I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the independent horror film Never Open the Door. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, as you can read here, and thought it was a fantastic throwback to the olden golden days of black and white horror flicks.
Earlier this week, I spoke to the film’s director, Vito Trabucco, about his career in horror and the inspiration for Never Open the Door. We also talked about our serious love for old-school horror and 80’s slashers!
HorrorGeekLife: How did you get started in the film industry?
Vito Trabucco: I’m from Pittsburgh and it was kind of a slow move to get out to California. When I was around 21, I started writing. I was in Florida for a while and started working on stunts and short films. After that I moved to L.A. and just kinda went from there- made my first feature five or six years ago.
HGL: What made you gravitate toward the horror genre?
Vito: I like `em all, actually; I’m not just a horror guy, but I do dig horror. I’ve literally been watching since I was, like, three. I remember when the first Friday the 13th premiered on HBO. There was never a time I wasn’t watching slasher flicks from the 80’s.
HGL: I hear ya, man! I have a three year old and it breaks my heart that she’ll never be able to experience that awesome feeling of the old school VHS rental store.
Vito: Oh, I know! It’s just not the same anymore. The video store was everything.
HGL: Let’s talk specifically about Never Open the Door for a bit. How did you get the idea for that particular film?
Vito: The idea came from my producer, Chris Maltauro. His grandfather is John Brahm, who directed Twilight Zone episodes. So after Chris and I did our first movie together we just hung out and started talking about doing some sort of homage to his grandfather. Not necessarily a Twilight Zone episode, but some sort of a black and white flick.
HGL: It’s safe to say that old Twilight Zone episodes and Alfred Hitchcock Presents were the inspiration for the black and white element of the film?
Vito: Yeah, definitely, and I think that made the whole movie- the black and white. I don’t think it would be nearly as cool if we’d done it in color.
HGL: That was the big thing that I took away from the film. It was a breath of fresh air from the modern splatter fests. As much as I love HD, 4K and all of the other technology that’s out today, getting back to the roots of horror with the black and white style was a fantastic touch.
Vito: I’ve always loved black and white. I have to give all the credit to Joe Provenzano, my director of photography on that. He was amazing and great to have. I was really lucky.
HGL: It looked fantastic. So, what was it like on set, hanging with the cast?
Vito: It was fun. When you have a house like that, with a hot tub and everyone hanging out and having a great time, the atmosphere was really good. Everyone stayed at the house: we shot there, we stayed there and it was quick shoot…like 6 days. We’d shoot, we’d wrap, and then everyone would hang out. The next morning we’d repeat everything.
HGL: So for the budding film makers out there, the plan was to rent a house for a week and just go from there?
Vito: Yeah, I had made a film 5 or 6 years ago and basically just got the same cast and crew together. It was just friends getting together to make a movie and really not any more complicated than that. That’s why we kept a simple plot, with one location- we really had to keep it that way.
HGL: It was a really tight piece of moviemaking, with what I imagine was a limited budget to work with.
Vito: Oh, thank you.
HGL: Other than digging the black and white element, what do you hope your fans take away from the film?
Vito: It was made out of love for the old Twilight Zone stuff, so if someone watches it and, as a result, goes back and re-watches some of the old John Brahm episodes, that would just be the coolest thing ever. It was a fun little movie, and I just hope no one feels like they’ve wasted their time after they’ve watched it.
HGL: Well I certainly didn’t, that’s for sure. So now for a couple of fun questions, Vito. First- one that I’m sure you’ve been asked before- what are some of your favorite horror films that you didn’t make?
Vito: (chuckles) Right! It’s hard to say. Well, I’m an 80’s dude so I grew up watching those. I’m a John Carpenter guy all the way. As for slashers, I love Pieces…like…so much. When they re-released that it was the biggest thing ever. I also like the older stuff, and I have my favorites from each decade. I love Hitchcock and I actually have all of the Lon Chaney Sr. stuff, so those make it into the rotation too. But ultimately, I grew up in the 80’s so that’s where the horror is for me.
HGL: I’m a slasher kid all the way, myself. Although, I do have to say that I’ve been on a giallo kick lately: Argento and Bava, all that kind of stuff…
Vito: I get on a giallo kick myself every once in a while. I hear ya.
HGL: If there was any actor within the horror genre today that you could work with, who would it be?
Vito: Ah, probably Robert Englund. He’s the most iconic to me. Especially growing up in the 80’s. He’s the man, no question about it.
HGL: Have you got anything else coming up, or any other projects that you want us and the readers to know about?
Vito: I’m just about done with a web series that I’ve been working on with Deborah Venegas, who was in Never Open the Door, called Watch the Pretty Girls Suffer. That’s probably gonna come out in February, I’m guessing. I also have a documentary coming out called Henchman: The Al Leong Story. A lot of people don’t know him by name, but he has a very iconic face from the 80’s, you would recognize him.
HGL: Oh yeah! From Die Hard and Lethal Weapon and Big Trouble in Little China! I know exactly who you’re talking about!
Vito: Yeah! So that documentary is just about finished, and that was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. I really like documentaries too, so I’d love to work on another one as well.
HGL: Dude, I’m so excited! You’re absolutely right. He’s one of those staples of big 80’s movies. Definitely keep us posted on that project.
Vito: Will do!
HGL: Well that just about wraps up all of our questions. It warms my heart to know that you’re an 80’s slasher geek like me. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat.
Vito: Oh, likewise man! And thanks for having me!
What a great conversation with one of the genre’s working directors! If you haven’t already checked out Never Open the Door, do yourself a favor and give it a watch. You can catch it on Amazon Prime, Google Play and Blu-ray/DVD. It’s worth it.
For now, I’ll be waiting with baited breath for Vito’s Henchman documentary and sharing in his fight to keep 80’s slashers alive and well!