I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the new Fright Night documentary You’re So Cool Brewster! The Story of Fright Night. As you can read here, I happily gave the film a resounding 5 out of 5 stars and, frankly, I was a little sad when the experience of watching and reviewing the documentary was over.
Well, Melissa, the matriarch of our merry band of psychos here at HorrorGeekLife, sensed my palpable melancholy and decided to do something about it. I was thrilled to learn that she’d set up an interview with both the producer and director of You’re So Cool Brewster! So, without further delay, here’s an introduction, followed by our conversation with the creators of my top horror documentary pick for 2016.
Christopher Griffiths is the director of You’re So Cool Brewster! The Story of Fright Night, as well as the upcoming RoboDoc: The Creation of Robocop. Chris was also the associate producer on Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
Gary Smart is the writer and producer of You’re So Cool Brewster! The Story of Fright Night. He also wrote the documentary More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead, as well as wrote and produced Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
Horror Geek Life: Thank you for talking with us! You both have a lot of experience with film documentaries on films we love. What made you choose Fright Night as the subject this time around?
Christopher Griffiths: Reasons for choosing a film like Fright Night is that it is the kind of film that you rarely see anymore. There’s a certain innocence about it and, despite its rating, can actually be enjoyed by all the family. It’s the perfect blend of horror and comedy where neither one outweighs the other.
Gary Smart: Having been asked to write More Brains! by Thommy Hutson and Mike Perez, we set up our own company and produced an in-depth documentary on Hellraiser titled Leviathan. After Leviathan we really wanted to focus on another 80s classic and Fright Night is a gem of a movie and personally one of my favorite films of my childhood. I just love the movie and think Roddy McDowall is one of the most underrated actors of the last century – he truly is one of Hollywood’s greats. His performance in Fright Night is just magical and the effects of the film still stand up to this day.
HGL: For this documentary, you originally got the film’s idea out there via Kickstarter. What was the response like from the horror community?
CG: The response to our Kickstarter was incredible. We actually shot the first half of our Peter Vincent segments prior to embarking on the campaign. We managed to incorporate that, along with footage sent by Mr. Holland himself helping create a rich video, and the results were incredible and pretty sure we had made a good two-thirds of our goal within a week.
GS: Yes, response from the horror community is always amazing. I’m a huge horror geek myself and very proud to say it. Horror fans are a tough crowd and they know exactly what they want so you’ve always got to be careful that you respect the genre and the fans.
HGL: That’s always great to hear! In the film, Simon Bamford was fantastic as Peter Vincent. Can you tell us how he became involved with the project?
CG: For Leviathan, we had the good fortune of recruiting Oliver Smith (who had played Skinless Frank and whose voice people might recognize from Sky Movies and the Horror Channel) to provide narration. This time we wanted change things up and go balls to the wall visually, so we decided to recreate Roddy McDowell’s legendary Peter Vincent TV segments to help drive the documentary’s narrative. After a while of searching for lookalikes, we came to realize that we already knew somebody who would fit the bill perfectly, none other than fellow Hellraiser alumni, Simon Bamford.
GS: We’d become very good friends with Simon over the years and he’s always been a great supporter of us, he also looks a lot like Roddy so we asked and he said yes. We wanted him to be as accurate as possible, Simon really researched the character and Roddy’s mannerisms and we got SFX wizard Stuart Conran on board to add prosthetics to Simon. The coolest thing is that Stuart used Roddy’s actual lifecast to cast his nose and chin to apply to Simon. We always knew that our Peter would be hit and miss as fans love him so much, but once we had the blessing of Tom Holland, who loved Simon’s performance, we knew we were onto a winner.
CG: As a first time feature director for something like this, Simon made my life so easy as he had virtually every line down to a T with very little assistance and would execute his segments within two takes! A consummate professional and all round great actor!
HGL: Everyone involved with the performance did a great job. And, it seemed like the cast was more than happy to share their stories. Are there any good ones that didn’t make the documentary?
