AICN HORROR talks with TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s Kim Henkel and WILDMAN OF THE NAVIDAD’s Duane Graves & Justin Meeks about the unofficial TCM sequel BUTCHER BOYS!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Today I’ve got a pair of interviews focusing on tomorrow’s theatrical release of BUTCHER BOYS, which I came to find out in these interviews is Kim Henkel’s unofficial extension of the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE universe. The film is also of interest to me in that it is directed by the dynamic filmmaking duo of Duane Graves and Justin Meeks, the masterminds behind the fiendishly overlooked masterpiece THE WILDMAN OF THE NAVIDAD (reviewed here). Any film with these guys name on it gets my attention. Now, while BUTCHER BOYS isn’t officially connected to the TCM series, there are definitely a lot of similarities between the two films. I’ll get more into that in my review of the film that I’m posting in my column tomorrow, but until them, here’s what producer/writer Kim Henkel and directors Duane Graves and Justin Meeks had to say about BUTCHER BOYS.
First up is Kim Henkel who I found to be a charming and down to earth, no nonsense kind of guy. Here’s what Mr. Henkel had to say…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): How are you doing today?
KIM HENKEL (KH): I’m doing fine. How about you?
BUG: Great. I’m a big fan. I’ve been watching your films for ages now, starting way back with TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and so I’m really excited to talk with you today about THE BUTCHER BOYS. Or it's just called BUTCHER BOYS, right?
KH: That’s correct.
BUG: Okay, so tell me about the concept behind BUTCHER BOYS.
KH: Yeah. Well, there’s a relationship to the whole CHAINSAW idea, the idea of a small group, in this case a family entity who see that their way of life as outside of the rest of the world. I think the question is, “What can they do to protect their family?” It’s similar to CHAINSAW in the sense that I felt like it reflects what we are seeing in the world and how that affects our protocol. And in BUTCHER BOYS, I’m just taking that idea a step further.
BUG: What interests me about this is that when I was watching this, it did. It felt like a natural extension from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. With you seeing the different directions that TEXAS CHAINSAW has gone in the years, was this your version of trying to tell the natural progression of the story?
KH: Well in some fashion, yeah. You know, the problem with CHAINSAW is basically these were characters who… I call them “redneck moonlight” and their way of life was threatened by technological evolution, but it’s a story that’s difficult to extend into the future. “How does that play out generation after generation?” You know, the family is confronted with technological advancement, so I wanted to do something that had the ability to present it in a light that allowed it to extend over time and so it took a lot of what was going on in CHAINSAW and advanced it into a business practice. It became a big boom and as well the notion of protecting one social entity.
BUG: I’m a huge fan of Justin Meeks and Dwayne Graves. I saw THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD and that felt so much influenced by TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Is that the reason why you went with these guys to direct this film?
KH: Well it wasn’t necessarily because it was influenced. They were my former students and I knew them well. They continued to make films and I felt like THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD was a real indication that they could really handle this material and put together a good finished product.
BUG: So what was it like having these guys as students?
KH: They were crazy. Justin is a real wild man. Duane is just the opposite. But you know, Dwayne is the anchor of the team at the same time and he’s the guy that is the technical work horse there as well and Justin brings a lot of fun and creative personality to the whole process, so they seem to work well together and it’s a relationship that works for those two guys. I can’t explain that, it’s just one of those things that they have developed over time.
BUG: I did notice also in putting this film together, the more I got further down the cast, the more I started to recognize more and more people from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and from the sequels. How were you able to get Edwin Neal and Marilyn Burns and everyone else back for this film?
KH: Well you know, I have relationships with most of those people and they are some of the nicest actors you could know. It was “Why not shoot with all the wonderful people I’ve worked with in the past and bring an extra dimension to the process?”
BUG: Again, this film from start to finish was almost a nonstop chase scene. There was a little bit of establishment in the very beginning, but really from about fifteen minutes in, especially the lead actress there, is on the run the entire time. Were you there on the set when everything was being filmed?
KH: Well I wasn’t there the entire shoot, but I was there a fair amount of time. I really wanted to let Duane and Justin take the reigns there.
BUG: Having directed in the past, was it ever a notion that you wanted to direct this one?
KH: No. The one thing that directing in the past has taught me is that personality-wise that I’m not really suited to it. You need a more gregarious sort than I am.
BUG: Have you lived in Texas all your life?
KH: Most of it. I lived in LA for some years.
BUG: I was just wondering, because I drove through Texas quite a few years ago and it does seem like its own country and that does seem to be a theme in a lot of your films, this society within a society that is kind of different, but still very powerful and very big. It seems like that’s a motto of Texas as well. Is that relation a conscious effort or is that just something that comes with being a Texan?
