The director of 'Terror Tales' can't let go of the '80s ... or his love for classic genre hits.
Horror films often pack more passion and ingenuity than any other genre.
Most sitting behind the camera on a horror movie are true fans, inspired to love their favorite movies just a little extra because they are so often pushed to the side by the rest of the film industry.
Jimmy Lee Combs is no exception.
The filmmaker’s newest movie, “Terror Tales,” is an anthology tale that is full of easter eggs and nods to the horror genre.
“Terror Tales” contains character actors who have worked with everyone from David Cronenberg to Wes Craven.
One of those actors is Lynn Lowry, who appeared in Cronenberg’s “Shivers” and George A. Romero’s “The Crazies.” Another is Ari Lehman, who played the original Jason Voorhees in “Friday the 13th.”
It wasn’t all serious for the director, though. He even appears himself in the movie.
“I was in a scene in an ‘80s type dive bar/nightclub,” extra Allison White told Hollywood in Toto about her experience on the movie. “It was fun because Jimmy was there having fun. There wasn’t one detail on the set that wasn’t ‘80s themed. He got dressed up and the way he was dancing in the club was super cheesy. He told us to make the dancing over the top and funny.”
With a slick ‘80s feel, “Terror Tales” follows a husband subjected to three horrifying tales after his family is kidnapped by a psychopath.
We had an opportunity to speak to filmmaker Combs about the sacrifices made to bring his independent film to life and how exactly he put together this “‘’Expendables’ of horror.”
HiT: You have a lot of people in this movie who would be considered horror royalty. They have worked with everyone from David Cronenberg to Wes Craven. What’s it like having that sort of experience on the set and was it always your intention to gather so many recognizable horror movie faces for this flick?
Jimmy Lee Combs: It’s a fantastic experience to have on set for everyone, especially fellow actors. I had several actors come to me saying how inspiring it was to work with veteran actors and how much they learned from them.
Also, when you have actors who have worked with such iconic directors such as Wes Craven, they bring with them all that amazing experience that they learned from the horror masters. This turned in some incredible performances in “Terror Tales” that I think is going to surprise the audience when they see the caliber of acting in the film. Everyone gave it their 110 percent best, and it shows.
As a director, there is nothing more you can ask for at the end of the day.
You know it’s interesting because originally the film was going to just feature Lynn Lowry, but as I thought about it and was writing the stories, it hit me that it would be a fantastic idea to showcase more of horror’s best in each segment, an ‘Expendables of horror’ if you will, which got the ball rolling to cast more iconic horror actors in each segment.
We have actors from the hottest franchises in horror like “Ghostbusters” and “Friday the 13th” to name a few, so it was incredibly important for me to not take that lightly and to give the actors as meaty of a role as possible that serves a purpose to the story rather than just having bragging rights saying I have so and so actor in the film.
As a director, it was incredibly fulfilling to direct such talent in demanding roles like Lynn Lowry in the “By Proxy” segment who gives an emotionally charged performance. And Laurene Landon’s unsettling and psychotic role as Miss Tate. To be able to direct performances like those while allowing the actor to bring their experience to the role and to have worked with actors of this caliber from the horror world is an honor!
HiT: Tell me a little bit about how long this movie took from start to finish. What was it like investing years into this film and what’s it like to finally be able to show it to people?
Combs: Lots of coffee and lots of energy drinks! We started filming in October of 2015 with the “By Proxy” segment starring Lynn Lowry. We filmed off and on over the next year-and-a-half while I was also filming and directing a horror comedy web series. It was a crazy, crazy schedule juggling two projects at the same time but it was definitely befitting of my ambitious nature and passion for both projects.
Shortly after “Terror Tales” was completely wrapped, I was going through a divorce which held up post-production a bit and ended up finally having the film fully finished in April of this year. Life has a tendency to hit you with cheap shots, but all of that said I’m incredibly proud to have overcome those and see “Terror Tales” through to the very end and getting it into the marketplace with our distributor.
FAST FACT: Some of the more colorful film names on Lynn Lowry’s resume? “I Spill Your Guts,” “Trashtastic,” “Mostly Dead” and “Psychosomatika.”
As many independent filmmakers can identify with, you pour your heart and soul into making a film that, of course, you want to have found its audience. So to make good on your end as a filmmaker and deliver the best film possible to the public is incredibly rewarding and especially when you hear how much they enjoyed the film.
You always have to be ready for the haters, too, and the negative comments which are bound to happen with most any movie. But the silver lining is that you get to take the good and weed through the bad for constructive feedback to learn from it for the next project.
So it is very exciting to finally be able to show “Terror Tales” to people and hear what they loved about the film and what they didn’t. It will only make me a stronger filmmaker for the next film which is currently in development.
HiT: Speaking of time and money being invested into a project, what was special about this particular film and what made it worth putting your blood, sweat and tears into?
Combs: Great question! What makes this film so special is that it’s a love letter to one of my all-time favorite horror films, “Creepshow,” which in my eyes is the definitive horror anthology. Also, my love for the horror genre in general and getting to work with so many iconic horror actors that I grew up watching in my favorite horror films made it personally special to make.
I mean hell, Felissa Rose traumatized me for life as a kid after the ending of “Sleepaway Camp.” To get to work with an actress like that who left such an impact is awesome. There are die-hard horror fans like myself who love the bevy of iconic horror actors we have in “Terror Tales,” so it’s incredibly special to bring so many of them together in one film, much in the spirit of “The Expendables.” And it all added to the love and care that went into making this film.
Another dynamic to this film is that 98 percent of it was all filmed right here in my home state of Colorado. The film scene here has always been touch and go, so to be able to bring attention to film in Colorado and the outstanding array of local talent we have here is truly special. I hope one day that film becomes steady here because it’s a fantastic place to film and a lot less expensive as an indie filmmaker LOL.
HiT: What was the motivation behind the ’80s vibe to this film? Did you see the decade making a bit of a cultural comeback or is the ’80s a decade you connect to more as an artist?
Combs: It was most certainly a combination of everything you mentioned! The biggest influence was my nostalgia for the ’80s and how much I miss the mom and pop video stores of that era.
It was quite a surreal experience shooting the Radical Video segment (which takes place in the ’80s) because there was a video store here in Colorado called Video One that was iconic, and as I was beginning pre-production on the Radical Video segment, I noticed that Video One was going out of business so I took this opportunity to gather a bunch of props for the segment that the video store was throwing out and had held onto from the ’80s as well as their shelving units.
We definitely live in a day and age now where old school is making a huge comeback, especially with vinyl! And of course the countless remakes of classic horror films. I feel like now is the perfect time to tap into that nostalgic area in our hearts.
So much of our demographic grew up in the ’80s/’90s, like myself, so we totally get it and miss those days. It feels good to hold a physical copy. It feels good to have walked into a video store with all those sights, sounds and smells that you can never get through digital.
It’s an interesting aspect to the Radical Video segment because we explore a video store in its prime in the ’80s, and we also get to see it in the present day crisis of mom and pop video stores struggling to stay open. I think it’s really going resonate with audiences.
It’s interesting to note that I made an ’80s cut of the Radical Video segment complete with VHS defects and the works… not sure if it’ll make the DVD special features but it exists and makes it feel all the more authentic to the ’80s.
We even used an old-school Tom Savini effect involving a fishing line and button when a character gets shot in the head, I’ll let you guys see if you can spot it.