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The New Canadian Cult Vanguard? A Q&A with VAN GORE’s Keith Hodder

Grindhouse has gone mainstream and Canadian directors are reaping the blood-soaked rewards. First Jason Eisener caused a viral stir with HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, his winning entry from a contest sponsored by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 genre two-fer GRINDHOUSE. Now, with the release of a feature based on that trailer, Eisener has paid his good fortune forward to fledgling filmmakers Keith Hodder, Peter Strauss and Jerrad Pulham, who won  HOBO’s own trailer contest with their plasma-drenched entry VAN GORE, an authentic-looking  horror throwback to classic “killer artist” films of the 1960s like BLOOD BATH, H.G. Lewis’ COLOR ME BLOOD RED and even a homegrown effort, the Montreal-shot PLAYGIRL KILLER.

With their trailer landing a featured spot on the HOBO WITH A SHOGUN DVD and Blu-ray  discs released this week, the trio is hoping, like Eisener, to turn their two-minute success into a 90-minute blast of exploitation fun. Co-director and co-writer Keith Hodder explained their approach and the latest direction in Canadian cult film to in this one-on-one interview with Canuxploitation.com.

Congratulations on winning the HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN trailer contest! How important is this kind of support for young filmmakers?

It’s crucial. A lot of filmmakers think they’re making films that no one else is watching. It’s great to know that there are people out there that want to see new talent, to see what new ideas are being put on the table. I think this contest shows how great and down-to-earth the HOBO guys are–they were given an amazing opportunity and I feel incredibly privileged to follow in their footsteps.

What did you, Peter and Jerrad each bring to this project creatively?

We were all in it equally. I got us together and got the ball rolling on the original idea. From there we all wrote the script together, Peter and I directed and edited, and Jerrad did all the lighting and cinematography. It was a group effort through and through. The cast and the rest of the crew put their heart into this piece.

How did writing the script for an exploitation movie like this differ from shorts you have made in the past?

It was no holds barred from the get-go. All three of us just let go of any dark and twisted thoughts that we had and channeled it into the script. I tend to write a lot of dramatic thriller scripts and tend to focus on trying to deliver thought-provoking monologues, but with this trailer the focus was on crazy one-liners. It was also the first time I have ever tried to write anything comedic. It was a great experience and the most fun I’ve ever had writing a script.

Besides HOBO, what were some of the trailers you watched to get inspiration for VAN GORE?

A few of our select favourites were Brian De Palma’s SISTERS, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. We were also very inspired by the the Grindhouse trailers DON’T and THANKSGIVING. You’ll see a references to those trailers in VAN GORE even if it comes down to how we cut a scene.

Keith Hodder, Peter Strauss, Jerrad PulhamWhat scene in the trailer was the most fun to shoot?

I really loved shooting the Art Gallery scene where Van Gore spurts out “A lot of blood, sweat and tears!” The set looked great and the actors just hit it out of the park. The best memories I have of shooting this trailer were of watching Garfield Andrews (Van Gore) as he did what he does best. I remember we did that close-up on him quite a few times–he did it my way and then asked, “Do you mind if I end it with a laugh?” He did it a few times and everyone on set was cracking up. Lise Moule, as the Collector, still gets laughs from her pronunciation of “Avant garde.” Both actors worked so well together and really wowed everyone involved.

What are some of the challenges in turning a high concept trailer into a feature film?

Maintaining the same mood and tone that you built in the trailer. It’s really easy to mix horror and satire into a two minute piece, but quite difficult to do that for an hour and a half. What moments should be serious? What should be funny? Those are the questions I’d constantly be thinking of. Also you have to go above and beyond what you did in the trailer. You’ve wowed people once and now you gotta do it again. I hope one day that I get to experience these creative challenges of turning VAN GORE into a feature–it’d be incredibly exciting.

What else are you working on?

KH: I am very eager to start writing a VAN GORE feature script. It’d be my first rumble in the feature jungle, and I’d love to learn from writing such a script. It’d be a dream to make that film. Besides that I am working on an episode for a webseries that harkens back to the old TWILIGHT ZONE TV show for school. And we have another project on the horizon called WHITE TRASH,  a really over-the-top, unique idea that will blow people away. We gotta get to writing that script is well.

Where do you think the future of Canadian films is heading?

KH:  Jason Eisener showed that Canadian films don’t have to be all about the stereotypical Canadian that we see in a lot of films. While there are a few winks to his hometown he didn’t try to shove a national identity down the throat of his audience. He also didn’t try to fool the audience into thinking it was an American film. Canadian filmmakers have to just tell the stories that they want to tell and not drown their idea in maple syrup.

Thanks, Keith! To further increase your appreciation for the art of horror, see the VAN GORE website.

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