"I will tell you a secret---the chainsaw in "Texas" was real -- and so was the chainsaw in "M-S-P." -Nick Palumbo
Nick Palumbo, writer, produce, and director of the films "Nutbag" and Sinister," whose third highly controversial film "Murder Set Pieces" debuts this month on DVD, sat down with Girls and Corpses Magazine to discuss his ultra-violent style of filmmaking. Has he gone to far, or is this only his beginning? And would he tell us where to get a good pizza?
G&C: I'm thinking about remolding my home and it seems that the trend today in decorating is going towards the personal torture chamber. Torture chambers seem to be the rage as with your film: "Murder-Set-Pieces" and Eli Roth's "Hostel." Should I build one? And what does the home torture chamber need if I'm having over unsuspecting dinner guests?
NP: Yep, every home should have one... of course, I may be biased as I am the guy who started the trend! It's quite flattering to see other artists employ this useful device... all you really need is a nice looking blonde whose ass fits nicely in the chair, and you're good to go! They come in handy for times when you get lonely, and also when you want a little payback to that pretty little girl who said "no" to you in high school. (see "M-S-P" for step-by-step instructions on how to properly use.)
G&C: Tell us about "Murder-Set-Pieces" (Lionsgate -- release date early January). How did that project come about? Was it a nightmare you had? What was the inspiration? And what's with all the screaming? Or, was that just you, trying to get the movie made?
NP: Yes, Lionsgate is releasing "Murder-Set-Pieces" on January 9th, 2007. They were required to cut the film to an "R" rating to get it into certain video retail stores. I am not sure when the Uncut version will come out.... even in the "R" cut, the film will be too much for a lot of people. "M-S-P" came about over a period of a few years. I study true crime, serial murder, etc... so this film is really a combination of imagination and truth. Murder is disgusting and I felt if you are going to make a horror film about murder, than make it horrific. I produce, write and direct all of my own projects, and this film was no exception. I was able to raise the money myself (and at 2.2 million it is the most expensive independent horror film ever made) and I got to make the film I wanted. I am very proud of that-----even though Jim Van Bebber (Manson Family) told me I have officially replaced him as the "most hated filmmaker in America." The inherit nature of the film deals with taboo subject matter--and not in a kiddie Freddy Kruegar way---my film came from today's news headlines. That being said, of course you will offend some people... but as an artist you create. I am much different than most people think. People come up to me all the time and say, "You are so nice and normal and educated---I can't believe you're the guy that made THAT movie"! Most people cannot separate an artist from his art, which is a shame.
BTW, murder and screaming go hand and hand.
G&C: Did your actors know what they were in for, or did you have them drugged? Do you believe that actors have to be truly terrified for that to come across on screen like Tobe Hooper achieved with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
NP: Yes and no, depending on the actor and the scene. Children can become playful and fearful even in the same moment--so it all depends. I had to hire some real-life prostitutes and porn stars for certain scenes that I knew would be very uncomfortable and violent. Some scenes were done and achieved through real pain--a la "Texas Chainsaw." I will tell you a secret---the chainsaw in "Texas" was real----so was the chainsaw in "M-S-P."
G&C: What would be the best way to torture Nick Palumbo? Nails on a blackboard? (with your fingernails ripped out, then dragged along on a blackboard), a dull drill through the eye? Or, having to cut your budget during production?
NP: The best way to torture me would be to make me impotent---and than lock me in a dungeon with Paris and Nicky Hilton.
G&C: Why all the fascination with serial killers? Were you bottle or breast-fed?
NP: I'm sure my mother tortured me, but the truth is that the dark side of human nature has fascinated me endlessly---from Burke and Hare, to Jack the Ripper, to William Quantrill and "Bloody Bill" Anderson, from "Baby Face" Nelson and John Dillinger, to Ted Bundy and Andrei Chikatilo... and the list goes on. The case that has most haunted me is how the state of Colorado allowed little JonBenét Ramsey's murderous parents walk free.
G&C: I agree with you on the Ramsey case. They should have a special museum for lame verdicts and cases such as OJ and Jon Benet.
Getting back to horror, why does our society need to see, and have such an appetite for such torturous horror on the big screen. What purpose does it serve? It's going to work at a 9-5 job enough torture in ones life?
NP: Ha! Ha! Well, I imagine for some people working 'period' is a living nightmare---but most people will watch horror films as a means to escape, to fuel the adrenaline rush, maybe satisfy a morbid fantasy, or just to jerk off because their sister already left for college.
G&C: I'm sure you sister enjoys hearing that. But wouldn't you rather be working for Hallmark doing Christmas stories with puppies and a happy ending? Why in your films does the little boy always have to eat the puppy in the end?
NP: I actually enjoy all types of films---mostly very old films and foreign films. My favorite film is Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter"(1955). 90% of my favorite films are not even in the horror genre---not because I don't love horror----I do---There is just a lack of quality horror films since cinema began a hundred years ago. In my opinion, there are less than 15 horror films ever made that are worth watching more than once. The dark side shows up in many different types of film---not only horror----like G.W. Pabst's fantastic "Pandora's Box"(1929), Kenji Mizoguchi's amazing "Ugetsu Monogatari"(1953) or Philip Ridley's astonishing work of art, "The Reflecting Skin"(1990). I am going to make another horror film, but I am also working on a drama (albeit a very dark one.)
