. Such a great time.
THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
KP: Del Toro and Fincher, maybe even Jean Pierre Juenet. Toro for his creative art and themes, David Fincher cause of his perfection. I also love what he says about people. “I think people are perverts, I’ve maintained that, thats the foundation of my career” and Juenet for color and organization.
You can be educated quite well by watching these masters.
THR: What’s next for you? Are there any upcoming projects you’re excited to talk about? What’s next!?
KP: That’s a great question. Craig and I are writing a couple of features and comic books. We have an amazing post apocalyptic film that we are working hard on. We also have a body horror monster film that I am super stoked to direct. The future will tell us where to go. I am just finally listening to my heart and mind for the first time in my life, so we will see.
THR: Finally, how long would it take you to eat an entire block of cheese, and would you be willing to do it on camera?
KP: Cheese!!!!? I love cheese, do I get to choose what kind?