KH: Well probably a little bit of both. I didn’t want it to seem so narrow as to exclude the outside world, not something that’s peculiar and unique to our region. It’s supposed to be broader than that, but particulars come out at a particular place. That’s almost always me.
BUG: What’s the next project you have coming up now that BUTCHER BOYS is out and finished?
KH: Well I’m working on a documentary about a character actor Lou Perryman, who was in CHAINSAW 2. He played the male lead opposite Caroline Williams who was the DJ. He’s done a number of major films with relatively small roles and then larger roles in indie films and was a great character who was murdered in his home, so I’m making a documentary about him.
BUG: So was this a relationship that started with CHAINSAW 2 or has this been something that’s just come up?
KH: No, I’ve known Lou Perryman for forty years.
BUG: Very cool. Well I’m a huge fan and I think you’ve done a really great job with this film and it really is an interesting companion piece to watch this film, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION, and then this film. You could really see a lot of the same cool beats and it does feel almost like a trilogy there. Talking about THE NEXT GENERATION: TEXAS CHAINSAW 2, looking back on that film and seeing all the talented actors that came from that film, were you aware of that while you were filming or did anything stand out as far as Mathew McConaughey or Renee Zellwegger?
KH: Oh hell yeah. Clear as a bell, those guys had an awful lot going for them, so I wasn’t at all surprised at their success.
BUG: And it feels like you really write a lot of films about just controlled chaos in one really closed room. There is the famous scene from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE at the end as well as in THE NEXT GENERATION, it feels like there is this insanity that’s going on there that is almost barely contained by the film and I feel in a lot of ways it’s the same way in BUTCHER BOYS. Is there a secret to that? How do you get your actors worked up to that level on insanity?
KH: Well… (Laughs) Given what they’ve gone through… It’s a huge chore to direct a scene that involves that many characters all of whom are engaged in the process. It’s a freaking nightmare.
BUG: (Laughs) Very cool. Well, you know I wish you the best of luck with this film. Are there any last words you would want to say to the readers at Ain’t It Cool News?
KH: I guess, “fasten your seatbelt.”
BUG: Great. All right, well thank you so much. Best of luck on your future projects and everything. Thank you and have a great day!
KH: All right, thank you very much.
BUG: Now let's see what Duane Graves and Justin Meeks have to say about BUTCHER BOYS...
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi! Is this both Duane and Justin?
JUSTIN MEEKS (JM) & DUANE GRAVES (DG): Yes! It is!
BUG: Great, well it’s a big honor to meet you guys. I’ve been a fan of your work ever since I saw THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD a couple of years ago and I just saw BUTCHER BOYS last week. I actually talked with Kim Henkel last week as well and he had nothing but great things to say about you guys. I guess starting off, how did you become involved in this project with Kim?
JM: This was about five years now and I guess Kim was writing a film that was called BONEBOYS and we didn’t know much about it other than it was his next installment in the CHAINSAW world and when he finished the script he sent it to us and we were one of the few people that read it first. It wasn’t so much that we were already in line to direct it, it was just more for feedback type thing with an early draft and so we kind of stepped away after that, because the rights were all tied up in this TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D thing. You know, the one that came out recently.
So they didn’t get the rights back to it until the beginning of 2010 and that’s when they started talking to us about directing it, but it would have to be rewritten a bit, because it couldn’t be a CHAINSAW movie, but it’s kind of obvious as it has some of the same themes and whatnot.
BUG: Definitely. As far as your relationship with Kim, it goes back a little bit further than that in that he was your teacher as well or your professor in school?
JM: Yeah, Duane and I, the first time we took a screenplay writing class and film production as well, he was really there. He was hired to teach master’s level English and also screenplay writing, so we were in all those classes with him and that was the first time that we wrote a feature.
DG: Yeah, back in those days Justin and I were in competition and it was sort of in his class that we realized “Hey, it might be a better idea to team up than to try to out do each other.” That was the best thing that we ever did. His perspective and mine, while different, work together to make something better than just one brain. JM: It’s like one brain and we’re both the halves.
BUG: Well I asked this of Kim, how you guys were as students. So how is he as a teacher?
DG: Kim’s a little bit different than any of the other professors we had, because we were used to being coddled a little bit here, but Kim had a different approach. He’s not somewhat that’s going to blow smoke up your ass. If you’re on the wrong trail or he thinks that it’s no good, he’s going to break your heart, you know? (Laughs) He’s not afraid to do that, which at first when we were young students it was really hard to take, but when we realized what he was doing, it just sort of prepared us for the type of business that we were going into and I think because he has been and still is, but at that point he had been in the business for twenty-five years, it was invaluable. I mean that was different than a professor that had no experience in the real film world as a screenwriter or director.
BUG: You actually said that you guys work well together. What is your secret to create a film together? It seems like it would be a really tough thing, just to be able to share those duties. Or does that come naturally for the two for you guys?
