Following his award-winning music documentary Unsigned (2011), director Edward Payson’s latest film The Cohasset Snuff Film is a “found footage” story regarding a teenager who murdered three classmates in a quiet town. The title alone suggests something shocking, as Payson strives to show the dark side of life. He has already accomplished this with works such as the gory-dramedy The Itch. On the horizon is the action-comic revenge film Fury: The Tales of Ronan Pierce, co-directed with Kevin McCarthy and featuring Kane Hodder, known for his role as Jason Vorhees. Payson, a native of New Hampshire, discusses his work, Hodder and why he chooses his own film content to be free of boundaries.
MLFD: Are you psyched to be working with Kane Hodder? How’d that happen?
Payson: Working with Kane on Fury was great. This is a person I had looked up to for a very long time. It was very surreal. A year ago I was having Kane sign my Jason Goes to Hell poster and this year I was able to have him act in our film. It was an incredible feeling. He was a true professional, easy going and had a great sense of humor.
Are some people automatically ignoring The Cohasset Snuff Film because they are afraid of the word “snuff”? Judging by the trailer and what I’ve read, is it more on the sensitive and serious side?
We really haven’t begun the actual marketing on The Cohasset Snuff Film but I think so far people are generally excited. There are fake downloads for the film on Youtube already that random people posted. We are being called by Cohasset officials talking about how people are in a panic in the small town. I don’t really think the word “snuff” caused us a problem. I think the true horror fans are who we are going for with this and a simple word won’t keep them away unless that word is “Twilight.”
“I love the Evil Dead. Do I want a remake, NO”
What did you think of the original snuff film from the 1970s?
I love 70’s snuff movies. I don’t think the original Snuff film was that great. Some films I look at from that era that really were perceived as “snuff” were Cannibal Holocaust and Faces of Death. These films changed the game. They made people sick. People didn’t know how to deal with what they were seeing. It was pure shock factor. This is what I am going for.
Your favorite/most influential horror films ever?
I have a rather long list of favorite or influential horror films but I will keep it to a few. I really the work of George Romero. The Dead Series is my favorite classic trilogy. I remember sitting in my dad’s basement workshop watching Night of the Living Dead on a small 2″ by 5″ black and white television with my brother at 10 years old. My father was a huge horror fan and really introduced me to the genre. I was seeing R-rated horror films in theaters more than I would see Disney Films. As far as modern horror films with the exception of “The Splat Pack” namely Eli Roth, Adam Green, James Wan and Rob Zombie, I really haven’t been into mainstream horror of the last 10 years besides films coming from Korea. I Saw the Devil was one of the best films I have ever seen. It was masterful in story, acting and execution. These amazing films are coming from Korea and all we get in America are horrible remakes.
What do you think about the Evil Dead getting remade?
I love the Evil Dead. Do I want a remake, NO. I think it all has to do with money. These movies are not made to be good. They are made to bank off the name recognition from the first film. I am totally against remakes and re-imagining classic films. It is getting out of control. Soon I think every ten years a film will get rebooted if it makes money. It is sad original ideas are looked down upon and go unmade.
“I don’t cut away when I think the audience will be squeamish”
What are the projected dates for your two upcoming films?
As of now we are releasing The Cohasset Snuff Film on Halloween 2012 and Fury we don’t have a specific release date because the film is still in post [production] and we have animation and effects which are going to take a very long time, but you will see it in 2013.
Is this your full time job? Are you able to make a living off this? What else do you spend time on?
Right now this is all I do. I had a full time job before editing and making how-to videos. Unfortunately the company downsized and I ended up getting laid off. Now I am just like any other independent artist trying to get by on side gigs and small videos here and there between features.
What’s it like in Los Angeles, as far as the indie horror film industry goes?
Los Angeles is the place to be for Independent Film. Places like Cinefamily in Hollywood will show independent films all the time, sometimes for free. There are always special screenings in and around L.A. and plenty of people to talk film with. I love it.
As a director, what makes your vision unique?
I believe in not compromising your vision no matter what. Most of my films are not just about the characters. They are also about the cruel world in which they live. I want people to experience the ugliness in the world so I don’t cut away when I think the audience will be squeamish. I let them experience every agonizing second. The world is not pretty and that is the picture I like to paint.
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Cannibal Holocaust (1980) If there has ever been a film that you can call “not for the squeamish,” it’s Cannibal Holocaust–hell, it was banned in like 50 countries. A groundbreaking, shocking cannibal film that, although isn’t perfect, set the bar for copycats (Welcome to the Jungle, anyone? Kenyon raises his hand). Shot on 16mm, it’s gruesome and explicit, even by today’s standards. It’s even controversial within the film itself, while the production and filming faced all sorts of problems. If you want to get deep, read up about the social-political messages it represents. Without spoiling anything (really, it’s just something you have to see), most of the first half of the film follows an anthropologist searching in the Amazon jungle for a lost group of people who were filming some sort of twisted documentary about native tribes, and apparently, cannibal tribes. Although the group is notorious for setting up graphic scenes, they are now dead, and likely eaten. The search party is able to obtain the film reels and bring them back to the U.S, where they discover that the footage is not at all appropriate for public exposure. As the film within a film progresses, the documentary crew pushes things WAY too far in their quest to fabricate their story. Inevitably, they end up as bones. Now, there are some scenes in Holocaust–some of it is REALLY effed up–that are REAL. That said, the uncut version deserves an NC-17 rating, as it is difficult to forget. [rating: $10] –Kenyon
Here’s a smart comment someone posted on this video: “Pathetic how people bitch about the killing of 7 animals that were killed 32 years ago, whilst in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of animals are being ‘processed’ in farms and the like. At this very moment, imagine how many animals- like Sheep, Cows, Goats, Chickens and the like -are savagely being slaughtered just so your fridge doesn’t have an empty meat section. There’s no such thing as ‘Civilization’. We’re just cocky because we’re clever. Humankind is and always will be, savage.”