The directorial life of Darren Lynn Bousman exploded back in 2005 when he took over the Saw franchise for three entries, but since his days of torturing the not-so-innocent, Bousman has found himself making the movies HE wants to make. Independent cinema seems to be the filmmaker’s calling these days, and with a catalog boasting 2010’s Mother’s Day remake, Repo! The Genetic Opera and a few more notables, can you blame him? It’s a long and arduous road, but one that seems to be more fulfilling, given the determination that’s required to gamble on passion.
One of his more unique efforts is 2012’s The Devil’s Carnival, which sends a cast full of famous musicians into the bowls of Hell for a sinister carnival experience. You’ll dance with the devil and have a blast doing so in one of my favorite Bousman films, but it appears a good number of you already have, because it’s now 2015, and I’m interviewing Darren Lynn Bousman about his sing-songy sequel, Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival. See? The independent game has its rewards if you’re ambitious enough to deliver the goods – no matter how crazy an idea sounds.
Recently, I had a lovely chat with Darren about what it takes to make a movie like Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival, covering every step of the path. We discussed the current state of filmmaking, when to show your product, and most importantly, what it’s like to work with David Hasselhoff. Plus, Darren revealed a very special musician that he’s been trying to collaborate with for some time, who might surprise some, if not most of you.
In addition, we talked about the status of his new film Abattoir, and as a bonus, his reaction to two recent remakes that should have been his. Neither have become a reality so far, but with our help, maybe we can make a wide-eyed director’s dreams come true!
OK, enough with the bumping – time for the interview!
We Got This Covered: How insane do you have to be to tackle a film like Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival in today’s cinematic landscape? You don’t see this kind of cinematic ambition that much anymore.
Darren Lynn Bousman: That’s the reason I had to make it. The whole industry has completely changed from what it was ten years ago. Even five years ago. It’s becoming harder and harder to get recognized and distributed. I guess I thought that when you make a movie like the Saw franchise, all your movies get that kind of love. You make a movie and it comes out on 3,000 screens, there’s bus stop ads, radio ads – but that’s not how it works. It’s a hard, very arduous process to get a film in a theater. Most films go straight to video – even great films, with huge actors, go straight to video. For us, The Devil’s Carnival was a way to break the mold and say “Fuck that! Let’s do our own thing. Let’s distribute it by ourselves and get exhibited by ourselves.” We made a very out-of-the-box, extremely weird film, with the idea of exhibiting it in a very unique and crazy way.
WGTC: Did you have more actors lining up for the sequel?
Darren Lynn Bousman: We proved that we were successful with The Devil’s Carnival. The first one was a test. If we made this out-of-the-box, weird, nichey musical, would anyone show up? And the reality was that they did. We sold out every single night of the tour – well, most nights – but without any P&A, we had no ad buys – at the time it was just Terrance [Zdunich], myself, and a few other people. And because we made such a huge impact the first time, it was easier to go out there a second time, go to people and say “We need some money to do this properly.”
WGTC: When Terrance starts writing the songs for any Devil’s Carnival movie, does he first write up the musical aspects, or does he already have a vocalist in mind for each scene?
Darren Lynn Bousman: It’s a little bit of both. For example, we knew that Emilie Autumn was back again [for Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival], so we could actually write the music for Emilie because we knew her vocal range. Most of the time, though, we start with the songs, and figure out where to go from there. We’d then adapt the song to whoever that person was.
Now, for Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival, there were people that I wanted. I knew I wanted Ted Neeley because he’s an idol of mine – he’s the original Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar – and I knew I wanted him. With that, we created a song with his vocal range, went to him with it, and were able to land him. So it’s a bit of both.
WGTC: So you mentioned that you went out and grabbed Ted, but were there any big names you wanted to include who unfortunately had to decline?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Yes and no. The great thing about The Devil’s Carnival and Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival is that if we went to someone, 99.9% they ended up being in the movie. There were some people I went to just to check their availability, because I really wanted to work with them – like Neil Diamond. He’s a huge talent I want to work with. I love his music and I think he’s a badass. I’d love to work with Neil Diamond, but he’s turned me down every single time I’ve gone to him. There’s no missing Neil Diamond song in [Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival], but that’s an example of someone I’d love to get together with.
WGTC: Neil Diamond would be a really unique fit in one of these movies – are you writing horror-themed parts with Neil in mind?
Darren Lynn Bousman: We write it for him – or we would have – but a lot of people are concerned about their image in the way that Neil Diamond’s fanbase is a particular fanbase. When he hears “Oh, the director of Saw II is trying to cast you” – he’s like, “Wait, the guy who murders people on screen?”