Earlier today, I had the pleasure of speaking with writer-actor-director-musician Thomas Dekker. Dekker proved to be a well-spoken, kind, passionate, insightful man whose main driving force is simply to create, rather it be on film or stage.
At 28, Dekker already has more experience in the film industry than many actors will see in a lifetime. His first role at only the age of four. In 1995 he played the role of David in ‘Village of the Damned’. His career has been non-stop since. In 2010’s reboot of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street,’ he played one of the main characters, Jesse. In the hit series ‘Heroes’ he co-starred as Zach. You should recognize Dekker as John Connor from ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ or from his role on ‘The Secret Circle’. The list goes on. To say that he’s been a part of a lot of amazing films and series is an understatement. Now, he has turned his attention to writing and directing, where he really wants to be.
Dekker’s most recent project is the thriller ‘Jack Goes Home
‘, which he both wrote and directing. Starring Rory Culkin and horror veteran Lin Shaye (Insidious), the film is a dark tale of loss and personal discovery, but I will let Dekker himself tell you more about that (below).
Horror Fuel: “Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?”
“Yes and No. Because I started being an actor before I knew even what I even wanted to be. So, I started basically when I was four and a half years old. So, I’ve always enjoyed it, and it certainly led me to the position I’m in now, to do as an adult what I really want, which is to direct. I’m eternally grateful and I still enjoy it. But it was never really one of the decisions like most seventeen-year-olds make.
Horror Fuel: “You were young in Village of the Damned. Did it affect you in any way?
“It was a huge factor in wanting to make films, working with John Carpenter. It was an eye-opening experience, even as a little kid. It probably sounds ridiculous, but it was. Going through puberty I remember I had flashes of watching him create and learning from him. It really shaped where I am now.”
“Did it give you nightmares?”
TD: “No, no, actually the polar opposite. My parents, who are both depicted in abstract, metaphorical shapes in Jack Goes Home, were both artists. Their idea of raising me, as an only child, there was no censorship only discussion. I was shown all kinds of films, probably inappropriate by most people’s standards, I think. When I was seven my favorite film was Carrie. I would watch it on a loop all the time which I think half worried my parents and half encouraged discussion about the film. And being a painter, my dad showed me The Shining when I was eight to explain symmetry and sort of visual aspect of art. So, there was an influx of dark material when I was a child. But it certainly never gave me nightmares. If anything it has inspired me and I think that’s just part of my mental makeup. I’ve never really been the little kid to be frightened by horror films. I’ve always been excited by them.”
Horror Fuel: “What was it like to play John Connor in Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles?”
TD: “It was a thrill. I was barely 19 when I got the role. So, I was very intimidated and overwhelmed, but as time went on during the two short seasons, it was just a joy every day and the people I got to work with, I couldn’t ask for more.”
Horror Fuel: “This might be a touchy subject, but the Nightmare on Elm Street remake didn’t get a very warm reception from fans. How does it make you feel?”
TD: “I think it’s impossible to like it. It’s an intrinsic problem with remakes in general. There’s a problem with remakes. There’s a reason why remakes never really go over very well. If the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street had been the original, then who knows, maybe people would have loved it. When you start comparing one film to another as its predecessor it’s kind of impossible to like it because you’re talking about a film that carries so much nostalgia and so much memory that most of us in our generation have grown up with, if you suddenly redo it, well it doesn’t stand up. Do I think the remake is a great film? No, but do I think that many more would have if it wasn’t a re-fabrication of an existing piece of art. I’m honored to have been part of the Nightmare on Elm Street lineage and I had a fantastic time doing it. Especially now, looking back at the A-class cast who I’m still friends with. But I think it gets very tricky when you start comparing remakes to the original which is why I’ll never make a remake, ever, as a director. I don’t see the purpose of it frankly. I just don’t see what the end game could possibly be of taking an existing idea that was done very well and saying ‘Well, I’m going to take it and contort in some new fashion.’, because it’s never going to live up to the original and it also closes off your capability of doing something new which is the only point of making art, to do something new. That’s my opinion. But I was very grateful to be in it. I’d rather have made a sequel with Robert Englund who I worked on a film called Fear Inc., and I adore the man. “
Horror Fuel: “You have done a lot of voice overwork. Is it difficult to play a role in a sound booth?”
