Hey hey everyone. Tonight I have another great interview with an up and coming horror filmmaker JON KNAUTZ. Back in 2007, before I started this website, I watched a fun little flick called JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER. The movie was about a guy, Jack, fighting both his personal and very real demons and monsters. The movie starred Robert Englund and Trevor Matthews in the titular role as a man with anger issues(!!) trying to come to turns with his past. This flick was unique for a few reasons: It blended horror and comedy seamlessly, it was full of practical monsters and f/x, and best of all it was ORIGINAL. JACK BROOKS proved there are still talented filmmakers out there that care about making original films.
Jon was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule of promoting his new film THE SHRINE to answer some questions for http://www.anythinghorror.com. Enjoy the interview and be sure to keep your eyes open for THE SHRINE (I’ll let you know when its available), and if you haven’t yet seen it you need to go watch JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER. You’ll thank me.
Enjoy and Stay Bloody!!!
AnythingHorror: Tell us a little about your background and what brought you into making horror films. Is there one genre film and/or horror director that inspired you? What are some of your influences?
Jon Knautz: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) had a pretty big influence on me. I saw it when I was pretty young. It scared the living hell out of me. It was my first real experience with terror. It was a horrible feeling. I regretted watching the movie so much because before that I didn’t know what it felt like to be so scared and horrified and suddenly it was part of my life. My dad could see that I was a mess so he put the movie back on and started explaining to me that it’s just a movie and that it’s all make believe.
I think that’s the thing with horror, it can affect you in such a psychological way; it can really stick with you. That horrifying feeling can linger long after you’ve watched the film, and for better or worse, I think that’s what attracts a lot of filmmakers to the horror genre. That’s what did it for me. I wanted to be able to affect people the same way I was affected.
There are many horror films that influence me: HELLRAISER, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE THING, THE FLY, THE SHINING, ROSEMARY’S BABY, CARRIE, SUSPIRIA, THE DESCENT, THE EXORCIST, RINGU, MISERY, HALLOWEEN, etc…
JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER is hugely entertaining. Where did the idea come from for JACK? How did you get Robert Englund to star. The ending definitely suggests a sequel and even a series of JACK BROOKS films. Any plans to return to that character? Where do you see it going?
JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER came from a combination of: a cottage, video games, movie watching and beer. Trevor and I really wanted to come up with kind of a hero film and that’s what we came up with. Robert had seen a short film we had made called STILL LIFE. He really dug it. When he read the script for JACK BROOKS he said, “Hell yeah, let’s do it.”
Originally we didn’t have any interest in developing sequels for JACK. The ending to the first one was kind of a joke like BACK TO THE FUTURE Part 1. We just wanted to end it on a high note. However, we have since developed a storyline for the sequel and it’s action packed. Jack becomes a world traveling monster slayer.
Tell us about your new film, THE SHRINE. What inspired this story? From the clips I’ve seen for it it looks like a combination of a ghost story with a little “teens-trapped-in-the-woods” edge and a slight ROSEMARY’S BABY influence. Is this at all accurate? When can we expect to see it?
THE SHRINE is about a small town where there’s this strange, religious cult of people who practice human sacrifice. And as three journalists investigate the town, trying to get the story, they dig a little too deep, and that’s when things start to get real sick and twisted. But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg, the film twists into a complete world of hell after that as supernatural elements come into play.
The story was inspired by many things. Aztec culture has always intrigued me, specifically their practice of human sacrifice. The idea of killing a person because of some spiritual belief is truly horrifying. The person killing you isn’t necessarily insane (like a Michael Myers), they simply believe in something so strongly that nothing will stop them from murdering you in the name of it. That seems scary to me and I just had to get that into a horror film.
From the looks of it, JACK BROOKS seemed to be 100% practical effects. If there was any CGI it was woven seamlessly into the practical effects. Do you do the same thing with THE SHRINE? What are your thoughts on practical effects vs. CGI?
There weren’t many CGI effects at all in JACK BROOKS. Some wire removal, that’s about it. THE SHRINE takes a similar approach, however there were some things we had to use CGI for. I think CGI is a great thing; it all just depends on how you use it. When it comes to creatures I much prefer to use prosthetics. But natural elements like fire, rain, fog etc… can look great as CGI. It’s all about blending it into the atmosphere of the film, and making sure that people don’t know its CGI. It’s like having a fake plant in your house; you want it to look real. You don’t want people to walk in and say, “Oh wow, that plant is totally fake.” You want them to not even notice it because they just assume it’s real.
What’s next for Jon Knautz? I’m hoping you’re gonna stay in the horror genre. I really enjoyed JACK BROOKS and THE SHRINE looks terrific. What are some of the future projects you have your eye on?
I’ll never really leave the horror genre. I’ve learned so much from it. But our next project will be more in the thriller genre, something based in reality that deals with people rather than creatures, demons, monsters etc…
Our company has several scripts in development and I’m really excited about all of them.
Here’s a question I ask all my interviewees: A big studio approaches you and tells you that time and money are of no concern and they want you to make them a film. The only catch is it has to be a remake of a horror film and it’s your choice. What film would you remake?
My god, are there any left? They’ve remade everything! Maybe I’ll just wait a few more years and make a remake of the remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. It really feels like they’ve all been done, except for a few classics, which I’m sure are already in development. How about SLEEPAWAY CAMP? Yeah I’d do that. Or I’d just say go watch the original.
Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions for me Jon. I hope to be “seeing” much more of you in the future. You’re making some original horror flicks, and for this genre nowadays that’s a breath of fresh air!!