Writer-producer Chris Kobin took some time while he was on the set of Gothic Harvest in New Orleans this week to talk with us about the upcoming film as well as his remake of ‘2000 Maniacs’, and a few of his other films. He also gave us an exclusive on his next project, which you’ll have to read to believe.
Horror Fuel: “How did you get your start in the film industry?”
Chris Kobin: “I came out to L.A. in ’83 after I graduated from a very good law school and had an office, didn’t want it. I wanted to be a writer. My father was in public television so I come from a TV background. I have spent the last twenty-five years between producing and writing movies and selling cars. I made a lot of money doing that. I’ve been lucky enough to raise a nice family.
I started off with a TV movie career. I ran Ed Asner’s company in the 90’s, then Marilu Henner, both big TV Stars. Then I became friends with Bill Paxton and ran his company. We had a disagreement so I went in a different direction which brought me to horror.”
Horror Fuel: “How did ‘2001 Maniacs’ come to be?”
Chris Kobin: “I was friends with a director named Russ Meyer, he is the creator of exploitation cinema, literally. He did a film called ‘Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill, Kill’ and he directed a movie called ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’ which the critic Roger Ebert wrote. He introduced me to David Freidman who was Herschal Gordon Lewis’ partner and Herschal Gordon is called “The Godfather of Gore” because he was making naughty movies in the 50’s and then porn came around he didn’t want to do porn because he’s a southern gentleman. They started taking buckets of blood and they did movies like ‘Color Me Blood Red’ and they would cut an arm off and it was both shocking and not shocking. It was scary but not scary because it was so over the top. It was almost like a comedy. My ex-partner Tim Sullivan called it ‘Splat-stick comedy’. I was lucky enough to go to a very famous restaurant in Hollywood called Musso and Frank with Russ and he introduced me to David Friedman. From David who is another exploitation guy, these guys all operated on the fringes of Hollywood. They were never really accepted and they distributed their own films. They would go into a town and write a phony letter from a local Catholic priest telling people not to let their children go to these movies and they would make a ton of money then leave town.
During that dinner, I talked Friedman into giving me permission to remake ‘2000 Maniacs’. I had a meeting with my old friend Adam Rifkin at his office and met Tim Sullivan there. Tim is very funny. We started clicking and I had the rights to remake these films so he jumped on it. We wrote a wild script for ‘2001 Maniacs’. He knew Robert Englund, sort of, and he had produced ‘Detroit Rock City’ with Adam. We wrote the script, we got signed by the Buckwald Agency, and they set us up with a bunch of studio meetings. Almost every meeting we took they said, ‘We had no intention of making this movie. It’s ridiculous, but we had to see who wrote this.’ We got a lot of really good exposure though.
Robert Englund was promoting ‘Freddy vs Jason’ and Tim knew people at Aint It Cool News and other sites and he would send them undercover to Robert’s interviews. Robert was doing these big interviews for ‘Freddy vs Jason’ and they kept saying, ‘Mr. Englund, I understand you are going to be playing Mayor Buckman in 2001 Maniacs.’ He finally got Tim’s home number and he left a message saying, ‘Alright god damn it! I’ll do the movie! Call them off. No more questions. Find the money and I’ll do the movie.’ Now, we had a commitment from Robert Englund which in the horror business is a big commitment. From that, he went to his old friend Lin Shaye, who is now a dear friend of mine, and she was not known at all for horror. She had done ‘Something About Mary’ and played the landlord, and ‘King Pin’. So, we made her Robert Englund’s wife, Granny Boone. I know that you know that movie. So, then we cast some people that are now huge in horror. One of them was Adam Robitel, who has just directed ‘Insidious 4’, starring Lin Shaye. She’s currently touring the world promoting that. The other person that we knew well was Christa Campbell who is now a huge producer. She was beautiful, and a great committed actor, so I cast her as the Milk Maiden, and I made sure we kept her through the Maniac misfires. So I like to think I had a tiny part in her great horror success.
I remember that we were in the Bronson Building at Raleigh Studios and it was the final Friday before we began principle production and all the checks bounced. Everybody came at Tim and Me. I called my friend John Landis, whom I did a movie with, and I said, ‘John, man, this is horrible. Make me feel better.’ And he said, ‘Chris, I did ‘American Werewolf in London’, ‘Animal House’, and ‘Blues Brothers’, and I was looking for my next job. It doesn’t get any better.’ Rather than being smart and going back to law, I kept plugging away. Eli Roth, who was the darling of Hollywood at the time, came on board as a producer, banned me from the set, and they made the movie, while I made a Landis film.”
At this point Kobin gave us an exclusive, he’s hoping to make another 2001 Maniacs sequel with Tim Sullivan directing!
Chris Kobin: “I’ll give you the scoop on another thing, we did our first movie with Robert Englund and Lin Shaye, we did our second ‘Maniac’ movie with Bill Moseley and Lin Shaye, and we want to do a third movie, ‘Buckman VS Buckman: The Battle For Granny Boone’. They all love the idea.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s awesome! I loved ‘2001 Maniacs’.”
Chris Kobin: “Thank you. We had a lot of fun making it. I got banned from the set, but that’s a different story. I was trying to protect my friend Tim from a bunch of aggressive producers. But we made a pretty good film.
Horror Fuel: “You did a ghost film after that didn’t you?’