GS: There are lots of stories that didn’t make it due to pacing and timing. In hindsight, Leviathan was way too long at 9 hours and the narrative does get lost – fans love it, but as filmmakers we wanted Brewster to be tight. All the extended interviews are included in the 288 page Brewster companion book out on January 10th.
HGL: I can’t wait to check that out. I have to mention that the film’s poster is pretty amazing. I would love to know more about who designed it.
CG: So, we have two posters for this documentary. The initial one was designed by Graham Humphreys, who I still can’t believe I am having the great fortune of working alongside, given my love for his work on films like Evil Dead, A Nightmare on Elm Street and vast amounts of key horror movies. His artwork was complete whilst we were in pre-production. Little did we realize that we would end up recruiting majority of key cast and crew members of the sought after Fright Night Part II during the documentary’s production. It would only seem right that we produce a second poster, which incorporated elements from that too. For this we recruited Mute Art, whose work we had admired. They have now produced the artwork for our upcoming Robocop documentary.
HGL: The artists for both definitely captured the feel of the film. Of course, I also have to ask about the legendary Tom Holland, who directed Fright Night. Was he supportive of the project getting off its feet?
CG: Toward the end of Leviathan’s production, Gary had been speaking to Tom Holland, who was interested in the prospect of us covering Fright Night. But, it was not until he saw the end result of Leviathan that he sure we were the right guys for the job. Once seeing the results of our work, we were good to go. Tom’s passion for the genre is incredible and, as you will see in the documentary, he really holds the film and his peers near and dear to him and, with that, he was vital in helping the documentary gain the momentum it did.
GS: Tom was crucial to this project. Having the director on board instantly gives you kudos as independent filmmakers. Tom’s support has been amazing and he treated us like family when we headed to LA to film last year. He has also been working closely with us during post-production and I’m really happy that he loved the final product.
HGL: If you had the chance to create another documentary on any horror film or franchise, what would you choose?
CG: I would love to have covered the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, but both 1 & 2 have had extensive pieces produced already and, sadly, the likes of Gunnar Hansen and Marilyn Burns are no longer around. That said, I would like to venture toward a singular film documentary like Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which I see as something of a phenomenon or, better yet, a documentary on a lost film or troubled production much like Lost Souls, which was just riveting stuff!
GS: I love Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but they’ve both been covered in-depth in great docs. I’d love to look at Last Action Hero or a doc dedicated to Halloween III: Season of the Witch as well.
HGL: Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a very misunderstood film, so seeing a documentary on it would be great. Lastly, are there any upcoming projects you would like readers to know about?
CG: 2017 is set to be a big year for Dead Mouse Productions, seeing the release of our upcoming Robocop documentary, which is set to be mammoth given we have executed over 80 interviews for it already. Then there is our debut narrative short, The Offer, featuring (once again!) Hellraiser alumni, Simon Bamford, Nicholas Vince, Barbie Wild and Ken Cranham. Lastly, we have been working with John Campopiano (Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Semetary) on an IT documentary, so we are certainly keeping ourselves occupied.
GS: We’re starting pre-production on the documentary on Stephen King’s IT in February, which we start filming in July. Our companion book on Brewster comes out in early January. Personally, I’m co-writing a biography book with Neil Morris about my friend Don Calfa, who passed away in early December.
HGL: Wow, you both have a lot of exciting projects lined up. Don Calfa was great in every performance he took on, so thank you for letting us know about the book. And thank you both again for your time. It was a pleasure!
If you haven’t already done so, check out You’re So Cool Brewster! The Story of Fright Night, available for order HERE!
I'm also an Army veteran and served in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.My work has been published in Sanitarium Magazine, as well as the World War I horror anthology “Kneeling in the Silver Light,” and my first novel, "Greetings from Barker Marsh," was released in September, 2016.
I live in Florida with his beautiful wife and daughter.
Follow me at www.tysonhanks.com.
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