TD: “Most of the voice over I did as a kid. I wish I still had a bit of a career in that now. You go to a studio in your most comfortable clothes and talk into a microphone for six to eight hours. It’s easy and fun.”
“Your new film, Jack Goes Home, which you both wrote and directed, will soon see release. Can you tell us a little about the story?”
TD: “The story is about a young man whose parents are in a car accident. He believes he’s got everything in order, he’s doing well. He has a fiance and a baby on the way and he’s doing quite well financially and he finds out that his father died and his father meant the world to him and he goes home to deal with his funeral and take care of his mother. In the process, he finds out a lot of buried secrets about his family, his childhood, and himself. It’s depicted in a very nightmarish way.”
Horror Fuel: “What inspired the film?”
TD: “The inspiration, where it came from was, my father died in 2010 of Alzheimer’s disease and my father was my world, my universe, my best friend, my everything. I spiraled into quite a dark cloud of depression in the year following and I sort of saw this interesting idea, something I don’t think has really been explored before which did not just see a young person losing a parent, but losing his foundation and where that could go. I was inspired by past films that used horror-tropes to really examine emotional trauma, you know. And I felt there was a movement happening at the time I started writing it, which was great. There was a movement happening where horror was no longer exciting by just having the cat jump out of the corner of the frame, no longer exciting to have just having jump scares and blood. We need something deeper, something darker, something more. To have something more intimately troubling. And so trauma is a word that I use for the whole film, to traumatize the whole audience with one character’s internal trauma. Once that light bulb went off I said, ‘Okay. I can tell in a weird sort of manufactured, magnified way, my own story in the guise of a horror film then that’s great’. It’s punching me in the heart for making it and it’s punching everyone else in the heart for watching it.'”
Horror Fuel: “You’re a busy man between writing, acting, and directing. But you have another talent, music. Can you tell us about your music?”
TD: “Music was the chief inspiration in my home. My mother was a concert pianist, my father was an opera singer as well as a painter. Opera and classical are what really invade my childhood space. And then when I hit puberty I really got into electronic and industrial, obviously, I was also into metal. All those varying degrees of musicology, but I saw a definite link between electronic and classical and artists like Bjork and Nine Inch Nails, Massive Attack and Lamb. They were all big inspirations to me. I made my first record, started my first record when I was maybe barely 16. That ended up getting released two years later under my own name. Then I formed this art collective, Zero Times Zero in which it was a myriad of artists, everything from costumes, design to painting, musicians, people who just wanted to create under the same dome of vibe, basically. We released an album called Equal Zero, there’s another one called Love And Razor Blades, which will be released early next year. The million-dollar question, I wish it was a million-dollar question, I’ve been asked is which do I prefer, music, acting, directing, and to me honestly, as pretentious as it sounds, It’s always been the same thing, it’s just to create. And if you listen to any of the albums that I’ve released or watch Jack Goes Home, or even the acting projects that I’m proud of, they fit into one category, which is to explore dark human emotions.”
*Warning Flashing Lights
Horror Fuel: “What is your favorite horror movie and why?”
TD: “Oh my god, that’s a hard question. I will say that there is a fantastic film that came out recently-ish, called We Are Still Here that everyone should check out. I would say they’re not really straight-up horror movies, but Carrie, The Shining. But I guess because it’s my favorite film of all time I would have to say The Shining. And the reason why is it’s a film that is first of all so masterfully constructed, but it taps into the pulp of our deepest fears. As much as I genuinely love Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Well, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I think is an absolute masterpiece. It is one of the most gripping and one of the most incredible films ever made. I’m personally not affected by slasher movies. I’m affected by movies that work on psychology and work on our internal concerns, family, parents, sanity, and everything else.”
Be sure to see ‘Jack Goes Home
‘, which will arrive on Video On Demand and Digital HD on October 14th. Follow Thomas Dekker on Twitter
for more on his projects, films, and more.