To kick off the Halloween season, director Adam Green and horror stars Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th) and Tony Todd (Candyman) are taking audiences on a throwback thrill ride with the new slasher film Hatchet II. The movie, which is a sequel to the 2006 film Hatchet, follows the murderous rampage of a berserk half-man, half-swamp creature from the Bayou named Victor Crowley.
Recently, Tony Todd, who plays the character Reverend Zombie in both Hatchet and Hatchet II, was in town for a press tour in support of the film. During his brief stay, I had the chance to sit down with Mr. Todd and talk about his character, his thoughts on the state of the horror movie genre, and why he thinks that watching Hatchet II could lead to a pretty great drinking game.
I’ve always been a big fan of Tony Todd, both in his horror roles and in his diverse TV career (which includes appearances on 24, Star Trek, and many other shows), so this interview was a lot of fun for me personally. Check out my transcription of our chat below.
Screen Rant: Is Hatchet II just as much fun as Hatchet was to film?
Tony Todd: Well, I think so. But Hatchet I only had one day on it. You know, one scene, which I had fun doing. I enjoyed watching it. In Hatchet II everything starts at the top. And Adam Green has such an infectious joy of what he’s doing that he can’t help but contagiously spread to everybody. I mean that’s what I really like about him, he’s not jaded.
I’ve worked with directors who have done it too much, particularly in television, you know, “okay we got it, let’s move on, next setup.” “Well what about, we could maybe investigate?” “Mmm…no, let’s go.” He’s not like that, and he truly loves his genre and I think that shows.
SR: Your character has expanded a lot more for Hatchet II, so tell me what is the Reverend up to in Hatchet II?
TT: When I accepted the role the first time, I accepted it on the condition that if, all things willing, the movie got made, the role was gonna be bigger in the second one — otherwise why do it? So he assured me of that. One thing I admire about him is that he’s a man of his word, you know? Which is a rarity unfortunately in Hollywood.
Reverend Zombie is a weird guy, because you know as you mentioned early on that that’s not even his real name. His name is Clive Washington. He’s a charlatan, he’s a salesman, he’s just one step from being a used car salesman. And he makes quite a living selling tourism, selling trinkets. But I think he’s done it so long that he actually believes his own hype. Which can be, kind of interestingly sardonically humorous, in spite of the grave things that are going on. And also he’s the storyteller. I’m the guy that has to tell the exposition, that hopefully I do in a way that’s not too boring.
SR: Yeah, I don’t think you have to worry about that.
TT: Well, I hope not, but that was my concern. The whole story about Victor Crowley [and his origins] was at the end of the day, and we were on the sound stage, and Adam turned down the lights and he says this is the story that he used to dream up when he was a little boy at camp. I don’t know if was Boy Scouts or whatever. He says let’s do it like that.
And what was weird is nobody left the stage. I had the DP there, I had the camera operator there. Danielle [Harris, who took over the role of Marybeth for the movie] was still there. The wardrobe person. They all stayed… And so, I think the quality of that came through, you know in the course of editing.
And Adam was just so thrilled. He was laying on his back like a little emasculated cockroach, you know? He’s going, ‘yes, that’s what I dreamed of’ since he was 8 years old, or 12 years old, you know. So, moments like that say, “Okay, this what you’re doing this for.”
SR: I think what I like about him [Adam Green] is that he chooses to use practical effects in this movie.
TT: Absolutely. That’s what makes this film work. And anybody that watches it that knows anything remotely about the filmmaking process knows this isn’t CGI…knows this is old school, set em up. And I think that’s why each kill successfully trumps the last, you know. And having seen it twice in a public setting, first time in London, with 1600 people just screaming like they were on a roller coaster – and it wasn’t a midnight screening it was a seven o’clock screening – that’s when I really got that “Wow, if nothing else, this will be a traditional beer bong movie for years to come.”
TT: And it could be how many times the hatchet hits, or how many stupid people do stupid things…
SR: We’re going to write down the rules to this game right now: “Tony Todd’s Rules to Hatchet II Drinking.”
TT: It’s gonna be synonymous man. I’m telling you, by the end of it, you’re gonna wish you hadn’t been drinking.
SR: I can imagine.
SR: So, being a fan of the genre yourself, what do you think of movies that aren’t sort of slasher driven, are just more focused on the violence itself – the so-called ‘Torture Porn” movies like Hostel?
TT: Yeah, I think those are more dangerous in a weird way. Because there’s no room for levity, in those. Those are all just straight up, you know, kind of kill thrills. You know what I mean. But, I think that’s also a reflection on society and not necessarily the filmmakers. I don’t think the filmmakers would make that if they didn’t think there was a market for it. I remember just recently, a couple years ago, I had a meeting with a company, I won’t mention who they are, but I had a great idea for something and they listened to me and at the end they said, “Tony what we’re interested in, what we want, are teenage thrill movies. That’s what we want.” I said, “I don’t know how to write that.” I really don’t. I could. I could dash it off. But I don’t know if I want to, you know what I mean? You need a kid.
You need a kid that knows and understands, you know, kids trapped in a funhouse being slaughtered. Though, I should bite my tongue, because I am getting ready to go do Final Destination 5.
SR: I was about to ask about Final Destination.
TT: I’m an actor for hire [laughter] and I have to take this job, trust me. Because it’s giving me way too much, for that, and I can live with it.
SR: Well, you know, I actually am happy to hear you’re coming back for Final Destination 5 –
TT: Yeah so am I. [laughter]
SR: – because I really liked Final Destination, the first movie. The very first movie was smart, had a great script, and you actually had your role which gave it a supernatural menacing element.
TT: But, I was also the exposition guy in that as well.
SR: Yeah, that’s true.
TT: But I had a scalpel and mortician tools in my hands, so it made him that way. Somebody, another company which shall remain nameless, I had a meeting with said that what that movie was, as well as a couple others, I can’t remember what he said, was a Tony Todd moment, whatever that is. You know, you see this guy and you know he’s going to do something that’s, you know, manically sinister or whatever.
SR: So is the character in Final Destination 5 the same character from Final Destination?
TT: Yeah, it’s Bludworth, only this time you see him three times. I know I can tell you the first one, there’s a gag order on what happens at the end, but the first 20 minutes is on a suspension bridge.
SR: Oh, okay.
TT: 20 minutes.
SR: Wow, I mean, the movie can’t be more than 90 minutes I assume. 20 minutes on the opening catastrophe?
TT: Because it’s quite a catastrophe.
SR: Well they keep getting more and more intense it seems. Right? You have to.
TT: I think people are getting more and more -unfortunately – inured to violence. People are like, less sensitive to things they should wake up about. The horror film that I will ultimately make will be closer to the Rosemary’s Baby vein. Not necessarily the same satanic thing, but something that gets under your skin, truly. I don’t want you leaving laughing, I want to leave you shaking. That to me is – like when you first saw Night of the Living Dead the original, and you didn’t know, there was a moment in there that, “this could be real.” That to me is true horror.