G&C: How do you get such great performances out of your actors and particularly child performers. Do you tell them you ate their puppy?
NP: Thank you. I work very closely with actors, and they respect me a great deal. I push the right buttons, you might say.
G&C: Have you ever spoken to a real serial killer? Do you think they admire your work? What would you ask Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy over lunch? And would you pick up the check?
NP: Yes, I have interviewed real murderers (in prison). I have done a great deal of research in the field of criminal behavior and psychology. I would ask Jeffrey Dahmer the name of the first girl (not boy) he fucked... and I would tell John Wayne Gacy to go fuck himself---I hate child murderers. The homosexual psychopath is much different (and harder to catch) than a "normal" serial killer. And, yes, I would pick up the tab if they gave me the info I wanted.
G&C: Hm... easy to tell John Wayne Gacy to fuck himself... after he's dead. What do you think scares real serial killers? Do you think they have nightmares?
NP: Yes, they have nightmares. The same thing that scares us, scares serial killers: PEOPLE.
G&C: What scares you, Nick? Working as an extra?
NP: I have a fear of disease. It's actually affected my sex life--you can't be too careful these days, you know. Sometimes the scariest thing in the world is sleeping right next to you at night.
G&C: Have you experienced true horror in your life? Were there severed heads instead of ponies at your birthday parties?
NP: Of course. You cannot make a great dramatic picture without having gone through real drama. When I was in Junior High School a girlfriend (not dating) was raped and murdered. I was in a severe car crash at 22 and my best friend was killed. On two different occasions I saw real crime scenes. I know quite a few homicide cops (some relatives of mine are in law enforcement). It was enough and I would not do it again.
G&C: Tell us you lowest point professionally, beside this interview?
NP: This interview is my lowest point... or maybe it was the time I went 13 months without getting laid (working so much!!) It's really a tough call!!
G&C: Your highest point?
NP: My highest point professionally was when I was in the editing room with Todd Ramsay (the editor of John Carpenter's "The Thing") and we put this beautiful scene together of "M-S-P". I said "Todd, that was fantastic"! And then, he turned away from the monitor and said to me, "Nick, man, I can only use what you gave me."
G&C: What do you think of some of the movies being made by your horror contemporaries: Eli Roth (Hostel) and James Wan (Saw series).
NP: I think it's great what James Wan and Eli Roth are doing. Both guys are living their dreams and creating. It's all good stuff.
G&C: What the secret to directing? Come on... we won't tell anyone.
NP: There is no secret to be a great director. I will tell you this, you cannot be taught. You either have vision, or you don't. It's that simple. Being competent technically doesn't make you a great director. You have to have the vision, brother.
G&C: What was your favorite scary movie growing up? "It's a Wonderful Life?" Or, a script I'm working on called, "It's a Horrible Death"?
NP: "Wizard of Oz", "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", "King Kong", "Psycho", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Black Christmas", "Maniac", "Deep Red", "The Shining", "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things".
G&C: Why do you think certain directors and writers are drawn to the horror genre? Why are you?
NP: Again, it comes from within. You are who you are. You are drawn to what captivates you. Never make apologies for who you are. It's all in the DNA.
G&C: Would you ever make a musical? Why don't we ever hear Barbara Streisand, Celine Deon or John Tesh as soundtracks for horror movies? Now THAT would be scary.
NP: There are a lot of shitty producers in tis world, but even they are smart enough to keep away from that mix.
G&C: Favorite scene in a horror movie?
NP: My all time favorite scene in a scary movie is actor Robert Mitchum chasing the little boy and girl (with his knife raised) to the river edge in Charles Laughton's brilliant beyond belief "The Night of the Hunter."
G&C: It's interesting that you can make a movie as violent as you want and still get an R rating, whereas you have to be careful with nudity and sex? Would you ever make an X-rated horror movie?
NP: Well, "M-S-P" had to be cut for the "R" rating. It would have received an "NC-17" rating if we did not cut it. That is a fact. So, I feel I have created the ultimate slasher film. The ultimate ride of murder and mayhem and ultra-violence. It's time to create something entirely different.
G&C: Where will Nick Palumbo be ten minutes from now?
NP: In bed.
G&C: Ten years?
NP: Driving my all original, numbers matching 1971 Plymouth Hemi-Cuda 4-speed pistol grip--triple Black!
G&C: Twenty years?
NP: Getting a blow-job in my all original, numbers matching 1971 Plymouth Hemi-Cuda 4-speed pistol grip--triple Black!
G&C: Seventy years?
NP: Dead, but hopefully coming back a zombie in an all-new Fulci film.
G&C: Where can you get a good pizza in L.A.? (I figured you were Italian and might know I'm kinda hungry).
NP: Ha! yes, I'm Italian and Irish... I just go to the local haunts---no mainstream pizza.
G&C: What's next for you Nick, career wise. Any great new horror films on the horizon?
NP: Yes, the next horror film is called "FRIGID"----Plot Outline: "Frigid" tells the story of a group of beautiful young girls on Holiday across Europe that runs into severe problems. (35mm---2:35 Scope)
G&C: Finally, what do you think of Girls and Corpses Magazine?
NP: Girls and Corpses Magazine" is absolutely brilliant! I actually wish I would have thought of the idea. I'm just glad you did, Robert. Kudos to you, my man!!! Thank you, again.
G&C: And thanks again Nick... for the ice pick to the brain!