Chris Kobin: “Tim and I had a dream of writing something about attitude adjustment camps for teenagers and made a movie called ‘Driftwood’ with Raviv Ullman. We cast Diamond Dallas Page who I didn’t know at the time because I’m not into wrestling. We cast this guy named Talan Torriero who was one of the stars of ‘Lagoona Beach’, one of the first reality shows. There was David Eigenberg who was on ‘Sex In the City’. We made that movie at the Charles Nelles Detention center, a 100-year-old youth prison in Whittier closed for torture by then Govenator Schwarzenegger.”
Horror Fuel: “Tell Us About your anthology film ‘Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horrors’, please.”
Chris Kobin: “Tim had this wild idea, he got a friend of ours to do a poster that looked like ‘Tales From the Crypt’ but it was a picture of Snoop Dogg and we went to this big firm, called The Firm in Hollywood, and none of us have a shred of fear. I’m a car salesman. I sell stuff. We went in there and sold it. So we made a film called ‘Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horrors’, written by four white guys and directed by a great Jewish woman. It was pretty good film and it had Jason Alexander and Danny Trejo and Billy D. Williams.
Horror Fuel: “What have you been working on since then?”
Chris Kobin: “I’ve sort of circled horror since then and I’ll tell you now, for the first time publically, I had a very serious, schedule 3, so ultimately fatal brain tumor a little over a year ago. So, I had surgery and radiation. So, I had surgery and I’ve had chemo for a year and everyone tells me how great I look, which I appreciate. In Hollywood, it is better to look great than feel great.”
Horror Fuel: “I am so glad that you are feeling better.”
Chris Kobin: “I’ll be honest I don’t like conventional horror films. I was raised on ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, which I saw in the theater. I love ‘Psycho’. I don’t like cheap scares. I don’t like jump cuts. Yeah, they are shocking, but not scary. We are really trying to create scares and scary characters. The way that I sat this project up, and I wrote it myself, I want the bad guys to be good enough that you kind of pull for them. I want to create a franchise like ‘Saw’.
For another film, I was telling Landis that I would do these slasher events at car lots and he said ‘We should do a movie about you.’ I came home to my now ex-wife who has always been smarter than me, and I said, ‘Great news, John Landis wants to do a movie about me!’ She goes, ‘Really?’ I said, ‘Yeah’ and she responds, ‘Let me get this straight, you want to be a movie producer and you want to do a movie about yourself ripping off people in the car business.’ Anyway, we did it with another guy. We did it for IFC. The guy was a hard-drinking nut. I shot a reality pilot for Tru TV in Houston and a pilot script for Comedy Central called ‘Used’, but it didn’t go but it didn’t go. People aren’t sure if they like car salesmen or not.”
Horror Fuel: “If you will, tell us more about ‘Gothic Harvest’?”
Chris Kobin: “It’s about a wealthy French family that moves to the ‘Big Easy’ back in the 1840s. The belle of their family, their youngest daughter Blanche, who is 18 gets intertwined with the guy who is the fianceè of Marie Laveau, the goddess of Voodoo who was real. Laveau confronts her when she’s pregnant. Laveau puts a curse on her and her entire family and says, ‘You will be immortal as long as you keep your baby that was supposed to be my baby. You must every year send a member of your family into the French Quarter to kidnap a woman and you’ll use her to keep the baby alive for one year.’ So when we meet the family now they’ve been alive for 150 years or so. They hate it. They hate people. It’s a very dark, very interesting female empowerment movie. Four women on Spring Break, they’re based on my ex-wife’s friends. It’s a lot of fun.
While we speak, right around the corner from me, Bill Moseley is working on ‘Gothic Harvest’. He’s a great actor. I’m sure you know him from the Rob Zombie movies. Lin will be here next week and she’s been involved in writing and producing. She is very careful of the reputation that she’s built over the past couple of years. I’m honored to have them both. My really close friend Ashley Hamilton, whom I have known for years, is directing his first film. We have to have this thing done in like 7 more days. But it’s looking good.
Ashley, our director, is a former stand-up comedian. He was a big-time bad boy in the 90s. He’s a really cool guy. I was really the first person to believe in him as a director. I sent a few people the script and they all wanted to direct but Ashley really wanted it and he’s doing a great job (don’t tell him I said that). He’s done a lot of work with Warren Beatty and director/actors like him. Ash’s always been the kind of guy that when he’s on set he always watched what the director was doing and asked questions. I’m very excited to have him as my partner.
I have another friend named Jeff Mullins who is my producing partner. I did a music video with him. We were in a band in L.A. in the early 90s. We did a video which is on YouTube The band was called Brittinia the song was called ‘Runin’. He never forgot that director Bryan Stoller and I got Jessica Hahn, a Steadicam, about twenty playmates, a cop car, a Rick Baker (Planet of the Ape’s) gorilla, and a helicopter in the video with the 10K I talked a future porn producer into investing. Recently he said, ‘Hey man, I’ve got a little money. Do you want to make a movie?’ There are two other producers, Harvey Lowry, and his partner, Rachel Myer. They have a lot of experience in low budget productions. So we’ll see!”
We look forward to seeing Gothic Harvest and would love another 2001 Maniacs sequel. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, for regular updates and more in Gothic Harvest be sure to follow the film’s official Facebook page.
We would like to say thank you to Chris for sharing his news and stories with us.