DG: You mean like directing in general?
BUG: Yeah, well directing, writing. I know you guys have written and directed together as well. How do you distribute the responsibilities?
JM: Yeah, you know I think the first time we worked together on something that we produced and put out there for competition in the film world. Duane had already done a lot and we had graduated and we really wanted to just take a camera and go to the area that they filmed CHAINSAW and said “Let’s just go pay homage.” So back then it was more about story and there was just something special and different to it. We used Kim a lot in that, too. He was watching our shorts and seemed to really give us a good critique, like Duane was saying, he wouldn’t candy coat anything.
DG: That’s where we started co-directing. I mean specifically co-writing. It is challenging and it took us a while to figure out what our roles would be and how we would play in the process. We were both coming up with ideas. You obviously hope it’s both at the same time, so a lot of times it was just figuring out how that play worked and how to maximize our thoughts. Like Justin’s ideas come fast and furious where mine come slower and over time, so we have a yin and yang to figure out how to balance it. It’s the same on the set. We are pretty good at reading each other right now and that takes a few years of practice of messing up a bunch of short films before you can tackle a feature. When we did WILD MAN it was like 2006, we had been making movies for six or seven years by then before we even decided to do a feature. I wanted to make sure we were ready to do that on that level and at the same time we wanted a story that was extremely interesting and would be recognized for the story we wanted told.
BUG: After watching WILD MAN it seems like almost a no brainer that you guys would be able to make a really good chainsaw film and it’s interesting to me that this originally started out as a TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE film and it evolved from that. Did Kim always have you guys in mind to work on this project with him or was he ever going to direct it himself?
JM: Well you know we definitely knew he wouldn’t direct it himself, because Kim prefers to stay behind the scenes. I'm surprised he did a phone interview for his own movie. I knew that we were being considered, but I didn’t know if we were the first couple of names.
DG: After we first got sent the script, Kim invited us over to Bob’s, his office. So I went in there and we talked for a while and Bob was very interested to know how we did WILD MAN on such a low budget and he was like “Well what would you all think about this now?” The number flew about and it was a fairly low number for such a huge ensemble project, but we wouldn’t….
JM: I guess about a year later he was still talking about doing that and we started production fairly quick.
DG: To make a long story short, without WILD MAN, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. That’s what sealed the deal where we were able to do the film for as little as we did.
BUG: The film is definitely a nonstop adrenaline rush of a film. How did you keep the actors and everyone at that level of intensity? I mean especially towards the end it gets to a really insane level of intensity. How do you pump up your actors like that?
DG: Yeah, Justin talked about that with Ali [Faulkner] to get that connection.
JM: Yeah, you know I think Ali is in about ninety percent of the scenes. She just brought it. I knew she was a great actor. I’ve worked with her before just acting-wise. We were seeing a lot of good people and we called Ali in and she just killed it. When she got there, she just put her heart into it and so to get in her in the right state of mind…
DG: I think a big part of that is giving her the time that it takes. Ali is the kind of actress who is very cerebral, so she needs just a few minutes to get into that mode and the crew and cast, we are all behind her in this big rush, where you want to push her right in, but we were like “give her a few minutes. Let her find the place.” Then once she did that, she was in there every time. It’s really just about giving actors their space to do it. It’s like “hurry, hurry, hurry” and then slow down.
BUG: Very cool. I do want to talk a little bit about THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD, because it is really honestly one of my favorite films that I’ve seen over the last ten years. Do you plan on ever delving back into that mythos again? I know you left it pretty final at the end of that, but do you see yourself making those kinds of films? Small, Texas-based, films that put you on the map?
DG: Two things. One, there is a sequel written for WILD MAN that we didn’t write, that another screenwriter wrote that we really like and we would love to do. With that movie we have to revisit it at the right time and I don’t feel we’re there yet, but there is a script and it’s awesome. And the new one that we are working on, a western, is a movie that encompasses Texas legend as well. It’s based loosely on the old legend of Sam Bass and his outlaw gang that terrorized Texas for a while in the late eighteen hundreds. We are always looking for stories related to Texas legend.
JM: We are right at the end of editing a film called RED ON YELLA, KILL A FELLA. It’s our western that we have coming out. We should have it done by November.
BUG: Fantastic. I’m a really big fan of both of your guys’ work. Keep on doing what you do, because it’s definitely different and definitely something that I’m interested in, so congratulations on the film and best of luck to you guys.
JM: We appreciate it, Mark. Thanks for talking with us.
DG: Man, thank you so much. Thanks for being such a fan of WILD MAN.
AMBUSH BUG: Look for my review of BUTCHER BOYS tomorrow in my regular AICN HORROR column. And look for BUTCHER BOYS in select theaters tomorrow! Find out more about the film here
See ya tomorrow for my regular column, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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